Shimano's Alivio groupset has always been a solid low-budget performer and now it's been revamped for improved off-road performance, with an extra cog added at the back.
The new nine-speed Alivio is available in a choice of finishes – black or silver – and features a new, lower profile rear derailleur, Hyperdrive crankset and Rapidfire Plus shifters with optical gear indicators. It'll be available in June 2010.
Mark Greshon, Shimano brand manager at UK distributors Madison, told us: "The price of bikes has gone up in the last year or so. This [the new Alivio] means manufacturers should be able to spec a nine-speed bike at a more reasonable price."
The shifters have the same Two-Way Release technology (you can shift gears using your thumb or with your forefinger too) as Shimano's more expensive models. They also feature Shimano's new cable routing – look out for this on a range of new products – which is designed to run parallel with your brake hoses/cables for a cleaner-looking cockpit.
The rear mech has taken some cues from the latest higher-end Shadow units, with a 5mm lower profile to avoid rock/stump strikes and a wide link design for improved rigidity and durability. The front derailleur offers improved mudguard and tyre clearance, and also has a wide link design. Cranksets are available in square taper or Octalink versions, with a 44T or 48T outer ring, and with or without a chainguard.
There are no brakes included in the groupset (although you can buy an integrated shifter/V-brake lever), but Shimano are bringing out several new non-series parts – ie. parts which don't belong to a groupset – at the budget end of the market, including a new disc brake with a choice of levers.
The new BR-M445 is Shimano's cheapest hydraulic disc brake, with an opposed dual piston design. It's available in silver, black or white, and comes with resin pads. It can be used with the standard M445 lever or with the slightly more expensive BL-M505 model, which features a hinged clamp and the new hose routing that's designed to run parallel with your gear cables. Both are available in silver, black or white. All prices TBC.