Deore XT may be Shimano’s second-tier mountain bike group, but it’s the one most mountain biker’s look to when they want to balance price with performance.
The XT line covers a wide range of users, from cross-country riders to enduro racers and everyone in between. As a result, the M8000 group is the Japanese brand’s most versatile component group to date.
For many riders, the most anticipated addition to M8000 group was the adoption of wide-range cassettes and front chainrings in whatever flavor you prefer.
This 11-speed transmission is offered with 11-40t and 11-42t cassettes to be used with double and triple cranksets. (Yes, retro-grouches can still have their triples.)
The latest XT group was Shimano’s first step into the realm of single-ring drivetrains, which is good considering 1x is quickly becoming the norm.
I tested the XT M8000 group with single and double chainrings to see how this group stacks up.
SL-M8000 Rapid Fire shifters
I’ve spent a lot of time on XT this year, from the tried and true cable-actuated version tested here to the electronic M8050 Di2 group. Whether you’re relying on cables or wires, Shimano still reigns supreme when it comes to shift performance.
The SL-M8000 Rapid Fire shifters have a light action that’s easy on your digits. Shimano claims the shift force required to operate the rear derailleur has been reduced by 20 percent. This is a welcome change from the previous 10-speed XT M780 rear shifter, which required an excessive amount of lever force to overcome the clutch-equipped rear derailleur when downshifting.
While the shift action is pleasingly light, individual shifts remain positive and precise, ensuring you don’t accidentally overshift when charging through rough terrain.
If you feel the need to move quickly across the cassette, Shimano’s Rapid Fire Plus technology lets you shift through four gears at a time on downshifts and two at a time when upshifting.
Whether you’re tackling punchy climbs or attempting to drop the hammer in a sprint, Rapid Fire shifting is something you don’t truly come to appreciate until you switch to a SRAM-equipped bike and have to start finger-twerking in an attempt to get equally speedy shifting.
FC-M8000 Hollowtech crankset
Moving on from shifters, the FC-M8000 Hollowtech crankset feels on par with other high-end cranksets in terms of stiffness. The only concern I had regarding the cranks was the finish. The gloss black crankarms are begging for scratches and other wear marks. It’s only cosmetic, but Shimano would do well to offer crank boots to protect the ends of its crankarms from abuse.
The ramped and pinned rings of the 36/26t double paired with FD-M8025 front derailleur made for smooth transitions between the chainrings.
Shimano may have been late to the 1x drivetrain movement, but the SM-CRM80 chainring with its taller, narrow-wide profile is quiet and effective at keeping the chain firmly in place. Shimano offers this 1x-specific chainring in 30, 32 and 34t versions to suit most riders.
As mentioned, Shimano’s shifting is smooth and precise. I rode the CS-M8000 11-42t cassette with a 2x crankset. As a double, this setup provides even steps between gears and plenty of usable range.
When it came time to ditch the front derailleur, I stepped up to the wider-range 11-46t cassette. At 495g this cassette is no lightweight, but it’s not outrageously expensive, either.
This cassette is one of the disappointments of an otherwise outstanding group. As I mentioned in my XT Di2 review, the step from the 37 to 46t cog is a very significant jump in gearing for a company that has cited large gaps between gears as one of its primary reservations with 1x drivetrains.
Shimano traded a 42t for a 46t cog without revising the gear steps. It feels like a stopgap product rushed to market to compete with SRAM’s 1x drivetrains. It’s only when the RD-M8000 rear derailleur reaches from the 37 to 46t cog and back that the shifting doesn’t feel exceptional.
There’s a lot to like about the M8000 group, Shimano allows you to select chainrings to suit your needs: one, two or even three, the choice is yours.
If you’re not ready to make the leap to 12-speed drivetrains, or if you prefer Shimano’s fast-action shifting, this XT group is a solid choice.
Overall, the XT M8000 group retains the spirit of past XT drivetrains by bringing top-end performance to realistic price points.