Adjustable height, telescoping seat posts have taken the industry by storm over the past year. While Gravity Dropper used to be the only game in town in this segment, other big names in the industry like RockShox, Fox and Crank Brothers are now throwing their hat in the ring. It seems like every big company to speciality manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon with their latest and greatest in a part of the industry people used to make fun of. That is…until they started seeing pro XC racers actually riding them or they tried one for themselves.
Why do you need a telescoping seat post?
Back when I used to run the Gravity Dropper, almost everyone that saw it thought I was running a suspension seat post. Even when I would explain what the seat post did, riders would ask “why when you have a QR” or call it a cheater post. Most of these comments were coming from riders who had never ridden a telescoping seat post before.
Fast forward to now…and everyone wants one, but why is that? To really have complete control of your mountain bike while heading downhill, you need to have the seat out of the way so you can get your weight back and maneuver the bike. You can go faster with more control. It is a proven fact by downhill racers and AM giants.
However, this creates one large problem for AM and XC riding. It is very time consuming to raise and lower your seat all of the time. Even when you actually take the time to do it, you are never guaranteed to get your seat back to the perfect height for climbing.
Enter the telescoping, adjustable seat post.
With a quick flick of a switch on your handlebar, you now have complete control of your saddle height. Even if you want to put it down for a quick set of rollers on the trail, you know can with ease…and you will. Riders are always amazed how much they actually end up changing saddle height while they ride when they ride a telescoping seat post for the first time then on subsequent rides. It really transforms your riding in ways that were previously impossible with a conventional seat post setup.
RockShox Reverb in the Box
First Look: RockShox Reverb Seat Post
One of the latest offerings in this market segment is from the SRAM and RockShox camp. While this should be no surprise to anyone as RockShox develops incredible suspension technology, RockShox did take their time getting into this market by bringing a solid product off the bat.
What’s In The Box: RockShox Reverb
Driven by hydraulic pressure, the RockShox Reverb comes packaged with everything you need to mount and maintain the seat post. Extra fluid, the syringes, seat post clamp and zip ties…it’s all there.
RockShox Reverb Saddle Mount
The all black design of the Reverb will match most bikes and the seat mounting system is a two bolt design like you find on many posts these days including Thomson.
Both Shimano and SRAM are out to fix an issue that has plagued the mountain biking community since the beginning…chain slap. Their answer? The new rear derailleur offerings from each side of the shifting camp are now clutched/damped versions with the ability to run a tighter chainline with a flick of a switch or push of a button.
As suspension designs have changed over the years and more travel has come to XC oriented bikes, the issue of chain slap and dropping while riding has become a hot button issue for a lot of riders. While this could be fixed with a roller install like you see on almost all downhill bikes, the trail and XC crowds were not keen on the additional drag this added to chain lines. While I can see their point as increased drag equals great power output required per revolution, I always ended up just adding a bashguard and roller to my bikes for the increased protection and tighter chain line.
However, things have changed in the mountain biking industry. As carbon frames have increased in popularity, so have BB30 and similar bottom bracket setups that do not allow for the external cup/sandwich style roller setups. To get a roller setup like the MRP we have reviewed in the past, you had to have ISCG tabs on your bottom bracket which most bikes do not have. Additionally, most of the 2x cranksets do not allow for a bashguard.
Enter SRAM Type 2 and Shimano Shadow Plus…
Now with these new rear derailleur designs, you can tighten up the chain line while riding to prevent that annoying chain slap and help keep the chain on the rings while riding in technical terrain. Each of these manufacturers have implemented their own technology and the ability to turn the feature on and off at will.
SRAM clutch mechanism is a one way, needle bearing roller clutch that requires no maintenance as it is self lubricating and basically sealed. Shimano uses an adjustable friction clutch where the rider can actually dial in how much he wants the rear derailleur to not allow the chain to pull the cage forward. Either way…SRAM and Shimano are trying to help the rear derailleur from being pulled forward by the chain in technical riding situations where the suspension is as active as the chain moving.
Will this be enough to replace roller systems? We’ll see. Both technologies from SRAM and Shimano are in first gen releases to the public and from what we are hearing around the world…they work great but aren’t quite on par with a true roller setup yet. The good news – those riders that wouldn’t run a roller setup to begin with now have a viable option to get rid of chain slap, have more consistent shifting through suspension travel and prevent the chain from dropping off the rings.
With Shimano finding more affordable options for electronic shifting for road bikes in the Ultegra group and Campagnolo finally releasing their groupo, the cycling industry is in a race to see how fast they can get affordable electronic shifting options to the road biking community.
What does this mean for mountain biking? Those same companies are probably researching into ways to adapt this same technology for mountain bikes. With cable shifting running its course on innovations (going 10 speed wasn’t as much innovation as it was just something different), the first to the plate with an electronic option approved for dirt is going to capitalize on new sales as riders get shiny new key syndrome.
For a part of the industry that hasn’t seen anything other than super expensive hydraulic shifting options…it will be interesting to see how it plays out over the next couple of years.
But the question remains…
Is the mountain bike ready for electronic shifting?
Here is how I see it. No.
While I do believe this is an eventual progression just by the way the road industry is headed, I do not think the mountain bike is ready for electronic shifting. There is just too much that goes wrong even under the current cable driven system on the trail that introducing a more expensive, more complicated electronic option will prove to be even more problematic.
What happens when you hit that electronic rear derailleur up against a rock? You think you cried when your $250 X.0 derailleur bent?
I was one of the ones that also thought electronic shifting on road bikes was a little ridiculous until I had the chance to ride the Di2 system. However, even if they are able to bring that level of performance at a price people are willing to pay, the durability of an electronic system on the trail is going to come into question.
Even in a pinch, cable driven systems can be fixed trailside and you can even carry a spare shifting cable in your pack should the worst happen. With electronic options, you will be stuck on the side of the mountain with nothing but Flinstone power to keep you going. I don’t know about you…but riding 7 miles on a Strider like bike doesn’t sound very appealing in the backwoods.
Of course, there is the possibility that I could be completely off base in my assumptions and the big players in the industry have no want to bring electronic shifting to the mountain biking industry at this time. I just have a hard time believing they are not at least testing it out and rumors are flying about Shimano playing with a Di2 version of XTR.
What do you think? Is mountain bike shifting ready to go battery powered?
This week’s photo of the week comes from joelmirandaphotography on Flickr. This close up look of a Fox DHX-C is a cool glimpse into how far the mountain biking industry has come in recent years. What used to be a sport of riding rigid 26″ bikes with cantilever brakes has now become a hub for suspension technology.
While some would argue this has both good and bad points, the evolution of rear suspension components and design has not only brought more riders into the sport…but it has also extended the possibilities of what can be achieved on a mountain bike. From fast, twisty XC racing to large freeride drops, today’s mountain bike designs can do it all. We are literally riding a sophisticated motorcycle…just in this case…we provide the power.
Join the Bike198 Flickr Group and start submitting your photos. They show up in the sidebar of the site and sometimes get featured in articles like these.
Kirk Pacenti is an interesting guy with unique ideas for the mountain biking community and cycling in general. Kirk and I have not always seen eye to eye on some concepts (see 650B article here) as his support for 650B is widely known while mine is lukewarm at best given current market offerings. However, new innovations and outside of the box thinking is much needed in an industry that has been seeing only one way for a long time, so when Kirk emailed me his latest idea…I had to take a look.
Kirk’s new design revolves around freehub body and how that interacts with the cassette. How many times have you tried to take off your cassette only to be hassled with resistance from gouge marks in the splines? What if there was a design that could not only get ride of those splines, but allow for lighter cassettes at the same time?
Kirk’s new polygon shaped freehub cassette body looks to solve this age old problem in the biking industry.
From Kirk Pacenti
I want to make clear that it doesn’t have to be my design. The real point is to get the industry talking and working together on a standard.
I look at it this way; 10/11 speed systems are “line in the sand” of sorts. Now that we’ve crossed it, we may as well optimize the system for that many cogs rather than stuffing them into an obsolete 7/8/9 speed standard.
Splines also have to go, as they were designed when cassette bodies were all made from steel. With a polygon shape you could conceivably make much lighter cassette bodies, possibly even made from composite materials.
On the surface, this looks like an incredible idea. Conceivably, this could go into action on higher end mountain bikes and mountain bike components in the foreseeable future with open arms from any rider looking for lighter parts and easier installation/service.
There is one huge hurdle to cross before any big name bike manufacturer would take this on…
Whether we like to think about it or not as enthusiasts in the bike industry, the cheaper bikes are sold in much higher quantity than our $1,000 and up rigs. To get a new standard like this through that would effect all bikes and components in the industry, you have to get it through the cheaper line ups as well. While we have seen some changes in “standards” as of late, the 15mm TA, tapered steerer tube or 142mm rear axle standards only effect higher end bike line ups. This design is a forward thinking process that would make sweeping changes in the industry.
Could it be introduced in the higher lineups first and then brought down through the ranks? Possibly…but that would also require an investment on the bike manufacturers end to bring it to market (and something they might not be able to charge a premium for).
So what do I think about the new design from Kirk?
I really like the idea. From an mechanical design standpoint, it makes sense…stronger fit with less ability to cause maintenance issues down the road. It also solves a common headache at the same time. Whether or not the industry takes this one on will be another story that we should see played out over time. While I do like how me made this design “open source”…if it was me…I would have patented it and sold the licenses…
10 speed mountain bike components have polarized mountain biking in a way. While many are saying “why, 9 speed works”…others are taking on the new standard and using this as a point of upgrade or enjoying it on a new mountain bike.
If you haven’t been around the sport a long time, the argument over the amount of gears you need vs. what is being released to the market is not a new one. While there was the argument on 7 speed vs. 8 speed, the controversy on the move from 8 to 9 speed was much more heated. This latest move from 9 speed to 10 has many mountain bikers asking…where does it end?
On the other side of the coin, the 10 speed gearing setup allows for a wider range on the rear with the ability to run an efficient 2 ring setup up front with minimal gearing choice loss. The ability to drop one ring in the rear (also able to do with 9 speed setups) but run an efficient 36T rear cassette opens up possibilities without having too much of a step through the range in the rear.
Do we need 10 speed mountain biking? Can we expect 11 speed mountain bike components in the future? Time will tell…but in the meantime…just like we saw with 8 speed mountain bike components…9 speed mountain biking will soon be a thing of the past.
60% of riders polled are still in the “No” and “Holding Onto 9 Speed Crowd” while the 40% polled either have made the switch or plan on it in the near future. As the availability of 9 speed parts starts to become a rarity…this percentage will continue to overtake the no crowd until we are wondering what will be next for the mountain bike industry. Electronic shifting maybe?
Like it or not…10 speed mountain biking is the future. With Shimano and SRAM rolling out their new lineups in 10 speed only, it is only a matter of time before the extra gear is gracing your current or future mountain bike.
For those of you that are looking to upgrade in the future…or already have, you are looking at new shifters, rear derailleur, cassette and chain rings in your pursuit to click away at a 10 speed cassette. The prime time to upgrade would be when your current 9 speed drivetrain wears out (it is best to replace cassette, chain and chainrings at the same time as they wear into each other), but UGI can also get the best of you and force you to throw out the old 9 speed mountain biking components earlier than planned.
Now that the more affordable options are available (relatively has bike parts are getting increasingly expensive), have you upgraded to 10 speed mountain biking yet?
The Shimano Deore XT component group has been a staple in the industry since its humble beginnings. With a median price point, good looks and consistent performance, the XT component group has been a go to choice for riders wanting “XTR like” performance at a fraction of the price with a little bit more weight.
However, last year saw a drastic redesign of the Shimano Deore XTR group with the Deore XT only getting a slight change with the addition of the Dyna-Sys 10 speed option. Other than that…everything stayed the same…until now. The 2012 Shimano Deore XT component group is going to finally get the upgrade that XTR has been sporting for a year know with the addition of color choices (silver or black) plus the availability of a 2 ring crankset option.
Let’s take a look at the new groupo that is scheduled to be available in June 2011.
2012 Shimano Deore XT Component Group
Let’s break it down piece by piece and look at the new Shimano Deore XT component groupo.
Shimano XT FC-M780 / FC-M785 Crankset
The central component to the Dyna-Sys drive-train comes in two varieties: a double or triple. The rider can choose the option that best suits their style, fitness, or terrain. The ever popular and more versatile triple comes with a 42-32-24T ring set with the proven composite enhanced middle ring for maximum shift smoothness. Most notably, the 24T inner ring offers a significant improvement in efficiency compared with a 22T and still provides a very low gear for climbing when paired with a 36T rear cog. A trail oriented 2X10 crank debuts with a 38-26T ring set as well as a more XC oriented 40-28T combo. Both double cranks feature a unique crank with a 48.8mm chainline for better frame clearance and best compatibility on a wide range of bikes.
Triple or double gearing: 42-32-24T, 40-28T, or 38-26T • Carbon composite reinforced middle ring on triple reduces weight and provides smooth,
MSRP: $319.99, any spec
Weight: 860g, triple w/BB (double 820g w/BB)
Shimano XT RD-M780 Shadow Rear Derailleur
The Shadow rear derailleur design continues to be improved and combined with the newest shifter design optimizes the overall system stability. The new longer arm geometry of the cable fixing anchor takes stability a step further as well as provides a more tolerant system adjustment.
Enhanced system stability with Shadow technology
Weight: 234g (Super Long Cage)
Shimano XT FD-M780/M781/M785/M786
Front Derailleur Angled adjustment screws and clamp bolt make the new front derailleur more mechanic friendly and the option for direct mount create greater options for frame designers. Four mounting style available to accommodate most frames: Low clamp, high clamp, E- type, and direct mount Double or triple specific versions provides precision shifting for either format Cage design optimized for tire and frame clearance
MSRP: $54.99 (all specs)
Weight: 153g (low clamp, top swing)
Shimano XT SL-M780 Rapidfire Shifter
Advanced Light Action shifting with VIVID index requires the same amount of force to shift between the two largest cogs as it takes to shift between the two smallest. The VIVID index establishes intuitive shifting feedback without adding unnecessary shifting force to the system. Instant, multi-, and 2-way release are all integrated into the newest generation shifter as well as a mode converter that allows the left hand unit to be tuned specifically to the crank set being used.
Ispec (integrated brake lever mount) version available
Shimano XT CN-HG94 / CS-M771
The drive-train is completed with the Dyna-Sys 10-speed CN-HG94 and CS-M771 cogset introduced in 2010. The HG-X asymmetric design chain has inner and outer plates that take specific advantage of the contours of the Hyperglide cogset. Cogset options are 11-36T, 11-34T and 11-32T.
MSRP: CN-HG94 = $49.99, CS-M771 = $99.99
Weight: CN-HG94 = 343g, CS-M771 = 273g
Shimano XT BL-M785 / BR-M785 Hydraulic Disc Brake System
The Servo-Wave Deore XT hydraulic disc brakes continue to borrow from the features developed for XTR that provide huge leaps in braking and control. The new compact caliper with oversized 22mm ceramic pistons is combined with a lightweight lever for a brake that lighter yet packs 25% greater braking power when the ICE Technologies brake pads and rotor. The rotors have been proven to reduce temperatures of the rotor as much as 100% over a standard all steel rotor, and will be available in a 6-bolt pattern as well as the Shimano innovated Center Lock. Mechanics will appreciate the integration of the same one-way bleed that debuted on XTR last year.
BL-M785 is compatible with Ispec shifter mount
Servo-Wave provides better modulation along with greater maximum power
Ice Tech Centerlock rotors consisting of a stainless steel clad aluminum core are durable and create a more efficient heat sink reducing fade
Ice Tech brake pads use finned extensions that pull heat away from the caliper, oil, and rotor to reduce fade and maintain power and modulation
MSRP: $159.99 (complete front or rear pre-bled system w/lever, caliper, hose, and pads)
Weight: BL-M785 = 266g/pr, BR-M785 = 242g/wheel
Shimano XT WH-M785 / WH-M788 Wheelset
Two new wheel options will feature different rim widths and axle options. The WH-M785 will have a 19×559 profile rim with 15mm front hub and QR rear wheel. The WH-M788 will feature a wider 21×559 rim offering a different platform for wider tires and will come with a 15mm front axle and the option for a 12X142mm rear or QR rear.
The PD-M780 pedals increase pedal surface contact area by 5 times vs. the PD-M770 for incredible pedaling stability. An offset binding allows mud to flow through the pedal better than prior designs for the best possible performance in muddy conditions.
A completely new pedal for 2012, the PD-M785 is an XT quality pedal aimed at trail use. An integrated pedal cage offers greater stability even when not clipped in with an increase in surface area of 8.5 times over the PD-M770.
MSRP: $149.99 (either version)
Shimano Deore XT Component Group In Black
Overall, the component group looks really solid. Building off of the success with the 2011 XTR group, Shimano did a great job of filtering down the specs and technology without cannibalizing the XTR setup. We are actually really happy with the introduction of the black setup as we have several bikes that actually wear powder coated versions of the previous XT cranks.
At first glance, everything looked very interesting. Beautifully machined components…new technology for mountain bikes incorporating mineral fluid as the force to actuate derailleurs…not just a prototype but ready for shipment. All good things you want to hear about new technology to hit the bike scene…until you read the price. $2,306?!
Acros is a German components maker that has come up with this unique design that is unlike anything else we have seen on the market. Touting that Acros’ shifting mechanism that uses mineral oil via a UNI-FORCE two line system creates least amount of friction, the A-GE system is able to produce light, accurate shifting across the entire gear range without the need for stiff return springs. The thumb paddle design of the front shift allows you to change up to 3 gears at once in either direction by simply pressing up or down on the paddle. Want to switch from “top-normal” to “low-normal”? Just switch the hydraulic lines.
Much like with hydraulic brakes, lines have to be bled to be free of air to achieve optimal performance. With this closed loop system, it should be a one time bleed and go after you adjust the line length to your frame. While at first glance, the question of durability becomes an issue, I don’t see why these wouldn’t hold up exactly like the hydraulic lines that already stretch the frame for our brakes.
The real draw I see for this type of system is for extreme conditions where cable performance degrades significantly. If you are riding in extreme cold or mud, the closed hydraulic system will not freeze or get clogged up with mud while you ride. Still…that is probably a small percentage of situations even for riders that see those extreme situations often and a large price to pay to have more shifting security.
So if you have ever wondered what over 2 grand worth of shifting components for one bike looked like…Acros now has your answer. While I do not see this kind of technology really taking off unless it is actually price competitive with other comparable (cable driven) options, it is good to see the envelope being pushed in an area that has basically seen nothing but more gears as innovation since the conception of multi-speed biking.
After over 18 years of providing the mountain bike industry with high quality OEM and aftermarket components, Race Face is officially being liquidated.
This Canadian manufacturer has been a staple in the industry almost since the mainstream adoption of mountain biking. With legendary components like the square taper Race Face Turbine cranks to one of the easiest to adjust seatpost mechanisms on the market, Race Face as innovated and provided strong components for riders looking for that extra edge.
According to John Pentecost at Race Face:
I wish the situation was optimistic, but we’ve been told the company is going to be liquidated, and 90% of us are unemployed as of next week. They’ll keep a few people on to assist with the liquidation.
My tenure with the company has been short, but it’s been a fun ride. Thanks to all the great athletes, customers, and media folks I’ve had the opportunity to work with. Thanks also to the amazing group of coworkers I have out here. All of you make stuff like this hurt a lot less…
…It came as a big surprise to all of us. There were about 50 people laid off here in New Westminster today and we were told that another 20 people in Taiwan were also terminated.
In a letter to Race Face employees dated March 14, Grant Thornton Limited announced that it was terminating all Race Face employees at its New Westminster factory, and at its operations in Taiwan.
As the receiver will be shutting down the operations of Race Face Components Inc. immediately, your continued employment is no longer required and, therefore, the receiver on behalf of Race Face Components Inc., hereby terminates your employment, effectively immediately.
The closing and liquidation of Race Face marks the second major loss of a long time brand in the mountain biking industry. Earlier this year, Titus Cycles also went through the same process as creditors are getting tighter on loans. With the name Race Face has in the industry, I would assume a similar auction will take place and someone will pick up the name much like On One did with Titus. Who will purchase the rights to the Race Face name and what they will do with it will still be determined…but we are sad to see such a fixture in the industry leave so abruptly.
Race Face was a premier manufacturer of mountain bike components ranging from machined aluminum with flashy ano coatings to carbon bits that helped shave the weight for many riders. They also sponsored some of the best riders in the world including Steve Peat.
Having owned many Race Face components over the years (Deus Cranks, Atlas Cranks, Seatposts, Stems, Bars, Turbines, etc), I am personally sad to see the brand go. Hopefully there is a firm out there willing to bring it back to former glory. We will have to wait and see…
Shimano’s XTR component group has been long regarded as the best components money can buy for mountain bikes. With industry leading lightweight and design, XTR graces the front pages of industry mags as riders drool over the technology that has been introduced with this line over time.
For 2011, Shimano’s XTR groupo is the first out of the Shimano lineup to get a complete redesign while going to 10 speed with a trail and race spec. The Shimano SLX and Shimano XT component packages have gotten 10 speed treatment, but they look the same as their 9 speed counterparts. The Diamondback Sortie Black came equipped with the complete XTR Trail setup, so let’s take a look at how it performs on the trail.
What’s the difference? Trail vs. Race
New for 2011, Shimano introduced two different component specs for XTR…trail and race. With the trail setup, you basically get a 3×10 setup (over the 2×10 race) with fins added to the brake pads for decreased heat and fade. It also comes packaged with platform clipless pedals (not reviewed) instead of your conventional XTR pedal.
The idea was to give a wider gearing range and more braking power to bike setups that are more geared towards trail riding over racing. The truly weight conscious will look to the race package to save grams by losing these extra add-ons.
Let’s hit it up component by component…
Shimano XTR 3×10 Trail Cranks
As reviewed, the FC-M980 XTR 3×10 trail cranks come with a 42/32/24 tooth gearing setup with a titanium/carbon composite 32T middle ring for increased durability and weight savings (also available in a 38/26 2x setup). With an estimated weight of 755g, the XTR trail cranks make for a lightweight package for riders looking to keep a triple up front while running a 10 speed rear.
The new look for 2011 is clean with a slight twist of the cranks. While the polished looks incredible brand new, you will start to notice scuffing with use that can make the new XTR cranks look pretty worn. The Q factor is ok leaving plenty of room for your foot while spinning, but as you can see by the picture…mountain bike shoes like the Sidi’s that have adjustment tabs can scrape the crank arms and create even more scuff marks.
For 2011, Shimano went back to their conventional attachment design on the non-drive crank arm. This is a HUGE deal and and a welcomed change back from the more complicated design they tried to introduce with the last XTR component group. Now the cranks get the ease of use that SLX and XT kept while XTR changed previously. Shimano has the easiest to install cranks on the market.
Overall shifting performance between rings was solid. The chain grabs easily and quickly moving between rings…even under load…is effortless. I did find that with a 10 speed rear, 3 rings up front is a bit much. The 11×36 rear cassette provides a really wide range of options, so having a triple leaves you with a bit of overkill. Simplifying that process and dropping to a 2 rings setup up front makes more sense to me with the increased gearing in the rear. While there is a 2x setup available, for the trail setup I would have really liked to see a 2 ring with light bash guard setup to protect that very expensive outer ring.
As you can see by the picture, the light big ring is wearing pretty easily. After being worn by chain friction and being beat up by logs and rocks, the teeth are starting to show shark toothing on almost all of the points. At over 120 bucks each, that is not a ring I am going to want to replace on a regular basis. That wear would be slowed down in trail situations by protecting it with a light weight bash guard.
The titanium/carbon composite 32T middle ring seems to be holding up a lot better against wear even though it is the most used ring on the cranks.
Shimano XTR Shadow Rear Derailleur and Cassette
Shimano’s XTR rear derailleur and cassette carry the Dyna-Sys branding indicating the 10 speed setup. With two options available in cage length (med and long), you have options when running 2 or 3 ring front setups. The rear derailleur in this review is a long cage to match the 3×10. Shimano’s XTR rear derailleur features a carbon outer cage match with an alloy inner. This gives you the lighter weight (and carbon look) while supporting it in the rear with the stronger alloy to make the cage less likely to rip apart on the trail.
Even after taking multiple hits against rocks and trees, the cage of the new XTR derailleur performed very well. It is showing the signs of wear with scratches on the carbon, but it is still rolling straight and shifting consistently. It does help the the XTR RD gets the Shadow design that keeps the derailleur pulled under the chainstay and out of the way of foreign trail objects.
The new XTR derailleur does have a lighter touch under shifting as designed. The 11-36T cassette and rear derailleur performed very well together and provided quick, light shifts between gears. I did find that the Shimano 2:1 actuation ratio was little bit more prone to mis-adjustment when hit or during break-in, but a quick turn of a barrel adjuster and everything was back to normal.
Shimano XTR Shifters
The 2011 Shimano XTR shifters got several improvements in the redesign. They now feature a unified mount when combined with the XTR brake levers, micro-adjust positioning and the ability to change the front shifter from 2 ring to 3 ring setups.
As mentioned with the rear derailleur, the new 2011 XTR shifter have a very light touch. Even when fully compressing the rear to move up the cassette, you do not have to slam the paddle down as you get a more linear action feel. While Shimano’s 2:1 actuation ratio does get out of wack a little bit easier, it does allow Shimano to run a two click setup on the front paddle, rear shifter to move down two cogs at a time in the rear with one motion. In fast up and down trail conditions, this as a great addition.
The front paddle is also bi-directional so riders that are used to Shimano shifting can use it in typical rapid fire motion or riders that have SRAM setups can also push it in the same direction as the larger one. In some cases, the front paddle can be a little bit long for riders with wider hands, so you will want to use the micro-adjust to move the shifter inboard and out of the way of your knuckles. There were times that my hands would hit the shifter while riding.
Shimano XTR Front Derailleur
What can really be said about a front derailleur? It is light, easy to setup and matches the rest of the component group. Other than that…there really isn’t too much to say about the XTR front derailleur. The XT and SLX counterparts perform just as well, but if you are going to kit out the entire group…you might as well have everything match.
Shimano XTR Trail Brakes and Levers
The new 2011 Shimano XTR trail brakes are claiming 125% of the power of the previous XTR brakes stemming from a host of improvements. With full ceramic caliper pistons, radiator-fin brake pads and ice-tech aluminum core rotors, Shimano set out to create the coolest running, most powerful brakes they have ever introduced.
Personally, I was really stoked to get to try these out as I am a bit of a brake whore. Unfortunately, the Diamondback review bike came in with glazed rotors and completely trashed pads. After numerous attempts to fix the situation (including setting the brake pads on fire), I could not get the brakes to get to full power. I can tell you that based off of my previous experience with Shimano brake calipers, these should actually perform as claimed. Whether or not the radiator fins actually shed heat as claimed would take a bench test with and without the fins…but it is no secret in the automotive and motocycle world that the concept does work in practice.
Overall the brakes look great on the bike. The polished calipers match the rest of the component group and everywhere you go people ask about the pads. I just wish we could have gotten some descent trail time on a set that were performing at their best.
The new XTR brake levers are a unique setup. Mounting them up is a pretty easy process with the one bolt, flip over attachment design and the tool free reach adjust is easy to use even with gloves on. For 2011, Shimano shortened up the XTR brake lever and positioned it for one figure braking. With a defined hook at the end of the lever and dimples in the design, your finger really attaches on and stays slip free while riding.
On this particular set, we did find that there was a lot of resistance at the beginning of the lever stroke. It almost felt as if the lever was extended past its tolerance so it was having to make it around before getting to its linear pull. The result was a stiff lever feel initially and then then it opened up. I am not sure whether this particular set had an issue or this is just how the new levers operated, but both sides did it…and it created uneven braking due to the reaction.
Shimano XTR Wheelset
At a claimed 1,700 grams, the new XTR wheelset is a light option for trail riders. The new XTR wheels feature straight-pull spokes, 21mm wide scandium UST rim and titanium free hub body.
Since Shimano (in combination with Fox) pioneered the 15mm TA standard, the Trail package is only available with that axle configuration. While you can get the QR version through the race setup, if you have a 20mm TA…you are out of luck.
The XTR wheels held up well under aggressive riding. The 21mm rim width was wide enough for bigger tires and the UST capability will make the tubeless nuts happy…especially since they brought in in at a 400g rim weight. The lightweight design made for a fast rolling set, but the “fast engaging” drive felt closer to the 36 point of a DT Swiss than the 72 and higher drives of premium aftermarket hubs. At $1,500 for the set, I really expect more out of the drive as there are less expensive options that do a lot better job at getting the power from your legs to the ground.
Overall: 2011 Shimano XTR Trail 3×10 Component Group
If you are looking for a crazy light, high performing component group…the 2011 XTR setup is worth a look. In this price range, the XTR components are really geared towards racers or riders with an unlimited budget. For a fraction of the cost (and a little bit more weight), you can be rocking the XT component group and get really similar performance.
The improvements made in the shifting and braking (assuming they performed as advertised) is a nice upgrade and hopefully we will see some trickle down effect as Shimano starts redesigning the other lines. For the trail setup, I would have liked to see a component group that could withstand a little bit more abuse (example: 2x setup with a bash guard), but it is pretty cool to see Shimano step up and provide a premium component set that is not just geared towards hardcore racers.
Positive: 2011 Shimano XTR Trail
Light, linear shifting with dual direction front paddle and 2 step, front paddle rear shifter setup
Alloy backing on rear derailleur with Shadow design withstands trail abuse
Very attractive looking package
New brakes should perform as advertised given Shimano’s proven record with brakes
Very light overall weight
Negative: 2011 Shimano XTR Trail
Would have preferred a 2 ring with bash front setup to protect very expensive chainrings
Extremely expensive component group (to be expected out of Shimano’s best of the best)
Initial lever feel very stiff
Polished look can look worn with use
The best of the best in mountain biking just got better…but you have to pay to play.
The past couple of years in the mountain biking industry have been exciting. The mountain biking public now has more high quality frames and components to ride than ever before and it is almost to the point that we are asking…so what is next? Unlike the early days of mountain biking when the industry was just trying to figure out what worked and what didn’t, (remember elastomer forks, huge bar ends and suspension designs like the Y bike?) now even budget bikes are getting big price performance. We are completely spoiled these days with the amount of components, bikes and accessories that we have to choose from.
So where is the industry headed in the next couple of years and what can we expect?
Here is how I see it all shaking out…
The Carbon Bike Takeover
In recent years, we have slowly seen carbon come in as the material of choice for many mountain bikers. A material that used to be used primarily in the road bike industry has now become durable enough to use in mountain biking. With companies like Ibis, Santa Cruz, Trek and Specialized leading the way, we are going to start to see a mass influx of carbon hard tails and full suspension bikes hitting the market as the early runners continue to sell really well.
The surprising part of this takeover is going to be the emphasis on not only race bikes, but the all mountain 5.5″ to 6.4″ sleds. As we have already seen with the Mojo (full carbon), Nomad (full carbon), Enduro (front tri carbon), a longer travel carbon mountain bike is completely doable. As China continues to develop their carbon program, we are going to continue to see more lines make the material switch and add more black weave to their lineups. Eventually, we are going to start to see some budget lines do the exact same thing.
9 Speed Is A Distant Memory
Just as we saw with 8 speed, 9 speed mountain biking is going to become a distant memory. The push for 10 speed mountain biking has been made and it stuck. You are going to see the component manufacturers continue to support 9 speed with legacy components over the coming years, but the end goal will be to eventually phase out 9 speed completely. All development and design dollars have already been shifted over to the new platform.
More Accessories That Improve Our Rides
The past two years in mountain biking have been HUGE for accessory manufacturers. With the emergence of telescoping seat posts, point of view HD cameras (like the GoPro Hero HD), onboard GPS units (like the Garmin Edge 705) and simple, must have items like the RoadID, the accessory market in cycling has opened up to more than just components in new colors. As the bike industry and riding public continues to grow, we are going to see even more innovation in the accessories market. There are even rear view cameras in the works almost ready for production for road bikers. The sky is the limit at this point on what we can use to enhance our rides.
Increased Media Attention To Mountain Biking
Like it or not, the extreme side of sports is what draws in the viewing public in regards to media attention. For road biking, it is the Tour de France. For mountain biking, it is going to be the progression that has hit freeride and downhill that is going to bring more press to the sport much like it did for motocross in recent memory. As much as we love our epic rides and technical downhills, they aren’t that exciting to watch as a spectator. The continued expansion and riding progression of park riding and videos like Follow Me is going to bring more attention to mountain biking than it has seen in the past. Why? Because even my mom likes to watch Thomas Vanderham fly through the air. Crowds need to be amazed and innovators like Cam McCaul are making them say “holy shit” when they see them ride on the screen.
Social Media (aka. Facebook) Will Bring More Riders Together
There used to be a time when you really only knew the riders that rode your trails. Now…with the emergence of a force that no one was really expecting, Facebook as brought together more riders and shared more riding stories than any other online resource. While we still have our large forums, I would expect to see more conversations and pictures shared on Facebook over other online outlets in the near future. The transition has already started and sharing your rides and bikes with other riders around the world has never been this easy. Many riders have already started organizing their group rides, advocacy events and just rides with friends on this platform.
So that is what I see happening…what do you think we will see in the industry in the following years?