Shimano 2016 – 11 speed XT

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In a move that will surprise precisely nobody, Shimano have just announced that 2016 XT is going 11 speed, along with a range of other changes across the board. Barney took a red-eye trip down to deepest, darkest BikePark Wales on an incredibly sunny Thursday to take a look at the new gear.

Ohhh yeah…

The hottest day so far this year saw a bunch of industry-types descend upon BIkePark Wales to squint, poke and otherwise prod the new offerings for 2016 from Osaka. We only got to see mock-ups of the new kit, but there was a prototype groupset available, although sadly this was strictly for swift car-park razzing rather than any serious trail time. According to the press release, the new XT accommodates ‘four distinct mountain biking styles’. Ok..

11-Speed XT

So Shimano’s XT groupset is going 11 speed for 2016. Similarly to last year’s (well, this year’s really) XTR, you will be able to ride 1x, 2x or 3×11 groupsets (33 gears – I bet there’s a lot of crossover there). Shimano basically seems to be aiming the 1x groupsets at racers, 2x is aimed at ordinary mortals, and 3x is aimed at – er – dunno. Continental types?


Prototype only – there wasn’t a mock-up on display

The cassette comes in 2 flavours – 42-11 and 40-11 – and comprises an aluminium largest sprocket with the remainder being steel, firmly pinned to a series of aluminium spiders. Like XTR, you can use your standard freehub body – and thus hubs. The extra space needed for that extra gear is taken by riding the cassette up the spokes a little. Shimano have implied that the 42-11 cassette is 1x only (with HG-X11 specific tooth profile), reserving the 40-11 cassette for 2x and 3x applications.


Welll helllloooooooooo…

The chainset is certainly (to these eyes) considerably, enormously, vastly prettier than the XTR model and it contains much of the same technology. Chainrings  have carbon and composite construction; the 2x chainsets are available in 24-34T, 26-36T or 28-38T, and 3x is available in a 40,30,22T configuration. The 1x chainring shares the same lateral ‘hook’ technology seen in the 1x XTR chainset – no thick/thin here. Apparently this design reduces chain drop by 150%. And did I mention it looks ace?

Rear Mech

Finger in shot ‘cos the mockup weighs nothing and kept on falling over…

Completely redesigned to provide ‘sharp and silky gear changes’ apparently, reducing shift effort and increasing chain stability. You can now adjust the clutch stiffness, and the pulley teeth are taller. There are long and short cages (the long cage one is for 3x) but essentially it’s the same mech for 1x, 2x and 3x. It’s direct mount compatible too. Interestingly though, we understand you can’t get your existing XTR rear mech to work properly with the 42-11T cassette – be warned.

UPDATE: we’ve just been informed by Shimano’s Mark Greshon that you *can* actually run the new XTR with the 42-11T XT cassette. Hope that clears things up.

Front mech

Front mechs are still a thing!

Yep, the front mech will be going side-pull – so we can see a lot of extra holes in frames in the future – although you can get old-style ones too if your frame won’t accommodate a newer one. There’s a significant reduction in shift effort with the new one, though, and it’s designed with long-travel bikes in mind – and handily it also increases tyre clearance. In fact, you’ll be able to get your paws on side-pull front mechs all the way down to Deore.


An XT shifter, yesterday

Same again – lighter action, more clicky, like XTR – there’s a 20% reduction on shift effort, apparently. There is a 2-way multi release system – so you can down-shift 2 gears per lever throw with your thumb, but only one gear with your finger over the top of the bar – unlike current XT. A quick poll around the office suggested that this will be a disappointment to a few riders, but not the majority. As well as band-on, you can get them in I-SPECII and I-SPEC B-type, so you can retro-fit and integrate them to older brake levers too if you like.

And here’s a shot for our Australian reader. Oh, my aching sides.


No mock-ups – here’s the prototype

These have a new master cylinder and refined servo-wave levers, but apart from that not much has changed (not that there was any need, really). There is apparently also a new heat-dissipating coating on the piston, and a subtle alteration of the bite point too. The band on the prototype we saw is narrower than existing ones, in line with current XTR too.

Arty, non? Or inept photography: you decide!


Race and trail wheels with 20mm and 24mm internal rim width anyone? Don’t mind if I do. 40g lighter than previous iterations, although it’s not clear if that’s largely at the rim or the hub. Each wheel has a whole 28 spokes.

Clean integration

I did get a chance to potter about the carpark on the (prototype) XT, and I can safely report that it works very well indeed. If you yearn for the more damped but softer ‘click’ of this year’s XT, as opposed to the positive lightness on the new XTR, you’ll be disappointed – as that’s exactly what’s on offer here. Shifting felt very light indeed, front and rear, and clicks were noticeably more positive (well, clicky) than they were in previous XT iterations. Of course, carparks are hardly what this gear was made for, but this being Shimano I have every hope that the new XT will also perform impeccably on the trail.

Prototype-tastic. All the function, none of the form…

Here is a brief rundown of XT RRPs. Perhaps the most interesting thing here is the cassette, which is £74.99, and will run on your existing hub. Essentially, you could potentially furnish yourself with a brand-new 1x XT setup including chain for around £370 at full RRP. Tasty.

  • Bottom Bracket – £29.99
  • Cassette – £74.99
  • Chain – £27.99
  • Single Chainring – £49.99
  • Cranks without ring – £99.99
  • Double cranks – £149.99
  • Triple cranks – £159.99
  • Disc brakes – £99 per end
  • Front Mech – £29.99
  • Hubs – F – £34.99
  • Hubs – R – from £44.99
  • Rear Mech – £74.99
  • STI levers L – £39.99
  • STI levers R – £44.99
  • Wheels F – £174
  • Wheels R – From £194

You’ll start to see some of this stuff in the shops from June.

Barney Marsh takes the word ‘career’ literally, veering wildly across the road of his life, as thoroughly in control as a goldfish on the dashboard of a motorhome. He’s been, with varying degrees of success, a scientist, teacher, shop assistant, binman and, for one memorable day, a hospital laundry worker. These days, he’s a dad, husband, guitarist, and writer, also with varying degrees of success. He sometimes takes photographs. Some of them are acceptable. Occasionally he rides bikes to cast the rest of his life into sharp relief. Or just to ride through puddles. Sometimes he writes about them. Bikes, not puddles. He is a writer of rongs, a stealer of souls and a polisher of turds. He isn’t nearly as clever or as funny as he thinks he is.

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