The Japanese Gearzilla Shimano are gradually spreading their reach into the last strongholds of independent manufacturers. So expect greater standardisation, increased performance, lower prices and a few small-scale casualties in the brake and wheel industry before long.
Their XT level 4 pot hydraulic disc brakes are allegedly “in circulation” but we still haven’t got our paws round a set to corroborate various rumours as to their performance, but we should be able to let you know shortly. Hot on their heels comes a mechanical disc brake and a hydraulic disc brake, both at Deore level. The hydraulic uses the same mineral oil fluid as the XT brake but with single pot caliper and non-braided hose, but weights and prices aren’t available on either yet.
After launching road bike wheelsets for 2000, Shimano have introduced mtb wheelsets for 2001 The XTR-level WHM-959 wheels use the same “spokes into the side of the aero-ish rim” anchorage as their Dura Ace road wheels, but they’ve got wider flanged hubs and oversize front axle. The rims are disc specific so 6 bolt pattern is fitted as standard, and hopefully the hubs will be lighter than the hefty XT disc hubs we’ve met so far. Shimano are also planning a more affordable version that will run either discs or standard rim brakes.
There are also various rumours about mysterious Shimano DH forks, plus production versions of their pneumatic shifting AirLines system and an air-cooled drum brake that have been spotted on and off in race pits for a couple of years now. Whether these should be attributed to Shimano’s legendary “skunk” R+D department or a newly formed “Red Herring” department is unclear.