With the launch of its new SLX mountain bike groupset, Shimano has repurposed the Deore LX collection as city bike components.It’s quite a departure for the Deore LX label, and functionally and ergonomically the individual components are a success.
Additions such as a front hub dynamo, compact triple and integrated levers ﬁrmly position it as a road/touring groupset and it’s a bit difﬁcult to divorce the new components from what your preconceptions of what Shimano Deore LX gear should look like.
The changes have obviously been thought through, though, and it’s easy to see the reasoning behind them. Shimano is clearly convinced that the urban and commuting markets will continue to expand, and manufacturers will no doubt be glad of an off-the-peg solution to speccing these bikes, which are often quite mix-and-match in their components.
Our only criticism is that price-wise, it’s a bit expensive for the big sellers in the category, such as the Specialized Sirrus Comp and Trek 7.5FX, and perhaps not sleek enough in its looks to be an ideal ﬁt for £800-£1,000 urban machines.
Will we be seeing a budget version too? Perhaps STX will eventually be reincarnated.
Let’s take a look at the individual parts.
Chainset: bigger gears, sleek lines
One of the most obvious changes from 2008 is the adoption of a more road-friendly 48/36/26 triple in the £119.99 chainset in addition to the standard 44/32/22 mountain bike unit.
The look is a bit more sinewy and organic than last year’s very functional lines, and the polished silver ﬁnish is more high street than high places.
The chainset uses the same two-piece construction and outboard bearing set-up as other Hollowtech II units. At 920g it’s a middleweight, as you’d expect – Shimano claims to have shaved a couple of hundred grams off the groupset as a whole.
Shifting performance is excellent, and the gear range with the recommended 11-28-tooth cassette is just right for most urban and touring duties. You can also ﬁt an 11-32, but 11-34 isn’t recommended because the new shorter cage rear mech might struggle.
Both chainsets come ﬁtted with a plastic guard, which is easy to remove if you prefer clean lines and dirty trousers.
Rapidfire shifter/brake lever: long levers, nice feel
Aimed squarely at ﬂat-bar road applications, the £74.99 integrated shifter/brake units pull cassette-equipped V-brakes and new front and rear derailleurs.
The levers and shifters are also available as separate units, and there’s a hydraulic disc option too.
The ﬁrst thing you notice is the size. The big, clear gear displays and four-ﬁnger levers mark this out as tarmac gear, and the look is more about-town Nexave than ﬂashy XTR.
The shifters have a light action and feature the excellent two-way release from last year’s LX, which allows you to upshift either by pulling the release lever or tapping it with your thumb, which is often easier and soon becomes intuitive.
The long levers won’t be to everyone’s taste but they’re comfy, give plenty of feel, and they work effortlessly in tandem with the V-brakes, which appear to have had a cosmetic makeover but not much else.
We didn’t try the hydraulic option but the integrated levers also worked pretty well with Shimano Tiagra R505 mechanical discs, even though the cable pull is longer than a road lever.
Derailleurs: Shimano’s usual excellent shifting
The £44.99 rear derailleur has a slightly shorter cage for 2009, reﬂecting the shift to 11-28 as the standard cassette. It also scores an alloy inner plate, which helps to drop the weight a bit; at 269g it’s about 15g lighter than last year’s unit.
The £24.99 front mech is available in top and down swing conﬁgurations (the pivot is above the clamp on a top swing mech, and below the clamp on a down swing), and both are designed to work with either size of chainset.
Certainly there were no setup issues getting the down swing mech and the 48/36/26 chainset working together, though we didn’t try the other combinations available.