M8050 XT Di2The day I landed in the general Sea Otter area was the evening of the press launch announcing two significant upgrades to both XT and SLX.  Unfortunately my travel schedule did not allow me to attend, but it is no surprise to see XT in Di2 guise.  It is following the typical path of ‘trickle down tech’; that being the top end of things, in this case XTR, gets all the goodies to begin with, then, over time, we see that tech being offered in lower priced component groups.  So Di2 debuts in XTR, then follows up a couple of years later in XT and so on. Where will that end?  That is a good question.  Will we see SLX Di2?

If you look at road based Shimano groups, you can see a marching order…Dura Ace gets Di2 and 11 speed.  Then a bit later we see Ultegra get the same package. Mixed in here is hydro disc braking too. Just recently 105 was upgraded to 11spd and hydro braking. But one has to wonder if there is a low point in the tech to where it is no longer cost effective to offer Di2 in something like 105 before it begins to affect the quality of the group, or it just hits a bottom line to where it no longer is profitable to make.  I don’t have insight into that, but it stands to reason.

So seeing XT in Di2 is no surprise.  How far that will trickle down?  We shall see.  But we should be very happy to see it being offered at the XT level because it brings the cost of the advantages of D12 into the realm of the working man.  For instance, if you are currently running M8000 XT 11 speed in 2x, it costs about a grand to upgrade to M8050 XT Di2 and if you are running 1×11 M8000, then you are below $800 to get all those free electrons working hard for you.

That is quite inexpensive, really, for stepping into some pretty high tech stuff.  Let’s take a peek at some of it.

2×11 and only one shifter pod? Shimano Synchronized Shift

SW-M8050-L_L_zz_STD_S1_draftDEORE XT SW-M8050 FIREBOLT Shifter

With its advanced ergonomics and shift logic, the new DEORE XT SW-M8050 Di2 FIREBOLT shifters deliver seamless control and instant response. Free from mechanical limitations, FIREBOLT’s rotary switch design follows the rider’s natural hand movement and features customizable lever ergonomics. The short stroke levers provide light action with a vivid indexed feel to improve shift accuracy even in the roughest trail conditions, while the versatility of Di2’s programmable shift logic allows the rider to custom tune the system to their riding style.

  • Ergonomic rotary shift lever design matches natural hand movement
  • Short stroke, perfect click levers provide faster, more accurate shifting
  • Programmable, multi-shift and Shimano Synchronized Shift functions
  • Dual-directional wire exit cap for versatile routing options
  • Weight: 90g (pcs)

DSC07779I was quite impressed with the feel of the paddles, having a *click* feel to them and a near instant gear change response.  Seeing a 2x crank and only one, in this case, right hand, shifter, is a bit odd at first but Shimano had a bike in the stand at Sea Otter so we could see XT Di2 in action.  Shimano Synchronized Shift takes over the thinking for you, paying attention to what gear you are in, and like a living gear inch chart, knows when you are getting far enough down or up the rear cassette to where you are crossing over into a range that would be better served by being in the other chainring, then if shifts across the front chainrings and voila…pedal on.

It is slick for sure, and never misses a shift.  Does that take some of the ‘thinking’ out of the rider’s hands?  It does.  Is that an issue?  Likely not.  I used to drive stick shift/manual tranny cars all the time.  Now, with auto trannys being better and better and more efficient, and with paddle shift options, running a manual tranny is almost a religious choice.

But if one wants to control both front and rear shifting by yourself?  No worries.  Buy two shifters and make all those decisions on your own.

Another cool deal is…

Wireless E-tube connectivity delivers handheld customization

Shimano’s DEORE XT M8050 Di2 shifting system uses the exclusive E-Tube digital platform, now with integrated ANT private and Bluetooth connectivity via the SC-MT800 Information Display. Utilizing wireless communication, riders can now set up, customize and monitor their Di2 system using Shimano’s expanded E-tube software via a smart phone or tablet computer. ANT private connectivity also facilitates communication with a growing list of cycling computers for a streamlined experience. Mounted to the handlebar, the SC-MT800 is the central rider interface of the XT Di2 system. From the System Information Display, riders can monitor important information such as battery level and toggle performance functions, as well charge the system.

The E-Tube platform is programmable, customizable and allows for expansion and further system integration. Wires are offered in a wide variety of lengths for bikes of all sizes and shapes and cable routing options will connect the various junction points.

Ok…that is slick.  The consumer is getting used to a device interface that is wireless capable with your smart phone/tablet. Fiddling with tiny screens and deep menus on the device itself, like on the Garmin GPS I have, is so off the back compared to something like the Fit Bit app on my phone that syncs to my iOS phone.  And having to tether a device to a laptop for programming…what are we, savages?

Wireless E-tube connectivity is a great step, although I have not played with it myself.

SC-MT800_zz_zz_STD_S1_draftAlong with the other e-wizardry going on here is the SC-MT800 System Information Display

  • Identify system status of: battery level, gear position, shift mode and FOX iRD suspension position; all at a glance
  • Provide audible shift notification chimes
  • Toggle between three Shimano Synchronized Shift modesavailable (S1/S2/Manual)
  • Digitally adjust front and rear derailleurs and provide numerical adjustment indicator
  • Wireless communication (ANT private/Bluetooth low energy) allows for easy to set up, customization and data utilization in the field with a smart phone, tablet and other mobile electronics
  • Battery charging port
  • 3 E-Tube ports

So where are we here? When Di2 came out for road bikes, there was a big dust up over the potential issues of reliability and battery life, etc.  If I lose a cable on a mechanical shift system, I can replace it.  Now internal cabling on road bikes makes that a very iffy deal, so that statement is fast becoming an anachronism.  But if your maintenance is at any decent level, a shifter cable lasts a full season and likely beyond.  And I may bonk and cramp up and not be able to tighten the Boa lacing on my own road shoes, but if I can manage to move the shift lever driving that cable, and assuming the derailleur is tuned to where it is supposed to be, the bike will continue to shift.  Honestly, among the road group that I am in, I can recall lots of times some person’s bike did not shift well but it was never an Di2 bike.  Ever.

Di2 tosses in the potential for damage to very tiny wires…fragile ones.  And batteries.  Batteries need to be charged to have any zip to them or **ftttzzzz*, nada happens. But what can happen rarely does. If you pay attention to the actual street level results of long term use with electronic shifting, yes, the motor or servo can fail, but I bet that is really, really rare.  Yes, the wires can be damaged.  But keeping a battery charged is hardly a burden.  And you could just carry a spare if you like.


…and a e-rider sat upon him…

So what we got was hardly the 5th Horseman of the Apocalypse…riding an LED covered, glowing horse…when we actually began putting Di2 through its paces.  We lost almost nothing, but we gained astonishingly good shifting performance.  One thing I hear form every user of Di2 on the road is that it just works…every time.

But MTB is not road.  Whatever dies on a mountain bike can be a much more serious issue as compared to a dead road bike where a great part of the time you can just pull out your cell phone and call for the WAAH-mbulance.  So I am not sure who was the best customer for XTR Di2…early adopters with a fat wallet or racers who have the support of nearby pit stops or whatever.  No doubt there were just regular XC riders on it too, but now we are creeping down into the Average Joe’s grouppo slot and he takes his bike into some remote and wild places.  Will he embrace this too?  Will, in time, this all be like any other e-thing we use now…it just works and rarely breaks, to the point we just do not think about it anymore?


And now for something completely different….or, “I love that metal wire, cable shifting thingy and I am on a budget but want good stuff to ride with too”.

For you, we have this.

DSC07788OSAKA (April 15, 2016) – Shimano’s new 2017 SLX M7000 mountain bike components mark the company’s most versatile performance off-road component group for mountain bikers everywhere. Shimano’s Rider Tuned philosophy is on display with SLX M7000, as the group offers a broad spectrum of drivetrain range options, and supports the latest trail and recreational bikes with bigger tires, wider hub flange spacing or both. New Shimano SLX M7000 has been redesigned from the ground up to perform in any trail situation.

Wide-range mountain drivetrain

DSC07786New Shimano SLX M7000 components are highlighted by the 11-speed DYNA-SYS11 drivetrain. SLX M7000 components offer 1×11, 2×11, and 3×10 crank options to satisfy any type of off road pursuit – from enduro racing to riding fire roads. New 1×11 and 2×11 SLX M7000 drivetrains expand range while maintaining even better rhythm when paired with a range of new mountain bike cassettes ranging from 11-40T to 11-46T.

The new CS-M7000-11 11-speed HYPERGLIDE cassette utilizes lighter aluminium spider construction, aluminium and steel cogs and is available in two options: 11-42T and 11-40T.

SLX FC-M7000 cranks now share premium technologies found in new XTR M9000 and DEORE XT M8000 groups, including Dynamic Chain Engagement (DCE) 1×11 tooth profile and 3D composite chain rings. The DCE profile runs faster yet increases chain retention force by 150 percent. Stainless steel chain ring teeth provide long life and lasting chain retention. SLX M7000 1×11 and 2×11 cranks are available with optional +3mm wider spindles for 148 OLD hubs. A new, lighter bottom bracket improves durability, has reduced seal drag and is available in press-fit or threaded options.

  • Premium SLX chain ring 3D composite construction
  • Long wearing and great shifting
  • 3D composite construction (outer or middle ring)
  •  FC-M7000-11-1
  • DCE chain retention 1×11
  • Offered in 30T, 32T, and 34T
  • Optional +3mm width for wider frames
  • Compatible with 11-40/11-42/11-46 cassettes


  • DYNASYS11 True Trail 2×11
  • Optimized gear combination to improve shifting quality and driving efficiency o Offered in 34-24T, 36-26T, 38-28
  • Optional +3mm width for wider frames
  • Compatible with 11-40/11-42 cassettes


  • Available 3×10 for the lowest gearing in 40-30-22T
 Redesigned, lighter action derailleurs

Both the front and rear SLX M7000 series derailleurs were totally redesigned and incorporate premium features from XTR and DEORE XT. The SLX RD-M7000 rear derailleur features Shimano Shadow RD+ technology and a refined geometry for increased stability. SLX series Shimano Shadow RD+ derailleurs use adjustable stabilizers for either maximum stability or lower shift effort. Both new derailleurs are direct mount compatible.

RD-M7000-11-GS RD-M7000-10-SGS

  • New Shadow design with optimized, shallow slant angle, and low profile design
  • 20% reduced shift effort
  • Chain stability improved
  • Improved driving and shifting stability
  • Adjustable clutch tension
  • High efficiency pulleys
  • 1×11 and 2×11 compatible

• Shadow design with low profile design

• 14% reduced shift effort • 3×11 compatible

SLX FD-M7000 Side Swing front derailleurs bring a drastic reduction in shift effort while also increasing tire clearance.

  • FD-M7020-11 2×11 and FD-M7000-10 3×10 options
  • Light, crisp shift action and increased shifting power
  • Integrated cable stop
  • Increased tire clearance allows for shorter chainstays; designed with long-travelbikes in mind
  • New structure with current mounting options and new cable routingHigh clamp, Low clamp, D-type, E-type (without plate)DSC07790SLX SL-M7000 shifters are lower profile and feature improved ergonomics and longer, levers that decrease shift effort. available in two I-spec options or band clamp mounting, these new shifters set up easy and stay in adjustment longer.
  • Shift effort reduced with low-friction OPTISLICK cable o 20% reduced in SL-M7000-11
    14% reduced in SL-M7000-10
  • Improved vivid index mechanism
  • New ergonomics
  • 2-WAY releaseShimano-quality braking powerLighter and more durable brake levers // confidence inspiring disc brakes, trail rated for power and available with metal pads or resin and the ease of CENTER LOCK rotor mounting or optional 6-bolt rotors.


 With SLX M7000 hydraulic disc brakes, Shimano upgraded the system with a new, integrated master cylinder that gives a sleeker look, saves weight and frees up valuable handlebar space. New SLX grade SM-RT70 CENTER LOCK disc rotors debut that improve heat dissipation through refined shaping and an alloy adapter.
  • Trail rated for power
  • Servo Wave levers create high power and short stroke
  • Refined Servo Wave for improved feel and feedback
  • Narrow clamp band
  • I-spec II, I-spec-B options
  • Tool-free reach adjust
  • SM-RT70 disc rotors available in 160, 180 and 203mm sizes

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