As the middle ground in Shimano’s range, SLX is all about durability and value for money. The 2013 groupset hasn’t budged from its roots, and technical tweaks mean it’s again raising the bar for performance and value.
The choice of gearing has increased with the addition of wide-ratio 38/24-tooth crank rings; the old 38/26T and 40/28T doubles and the 42/32/24T triple remain. A directional chain (£30) wraps a 10-speed cassette (£55), which comes in three options (11-32T, 11-34T and 11-36T), and all of these have the largest three sprockets mounted on an alloy carrier to prevent any freehub damage.
We tested the new 38/24T ratios with the 11-34T cassette – a setup that proved ideal for the contours of trail centres, though the 11-36T rear option would offer greater respite on long climbs.
The shifters (£70) have shorter levers and crisper-feeling shifting than previous models, thanks to the tightly sprung mechs (£30 front, £70 rear). Also included is an XTR-style mode converter, meaning the shifters can be used with both 2x10 and 3x10 setups.
The rear mech now has the Shadow Plus clutch system first seen on the top-end XTR range. Engaging the clutch stops the mech moving forwards and keeps the chain taught, wiping out chain slap/drops almost completely. It’s a noticeable difference, and a feature well worth having. The rear mech is also compatible with the latest Direct Mount fitting, so it’s future proof against frame changes.
Shimano SLX 2x10 groupset rear mech
The brakes (£190 pair) are seriously powerful even with 160mm rotors (£20 each), though 180mm (£25) and 203mm (£30) are available, as are Centrelock versions. The short levers give bags of braking feel, and the addition of finned pads to aid cooling is welcome.
The whole system is little heavier than the more expensive XT, pretty much as durable and works almost as well. In fact, it’s such incredible value it almost undermines Shimano’s only slightly better but more expensive XT groupset.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.