Ever since DX was introduced in the wake of XT over 20 years ago Shimano have had a long habit of making their mid-range gear absolutely bombproof, top value and feature rich. The latest SLX drivetrain is no exception.
The rear mech gets a flared parallelogram design for increased stiffness and it gets a similar cosmetically durable raw metal outer face to XTR so it stays looking good too.
The Shadow Plus rear mech is definitely worth the extra weight and fractionally stiffer shifting over the standard Shadow mech if you’re riding anything remotely technical on a regular basis.
The chain-calming clutch keeps noise and frame slap to a minimum, and once you’ve tried it it sounds as though all hell is breaking loose behind you when you switch back. As a result we tend to put the switch onto ‘on’ from the start and leave it there. Especially as the little plastic lever reminds you that Shimano have had to cut corners in some places to get the prices so competitive.
The rear parallelogram and outer jockey cage plates and the DMD compatible B Link are all steel too, which adds a fair bit of weight, but makes it extremely strong and even bendable back into action in an emergency.
The front mech comes in no less than eight different versions for double and triple chainsets and every sort of fitting system from Direct Mount to ‘clamp behind the bottom bracket cups’ E-style.
The front shifter can also be switched between double and triple options with a click of the tab underneath. The metal armed triggers deliver crisp and accurate shifts and stay that way for an impressively long time, however lousy the weather or laughable your maintenance schedule. The removable gear windows even have blanking plates hidden inside for keeping things looking neat.
The cassette is partially mounted on an alloy spider for significant weight saving over Deore and it won’t scar and jam on soft freehub splines easily.