First Look: Shimano's XTR 11 Speed Groupset

Words by Mark

on 14/04/2014 17:00:29

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XX1 has been around for a while and the mountain bike world has been waiting with baited breathe to see Shimano's response. Earlier this week Shimano unveiled their 2015 XTR groupset, keep reading to see what we think about the new XTR and whether it's an XX1 killer.

Shimano XTR - Engineered For The Way You Ride

It won't come a surprise to find out that the latest incarnations of XTR uses an 11 speed cog and comes in the standard "Race" & "Trail" set-ups as other premium Shimano drivetrains. The main surprise was the front mech, instead of sending it to the afterlife, Shimano have redesigned it to make it more functional for the modern mountain biker but there is still the 1x option for elite riders.

XTR's New Shifting Philosophy

Shimano's 11 Speed XTR cassette has been dividing into two segments, driving gears and challenge gears, the Driving Gears are in the middle range of the cassette and are optimised by a new Rhythm Step design that features smooth, 10 RPM jumps between shifts to improve the efficiency of the most common used gears. Challenge Gears are for the steepest climbs and offer low ratios for clawing your way up any mountain.

  • Rider Tuned, Now More Than Ever - Ride anywhere 11 speed "Rider Tuned" gearing. Complete line of Race and Trail/Enduro components.
  • Highly Efficient - Improved driving and braking efficiency.
  • Highly Stable - Improved chain retention and consistent shifting.
  • Responsive - Seamlessly react to ride commands.
  • Enduring - High performance for long life.

What About Shimano's One-By XTR?

Although Shimano are offering a 1x XTR for the rider who doesn't want a front mech, it has been crafted for the most powerful racers. With its shorter range cassette, the XTR 1x groupset won't offer the same low climbing gear or the smallest 10T cog found, this makes the 1x XTR focused on racers and stronger riders who will choose the largest chainring they can comfortably push and then suffer up the big climbs.

XTR First Impressions

Overall the new XTR 11 speed drivetrain looks to offer the next jump up for Shimano drivetrains, with the option of a premium 1x drivetrain for serious riders and a double that meets the real world demands of trail riders it looks like XTR will be able to stand its ground against XX1 - even with the ever present front mech. With Shimanos standard trickle down, you can expect to see a new XT groupset in the future for those of us without large wallets. If you want the very best then you won't find better than XTR, we'll be stocking the groupset when it's officially shipped so stay tuned for more information of this amazing groupset.

All New Components:

Shimano XTR 11 Speed Chainset

Three Chainset Options: 1x, 2x or 3x

With the new XTR, there are 3 different chainsets; one with a single chainring that has been designed for the XC World Cup race circuit, a double for hardcore trail riders who want a wider range that 1x drivetrains just can't offer, and a triple for the less fit crowd featuring a generously low 22T granny ring which when combined with the new cassette provides the lowest mountain bike gear ever offered.

Shimano XTR 11 Speed Cassette

New "Rhythm Step" Cassette

The new Rhythm Step cassette features an 11 by 40 tooth range - slightly smaller than a standard XX1 range - that offers the smooth jumps between cassettes and when combined with the double can provide virtually every ratio you need without the classic "large jump" problem faced by standard groupsets. When paired with the Triple chainset, this cassette provides some of the lowest ratios ever seen on a mountain bike and is perfect for climbing the most vertical terrain on the planet.

Shimano XTR 11 Speed Front Mech

Revolutionised Front Mech

Shimano's front mechs have always been the best shifting and are now even better. A new "Side Swing" mechanism on the XTR 11 Speed groupset eliminates the issues of clearance with tyres by eliminate the bird's nest of cables and lever arms found on standard derailleurs. Shimano claim this new design boosts shifting performance by 100% for a triple and 50% for a double. The only downside is the new front cable routing might not be compatible with some frames - it's not the sexiest looking design either. This new front mech is also designed to compensate for three degrees of suspension movement.

Whether this new front mech design is enough to convenience riders that it's better than no front mech is hard to tell, but a new front mech design is surely an improvement that will benefit every rider in the future as it trickles down.

Shimano XTR 11 Speed Rear Mech

A New Fancy Rear Mech For 11 Speeds

The new XTR rear mech has been redesigned in nearly every aspect to suit 11 speed shifting, a new parallelogram slant places the upper pullet at the ideal angle to match with the 11 speed cogs while a 10mm longer body enables faster shifting. The Shadow Plus clutch mechanism is the same on the inside but features an external Allen key adjustment on the outside. A new carbon fibre cage removes weight and improves shifting stiffness for crisp actions at the lever with a lighter pull required.

Shimano XTR 11 Speed Shifters

New Shifters Brakes

Redesigned shifters for XTR resemble Saint levers with a longer cable take-up lever and broader cable release lever. The new release lever can double shift if necessary - a feature added to facilitate the new 1x drivetrain but still might be useful for trail riders.

Shimano XTR 11 Speed Brakes

Improved Brakes

The new brakes are standard Shimano affairs and have changed little from last years brakes. A new body is slimmed near the grip area for more clearance in case you want to run grip shifters.