Updated: Shimano SLX Dyna-Sys 10-speed: First ride review

First impressions of the full 2011 3x10 groupset

Shimano’s big news this year is the introduction of 3×10 Dyna-Sys technology – essentially an extra sprocket on the rear cassette, with a wider gear range at the back and more closely spaced gears at the front, plus improved derailleurs and shifters.

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Our US editor Matt Pacocha published his first impressions of the new Dyna-Sys Deore XT groupset earlier this year – look out for a full review soon. For those on a tighter budget, the technology is also being introduced on the big S’s third-tier SLX gear for 2011.

It’s not on sale until September, but our colleagues over at What Mountain Bike magazine have managed to get hold of a full Dyna-Sys SLX groupset, handily bolted to a Genesis Altitude hardtail by UK Shimano distributors Madison, and have put in 50 miles on it. Here’s what they had to say …

First impressions of the 30-speed (triple ring and 10-speed cassette) groupset are slightly underwhelming – at a glance, it’s nigh-on identical to the current 27-speed setup, with only a couple of Dyna-Sys logos to give the game away. Oh, and that 10th dinner plate sized 36-tooth sprocket at the back.

What’s less obvious is that the smallest chainring has got bigger – it’s a 24T rather than a 22T. If you’re used to a 22/32 low gear, the new 24/36 will feel pretty much the same. So the overall range is no greater, but you get access to lower gears while sticking in the middle chainring.

Shimano also tout the benefits of closely spaced chainrings for full-suspension bikes that exhibit different behaviour in different gears due to the effects of chain tension – similar chainrings means similar suspension performance. It’s hard to say how noticeable that is after a riding a hardtail, though.

Crisp shifting comes courtesy of the 10-speed chain and reworked shifters: crisp shifting comes courtesy of the 10-speed chain and reworked shifters
Joby Sessions

Crisp shifting comes courtesy of the 10-speed chain and reworked shifters

We’re used to Shimano shifting being slick, but the 2011 SLX manages to raise the bar fractionally further. There’s a new, directional 10-speed chain and reworked shifters that equalise the force needed to shift across the cassette. It all makes for a seamless experience.

Straight out of the box, you’re able to grab gears in handfuls or snick a stealthy shift without alerting those around you as to your intentions. This slick shifting carried forward through our initial off-road testing – the new wide-ratio cassette enjoying time in the dirt.

Even with the first complete summer dust baths covering the components, there was no let-up in their accuracy; shifting up or down the rear sprockets, the near-silent changes were almost perfect.

The narrower 10-speed chain actually seems to work better at not picking up trail debris than the nine-speed versions, since the gaps between the links are narrower, effectively making it harder for debris to enter.

The addition of the extra sprocket on 10-speed systems has caused more concern than is due, so is the new 10-speed SLX better than its predecessor? In a word: yes. We’d now not be without the wide ratio 36T rear sprocket enabling almost every up to become a 32T (middle ring) climb.

The closer ratio chainrings certainly result in smaller jumps between gears that feel more natural and mean fewer recovery shifts – it’s particularly noticeable when dropping from the middle to the 24T (rather than 22T) small chainring for steep climbing.

The only question that remains, and it’s one that applies equally to SRAM’s 2011 10-speed offerings, is about the long-term real-world (read: in slop and grime) performance of the closely spaced sprockets and narrower chain. Only time will tell on that one.

The 10-speed casette in all its glory: the 10-speed casette in all its glory
Joby Sessions

The 10-speed Dyna-Sys SLX cassette in all its glory

Pricing is comparable to the current incarnation of SLX. UK RRPs are as follows:

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  • Cassette (11-34, 11-36T): £49.99
  • Chain: £29.99
  • Chainset (24/32/42T,170/175mm lengths): £139.99
  • Front mech: £29.99 (Top Swing/Down Swing) / £26.99 (Direct Mount & E-Fit)
  • Shadow rear mech: £49.99
  • Rapidfire shifters: £59.99 a pair / £29.99 for right-hand only