Yep, we can finally talk about the most anticipated product release of the year: Shimano’s 2011 XTR Groupset.
It bears little in common with the groups that went before it – apart from the main theme – which is ‘the best performing, lightest groupset, whatever the money’ – something it appears to have held on to. No, it’s not going to be cheap: the chain will cost £45 and the chainset is £399 – but that’s not the point. XTR has always been (and should always be) the ultimate racers’ groupset – something that will get grown men pressing their noses up against the bike shop window for a glimpse…
What, in brief are the main highlights? Well, for a start, it’s ten-speed, but you probably guessed that bit. It will come in both a 2×10 group (as many people predicted) and also a 3×10 set. This is in keeping with the two different ‘expressions’ we’ll call them of the XTR groupset. There’s a racing group – all 2×10, super light brakes and so on, but there’s also a more trail riding/all mountain set with a different brake setup, wider ranging 3×10 Dyna-Sys crankset and even different, finned brake pads.
There are new XTR SPD pedals: The regular SPD racers’ pedal, but also another pedal which is more of a fixed platform pedal, presumably for the all mountain expression of the group.
But what’s this? A bolt through rear axle? This is the 142.5mm ‘standard’ pioneered by Syntace for the rear ends of all mountain bikes. And here it is with matching XTR hub and big chunky skewer that looks very like the 15mm skewer that you’ll find on a Fox 15mm fork.
Talking of 15mm… Shimano is now making a 15mm XTR bolt-through hub. That rotor might look normal, but we’ll get back to that one as it has a rather interesting little secret…
These may look like nothing more than swanky rotors, but they’re cleverer than that… Although the same thickness as normal rotors, they’re made up of a sandwich of steel on the outer faces with a aluminium core as the sandwich filling. This helps to dissipate heat far better, meaning that the brake runs much cooler.
A 15mm XTR front hub was pretty inevitable, seeing as Shimano has helped Fox pioneer the standard…
An XTR rear bolt-through hub for the 142.5mm x 12mm Syntace frame dimensions. You’ll see a lot more of this style of wheel system in upper mid travel bikes we reckon. (Trek’s 7in travel Scratch comes to mind)
A new XTR pedal – lighter once more… And joined by a rather funky looking platform pedal too…
There will be two versions of the XTR brake too. This one is the stripped bare XC lever. It’s tiny, light and features integral shifter mounts. There’s very little in the way of adjustment, that’s left for the all-mountain version.
It’s a front derailleur. It still hits the chain from the side until it moves. It’ll still set you back £85 though.
The 2×10 XTR chainset. 3mm shorter Q-factor and at least four new ratios. Interestingly, there’s no titanium/carbon inner ring, whereas there is on the 3×10. Ratios will be 40-28T; 42-30T; 44-30T (M985) and 38-26T (M980)
Here’s the rather intriguing platform pedal. It’s not spring loaded like the old 636 DH pedals, and although it offers a bigger platform, the mechanism is still proud of the body so will only really work when you’re clipped in. The jury’s out on this bit…
Here’s the ten speed cassette and shiny XC brake. How can we tell? Because the all mountain version has fins…
Post mount rear brake
The brake lever really is tiny, but super powerful. Shimano reckons the power is up with Saint.
There are new wheels too.
So, about that all-mountain version of the brake. What gives?
Here’s the crazy looking new all mountain brake. The thermoplastic cooling fins are joined on to the brake pads, so that the heat is sucked out of the caliper and dissipated. Combined with the new rotors, the temperature can be up to 150°C lower.
The caliper body is the same, it’s just the brake pads that are different.
Here’s the shifter. A textured thumb paddle feels very tactile. Shimano has done a lot of work with it’s new Dyna Sys shifting. On the rear shift, you know how the shifter feels stiffer the higher up the block you get? Shimano has made it so that the shift tension is now even throughout that range.
And here’s the all-mountain version of the lever. The same short, almost one finger lever, but this time with more adjustment for reach and bite point.
The rear brake and rotor.
Here’s how the 142.5mm through-axle looks – with a pre-production rear derailleur.
It may look complex, but the all mountain lever is still very tiny.
And finally, here’s a super close-up of the rotor. You can just see the sandwich of steel, aluminium and steel.
So, that’s the XTR groupset. We’ve had the briefest of plays on it and it works well, looks great and seems to be well designed. It certainly has a more machined, ‘Terminator’ feel to it when compared to SRAM. It’s not cheap, but then, it is supposed to be the best component group that money can buy…
Here are approximate prices:
Brakes: Around £179 a wheel
Front mech: £70-90
Rear mech: £139
We’re off to ride actual XTR in early August and we’ll be sure to let you know what it’s like. Actual XTR should be in the shops late in the year. We’re excited.