On the murky outskirts of Birmingham, the covers were whipped off Shimano’s 2007 range of products. No-one’s going to pretend that Shimano is anything less than dominant in the bike component market, but you don’t have to look at too many 2006 bikes to realise that SRAM is becoming a very serious rival, at least in the mid- to high-end MTB market. So how are Shimano going to respond?
What’s new, then? There’s some very smart stuff on its way at the super-high-end, but you’ll have to wait a few months to find out about that. For now the hot news is new Rapidfire Plus shifters. Previously both the thumb and index finger were required to operate the shifter paddles. Then SRAM came along with their innovative thumb-only trigger shifters (which accommodate index-finger braking rather better), and now Shimano has responded with Rapidfire Plus with Dual Release.
Available at Deore XT (SL-M760) and LX (SL-M580) level, the Dual Release design gives the option of traditional thumb and index finger shifting, or, if you prefer, using the thumb on both levers. We had a quick play around the hotel car park, and first impressions are good – the option to shift in the traditional style or with just your thumb is nice, and the actual shifting action is very quick. The XT shifters feature multiple bearings, gear indicator windows, and are compatible with all nine speed rear mechs.
To match these new shifters, Shimano have released new Top Normal (aka conventional) rear derailleurs. Again at XT (RD-M761) and LX (RD-M581) levels, they’ll make a lot of people very happy. Wide link design and stiffer than previously, they have a striking new design – sharper and straighter lines, with the logos embossed on the mechs. The XT model is lighter by virtue of having heaps of metal cut away. You’ll be able to get both mechs in short or long cage versions. Don’t go running to your bikeshop with wallet in hand just yet though – they won’t be in the shops until September.
The previously low normal or nowt Saint and Hone groupsets (aimed at people who break things) have expanded with the inclusion of high normal rear derailleurs. The Saint mech will be available in three cage lengths, while Hone will be available in two. The Saint hubs are now both lighter and better sealed. The front hub is 110mm x 20mm through-axle only, while the rear comes in a choice of 135mm x 10mm or 150mm x 12mm. Put November down in your diary for these arriving in the shops.
BMXing will be hitting the big time with the Olympics in 2008, so Shimano has added DXR to its line-up. The new chainset, hubs and brakes have had been developed using existing technology with the input of top BMX racers, although their input into the V brakes and brake lever doesn’t look like it’s been all that substantial. Shimano noticed that many BMX riders were using Saint cranks, so they’ve taken the logical step and launched the FC-MX70, a development of the Saint cranks but made a bit lighter. Like the Saints, there’s a steel threaded pedal bushing for a reinforced pedal/crank interface. Seven single rings will be available (34/38/41/42/43/44/46T) and four crank arm lengths; 165, 170, 175 and 180mm. All will be compatible with 68 or 73mm bottom bracket shells. And yes, we’re eyeing up the 180mm, 34T model for our singlespeed MTBs…
There’s also front and rear hubs with angular contact bearings, 32 or 36 spoke holes and a freehub which has been developed to provide a real quick engagement – vital in getting a good start out of the gate. 14, 15, 16 or 18 toothed sprockets will be on offer. BMXers only use a rear brake, so Shimano offer just that – a V-Brake and a two-finger brake lever (although you can get left or right handed ones). All the DXR components come in a very nice silver finish.
Slotting in beneath last year’s new WH-M565 wheelset, the WH-M505 wheelset has 28 spokes front and rear, Center Lock disc rotor mount, the choice of a disc or rim brake version, and weighs 2,088g all in. Make what you will of the decals…
A Shimano new product announcement wouldn’t be complete without a new city bike group, so say hello to Alfine. It’s eight speed using an internal hub, developed from their Nexus gear hub to be smoother and quieter. Up front there’s a 39 or 45 tooth chainset with chainguard. There’s an interesting component for the one-speed crowd, though – a neat-looking chain tensioner.
Totally redesigned last year, Alivio gets a few enhancements. There’s now a 48 tooth chainset, a new front derailleur, lighter bottom bracket, shifter and a mechanical disc brake. Deore also gets a couple of new chainsets with more ring choices, and a lower priced bottom bracket with Octalink interface.