In a welcome – but not, if we’re honest, entirely surprising – move, Shimano have today announced that SLX is going 11 speed, and that Shimano’s much vaunted Di2 electronic shifting system will trickle down to XT level.
Let’s take a look at XT first:
Shimano is pitching the Di2 XT at the folk between the ‘granite hewn professional racers’ and the ‘weekend warriors’ – which basically means at privateers and racers. In case you’re unaware, the primary appeal for many of Di2 is the ability to modify the shifting pattern – and which shifter does what. You want totally sequential shifts from one shifter, which controls front and rear mech automatically? No problem. Want the same thing spread over 2 shifters so the left hand one only shifts up and the right hand one only shifts down? Easy.
The new Xt Di2 is essentially the same system as the XTR Di2, but with a couple of important tweaks. The main one of these is a new wireless Bluetooth connection to Shimano’s E-TUBE program, which is used to set up the shifting behaviour. You can now connect to your shifters wirelessly at home, or on the trail you can use your smartphone (with an app, natch) to set up your shifting on the fly, so to speak. And there’s also Shimano’s D-FLY system, which will let riders see battery and shifter information on their compatible third-party devices, like bike computers. If you’ve already got XTR Di2, then this new spangly gear will apparently just plug right in.
The Firebolt shifters look pretty similar to the XTR ones, with customisable button placement, and the mechs also have similar properties to their more spendy counterparts – computer controlled trim on the front mech, for example. The motors are similarly powerful – there’s twice as much power on tap as the ones on Ultegra or DuraAce Di2.
Battery life is said to be identical to the XTR system, and it’ll take about 90 minutes to charge. Look for availability from September 2016. No word on prices as yet.
Read Our Full XTR Di2 Groupset Review Here
Shimano 11 Speed SLX – M7000
The other major announcement today is for Shimano’s SLX groupset. SLX’s makeover looks very tidy, and extremely in-keeping with the recent XT and XTR redesigns.
The chainset will be available in 1x, 2x and (for all you Germans out there, apparently) 3x configurations – although this last is 10 speed. The 1x has Shimano’s Dynamic Chain Engagement technology. 2x you get a maximum of 10 tooth difference between rings (so 24-34, 26-36, 28-38 configurations), and the 3x finds itself with 22-30-40 teeth. BB seals have apparently been improved – which is always welcome, if you find yourself riding in the UK much.
Shifting is improved with Rapidfire Plus shifters – you can downshift three shifts with one thumbstroke, much as you can with XT and XTR, and ‘release shifts with the thumb or the index finger’. Cassettes come in 11-42 or 11-40 teeth for 11 speed (although the 2×11 is 11-40 only, apparently), and 11-32, 11-34 and 11-36 teeth for 10 speed.
The rear mech is now SHADOW RD+, same as XT and XTR; the front mechs have ‘increased shifting power’ too.
New seals on the hubs, a 36 pickup option over 360 degree freehub for rapid gear engagement, and you can get them in a variety of flavours including Boost.
Brakes are also redesigned, looking more like their XT and XTR counterparts – and they were already very, very good brakes. It’ll be interesting to see if the groupset performs as well as it looks.
Again, no word on pricing or availability for the new SLX, but expect to start seeing it on bikes and in shops later on this year.