2012 Shimano XT Launch: M780 drivetrain, pedals, and wheels

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The big news at the 2012 Shimano XT launch wasn’t only the new Ice-Tech equipped brakes we covered here. The drivetrain components have had a thorough reworking and the XTR influence has been just as important here, although less visually obvious.

The fully XT Trail equipped Yeti ASR5 we test rode.

Shimano XT cranks gain a double ring option

After the launch of Shimano’s XTR trail double chainset in 2011 it was kind of inevitable that 2012 Shimano XT would get a double ring option. If you don’t need the wider range of gears that the new Dyna-Sys standard close ratio 42/32/24T triple provides then the you’ll have your pick of 40/28T or 38/26T doubles, both using the same 104/64 BCD as before. The hollow armed cranks are largely unchanged apart from a cosmetic XTR style slant to the chainring arms and a choice of black or silver finish.

We didn’t get to ride the new double setup but the close ratio triple does provide a very useable, useful and extremely wide range of gears when combined with the 11-36T cassette. Talking of that, the asymmetrical HG-X chain and trio of 10spd 11-32T, 11-34T and 11-36T cassettes are unchanged for 2012 and remains smooth and pleasingly snicky as ever.

Cranks have a slight cosmetic tweak to the arms but big news is the availability of the double

Shifters get Vivid Indexing for more consistent feel

The shifters gain another XTR hand-me-down with the introduction of the Vivid indexing system, which provides a more consistent force and feel over the full range of gears. We liked it a lot when we tested the XTR drivetrain in Singletrack Issue 66 and it’s got an excellently sensitive feel on this XT group, with the exact amount of force needed to change remaining the same. The shifters will be available as I-Spec levers that integrate with the brakes or as standalone models with removable shifter windows.

Although hard to notice immediately it did feel like missed or over-shifts were harder to produce as we ground up some steep, hot and dusty trails at a oxygen deprived and jetlagged 6,000ish feet above sea level. Shift feel and smoothness was excellent – if anything the crisp and precise shifts felt just as good or even better at the top of the block than XTR, which uses titanium big cogs on the cassette. We’ll have to get some serious riding time on trails at home on the new XT group to give any sort of definitive verdict there though.

Shifter lacks bearings of XTR but is still fast and smooth

The left hand shifter is compatible with double and triple setups with a simple tweak and the Instant and Multi Release and 2-Way release give a plethora of options for getting up and down the block.

The mechs have had a bit of a tweak both front and rear with the front in particular now having more mechanic friendly angled clamp and adjustment screws, plus a direct mount version will be offered.

Pedals split into Trail and Race

The pedals have also received the XTR treatment, being split into Trail and Race variants, both offering a much improved amount of sole to pedal contact to give a more supportive feeling, with spacing altered to clear mud better too. The Trail pedals feature a metal surround that offers even more support for more aggressive riding, protects the mechanism and gives a stable pedal platform and easy to locate base for clipping in. We spent plenty of time on the Trail pedals and they had almost no feeling of being ‘perched’ with a solid amount of support uphill and down and the low profile cage avoiding strikes well. They look to be a sure fire winner for

XT Trail pedals offer improved support

most trail riders out there, costing £79.99 as opposed to the £119.99 of XTR, although there is a weight penalty to pay.

We recently received a set of both the new XT Trail and Race SPD pedals which we featured in Fresh Goods a few weeks back, so we should be able to get some riding time in on them soon to see if the new design clears more quickly in the slop.

Trail and Race XT wheelsets

Once again split into the two riding variants, the Deore XT Trail wheelset comes with a 21mm internal width rim and will now be available with just a 15mm through axle front, dropping the 20mm variant last year’s All Mountain wheelset offered due to poor sales. Rear wheels will be available as either 142 thru axle or  135mmQR and are fully UST tubeless compatible with 24 straight pull stainless spokes in a 2X pattern front and rear.

21mm wide XT Trail wheels felt stiff despite 24 spoke count

The Race wheelset is a slightly narrower 19mm internal width, using the same number of spokes and also fully UST compatible. They’ll be available with either a QR or 15mm front and just a QR rear option for the rear.

As ever, they use the angular contact cup and cone bearing system which Shimano say offer greater control of tolerances than externally manufactured cartridge bearings, thanks to the in-house laser sorted bearings being matched to the races. As far as a few rides can tell anything, the wheels seemed stiff, light and the freehub pickhub was nigh on instant.

All very impressive, but we’re a bit disappointed the 20mm Trail option has gone seeing as all the bikes running a 142mm back end in the office have 20mm bolt through forks up front at the moment. As the Saint freeride groupset would seem to be due a 10spd refresh sometime soon, maybe our hopes will be answered then…

As it happens, if you enter the Shimano Singletrack Classic Weekender on the 9th-10th July you’ll get a chance to win a full, new 2012 Shimano Deore XT groupset and have it fitted to you bike. Head to the entry page HERE to find out more…

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