Shimano XTR groupset 2014 – first look

New flagship mountain bike components

Shimano have announced the 2014 version of their legendary XTR groupset. The flagship mountain bike component line gets lighter and more efficient braking, an all-new lightweight carbon tubular 29er wheelset, and minor drivetrain upgrades.


M987 XTR race brake

Shimano have redesigned their XTR XC race brake – now known as the M987. Significant weight savings have been introduced, along with a new rotor design offering improved heat dissipation. 

The additional weight of many 29ers was a key consideration during the design process. Weight savings are claimed to be 40g per brake compared to the previous XTR Race M985, achieved by using a magnesium lever and caliper body along with carbon lever blades and titanium hardware. The range-topping M987 is actually Shimano’s lightest hydraulic disc to date. The BR-M987 caliper is also compatible with Shimano’s Ice Tech finned brake pads.

Shimano m987 brake caliper: shimano m987 brake caliper
Shimano M987 brake caliper

A new design that Shimano are particularly proud of is the SM-RT99 disc rotor. Borrowing technology from the current Saint, it features a three-layer sandwich construction. Two outer stainless steel discs sit either side of a grooved aluminium centre piece, and the result is a structure capable of dissipating heat much more effectively than the previous RT98 – apparently a 40°C reduction over peak temperatures.

Shimano are so confident in the new heat defying capabilities of the RT99 that they say cross-country riders can now downsize their brakes accordingly, so a rider who would previously have been on a 180mm rotor can now run a 160mm setup. 

The RT99 was also designed with mud in mind, the distinctive rotor blade working to prevent clogging and all the issues assosciated with it. The RT99 will be available in 140/160/180 and 203mm sizes.

The brakes will also remain Shimano I-Spec compatible. For those of you not up to date with the marketing spiel, that means just one clamp on your handlebar for attaching each brake and compatible shifter. I-Spec has seen a slight revision for this year, the revised units now known as being B-Type compatible.

WH-M980 carbon tubular wheelset

A new XTR-branded wheelset has also been launched. The WH-M980 is a 29in carbon tubular offering aimed at competitive cross-country riders. Both 12mm and 15mm axles are available up front, while out back you get a choice of a 142x12mm or 135mm QR hub. 

Tested thoroughly throughout last season, these wheels feature 28 straight-pull spokes and are built to a claimed weight of between 1,298-1,349g per pair depending on the chosen configuration. As is standard for Shimano, the M980s will use a centre lock rotor mount.

Shimano wh-m980 rear wheel with 142x12mm axle:
Shimano WH-M980 front wheel with 15mm axle 

BB93 and BB94-41A bottom brackets

Two fresh bottom brackets will be available for 2014 – the threaded BB93 and press-fit BB94-41A. Both offer a near-20g weight saving over equivalent previous generation Shimano BBs. 

Dramatic improvements are claimed when it comes to bearing friction, too, with Shimano stating that figures have been reduced by up to 50 percent. Durability is also said to have improved due to revised sealing. For fans of numbers, the BB93 comes in at a claimed 71g, while the press-fit offering tips the scales at just 58g.

Shimano bb94-41a press-fit bb:
Shimano BB94-41A press-fit BB

CN-M981 chain

A new XTR group also means a new chain. The M981 is a directional 10-speed design; it features hollow pins and debuts a special coating Shimano refer to as Sil-tec – in theory that should mean a part that runs smoother and lasts longer.

Shimano cn-m981 chain:

Shimano CN-M981 chain


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