After launching tweaked 10-speed versions of their Deore XT and SLX groupsets, Shimano have finally responded to the threat posed by SRAM's top-end XX group by unveiling an all-new set of XTR kit for 2011.
While XT and SLX got an extra cog on the cassette, new chainring sizes and a few other refinements, XTR M980 is a totally new groupset, with new aesthetics and plenty of innovative features.
Instead of a single set of transmission kit, XTR now offers what Shimano call Rider Tuned Technology. There's a choice of cranksets, brake levers, pedals and wheels, depending on whether you're a racer seeking light weight above all else (M985) or a more all-round rider who wants high-spec kit without compromising performance (M980).
The new groupset is claimed to be 298g lighter than the current XTR (M970) if you go for the lightweight options. Opt for the more trail-friendly kit and you'll add 158g.
As with XT and SLX, Shimano are pushing the advantages of a 3x10 setup for XTR – they say their new Dyna-Sys system, with a wider gear range at the back and more closely spaced gears at the front, plus improved derailleurs and shifters, is ideal for most riders – but in the case of the top-end group, double as well as triple crankset options will be available.
Read on for the lowdown on the new Rider Tuner Technology options, plus an overview of the changes to the rest of the XTR line. We'll publish full reviews as soon as we get hold of this kit for testing. For now, visit bike.shimano.com for more details.
Brakes (BR-M985 + BL-M985/88)
The new one-piece XTR brake calliper (BR-M985) boasts an oversize ceramic piston that is lighter, stiffer and insulates the system from heat better than its predecessor. Maintenance should be easier and quicker thanks to one-way bleeding and improved oil routing, and there's a more powerful Saint-style brake hose, plus its alloy banjo means it should fit a wide variety of frames.
The big change, however, is that under Shimano's new Rider Tuned Technology system you now have a choice of two swanky looking new levers: a super-lightweight pair designed for cross-country racing (BL-M985) or a more powerful and better modulated set aimed at trail riders (BL-M988).
The cross-country option is said to be 40g lighter than current XTR M975, yet 10 percent more powerful. It comes with a choice of resin pads with alloy back plates, or metal pads with titanium back plates. Claimed weight is 215g front / 229g rear (including calliper).
However, if you prize power over gram saving, you can instead team the new compact calliper up with the more robust lever, which features a new short-stroke version of Shimano's Servo-Wave leverage change cam. This brakeset comes with Shimano's new Ice Technologies brake pads, which use finned extensions to pull heat away from the calliper, fluid and rotor.
The trail brakeset also gets slightly wider levers (14mm, compared to 13mm) with a reach-adjust dial. The result of all this is a claimed 25 percent increase in braking power over M975, with no increase in weight. Claimed weight is 247g front / 261g rear.
Both systems get the new Ice Tech rotor, which sandwiches an aluminium core between stainless steel outer layers for improved heat dissipation. This is said to reduce brake fade on long downhills by 65 percent and double pad life, as well as cutting noise and weight. Four sizes are available – 140, 160, 180 and 203mm – with Center Lock mountings only. Claimed weight is 126g (160mm) thanks to use of an aluminium spider. The new discs can be used with any Shimano brake.
Features of both brakesets include:
- Integrated barrel reservoir lever design
- Split clamp for quick installation and removal
- Two-finger lever with ergo pivot and anti-slip dimples
- Clean bleeding by funnel
- Can be used with I-Spec integrated brake/shifter clamp to save weight and free up handlebar space
For 2011, XTR offers a choice of double or triple cranksets. The 3x10 option (FC-M980) is aimed at trail riders, with 42/32/24T rings. The ratio is closer than the current XTR, but Shimano say the 24T inner ring is much more efficient than a 22T, yet still offers a low climbing gear when paired with a 36T rear cog. The middle chainring is carbon, with titanium teeth, which is said to improve shifting and durability.
There is also a double based on the same spider, with 38/24T rings and a compact chain guide. As with the brakes, there is also a lightweight option aimed at cross-country racers. The FC-M985 double has a narrower Q-factor – it's 3mm narrower on each side, which means it may not be compatible with some frames – and a choice of 40/28, 42/30 or 44/30T chainrings.
Features of both cranksets include:
- Hollowtech II crankarm design for maximum stiffness with low weight
- HG-X chainring tooth profile and Dual Spike technology for improved shifting
- Outboard bearings for maximum stability and stiffness
- Polished finish, with hidden chainring bolts
- Choice of arm lengths: 165, 170, 172.5, 175, 180mm
- Weights: Start at 698g (claimed), for the cross-country double with threaded bottom bracket
There's a choice of pedals too. Aimed at pro racers, the PD-M980 is an update of the current M970 which sheds 15g while increasing shoe-pedal contact area by a claimed 270 percent for improved power transfer.
Wider bearing placement is said to improve pedalling stability and bearing durability, while an oval axle housing, slimmer axle and offset bindings cut weight and improve mud shedding by a claimed 150 percent. Claimed weight is 310g a pair.
For the trail/all-mountain riders out there – and maybe even weight weenie four-cross and downhill racers – the new PD-M985 takes things a step further by enlarging the shoe-pedal contact area even further and adding an integrated cage. Claimed weight is 398g.
New XTR hubs and wheelsets are available, which are once again split between XCR (cross-country race, M985) and Trail (M988) options. All the wheels come with scandium tubeless rims – 19C and 21C respectively – and Center Lock rotor mounts.
The M985 hubs are cup-and-cone units with double contact seals. There's a new freehub body design for quicker engagement. The rear hub is quick-release only, while up front you can choose Shimano's 15mm E-Thru axle if you prefer.
The M988s are again cup-and-cone units with double contact seals, but the rear gets a titanium freehub body. The front wheel is only available with a 15mm E-Thru axle, while at the rear there's a choice of quick-release or 12mm E-Thru. At 312g for the hub and 96g for the axle, this new standard is said to weigh about the same as an XT quick-release hub but offer greater stiffness than Shimano's Saint freeride/downhill hub.
- Advanced Light Action shifting – the idea is that it requires the same amount of force to shift between the two largest cogs as it takes to shift between the two smallest
- VIVID indexing – designed to give a more positive, pronounced click when you shift, but with a light action
- Can be converted from x2 to x3
- Feature Shimano's Instant Release (for quick, accurate shifting), Multi Release (for shifting several gears at a time) and 2-Way Release (thumb or finger actuation) technology
- Anti-slip dimples on lever
- Claimed weight: 207g a pair
- I-Spec clamps (SL-M980-I) let you combine shifters with XTR brake levers to cut weight to 195g a pair
Rear derailleur (RD-M980)
- New low-profile Shadow design
- Carbon fibre outer plate for light weight; aluminium inner for rigidity and durability
- Lighter action than current XTR – optimised for full-suspension bikes with full outer cable runs
- Top Normal spring design for compatibility with RapidFire shifters
- Jockey wheels get sealed bearings to minimise friction
- Two versions: medium cage (GS, up to 35T sprocket), which improves ground clearance and reduces chain bounce, and long cage (SGS, up to 41T)
- Claimed weight: 175g
Front derailleur (FD-M980/81/85/86)
- 10-speed specific
- Nine versions, depending on number of chainrings and mount type (Top Swing, conventional, E-type and Direct Mount)
- Adaptable clamp fits 28.6-34.9mm seat tubes
- Multi-pull design allows top or bottom cable pull
- Improved cage profile for more tyre clearance; double crankset options get specific compact cage
- Angled adjustment screws and clamp bolt make the new front mech more mechanic-friendly
- Hollow link pins to save weight
- Claimed weight: 125g
- New HG-X directional (asymmetric) chain. Right side (logo side) is optimised for front shifting, left for rear
- Hollow link pins to save weight
- Zinc-alloy plated for durability
- Special plate chamfers help shed mud
- Uses standard connecting pin
- Claimed weight: 259g
- Available in 11-36T and 11-34T options, with an 11-32T to follow next year
- Five largest cogs are titanium for reduced weight and improved durability
- Three-piece spider arm construction
- New tooth profile to work with 10-speed chain
- Alloy lock ring
- Claimed weight: 255g
UK pricing is as follows:
|Chain: M980 (116L)||£44.99|
|Cassette: M980 11-34T||£179.99|
|Cassette: M980 11-36T||£179.99|
|Brakeset: M985 front||£169.99|
|Brakeset: M985 rear||£169.99|
|Brakeset: M988 front||£179.99|
|Brakeset: M988 rear||£179.99|
|Chainset: M980/M985 (all variations)||£399.99|
|Front mech: M980 (Top Swing/E-Type triple)||£84.99|
|Front mech: M981 (conventional/direct mount triple)||£64.99|
|Front mech: M985 (Top Swing/E-Type double)||£64.99|
|Front mech: M986 (conventional/direct mount double)||£84.99|
|Front hub: M985/M988 (all variations)||£99.99|
|Rear hub: M985 (all variations)||£199.99|
|Rear hub: M988 (all variations)||£179.99|
|Rear mech: M980 (all variations)||£139.99|
|Right-hand shifter: M980 (I-Spec or standard)||£79.99|
|Pair of shifters: M980 (I-Spec or standard)||£149.99|
|Front wheel: M985/M988 (all variations)||£369.99|
|Rear wheel: M985/M988 (all variations)||£449.99|