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By Matt Pacocha
Shimano has taken a back seat to the competition’s barrage of buzz this winter. Eerily quiet until recently, declining to release any 2007 product information, Shimano began testing its new E-Dura-Ace group right as the ProTour season kicked into full swing. Now, less than two weeks away from the Sea Otter Classic, which traditionally opens the domestic mountain-bike season, Shimano has announced preliminary details of its redesigned ’07 XTR group.
Though images of the complete group are unavailable (scroll down for photos of other new Shimano goodies), a trained eye can spot bits and pieces already being raced. Geoff Kabush was seen with the new Dual Release Rapid Fire shifters at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia, and Adam Craig, Walker Ferguson, Marie Helene Premont, Bart Brentjens and Roel Paulissen will ride pre-production CNC’d prototypes at Sea Otter.
New XTR: A choice of shifting systems
Though the latest redesign isn’t quite as revolutionary as the ’02 makeover, which produced Dual Control, Hollow Tech 2, and disc brakes, the changes should give the group a broader level of acceptance, accommodating customers who spurned Dual Control.
Key improvements include lighter weight (it is said that the group’s weight has been reduced by nearly a pound), the new trigger shifters and a new wheelset. Built in the spirit of the WH-7801-SL Dura-Ace wheelset, the WH-M970/M975 hoops feature a scandium rim and updated titanium freehub.
David Lawrence, Shimano’s marketing manager, gave us a quick rundown via press release:
At its heart, XTR has always been about pure XC performance. And this continues to be the case. However, with new shifting and rear derailleur options XTR delivers the options and performance to address the needs of all-mountain and trail riders. Scroll on down and see why Shimano XTR is engineered for the way you ride.
SL-M970: RapidFire Plus Shift Levers
Since 1990, RapidFire levers have been the industry standard. Improving on our own technology, the newly designed XTR RapidFire Plus shifters raise the bar with four new features:
Instant-release shifting: A click of the release lever (upper lever) releases cable tension, same as it always has. The difference is that it now releases immediately when the lever is depressed making shifts that much faster.
Multi-release shifting: You’ve always been able to grab more than one gear with the thumb lever (lower lever) on RapidFire Shifters. With RapidFire Plus you can now shift two gears with the release lever too. More gears when you need them. Indexing is strong enough to prevent accidental over shift so if you just want one gear, that’s great too.
Two-way shift: The release lever still performs the same function but now it shifts in both directions. Pull it with your finger, push it with your thumb – you choose. With two-way shifting the new XTR shift levers adapt to meet your needs.
Variable positioning: Customizable ergonomics allow the shifter to be positioned to work for the way you ride – with infinitely adjustable lateral positioning; you can mount the shifter inboard or outboard of the brake lever and fine tune the position from there. Outboard mounting works great on wide bars, allowing riders to push the brake lever farther in to get the most possible leverage and braking power. Inboard mounting provides great ergonomics on narrow handlebars, delivering the shifting and brake positions you have come to know and trust.
ST-M970/M975: Dual Control Levers
Already the choice of Olympic and world champion cross country racers, Dual Control makes a huge leap in performance for 2006. With enhanced ergonomics, improved performance and a significant reduction in weight, the message is clear: a winning design just got better.
Dual Control levers enable downshifts and upshifts from multiple hand positions, ensuring that you never get stuck in the wrong gear at the bottom of that steep, unexpected climb. Shifting becomes faster, and even more intuitive with the inclusion of these features:
Instant-release shifting: A click of the release lever releases cable tension, same as it always has. The difference is that it now releases immediately when the main lever & secondary release lever is depressed making shifts that much faster.
Multi-release shifting: With the new DCL you can now shift two gears with the release lever. 2-gear release change can be initiated with both the main lever and the secondary release lever.
Reach adjustment: Whether you have big or small hands, lever reach can be adjusted to adapt to rider preference
RD-M970/M971: Rear derailleurs
Now with two options, the all-new XTR derailleurs include two options delivering the compatibility you seek. Why two options with complete interchangeability? Because XTR is engineered for the way you ride:
Top-Normal RD-M971: The original: The industry standard for derailleur design and gravity racers, Top-normal rear derailleurs offer crisp, clean, derailleur-controlled shifts to harder gears, allowing excellent shifting under heavy load and acceleration – particularly with RapidFire or RapidFire Plus shifters.
Low-Normal RD-M970: Rapid-Rise: Low-normal rear derailleurs offer maximum drivetrain durability and beautifully controlled shifts to lower gears – a clear advantage for XC racers and riders who do a large amount of riding and need maximum reliability. In combination with Dual Control levers, a low-normal rear derailleur enables downshifts from multiple hand positions ensuring that you never get stuck in the wrong gear at the bottom of that steep unexpected climb.
WH-M970/M975: XTR tubeless wheel set
The updated XTR wheelset delivers scandium rim technology and a new spoke lacing pattern to create a wheelset that is 187g lighter than the previous M960 version. At 1525g, the WH-M975 enjoys the benefits of traditional and all new features:
Angular contact bearings: Angular contact bearings enable the hub to support lateral loading of the wheel
Quicker engaging titanium freehub body: 36-notch engagement provides faster engagement by 125% for quick accelerations and increased performance in technical terrain
Scandium alloy rim: Reduces rotating weight without sacrificing strength
7075 grade aluminum axles: Improves rigidity by 40%
Laser-cut logo on QR skewers: Pure style on an already perfect skewer
PD-M970: XTR pedals
With the introduction of SPD, Shimano created the mountain bike clipless pedal category. Never content to sit on past accomplishment, through extensive R&D the SPD design continues to evolve by introducing the all new XTR PD-M970 pedal.
The PD-M970 is the first pedal to earn the XTR logo giving you a 3-year warranty. With a revised cleat interface for increased stability and solid engagement, the new XTR pedal sheds 25 grams to become Shimano’s lightest mountain bike pedal ever.
And that’s not all — a redesign of the brakes and cranks will be released later in the year, too. Expect to see the new parts showing up in shops by late August.
Shifting choice coming to XT, LX, too
Shimano is bringing back its top-normal style of derailleur to both XT and LX, too. This is the traditional style of derailleur, in which a spring returns the chain to the higher gears. The old-style derailleur is combined with a refined Dual Release trigger shifter.
Top-normal will not replace Dual Control and the low-normal derailleur, whose spring returns the chain to a lower gear — Lawrence said it is intended to give consumers a choice in shifting systems. Since low-normal offers a precision shift to a lower gear, he speculated that cross-country riders would prefer it and Dual Control, while gravity riders would choose the refined top-normal system for its precision shifts to higher gears. The new components will be available to consumers in XT and LX models by midsummer.
The most interesting update to the top-normal mountain line is the new Dual Release trigger shifter. The XT and LX versions both operate in the same manner as the new XTR. The thumb lever still shifts to a lower gear — up to three gears can be changed through a single stroke of the lever. But shifting to a higher gear, once achieved by an index-finger-operated trigger, can now be achieved with either index finger or thumb. The new lever toggles in two directions, allowing it to be used as a finger-operated trigger or thumb-operated push button, and can change up to two gears in one stroke.
’07 road: Wheels, cranks and pedals
The one Dura-Ace product that is confirmed for ’07 production is the deep-dish carbon tubular we saw in the ProTour throughout 2006. The new wheel features the same hubs and spoke count as the current carbon tubular, but ties them to a 50mm one-piece carbon rim built around a solid mandrel.
Building upon the smashing success of its non-series compact crank in early 2006, Shimano will release two more non-series compact options. The currently available crank is positioned at the Ultegra level. The two new options will slot in below that model, with one positioned at the 105 price point and the other made specifically for nine-speed shifting systems.
The 105 group will receive new branded pedals and a wheelset for 2007. With the promise the currently available group has shown in our early 2006 testing, the pedals and wheels will just make the package that much sweeter. Shimano also plans to offer an Ultegra-branded wheel to complement the currently available group and pedals.