XTR is Shimano’s flagship mountain bike groupset, and for 2015 it’s been given a reboot. There’s a whole raft of changes and improvements including 11-speed shifting, an over-sized cassette, self-retaining chain ring, new disc brakes and revamped front and rear derailleurs.

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Shimano XTR 2015: Shimano goes 11-speed

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Shimano XTR 2015

Here it is: Shimano’s latest mtb groupset

New XTR is actually two groupsets. One is designed for racing, the other trail riding, and they each have a slightly different designation. XTR Race is called M9000, XTR Trail is M902, but this doesn’t mean you have to stick to the plan; you can mix and match or cherry pick as you please. What the groupsets have in common is 11-speed shifting (a first for Shimano mtg) and a wide-range rear cassette.

Rear Cassette

The new XTR cassette is similar to SRAM XX1 and X01; the difference is that Shimano has been more conservative in the size of the larger sprockets. Instead of an 11-42t spread Shimano has opted for 11-40t. You might be thinking why didn’t they just bolt on a 42t? But if you actually look at the cog numbers (11-13-15-17-19-21-24-27-31-35-40) you’ll see that there’s a more even jump between the gears, and that can help reduce momentum loss when riding steep climbs. Shifting from the 36t to the 42t on SRAM’s XX1 can often leave you spinning for a few pedal revolutions, robbing traction and momentum.

If you compared Shimano and SRAM directly then the lowest gear you can have with XTR is a 30×40 but on SRAM it’s 28×42. That’s roughly the difference between riding the climbs in the granny ring on the 28t or the 32t respectively. The big advantage of the Shimano cassette is it will mount to a conventional 10-speed cassette body, so you won’t have splash out on a specific XD driver body or new wheels.

Chainsets

Shimano isn’t just intending this cassette to be part of an 1×11 drivetrain. There are actually three XTR cranksets – a single, a double and triple. The single is available in Trail and Race with 30, 32, 34 and 36t chain ring options; the double comes in 38-28t, 36-26t or 34-24t; and the triple in 40-30-22t.

Probably the most interested of these is the M-9020 trail/enduro chainset with the single ring. It has non-standard BCD (bolt circle diameter), so currently you won’t be able to bolt on an aftermarket chain ring, but as we’ve mentioned Shimano sells four different rings for this crankset allowing you to tune the gearing to your local terrain. We were told the new rings will feature a chain-retaining tooth profile, but at the 2015 launch the profile hadn’t be confirmed and looking at the images here, it still hasn’t. Whether it’s anything like SRAM or the Narrow/Wide design used by Race Face we’ll only know for sure when we get a groupset to test later in the year.

Like SRAM XX1, the 11-speed Shimano M9000 cassette has an oversized sprocket but it’s a 40t rather than a 42t but it fits on a regular cassette body, so there’s no need for a dedicated XD driver body.

The 11-speed Shimano M9000 cassette has an oversized sprocket but it’s a 40t rather than SRAM’s 42t

Fitted to the M9000 XTR crankset is a new Hollowglide 1x chain ring. The technology was first used on Shimano’s top end Dura Ace road groupset. The new ring is lighter and stiffer.

Fitted to the M9000 XTR crankset is a new Hollowglide 1x chain ring. The technology was first used on Shimano’s top end Dura Ace road groupset. The new ring is lighter and stiffer

Rear Derailleur

Shimano was the first to develop a clutch rear derailleur, which reduces chain slap and rattle while also helping to keep the chain in place when riding rough trails. On the XTR Shadow Plus rear derailleur the tension has always been adjustable, but that meant removing part of the derailleur and using a small key. On the new XTR M9000 derailleur this can be done externally with an ordinary Allen key, allowing you to experiment with different settings out on the trail.

The new Shadow Plus has an even lower profile to keep it protected and a slightly concave slant angle (the path it follows when shifting up the cassette) to accommodate the new oversized 40t sprocket, while lowering the shift effort and improving stability.

The chain stabiliser on the new XTR rear derailleur features external adjustment, meaning you can increase or decrease the stiffness of the clutch mechanism without having to dismantle it

The chain stabiliser on the new XTR rear derailleur features external adjustment, meaning you can increase or decrease the stiffness of the clutch mechanism without having to dismantle it

Front Derailleur

If you decide on a double or triple chainset you’ll benefit from Shimano’s new FD-M9000 Side-Swing front derailleur. It’s a lot stiffer and also offers greater tyre clearance. The cable can also be attached to the derailleur from the front and can be routed along the down tube, which simplifies routing, saves weight and, according to Shimano, dramatically reduces shifting effort.

For those running double or triple chainsets the new Side Swing front derailleur features a lighter, smoother action, and the wider design creates more powerful up shifts,. The design also frees up space and improves tyre clearance and there’s even an option to route the cable in from the front along the down tube.

For those running double or triple chainsets the new Side Swing front derailleur features a lighter, smoother action, with a wider design for more powerful up shifting

Shifters

The new XTR shift levers feature a dual-textured anti-slip surface and a lighter carbon construction. You can still eliminate the shifter clamp by bolting the shifter directly to the brake lever using the I-spec II mount, but the latest version now has angle adjustment. The shifters will feature multi, instant and 2-way release, letting you dump several gears or not, in one go. There’s also a new polymer-coated inner cable to lower the shifting effort compared to the previous XTR by a claimed 20 per cent.

New carbon fibre shifters with I-spec II compatibility

New carbon fibre shifters with I-spec II compatibility

Disc Brakes

To save weight, the new M9000 XTR disc brake features a magnesium calliper and master cylinder, carbon fibre lever blade and titanium hardware. Power has been increase by 20 per cent and the lever gets a shorter Freestroke (bite point) adjustment and the new Sil-Tec coating on the pivots to reduce friction and improve brake feel.

The M9020 trail brake has a stiff monobody caliper and features insulated glass fiber phenolic pistons and insulated pad coating that creates 10 percent more heat resistance. They also come with the finned Ice Tech brake pads and new the Freeza SM-RT99 rotors for better heart dissipation.

Shimano XTR 2015 shifters

Carbon fibre lever blade, magnesium master cylinder and titanium bolt hardwear all contribute to weight savings

Shimano XTR 2015 caliper

New caliper features phenolic pistons and insulated pad coating for increased heat dissipation and reduced fade under prolonged braking

New Freeza rotors include additional cooling fins

New Freeza rotors include additional cooling fins

Look out for a full test in MBR as soon as we can get our hands on a groupset of our own.

Verdict

Look out for a full test in MBR as soon as we can get our hands on a groupset of our own.