DRIVETRAIN - SHIMANO 12 SPEED AND XTR 4 POTS - COMPONENT TEST
Updated: Aug 11, 2019
It’s been a while in the making for Shimano but the revamped XTR setup is here.
Adding an extra cog for the 12 speed setup and a massive 51 tooth tip ring. Everything is new from brakes to hubs so plenty to check out and put through its paces. Shimano have a few different configurations for this setup to suit anyone, from the hardcore enduro racer to XC and cyclocross.
There were two different brake setups on offer, one lightweight twin piston caliper brake with little lever adjustment and exotic materials to make things as light as possible. This was not the one that ticked my boxes though. However all new XTR four piston brake was something that was right up my street. With the new lever design, Shimano have now moved the lever mount inward with the lever piston extending to actually touch the bar. This allows the lever body stiffness, when under stress, to be improved. There is now no brake lever flex which gives improved brake feel and response. This is a touch that really impressed me. It is such a simple thing when you look at it but only when this has been carried out and sits right in front of you do you appreciate the detail.
On the enduro setup there is less worry about weight and more about durability. The casing and lever on the four piston setup being made from aluminium, there is a slight weight gain but more strength. The full adjustment that would be expected from a Shimano lever is shown here.
The four piston caliper has had a revamp too, with a slick look and larger pad surfaces it has better bite and power. There is still the vented pad and a nice grey XTR finish.
Ride-wise these brakes performed well for a first ride. Not struggling with the long descents or the heat put through them. With a very direct lever feel and very little issues this is a great stopper but my question now is why buy this over the XT equivalent? We will have to see in the coming months.
12 Speed Gearing
With the brakes out of the way there was one more product that had to be looked at while over in Slovenia. The new 12 speed setup with that massive 51 tooth final gear. With the same idea as the brakes Shimano have made three different rear mechs to deal with different setup options. From having the 1X12 or a 2X11 or even the 1X11 setup with the same cassette and micro spline hub design. For us here at Descend we feel that the only setup we would be using is the 1X12 so that’s what was looked at. To get the ball rolling this new design has a totally re-engineered cassette body. This micro spline design is only available on the XTR hub so this would need to be purchased as a full setup. This is where the negative comes in with this new group-set. I did feel the hub could have been more refined to make it feel like it belonged in the XTR family. The silent freehub is great with this being the style that I would ride at home. But with sloppy engagement that you expect from a lesser hub that you can feel when riding, compared to the Onyx that I ride at home, which is instant.
With the gearing there is a much better feel to the shifting. This now has some nice touches such as the rubber grip for your thumb, it’s a lovely addition.
The new chain is narrower and has a special profile to engage with the cassette allowing for a smoother shift when under load. This did appear to work well with some handfuls of relatively painless gear changes done under power while climbing.
I will be looking forward to putting some back to back testing in against the finest that SRAM has to offer and seeing where Shimano sits as a newcomer to the 12 speed game.
PRICE: Brakes - RRP £579.98
Drivetrain- Shifter £95, Rear mech £190, Crank £310, Chainring £100 Chain £50,
Hubs £385, Cassette £290
Total drive kit cost: £1420
WORDS- Ieuan Williams
PHOTOS - Ieuan Williams