Shimano's long-running Alivio groupset has been revamped for 2014, gaining tech that has trickled down from higher-end groups, along with a fresh look.
Exciting technical advances happening at the top end of the mountain bike world mean that budget groupsets such as Shimano's Alivio are often overlooked. But changes to budget components often have a bigger impact than most of us think – after all, these are the components that'll feature on the majority of riders' first bikes and maybe even on the majority of mountain bikes sold this year!
Shimano RD-M4000-SGS rear derailleur
The last-generation Alivio was a 9-speed group and it remains that way for 2014. At the rear there's a new, slimmer-profile 'Shadow' rear derailleur, while the new front derailleur offers more tyre clearance, ideal for the latest generation of bikes using larger wheels and short chainstays.
Shimano's Alivio FC-M4050 crankset with 40/30/22t gearing and Hollowtech bottom bracket
The new FC-M4050 chainset has also been revised for 650b and 29in wheels. It features Shimano's Dyna-Sys compact triple ratio 40-30-22t ring combination, which was debuted last year on Shimano's Deore group and was developed specifically for larger wheels. The new triple chainset is a fresh looking two-piece design that also uses Shimano's existing BB51 hollowtech bottom bracket, despite not being branded as a Hollowtech II component. An Octalink bottom bracket version is also available.
The ST-M4050 shifter/hydraulic brake lever
Shimano has chosen to provide Alivio with a combined shift/brake lever, named the ST-M4050. The idea behind this is to cut weight and increase space at the handlebar. As far as this sort of unit goes, this one looks pretty nice, with a clean and compact design that mates the 9-speed shifter to the BR-M4050 hydraulic brake. There's also a stand alone version of the shifter for those who want to run different brakes.
There's a clear yet compact optical gear display on each lever and the shift levers have a two-way release action, so you can use either your thumb or forefinger to shift. The lever now includes a bleed port at the top, which can be used with Shimano's funnel bleeding tool to simplify the bleeding process.
Shimano was also aware that Alivio components have already been used for years on trekking/touring bikes. This year it's chosen to produce a trekking-specific Alivio product lineup to sit alongside the mountain bike parts. That means another shift/brake-lever combo, but this one is designed for use with V-brakes. It also has a larger gear display. The shifter is matched with front and rear derailleurs and two trekking-specific chainsets.