We’ve already revealed everything from Shimano that comes beneath XTR, but this is the really exciting stuff – a brand new Shimano XTR groupset. These don’t come along very often, so it’s understandable that people hold their breath. XTR sets the direction for the entire Shimano off-road range after all, and you can expect all this technology to gradually trickle down to the lower ranges.
We can’t show you the whole range now – you’ll have to wait a while for the rest of it – but we can reveal the new Dual Control levers, Rapidfire Plus shifters, rear derailleur, wheelset and pedals. You’ll have already noticed from the photos that XTR looks nothing like the current range. Gone are the soft curves and in are sharp and clean lines, all centering around the embossed X, which is prominent on all components in the range. It’s all strangely comic-book techno – X-Men keeps getting mentioned, and we’ve already heard 2007 XTR referred to as “what Batman would run on his bike”). It’s certainly a big step forward in terms of design, but what about the changes under the lid?
Shifters – Dual Control and Rapidfire Plus
First, the XTR shifters have received a lot of attention, and key to the release is the level of choice now available – you can mix and match as you desire. The Dual Control levers (ST-M975 and M970) and Rapidfire Plus shifters (SL-M970) are substantially different. Available for V or disc brakes, the Dual Control levers now have Instant Release, meaning a much quicker shift action. Essentially there’s no backlash in the levers – as soon as you start to push them, something useful happens at the derailleurs.
You can now shift a couple of gears at a time in either direction courtesy of Multi release. The DC levers are much slimmer than the first offerings, and subsequently look far better – they’re also lighter as a result.
The Rapidfire Plus shifter pods feature the same Instant Release and Multi-release as the DC levers. Like LX and XT, the XTR shifters also feature the new Dual Release technology. Dual Release gives the option of traditional thumb and index finger shifting, or, if you prefer, using the thumb on both levers. They also have an adjustable clamp bracket – fancy the pod inboard, or outboard of the brake lever? No problem, the shifters now cater for any riding style. When we had a play briefly around a Birmingham car park, our first impressions were good – the option to shift in the traditional style or with just your thumb is nice, and the actual shifting action is very quick.
Don’t worry if you prefer the traditional Rapidfire pods (SL-M970), as they’ll still be available.
Continuing with the ‘wide range of choice’, the rear derailleur will come in two flavours; Low Normal (RD-M970) and Top Normal (RD-M971). According to the press release, Low Normal is “for the smoothest shifting under load, drivetrain durability and pre-selecting gears” and Top Normal “for precision upshifting and emergency downshifting”. Two cage lengths are available.
Wheels and pedals
The wheelset (WH-M975) has had some changes. The spokes now mount to the centre of the rim and are reinforced. The section of the rim between the spoke mounts has been shaved away in an effort to cut the weight – they’re now down to 1530g from 1712g of the previous wheelset. The freehub has been worked on and is now quicker to engage – apparently 125% faster. Bearings are angular contact with oversize axles, and a new seal design should see them lasting longer. Tubeless and normal are available, in either rim or disc brake version. Of course, there’ll also be hubs to build on to your choice of rim, including a through-axle front.
Previously Shimano’s SPD pedals didn’t bear the name of a groupset, they were just numbered. The latest top end pedal shuns this tradition and the PD-M970 bears the XTR logo. In appearance it’s virtually identical to the classic PD-M959, but is a tad lighter and better cleat clearance. It has a chromoly axle and sealed bearings.
The official pictures
Want another look? Here are Shimano’s officially-released shots, and some of our own, of the Shimano XTR transmission parts and pedals – click through the gallery below.