- Bike Checks
Ever since SRAM launched XX1 in the middle of 2012, we have all been waiting for Shimano's response. Our many questions are answered today as the Japanese giant unveils its all-new 2015 XTR 9000 line up, including drivetrain, brakes, and wheels. Earlier this month we attended a presentation where we were shown the final working prototypes, and we were also able to gain a deeper understanding of the decisions that led to the features and capabilities you'll now discover. So without further ado, time to dive in at the deep end...
It seems like a foregone conclusion, but at the same time, increasing the number of gears available on the cassette has to be about more than just keeping up with the Jones's. Shimano takes its new XTR to 11, but rather than maxing out the range with a strict 1x focus like on SRAM's XX1/X01, they have concentrated on what they call "Rhythm and Range". The new cassette provides 11 cogs ranging from 11 to 40 teeth, with close steps optimized for smooth shifting with minimal disruption to cadence so as to cause minimal loss of rider energy. The cassette features a carbon spider and a mix of aluminum, titanium, and steel cogs.
Listen in as Matt Robertson, product developer at Shimano, takes us through some of the philosophies underlying the new drivetrain:
The cassette is designed to work with any combination of chainrings on the crank. 1-by, 2-by, or even triple options are available. Shimano wants to provide options for every rider out there, and they remain fully committed to the front derailleur. However, they have come up with an entirely new FD design that moves the whole mechanism forward and out to the side, which creates a lot more room for the rear tire. This will help address the need/desire to build bikes with shorter chainstays, bigger wheels, and more travel without having to sacrifice the ability of the frame to take a front derailleur - which the company says is crucial to optimizing most every rider's Miles Per Burrito rating:
The new front derailleur does not require specific cable stops on the frame, further increasing the flexibility to mount it to almost any bike (there are High clamp, Low clamp, D-type, and E-type options available), and the new cable routing lets the cable take the most direct route to the derailleur possible, which helps reduce system friction and keeps the cable out of harm's way.
The crank also introduces what Shimano calls the "Rider Tuned" concept, which is basically a certain amount of configurability in the components used throughout the range. The "Trail" version of the crank is 1x/2x convertible, while the "Race" version is a dedicated 1x crank with a narrower Q-factor.
Shimano's approach is a less radical take on what a drivetrain should look like, and their overall philosophy seems to be all about rider choice. Maybe you're just not a one-by guy?
The arrival of narrow/wide chainrings and derailleur clutch technologies has led to a huge increase in chain security, allowing even aggressive riders to completely forego a chain guide in many situations. Shimano has chosen not to go down the narrow/wide route for its new XTR offering, instead focusing on optimizing the shape of the teeth of the chainring as well as changing the way the rear derailleur follows the contours of the cassette to create what it says is "the most amount of chain retention you could ever hope for without the use of a guide." The rear derailleur features a revised clutch mechanism with simplified external adjustment, and because of the way it now moves up and down the cassette, it allows the chain to better wrap around the cogs in each gear. It also gives the rear derailleur an even slimmer profile than in previous incarnations of the "Shadow" design.
From what we saw of the new system in action, it certainly seems to shift very well, and the new front derailleur movement is slick - time and testing will tell how well it works on the trail, and if it can compete with narrow/wide offerings in terms of chain retention. And speaking of chains, there is of course a new 11-speed specific offering available for this new groupset, featuring "SIL-TEC", a sort of Teflon infusion that helps the chain shed mud and stay smoother for longer.
The XTR shifters also get a major overhaul for 2015, with a number of key improvements:
The "Rider Tuned" concept we discovered on the cranksets carries through to the new XTR brakes. The "Race" version (XTR M9000) focuses on loosing as much weight as possible, which it achieves with a magnesium caliper and a carbon lever blade. The "Trail" version (XTR M9020) is tuned for power and stiffness using a pre-loaded aluminum caliper and a new SERVO-WAVE lever with a carbon-alloy structure. Other than that, the brakes rely on the tried and trusted design found on Shimano's previous offerings, with no major changes announced.
For the first time ever, Shimano is introducing a carbon rim for its XTR wheels - or a blend of carbon and aluminum, to be precise. Called "carbon laminate" technology, the goal here was to be able to offer a very high-end wheelset at a relatively competitive price, and also to increase the consistency of the rim/tire interface when mounted tubeless.
The "Rider Tuned" concept is once again in effect on the new XTR wheelsets, available in multiple versions to suit your particular riding style (but not your bike, if it still happens to be running 26" wheels...):
In redesigning its drivetrain, Shimano has taken an approach that is heavily influenced by the desire to create a solution for any rider on the planet. Is a two-by system inherently compromised, offering less performance on the rowdy side of the mountain than SRAM's ultra wide-range XX1/X01, or will all the improvements introduced on the new XTR add up to comparable levels of chain management and ease of operation? We'll only know for sure after more saddle time on the new groupset, so stay tuned for our ride impressions coming shortly. In the meantime, check out the full details of the new range below.
Drivetrain System: “Rhythm and range” define the 11-speed drivetrain
Shimano’s unrivalled legacy in producing bicycle drivetrains is evident with the XTRM9000’s most notable rider benefit: ensuring pedaling rhythm. New XTR M9000 provides range and ensures rhythm for diverse riding styles and terrain to create smooth, harmonic pedaling - the ultimate goal of a drivetrain. The XTR M9000 drivetrain system maintains riders’ rhythm thanks to meticulously selected close step gearing configurations of the cassette and crank.
FC-M9000: XTR FC-M9000 Race and FC-M9020 Trail cranks are modular, creating a Rider Tuned platform whereby single and double chain rings can be used on the same crank arm. XTR FC-M9000 crank sets debut the most advanced mountain bike chain rings ever produced that utilize combined titanium, carbon and aluminum materials. Dedicated XTR 1x chain rings debut proprietary chain ring retention technology in a tooth profile that eliminates the need for chain retention devices.
CS-M9000: Rhythm is the essence of smooth power transfer and proper gear step is the key to maintaining rhythm over varied terrain. The XTR CS-M9000 11-speed 11-40T cassette is the widest range cassette Shimano has ever produced and also its most balanced. Thanks to its “rhythm step” progression, it maintains calculated, shock-free gear steps from one gear to the next, saving riders energy and helping maintain rhythm on the trail. Key features include:
CN-HG900-11: Shimano introduces its premium new 11-speed chain that delivers overall better performance for mountain bikers. The CN-HG900-11 uses a HG-X11 special asymmetric plate design and Shimano's new SIL-TEC surface treatment. Benefits of the new chain include:
XTR Shifting System: the Ultimate stability and response
Shimano systems engineering creates a new level of shifting precision in the M9000 XTR shifting system. With both lighter action and increased stability, Shimano’s M9000XTR shifting system redefines gear change performance while introducing enhanced ergonomics. XTR M9000 debuts a bold new front derailleur design and approach for larger wheels and longer travel that delivers remarkable shifting performance.
SL-M9000: XTR M9000 offers Shimano’s most responsive mechanical shifting and controlling shifts is easier than ever thanks to a reduction in shift effort by 20 percent. The SL-M9000 shifters feature:
FD-M9000: Shimano’s new FD-M9000 masters front shifting for double and triple crank sets with a new, first-ever Side-Swing front derailleur design that increases shift performance by a staggering 100 percent. Designed specifically with modern trail bikes in mind, Shimano’s XTR FD-M9000 Side-Swing front derailleur provides 15mm of increased tire clearance, while new cable routing dramatically reduces shifting effort. Rider Tuned front derailleur options include:
RD-M9000: With a refined Shadow RD Plus clutch rear derailleur, a new front derailleur structure and a new XTR chain (CN-HG900-11), M9000 offers the most stable drivetrain the industry has ever seen. A new Shadow design optimizes the slant angle, lowering shift effort while improving shifting and driving stability while the derailleur is even lower profile protected further from harm’s way. The new ShadowPlus clutch has a simpler external clutch adjustment, and the derailleur has a wider range of adjustment for easier setup.
Braking System: Rider Tuned XTR Race and Trail brakes
New XTR M9000 hydraulic disc brake systems are also Rider Tuned in Race and Trail versions, as not all riders come down the same mountain at the same speed. Shimano’s legacy of leading brake design stems from its dedicated study of the components of control: heat, power and stiffness. New XTR M9000 brakes offer varying levels of heat control from an insulated piston (glass fiber phenolic) and insulated pad coating that created 10 percent more heat resistance. XTR M9000 brake levers also feature new handlebar-clearing I-spec II mounting.
SM-RT99 rotor: With an increased surface area for heat dispersion, Shimano's FREEZA rotor for XTR-M9000 remains the ultimate in heat control that is now available in smaller size options with a lighter weight spider. The rotor provides a 50°C reduction in heat giving riders more powerful braking and greater durability and longer pad life.
Wheelsets: Shimano goes carbon with XTR Race and Trail wheels
The all-new XTR M9000 wheels mark a serious turning point for Shimano in premium mountain bike wheel sets. They are Shimano’s most advanced mountain bike wheels to date, and also the first featuring carbon laminate rim technology. New XTR M9000 series wheels are even more focused at each end of the spectrum, from ultra-light and durable race wheels to all-mountain tuned trail wheels. All new XTR wheels use 28 butted spokes both front and rear and include a new lightweight bearing and axle system.
XTR Pedals: Continuing 25 Years of Shimano SPD
In 2015, Shimano celebrates its pioneering 25-year legacy of Shimano Pedaling Dynamics (SPD). Shimano continues this legacy with both the PD-M9000 and PDM9020 pedal versions.