XTR M9000 is now an 11 speed group. Cue the Spinal Tap references!

XTR M9000 is now an 11 speed group. Cue the Spinal Tap references!

You knew it was in the cards- another cog on the cassette- and Shimano has come with not just another speed, but many new features in its newest expression of the “best you can get” group, XTR. With a focus on “rider rhythm”, Shimano didn’t just add another speed, but they worked on the steps between ratios to help the rider maintain cadence in any situation, and for any style of riding. So, here are the main features of this new XTR:

XTR9000-4

  • XTR FC-M9000 Race and FC-M9020 Trail Cranks:XTR9000 crank Shimano’s “Rider Tuned Platform” means you can run double or single rings on the same crank with a new modular system.  Chainrings are designed from the ground up in a combination of carbon, titanium, and aluminum for the ‘driving gear’ AKA outer ring and alu for the granny ring on the double set. Dedicated single rings will feature a new, proprietary chain retention technology. The teeth are longer and wider, but not thicker like SRAM did with 1x.  They are wider lengthwise, not cross ways.  XTR FC-M9000 Race cranks feature a 158mm “Q” factor (560g) and Shimano’s lighter, stiffer “3D Bonded” non-drive arm and is designed as a dedicated single ring crank. XTR FC-M9020 Trail cranks will be available in single, double, or triple chain ring configurations with cold forged, 168mm “Q” factor arms at 158g Race or 168g in the Trail configuration.
  • Chain Ring Configurations: Single (30T, 32T, 34T, 36T), double (34-24T, 36-26T, 38-28T), triple (40-30-22T 655g).
  • XTR CS-M9000 11spd Cassette 11-40T : With the move to 11 speed, Shimano will be bringing its widest range cassette ever. But more to the point, Shimano wanted to ensure that shifting from one cog to the next would be “shock free” for the rider. Shimano calls it “rhythm step progression” and it is optimized to help carry momentum and cadence for the rider. The steps are 12.5% per gear or roughly 10 RPM.  Other features include a new tooth profile optimized for 11 speed, a cassette spider made from carbon or aluminum (multiple stacks of spiders), with aluminum, titanium, or steel cogs (6x Ti, 4x steel, 1x alu). Ratios are 11-13-15-17-19-21-24-27-31-35-40T.XTR9000-7
  • CN-HG900-11 Speed Chain: Of course, there is an 11 speed chain with asymmetric plate design which Shimano claims will be quieter, better at mud shedding, and longer lasting. A new SIL-TEC surface treatment is said to help with this and is now applied to the rollers as well as the side plates.
  • SL-M9000 11 Speed Shifters: When DynaSys 10 speed debuted, Shimano touted it as being more stable shifting with lighter action, and the same theme caries over with the new M9000 shifters. Claimed to have reduced shifting effort by 20%, the new shifters feature ball bearing construction at the pivots with a slick, polymer coated cable system. Dual carbon shift levers with a special texture, having a wider, more ergonomic release lever are also new. There is a “vivid index system” and new “I-Spec II” mounting which is said to help provide more handle bar room and better side to side adjustability.  100g eaXTR9000-6
  • FD-M9000 Front Derailleur: Perhaps one of the most radical components in the new XTR package is the front derailleur. It features a new “Side Swing” design which is claimed to increase shifting performance by 100%!! The XTR FD-M9000 front derailleur will be offered in high clamp, low clamp, D Type, and E Type, (without plate). The new derailleur will also appeal to those who like short chain stay bikes as the derailleur will provide 15mm more tire clearance. There will also be a FD-M9020 which is double specific. Both derailleurs are going to feature a new cable route to enhance shifting feel and smoothness. Finally, a “conventional” FD-M9025 double specific derailleur will be offered which will increase shifting performance by 50% and come in a low or high clamp version.XTR9000-9
  • RD-M9000 Rear Derailleur: A refinement of the XTR rear derailleur will feature tweaks to the slant angle, profile, and clutch mechanism which will improve function, stability, and durability. The Shadow RD Plus Clutch derailleur will have a simpler external clutch adjustment mechanism. It will also feature a wider range of adjustment for easier set up.  220gXTR9000 brakerotor
  • XTR M9000 Race Brake System & XTR M9020 Trail Brake System: Shimano continues to develop XTR brakes in parallel but very distinct versions. In the new “Race Brake” there is a new magnesium caliper, master cylinder, and carbon fiber lever blade for a decrease in over-all weight but retaining “race brake power”. The “Trail Brake” gets a new “preloaded aluminum caliper” for ultimate stiffness and power with a new Servo-Wave Lever which features a new carbon-alloy structure.  Both types will retain the Ice Technologies finned radiator pads.
  • SM-RT99 rotor: The new Freeza rotor will have a greater surface area for increased heat reduction and will now come in a 140mm size. Sizes offered will include the 140mm, 160mm, 180mm, and 203mm. The new Freeza rotor for XTR will also have a new, lighter weight aluminum spider.
  • New XTR Wheels- WH-M9000-TL, WH-M9020-TL, and WH-M9000-TU : Shimano debuts a new line of wheels with carbon laminate aluminum rim construction in 27.5 and 29 inch sizes in their Race (9000) and Trail (9020) versions along with a carbon tubular (9000-TU) in 29 inch only. Featuring 28 spokes front and rear the Race wheels will have a 20mm inner rim width and the Trail wheels will have a 25mm inner rim width. Both will be fully UST compatible.  1610g Race, 1673g Trail.  The tubular version is a feathery 1300g for the set, 275g for the rim.  XTR9000 hub-2
  • HB/FH-M9010 XTR Hubs: XTR hubs are now approximately 30 grams lighter and feature through axle and quick release compatibility, (although still not in the same hub- you cannot convert them), of course- Centerlock compatible. FH-M9000- quick release, FH-M9010 - 12mm “E-Thru”. Both models are 10 and 11 speed compatible. The rear hubs feature new bearing and axle designs to shed 33 grams from the last version of XTR. Front hub offered in 15mm “E-Thru”.

Grannygear’s notes for the unveiling:

It was an interesting presentation that Shimano gave us at Sea Otter while we ate some great food and drank ‘adult beverages’, etc.  I was impressed by the engineering approach they took in reconsidering how different riders and different bikes have different gearing needs.  The rush to the double crank left some biiiig gaps in gearing and the present 1×11 system only added to that.  So while the Shimano 11 spd approach is only an 11-40 cassette, they are looking at it as a XC race set-up, not a trail bike deal.   Trail bikes deserve wider and deeper gearing and the way they look at it, they deserve a double crank at least. And the thought of a return to triple cranks, although I want to run away and hide from that, makes a lot of sense to get a truly functional gearing approach.  According to Shimano, we lost our efficient “drive gear”.  I agree.  And I do not always agree with Shimano.  So pay attention.  Who knows when this will happen again!

To explain a bit, remember when we all rode triple cranks and 26″ wheels?  I used to wear out the middle ring three to one over the granny and I hardly ever replaced the outer ring unless I had bashed it to death.  A 32T middle cog was good for 75% (just to toss out a number) of the riding.  The granny ring (a 22T) was great for longer, steeper climbs and the big ring was for the obvious fast DH and cruising home on pave’.  But that middle ring was the ‘driving gear’ where you spent most of your time.

A 36/22 on 29er has no such ‘driving gear’ in my neck of the woods.  It just does not work out that way.  A 30T middle ring would bring that driving gear back, but at the expense of a triple ring price tag.  Interesting.  I want it but I don’t want it.  I do LOVE the idea of running a 26/38 double crank and having that 40T cog, giving me both bigger chain rings and a decent low gear.  And, if I really need to torque along, a 24×40 is pretty darn low and would be good for anything I have around here, even on a bigger 29er trail bike.

It is a different, but well reasoned approach that differs from what I have seen the current SRAM 1x system most often applied to, that being trail/AM bikes.  Shimano does not always do what the market is calling for.  It took them too long to give us 29″er-deep gearing on cranks for example, and let’s forget about Rapid Rise, shall we?   But this had me looking at gearing in a way I had come to, well, forsake, for lack of a better word, as gearing has gone from close ratios/more options/more flexibility to wider gaps/less options/less flexibility and so on.

Perhaps this is a return to greater practicality and when this trickles down to the everyman level of XT/SLX, as we assume it will, it will be interesting to see how it is embraced by riders.