First Look: All-New Shimano XTR M9000 – 1x, 2x and 3x 11-Speed MTB Groups
Chances are good most of you don’t all have the same riding style. Some of you probably ride for a physical challenge while others ride for a technical challenge. Some for both. Some of you have specialty bikes devoted to one specific type of riding, while others a quiver of one that’s as versatile as possible.
The point is, when Shimano set out to create the next version of XTR, they didn’t feel that one drivetrain system would fit all riders. Calling on their 22 years of experience in making things shift, Shimano has introduced a new XTR M9000 group to be as versatile and capable as the riders it’s built for.
Those looking for an answer to the 1x trend will happily find it with 9000. And those looking for one of the widest range triples in history will find it as well. Details after the break…
At the heart of Shimano’s M9000 and M9020 groups is the concept of rhythm and range. One can easily see that Shimano’s 1x system doesn’t have the spread of their competitor;s wide range cassette, but in typical Shimano fashion the M9000 is all about system engineering and producing the most efficient drivetrain possible. Everyone wants to know about the 1x option of the new XTR so we’ll start with the new HG-X11 11-40 cassette.
No, there are no 10t or 42t cogs, but one of the main benefits of the cassettes is that it fits on standard Shimano freehub bodies without any new parts. Where their 11-speed road groups required a slightly wider freehub body, Shimano was able to squeeze 11 mountain bike gears into the space of 10 without making the gears any narrower thanks to the larger low cogs. Unlike a road cassette, the big cogs can be dished around the spokes since they sit out farther, so the freehub body and the hub spacing remain the same.
Tooth counts are 11-13-15-17-19-21-24-27-31-35-40, skipping two, then three, then four and finally a five count. Shimano calls it Rhythm Step gearing, and the idea is that you are able to save energy by staying in control of cadence and effort because of the closer steps in gearing. With the new cassette a single shift is a cadence adjustment of about 10 rpm, a double shift is a 20 rpm change which represents a terrain change, and a triple shift is about a 30 rpm difference for a reactionary or emergency shift.
HG-X11 cassettes use a multi-spider structure with two clusters built on a carbon spider and two clusters with aluminum spiders. There are six titanium, one aluminum, and four steel cogs. Weight is claimed at 330g.
So why not offer the range of XX1 for the XTR 1x? With the improvements to XTR, Shimano feels that if you need more range than the 1x system you are better off with the new Trail 2x crank which offers drastically improved performance, especially from the front derailleur.
The Hollow Tech II crank uses a 1x specific Hollow Glide chainring with titanium teeth. Cranks will be offered in a 560g M9000-1 Race version and a 590g M9020-1 Trail version each with 30, 32, 34, and 36t chainring options. When Shimano set out to build a 1x crank it had to be longer wearing, and offer exceptional driving stiffness while still preventing chain drop.
An interesting design feature of all of the XTR cranks is the modular chainring construction which allows 1x, 2x, or 3x on the same crank. 1x cranks will be sold as crank arms only with chainrings sold separately, while the trail double will be sold as 38/28, 36/26, or 34/24. Doubles will be offered in the 158mm q-factor m9000 crank which weighs 620g, and the 168mm q-factor m9020 crank at 645g. Trail doubles use the Hollow Glide chainring technology for the driving gear (big ring) and an aluminum granny gear.
Think of the most frequent gears you go to on your cassette. Shimano calls these the Driving Range. The new 2x system is designed to get you out of “granny gear jail” meaning that once you shift down to the granny gear you aren’t stuck there for the rest of the climb. There will also be a compact triple offered in the 11 speed group with a 22-30-40t gearing. Combined with the 40t cassette, the 22t will offer the “lowest gear in history of mountain biking ever.” The m9020-3 will weigh in around 655g.
The new Hollow pin HG-X11 chain is an asymmetric plate design for improved shifting front and rear that uses Sil-tec coated plates and rollers. The Sil-Tec coating uses embedded fluorine particles to reduce friction and improve lubrication properties. Claimed weight is 245g.
At first glance the new 1x specific chainrings don’t look like 1x specific rings, but it’s all in the details. Rather than using a narrow-wide design made popular by many manufacturers, Shimano created teeth that are wider and taller than the standard tooth and also includes a hook to the front, all of which helps keep the chain in check. Shimano claims the system is good for complete chain retention without a guide in 99% of riding.
The other interesting part about the chainrings is that they are a three part design utilizing carbon, aluminum and titanium. The driving gears are titanium for long wearing instead of a hard anodized aluminum which should keep the gears running longer. Each part of the structure works together to make an extremely stiff chainring for 1x efficiency.
Of course no modern drivetrain would be complete without a clutched derailleur and the RD-M9000 steps in where the previous derailleur left off.
Still building on the Shadow Plus design, the derailleur has new geometry that reduces shift effort and an offset parallelogram that improves rear derailleur stability and shifting accuracy. An offset top pulley brings the chain further down as it goes up the cassette, adding clearance off the larger cogs to ensure easy shifting.
This wasn’t something Shimano was really advertising, but apparently this XTR rear derailleur is 30mm narrower from the outside of the bike compared to the competition.
The on/off switch for the clutch mechanism is functionally the same, but it looks a bit different and has a new adjustment trick up its sleeve. While the previous Shadow+ derailleurs had a clutch tension adjust, you had to remove the cover and fiddle with the derailleur to make the change. Now the derailleur features an allen key adjustment that is covered with a protective cap so you can easily make the clutch tension higher or lower depending on your use. The XTR RD-M9000 will be sold in GS (mid cage) and SGS (long cage) versions.
One of the reasons for going 1x has always been to ditch the front derailleur because they can be hard to adjust, are affected by suspension travel, and can limit tire clearance. Enter Side Swing. Rather than having the bulk of the derailleur behind the cage, it now sits above it which drastically improves tire clearance. The derailleur also uses a front mount cable which provides a much cleaner entry to the derailleur from the downtube. Side Swing derailleurs will work with all four of the previous derailleur mounting standards – D type, E type, High clamp, and Low clamp depending on the frame. Weight on the new derailleur? Just 100g.
Finally, everything is controlled by the new Rapid Fire Plus shifters. Packed with Shimano features like Vivid Index for feel, and multi-release for dropping more than one gear, the shifters use a new lever geometry which is longer to offer more leverage for today’s clutch equipped derailleurs. The levers are also carbon and feature textured surfaces for grip. At 100g per shifter, M9000 may make you rethink taking that front shifter off your bike. Shift effort is reduced by 20 percent and will be compatible with the new i-spec II mounting system.
New wheels and brakes posting separately.