The drivetrain is one of the hardest working areas of your mountain bike; shifting through the gears on punishing climbs, grinding through miles of grit, mud and grime on wet winter epics and transferring all your brute power when you’re pushing for those extra few seconds or smiles on a downhill blast.
Needless to say then that the component parts of your drivetrain…
…are some of the things you’re likely to replace or upgrade before most others.
We’ve put together this guide which will serve as an easy-to-use reference as to the choice on offer from Shimano’s drivetrain line up and the Shimano mountain bike groupset hierarchy.
Here’s a quick-glance guide, from entry level (left) to high performance (right):
Here are the various levels on offer from Shimano, along with their intended use and features…
One of the unsung heroes of mountain biking componentry, Shimano’s Deore mixes the right balance of performance and reliability with excellent value. Over the years it’s been tweaked and refined, and now boasts many of the trickle-down features from the company’s top-end models. An ideal choice on entry-level bikes and for general trail riding.
A relatively recent addition to the Shimano groupset family, SLX is a highly versatile component group which you can tailor to your own riding preferences. SLX is a smooth shifting, long-lasting option packed with Shimano’s high tech features including their Shadow+ rear derailleur, Ice Technology disc brakes and the RapidFire plus shifter. All this adds up to exceptional performance at a sensible price.
We’ve taken a look at the latest Shimano SLX groupset:
XT brings a whole new level of performance to the Deore family, taking advantage of lighter weight parts and even higher performance features. As with most components in the Shimano stable, XT gets trickle-down features from the higher models in the group, with many options on offer to tailor for your requirements – whether you’re a trail rider, cross-country cyclist or big-hitting all-mountain type. Crisper shifting, increased power transfer and general refinement is where XT excels.
Another relative new kid on the block, Zee was introduced to meet the needs of gravity riders who were focussed as much on the next big drop off as they were on the contents of their wallets. Perfect for freeride, downhill, bike park and dirt jump trails, Zee encompasses Shimano’s tried and tested technology and reliability with top value.
Ridden by many of the world’s top downhill professionals, and specced on high-end gravity bikes, Shimano Saint is the go-to groupset if you’re looking for sublime shifting when things get a little lairy. Light enough to make the difference but strong enough to take abuse, Saint is geared to take the strain so you can concentrate on the ride.
Developed by the fastest mountain bike riders from the cross-country and enduro riding scene, Shimano XT M8050 Di2 brings high performance seamless shifting to a whole new group of trail riders at a far more affordable and accessible price.
The crème de la crème in Shimano’s mountain bike mechnical group collection, XTR has long been the company’s signature groupset, on which the fastest racers on the globe have won countless races. It’s lightweight, strong and filled with technology to make it the most crisp, efficient and consistent gear choice on the market.
An electronic shifting option for Shimano’s 11-speed XTR mountain bike components, XTR Di2 aims to redefine how you can control and personalise the way you ride through the proven Di2 digital platform. Shimano XTR electronic shifting integrates with XTR M9000 mechanical components in a variety of Race or Trail ‘Rider Tuned’ 1x, 2x, or 3x drivetrain configurations.
If you’re looking at all-out performance, and money’s no object, the best Shimano groupset for cross-country riders is Shimano XTR Di2, which is at the cutting edge of shifting and braking technology. It’s the flagship Shimano group used by the world’s best cross-country racers, and delivers the most crisp, flawless gear changes available.
For downhill and gravity riders, the Shimano Saint groupset is considered the best due to its durability, and bombproof build quality.
Entry level riders benefit from the tech used in Shimano’s higher end groupsets, so while they’re not as high performance as the XTR and XT range, the best budget Shimano groupset options like the Shimano SLX and Deore won’t let you down for many thousands of miles.