Deore means Deer apparently. The original groupset used an antlered deer head as its logo. It's taken us 25 years to discover that. Anyway, a few days ago we spent time with Shimano on trails being groomed for 'Le Free Raid' in Les Deux Alpes, France. They equipped our own bikes with full 2008 Deore XT groupsets, launched to celebrate their 25th year of MTB innovation.
The new XT groups arrives in the wake of this year's XTR, and ushers in the new Shadow rear mech, which seems like a fine idea. It's essentially a narrower mechanism that sits further inboard, so if the bike lands on its side the mech is less likely to take the full impact. And it's less prone to undergrowth grabs. A stronger spring and new bracket axle prevent chainstay clatter over bumpy terrain too. The Shadow is available in a top-normal (traditional) configuration and works best with Rapidfire Plus shifters. There are short or long cage models and you can still opt for a low-normal mech and/or dual control levers if you prefer. Elsewhere in the drivetrain, a carbon composite steel tooth middle ring is compatable weight-wise to alu but is said to last "about twice as long".
Servo Wave cable brakes have been around for a while, but this is the first time Shimano have used the idea on hydraulic disc brakes. Servo Wave uses variable leverage (via the lever pivot) to enable the first part of the pull to move the pads in quickly and the second part to increase power. The result is a nicely modulated lever feel, more space (so less chance of rub) around the pads and more power. Not everyone liked the slightly spongy lever feel and, on the second day of riding, several riders found that their levers needed pumping initially to get pull power. We put this partly down to pad wear (we were hammering downhill for several hours) but we suspect the brakes needed re-bleeding too.
There are some great looking new wheelsets arriving later in the year. Shimano flew in some pre-production sets from Japan just in time for the press camp. They include an 'All Mountain' set with a front through axle hub, and the freehub gets the instant engagement mechanism from XTR. The whole XT groupset is aimed at least partly at the 'All Mountain' market, but low weight puts the emphasis firmly on the less aggressive rider rather than those into big drops and jumps.
We're waiting for our XT equipped bikes to arrive back from the Alps, then we'll start putting a full groupset through its durability paces.
2008 XT Price Guide. Mostly available from August. We have Shimano's own weight (which are notoriously accurate here).
UK Prices at time of launch:
Shadow Rear Mech £44.99
Brake Levers £24.99 each
Brake Calipers £44.99 each
Brake Rotors From £14.99 (6 Bolt) or £19.99 (Centre Lock)
Wheels from £139.99 (Front) to £169.99 (Rear)