Head to Head: Shimano Deore XT Hyperglide+ vs. XT Linkglide 17

We find out what separates the two Deore XT groupsets and how their shifting technologies dictate where each system performs best.

Shimano doesn't always have the easiest product line to understand. There, we said it. We know there is rhyme and reason behind all the numbers, letters, and names, but wrapping your head around their deep product catalog leaves room for misunderstanding. Case in point: differentiating Deore XT 12 speed Hyperglide+ and Deore XT 11 speed Linkglide. Sure, one has an extra gear, but the technology behind each and the differences in weight, price, and compatibility leave a lot to comprehend. 

To get to the bottom of this, we spent the back half of 2023 riding both drivetrains to find out how these shifting technologies compare on the trail and who each best suits.

Deore XT 11s Linkglide Highlights

Deore XT 12s Hyperglide+ Highlights

  • Claimed 3x more durable than previous Hyperglide due to new teeth design that are thicker at the base with chamfer design
  • New shift gates create a smoother handoff of the chain between cogs
  • Uses a HG freehub body
  • Only offered in 1x11
  • 11-50T cassette 
  • I-SPEC EV or clamp shifter mount
  • Used on CUES Series (entry-level 9, 10, 11-speed drivetrains)
  • E-bike optimized 
  • 2-year manufacturer warranty 
  • System weight: 1,462g
  • MSRP: $342.99 USD (shifter, derailleur, cassette, chain) 
  • Shift ramps are designed to provide the fastest, smoothest shifts
  • Available in 1x and 2x systems
  • Uses a MicroSpline freehub body
  • 10-45T or 10-51T cassette options
  • I-SPEC EV or clamp shifter mount
  • E-bike compatible 
  • 2-year manufacturer warranty 
  • System weight: 1,123g
  • MSRP: $402.96 USD (shifter, derailleur, cassette, chain) 

The Tech: Hyperglide+ vs. Linkglide

As most know, Shimano's Deore XT has long been one of the most reliable and attractive groupsets due to its blend of performance and value. So why does such a plug-and-play product family need to be split in two? There are two reasons: shifting speed and durability.


Hyperglide+ was introduced back in 2019 as Shimano's revolutionary shifting technology. It focused on offering fast, smooth, and efficient shifting via new shift ramps and a chain design that increased chain retention and engagement during shifts. Instead of the chain 'jumping' between gears (especially when going down the cassette), Hyperglide+ holds onto the chain as it moves between gears. This makes for a quick and seamless shifting experience. The downside is potential durability issues due to the high-retention shifts that inevitably put more strain on the teeth. And as e-bikes have grown in popularity, the extra torque of the motor increases this strain. 


Insert Linkglide. Introduced at the beginning of 2021 as the high-durability alternative to Hyperglide+, it uses thicker cassette teeth, more robust shift gates, and a stout 11-speed chain. Compared to Hyperglide+, the shifting experience is slightly slower, and the chain is 'pushed' down the cassette into the next gear. Improved shift gates minimize chain shock and limit the possibility of the chain slipping as it lands on a new gear. Linkglide was developed to withstand the rigors of e-biking, and it's the special sauce that enables the Auto and Free Shift features within Shimano's e-specific XT Di2 groupset.

Hyperglide+ uses a MicroSpline freehub body, allowing for a 10T cog. Two cassettes are available: 10-51T (510% range) // 10-45T (450% range)
Hyperglide+ uses a MicroSpline freehub body, allowing for a 10T cog. Two cassettes are available: 10-51T (510% range) // 10-45T (450% range)
Linkglide uses an HG freehub body and is only offered in 11-50T (454% range)
Linkglide uses an HG freehub body and is only offered in 11-50T (454% range)

Component weight and price are the remaining factors separating the two XT offerings. A Hyperglide+ XT drivetrain is 340 grams lighter (mostly due to the aluminum vs. steel cassette) yet only $60 more expensive than a Linkglide XT drivetrain. This is a big weight saving for not a lot of money, making the Hyperglide+ the most logical choice for non-assisted bikes. Since we tested the drivetrains on a heavy e-bike, the added weight was unnoticeable and less of a deciding factor. 

Testing Parameters 

To get the most bang for our miles, we tested both drivetrains on a Specialized Turbo Levo. The combination of motor torque, bike weight, and our 200+ pound test pilot made for tortuous testing conditions. We totaled ~350 miles on each system in mostly dry, sandy conditions with a few wet rides mixed in. The installation and setup process for both drivetrains was identical and familiar, with the only difference being the freehub body. If you are slapping an XT drivetrain on an existing bike, keep in mind that you may have to snag a new freehub. Cosmetically, both drivetrains are apparent relatives, with the shifter and derailleur casting similar silhouettes.


Performance Comparison

After thousands of gear-crunching shifts and riding hyper-focused on the feel of every link and gear interaction, the results were less drastic than we originally predicted. Despite Shimano's deliberate development of e-specific shifting tech, Linkglide and Hyperglide+ perform much the same. 


Looking at shifting speed and quality, the differences between each drivetrain were minuscule. We didn't notice any hesitation from Linkglide to move the chain between gears and had no problem initiating shifts during crux moves. Hyperglide+ was equally willing to engage shifts at inopportune times, and both systems excelled at managing chain movement during high-torque shifts. Overall, Hyperglide+ won out on shifting smoothness, even under load. Linkglide was still smooth and consistent but was more prone to aggressive sounding and feeling shifts. Hyperglide+ also won the range battle, as the 10T gear was appreciated on high-speed descents.

Almost unbelievably, we never experienced any botched gear changes, misshifts, chain slipping, or anything. The shifting consistency of both drivetrains was the most impressive takeaway from the test, especially as we continued to rack up miles. While one system didn't rise above as a clear winner, riders can feel confident that slapping XT on an e-bike or mountain bike, whether it's Linkglide or Hyperglide+, will provide industry-leading shifting reliability.

Long Term Durability 

While each system's consistent, reliable shifts were impressive, their ability to maintain that performance for the duration of testing was outstanding. 

The Linkglide cassette began to show cosmetic wear, especially in the largest two gears, while the Hyperglide+ cassette showed wear throughout the majority of gears that we could feel with our fingers.

Both chains have stretched the same amount but are still well within the useable range. Cassettes are visibly worn and ridden, with the Hyperglide+ 12-speed looking worse off than the Linkglide. Considering the effort Shimano put into boosting the Linkglide cassette's long-term durability, it's definitely better suited for the demands of e-biking. However, its superiority over the 12-speed Hyperglide+ cassette was less substantial than we expected. And even though the cassettes aren't as pristine as the day they arrived, we've struggled to feel any of the visible wear out on the trail. 


Riding for 350 miles on each system is a solid start to draw comparisons, but we know most riders will rack up way more miles during the duration of ownership. Looking further down the road, Linkglide has the upper hand with its robust cassette. Everything else, like the shifter, derailleur, and chain, will be comparable between the two systems. If you find yourself wearing out drivetrains fast, regardless of the bike you are riding, Linkglide would be the better-performing, more economical choice in the long run. 


What's the Bottom Line?

If this test confirms anything, it's that XT continues to be a bulletproof groupset, regardless of shifting tech. Shimano developed Linkglide 11-speed for e-bikes, and that is where it's best suited. The extra weight isn't noticeable on a heavy e-bike, and the increased longevity of the cassette under the demands of a motor makes it a worthwhile investment. 

XT 12-speed Hyperglide+ continues to be one of the best bang-for-your-buck, high-performing drivetrains. Still best kept on non-assisted mountain bikes, it proved better apt to the rigors of e-biking than we initially predicted. You really can't make a bad choice either way. Both drivetrains are made up of durable components that'll deliver consistent, quality shifts for longer than most of the competition. 

To learn more about both XT groupsets, please visit bike.shimano.com


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