Mountain Gear

Shimano goes 1×11 with new XTR 9000

Wider gear ranges, a single-ring option, and even lighter brakes highly new group from Japanese component maker

A new, lighter, more versatile XTR is on the way, Shimano announced on Friday. The group will now have 11 rear cogs and is marked by a drastic increase in flexibility, allowing users to easily design their drivetrains around their own terrain, abilities, and preferences.

New gearing options

The move to 11-speed is not the least bit surprising, but there was some question whether Shimano would latch onto the 1×11, single-front-chainring setup popularized by SRAM XX1. Shimano answered with a distinctive “yes” on Friday, though the Japanese company has not ridden quite as far along the 1×11-only path as XX1, which still has a wider available gear range.

Shimano didn’t develop a special cassette like SRAM did, preferring to stick with a slightly narrower 11-40 tooth offering to keep the cassette compatible with any 11- or 10-speed freehub. (SRAM’s 10-42 cassette requires a special freehub.)

The new M9000 crank, which comes in both a Race and Trail version, is modular in design, allowing users to swap between single, double, or triple rings. The 1x chain rings use a modified tooth profile to prevent chain drop, similar to the XX1 rings.

The trail version of the M9000 crank will be available in single-, double-, or triple-ring configurations. Available tooth configurations include single (30T, 32T, 34T, 36T), double (34-24T, 36-26T, 38-28T), triple (40-30-22T).

M9000 shifters

The new shifters are designed around lighter action, closer to the company’s road groups, and increased stability under hard shifts. Shimano claims it has reduced shift effort by 20 percent.

The decreased shift effort should not equate to a mushy feel, though, as Shimano has engineered an improved index mechanism for more pronounced feedback.

The shifters will feature a new I-spec II mount, allowing for more room on the bar and more side-to-side adjustability.

M9000 front derailleur

Designed to function with double and triple cranksets, the new front derailleur is quite a departure in design from its predecessors. Shimano says it’s the first-ever “side swing” derailleur, and that it increases shift performance dramatically. It is designed with trail bikes in mind, increasing tire clearance by 15mm and featuring cable routing that plays nicely with modern suspension designs.

The derailleur will come in four clamp options: high, low, D-type, and E-type.

M9000 rear derailleur

The Shadow rear derailleur gets even more shadowy with its move to 11 speeds, featuring a new, optimized slant angle to decrease shift effort while hiding the derailleur away even more effectively.

The M9000 derailleur is compatible with all of Shimano’s new chainring options, and will be available in long-cage and mid-cage versions.

XTR Race and Trail brakes

The two versions of the new XTR brake are somewhat self explanatory. Race is lighter, Trail is a bit heavier, with extra features designed to improve heat control. Both get a new insulated piston and insulated pads to improve heat resistance by a claimed 10 percent.

The Race brake has lower power and lower weight, utilizing a magnesium caliper and master cylinder, and Shimano’s first-ever carbon lever blade.
The Trail version, the M9020, has more power, is stiffer under hard braking, and uses a pre-loaded aluminum caliper and brand new, stiffer carbon-alloy leaver blade. The Trail brakes also come with ICE radiator pads standard to improve heat reduction.

Lennard Zinn’s take

The widest gear range ever available in a component package is one of the options XTR M9000/M9020 Trail offers. In this era of reducing the number of front chainrings, which has shrunk gear ranges, many riders will embrace an expansion in gear range.

Shimano’s new XTR 22-30-40T front chainrings and 11-40T rear cogs with a long-cage Shadow Plus clutch rear derailleur provides 33 usable gears ranging from 13.7 inches to 99.4 inches with 27.5-inch wheels! (The gear range is from 14.1 inches to 102.5 inches with 29-inch wheels and from 13.0 inches to 94.5 inches with 26-inch wheels.) There are plenty of riders with high-end bikes who like to (or are only able to) crawl up steep hills, just as there are faster riders who will appreciate it when bonked or exhausted during a long ride.

The modular M9000 crank has a 10mm narrower Q-factor (158mm vs. 168mm) than standard, and many riders, especially small riders, will benefit from it. The big ring features titanium cutout teeth, a carbon medial stiffening wall, and an aluminum lateral wall attached to carbon spider arms on a hollow (hollow bonded on the left) crank to keep weight low and shifting and pedaling stiffness high. As we all had expected, the single-ring version will follow SRAM’s lead with taller, no-drop-design teeth.

Shimano’s hydraulic disc brakes have been fantastic of late, and if these new, lighter, magnesium XTR stoppers improve significantly on that, it is certainly good news. The clay XTR M9000 models Shimano displayed look elegant. Carrying Shimano carbon road wheel technology to mountain bikes is another big step.

So, as long as the derailleurs shift as well as advertised, what’s not to love (except perhaps the price, TBA)? They will have a smoother-running chain featuring a new SIL-TEC treatment embedding fluorine molecules into the steel surface and new HG-X11 asymmetric chain plates, as well as cog and chainring teeth forged with a matching new HG-X11 profile to help them shift. Just make sure you turn off the clutch when removing the rear wheel! — LENNARD ZINN