Tyler's shot of his group just before weighing in.
Tyler's shot of his group just before weighing in.

A lot has been said regarding mountain bikes and the advent of the 10 speed mountain bike group. Some are for it, while others are adamantly against it. Let me be the first to say that when SRAM first introduced 10 speed MTB parts, I (like most mountain bikers I have talked to) have been quoted as saying “10 speed is so stupid, it’s pointless and I don’t need it on my bike.” Let me also be the first to tell you that I have no problem eating my words, so pass the butter and salt.

We’ve already gone over weights and product specs, thanks to Tyler, so now it’s on to installation and first ride impressions. I was fortunate enough to receive an advance set of Shimano XT Dynasys 10 speed, and admittedly I couldn’t wait to get it on my bike.

Pictures, installation tips, and more after the break.

Trying to demonstrate how slack the rear der. cable is when in the highest gear.
Trying to demonstrate how slack the rear der. cable is when in the highest gear.

First, lets talk installation. Everything was completely normal minus a few things. First I was dumbfounded by how little initial cable tension is needed for proper shifting. It requires so little that most people will set it up like normal, and then throw wrenches when they can’t get it to shift right. The cable is virtually slack when set properly, but it demonstrates just how much cable is pulled by the new extended arm on the Dynasys rear derailleurs.

Highlighting the new extended shift arm on Dynasys derailleurs.

Also you have to make sure to install the chain properly. Just like the new 10 speed road chains there is an inside and an outside. Make sure to install the chain so that the writing on the chain is facing out, or that while standing on the right side of the bike you can read the words on the chain. Just like the road group they do this so that one side is chamfered to shift faster on the front chain rings while the other side is chamfered to shift better on the rear cassette . Finally the front derailleur was a little finicky at first, requiring toeing in slightly for proper shifting without rubbing on my Fuel. Everything bolted up quickly with no major issues.

My preferred set up with shifter outboard of brake.
My preferred set up with shifter outboard of brake.

While not a new feature, this was the first time I had set up a Shimano drive train on my bike with the shifters mounted outboard (closer to the end of the bar) of the brake levers. This is accomplished by removing the gear indicator pods and covering up the hole with the supplied covers. This allows for two main things: easy thumb-thumb shifting, and precise one fingertip control of the brakes. After years of riding SRAM, I admit that when it comes to shifting I am all thumbs. The new set up (to me) allows me to easily reach both shift levers with my thumb to utilize the 2-way release feature. Also I really like how when this shifter position is combined with XT brakes you can set up the brakes so that just your index fingertip is on the brake lever. So far in nearly every riding situation, one finger Servo-Wave power has been all that was needed and offers way more modulation than most set ups I have tried.

Count 'em, 10 gears.
Count 'em, 10 gears.

So how does it ride?

ZACH: My first impressions are: Damn, it shifts quick. Not only fast, but it boasts amazingly better shifting under power than any 8 speed or 9 speed MTB set up I have ridden. I found myself never dropping down from the middle ring (which I tended to do occasionally with my X0 set up), and actually riding a good bit in the big ring which is now 42 t instead of 44. Also notable is the fact that after setting it up, and riding over 20 miles so far, it has required zero cable tension adjustments. No matter what amount of stressing cables I have done in the past, I have always had to tweak the barrel adjusters at least once in the first ride.

TYLER: I installed mine with existing Gore RideOn cables, so they were already stretched and didn’t need any adjusting once I had it dialed.  Like Zach, I noticed how freakin’ quick and easy the shifts were.  The set up I received was sans front shifter and the wrong front derailler for my bike, so I’m running just the new XT cranks, rear derailleur and shifter, and chain mixed with a SRAM X7 front shifter and 7-year-old XTR front derailleur.  So, I can’t comment on front shifting, but I can say that the Dynasys concept of smaller size gaps between the three rings is on the money.  My first real riding on the new set up was during the BURN 24 Hour Challenge, and I was able to do virtually all of the lap in the big ring, but when it did come time to climb on the later laps, moving between the big and middle rings provided just about the perfect amount of gearing change. This translated into less overall shifting to keep cadence and pedaling effort correct in the transitions from descending to climbing (and vice versa).

Slight toe in on the front derailleur.
Slight toe in on the front derailleur.

ZACH: It is a little heavier than previous XT, and it added about 3/4 of a pound from my XO/XT mix but of course, that’s why there is XTR .

TYLER: I went from a mix of older XTR cranks, X0 rear derailleur and X7 shifters and I actually dropped about 1/3 of a pound from my bike doing the install. I have yet to get the new front shifter and derailleur, so I’ll remark more when we do our full review.

ZACH: Am I sold on it? Talk to me again after the season is over and I have a lot of miles on it. As long as it proves to be as durable as 9 speed XT, I will be a convert.

TYLER: While many people are saying Shimano’s late to the game with 2×10 and blah, blah, blah about putting so much into revamping their triples, here’s what I think: There are a ton of applications where a triple makes way more sense, like on heavier bikes or where you climb a lot of steep stuff.  As for 10 speed, it’s awesome. Reducing the amount of gap between gear teeth and adding a larger cog make for better riding.  We’ll report more on durability when we post the long-term review, and you’ll want to read the upcoming report on the new XTR for Shimano’s take on this, too. For now, I can say this: Dynasys shifts ridiculously well and the gear range is very, very well thought out.

Oh, and if you really want XT or SLX level 2×10 drivetrains, you shouldn’t have to wait much longer. I have unofficial official word from a major bike manufacturer that Shimano’s has been showing them XT and SLX doubles for the past few months, so hang in there. Or, like Zach said, there’s always XTR.


  1. During a recent 9-hour suffer fest on the Colorado Trail, my riding partners and I realized that there was no way a 2×10 would cut it. Despite being strong, experienced riders, 6 hours in at 12,000 feet, we needed every bit of help we could get… It’s good to have options based on your strength, aspirations, or riding style.


  2. One demo on a XX 2×10 setup and I was sold… 26×36 is lower than my current 24×32 granny setup (which I’ve been riding since I moved to Colorado 13 years ago so I don’t know any different).

  3. I guess that my point is that some people (especially those who choose 29ers) will benefit from the low gear a 22:36 or 24:36 provides. I will admit not to using my lowest gear often- but when I need it, I’m sure glad it’s there…

  4. I just put an XT Dynasys 10 speed setup on my Tallboy. Like the reviewers said, quicker shifting and closer ratios make it easier to stay in the bigger rings up front. Also, for me and my 29″ wheels, the 36 and the granny in front make it a great choice for CO mtn climbing. 😉

    Well see about durability but for now I’m sold that it’s a much better setup than my old 3×9 drivetrain…

  5. The problem with the new XT and XTR is Shimano didn’t expand the gear range. They just dropped a chain ring and actually lost quite a bit of top end speed doing so. So if you are racing and you know the rider in front of you is using a 2×10 all you have to do is draft him all the way to the sprint and then drop the hammer using your old trusty 44×11 gearing and fly right by him.

  6. Err, Marc B, isn’t the easier gear ratio of 22/36 exactly the extra help you were looking for? And alloycowboy, you better hope the guy in front isn’t running XTR with a 44t big ring, otherwise you’ll be second, and embarrassed. Expect future 2×10 XT and SLX to have 44t options as well, as Shimano have said all along 3×10 sysems will be for punters and 2×10 for racers.

What do you think?