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Big news for mid-tier mountain bikes as Shimano CUES enters the chat and kills off Deore (well, Deore 12-speed will remain), Tiagra, Alivio, Sora and other familiar groupsets.
No more Deore 9-11 speed. No more… er, any of the existing MTB and road groupsets below SLX and 105 in fact.
The new Shimano CUES marque replaces Deore, Alivio, Acera and Altus on the off-road side of things. And replaces Tiagra, Sora and Claris on the road scene.
The fundamental idea of Shimano CUES is that lower-end groupsets are no longer ‘trickle down’ versions of tech that used to be XTR or Dura-Ace twenty to thirty years ago. CUES stuff is a relative blank slate.
CUES drivetrains are designed first with the everyday and/or beginner rider in mind first and foremost. Qualities such as simplicity, cross-compatibility, and durability are how Shimano are explaining CUES. Not racing, lightweight or innovation.
While on the one hand CUES is ostensibly simpler. It isn’t the case that’s it’s all just one all-encompassing CUES drivetrain. There are multiple CUES drivetrains, each with a number series attached eg. Shimano CUES U6000.
There will be 9-speed CUES, 10-speed CUES and 11-speed CUES.
While there will still be front mechs on some CUES drivetrains intended for trekking and road use, for mountain biking, CUES is 1x specific. Chainrings are all narrow-wide retaining designs. Almost all the rear mechs will have clutches in them (the lowest tier CUES U4000 rear mech will just have a much-stronger spring).
MTB = CUES U600
To briefly go into the number series, U8000 is essentially XT for trekking bikes and as such probably won’t be encountered by MTBers. It’s the U6000 CUES stuff that will be the main stuff. If you know you’re Shimano numbers, you can kinda get the vibe that Deore M6000 has been replaced by U600.
Shimano appear to be being nice (or just realistic) and state that CUES products will work just fine with third party components, provided they are the same speed (9, 10 or 11). This means that bike brands, and members of the public, can spec a non-Shimano cassette in their otherwise CUES-equipped bikes.
Interestingly, during their presentation Shimano explained that their 11-speed stuff was theoretically the most durable of all the speeds they produce. Something to do with having the most surface area interacting between chain and teeth.
Look away 12-speeders
At this point all you 11-speed hold-outs can punch the air and look smug. And all you 12-speeders out there can sigh, roll your eyes and/or curse.
9-speed CUES will offer 11-46T cassettes. 10-speed is 11-48T. 11-speed is 11-50T.
All CUES shifters will actually pull the same amount of cable per actuation; it’s just that the 11-speed shifter will have 11 clicks, the 10 has 10 clicks and the 9 has 9 clicks.
At the cranks there’s not much to report. External cup Hollowtech II bottom brackets remain. With good ol’ square taper bringing up the very lowest CUES tiers.
Remember the more-durable Shimano Linkglide drivetrain parts that were announced a couple of years ago? Shimano CUES goes hand-in-hand with Linkglide. Yep, the CUES ‘roadmap’ is why Linkglide wasn’t produced in 12-speed flavour.
If you remember the Linkglide launch you may remember the flak that the LG600 cassette got for being rather portly (780g claimed weight). Shimano have ditched that cassette. The new LG (Linkglide) cassettes are not really any appreciably different to their HG (Hyperglide) siblings.
At this point we think it’s worth pointing out that Linkglide offers the smoothest shifting of ANY Shimano groupset, XTR/Dura Ace including. It also no longer requires the rider to back off the gas during shifts. Just keep the power down and it just… shifts. Linkglide also claims to be significantly stronger and more durable than non-Linkglide components.
Although closely allied to CUES, and definitely relevant, Linkglide stuff will not have the same series numbers as CUES stuff. Linkglide items are all prefixed with LG (LG700, LG400, LG300 and so on). As mentioned, there is currently no Deore-equivalent Linkglide cassette. The LG700 cassette is the nearest (which is essentially SLX-ish level Linkglide).
Tacked on at the end of the CUES presentation was a quick look at some new hubs. The CUES hubs feature various departures from Shimano’s usual way of doing them. Modular axles and freehubs ie. can be converted from QR to bolt-thru, Microspline to Hyperglide freehub).
And… cartridge bearings! Shimano were at pains to point out that they haven’t just relented from their cup-and-cone dogma and slapped cartridge bearings in. The (TC600/500) CUES hubs have labyrinth and contact seals in them to make them better sealed than most cartridge bearing designs. There are also twin double-row bearings in the freehub part of the axle.
Some press release snippets
- “Featuring our high-durability LINKGLIDE technology, SHIMANO CUES offers smoother shifting, more durable components, and standardizes compatibility across a wide range of categories.”
- “By consolidating our 9-, 10-, and 11-speed component ranges with interchangeable components, including common derailleur pulleys, cassette sprockets and chains, simplifies mid-tier bikes.”
- “The lineup features unified sprocket spacing across our 9-, 10-, and 11-speed drivetrains, so that components can be intermixed across a wider range of user groups and riding styles.”
- “With taller and thicker cassette teeth, providing additional surface area this mitigates the chain from skipping and distributes pedaling forces to prevent premature wear due to shifts from novice riders.”
- “Extended Component Lifespan – Cassettes and chains built to withstand consistent daily wear and tear of both analog and high-torque e-bike use.”
More info to follow
All-in-all, CUES appears to be great… for anyone using less than 12-speeds on their mountain bike.
We’re still finding out more about CUES (including UK prices and what, if any, cross compatibility with 12-speed stuff there is) and hope to bring you some more info – and real-world photos of the U600 stuff – very shortly.
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