Two years after unveiling XTR Di2, the Japanese giant has today released details of XT Di2. Electrical cables instead of wire ones. Bluetooth wireless setup. No more mis-shifts. Buzzing. Words by Benjamin Haworth
This new groupset goes by the official name of Shimano Deore XT Di2 M8050.
XT Di2 offers every function that XTR Di2 does, including Synchronised Shift technology where just one shifter can be set up to control shifting across both front mech and rear mech.
In other words, all you do is press the up or down button on the shifter and the gear mechs dance about accordingly to put you in the next sequential gear ratio.
Yep, front mechs. Remember those? Almost everyone interested in XT-level equipment has made the move over to single-ring 1×11 drivetrains. This makes the Synchronised Shift stuff rather irrelevant.
So what are the benefits of running a Di2 drivetrain? There are two bonuses: smooth shifting no matter how clumsy your thumbs or how poor your timing, and the removal of traditional inners-and-outers cabling from your bike frame.
More consistent shifting
Di2 mechs always execute the perfect shift because the mech movement isn’t directly connected to your thumb or finger by a thin metal cable anymore, there’s an electrical cable there now. Whether you touch the shift button gracefully at a suitable point on the trail or you panic stab the button whilst shifting far too late, the mech doesn’t care. It still shifts as it’s been perfectly programmed to.
The lack of traditional inners-in-outers cabling has a couple of benefits. No more maintenance or replacement. No more binding problems on suspension bikes with complicated cable routing.
The motors in the XT Di2 mechs are twice as powerful as those found on Shimano’s road bike Di2 mechs, which bodes well for precise shifting in the filthy conditions often found in mountain biking. The system is sealed and waterproof too.
Bluetooth and smartphones
XT Di2 has something that XTR Di2 did not – Bluetooth connectivity. This wireless communication will mean riders will be able to connect their drivetrain’s brain to their computer, tablet or smartphone.
Why would you do this? To set up your gears when you first install them on your bike. You can also customise your shifting preferences on the trail via a smartphone app.
The Bluetooth connectivity will also mean the drivetrain can send information (gear selection and battery status) to be displayed on compatible bike computers and GPS devices via Shimano’s D-Fly Data Management system.
Don’t worry all you XTR Di2 users out there, you can upgrade your stuff to D-Fly to get all this extra functionality too.
In terms of aesthetics and function, the mechs are very similar to regular non-Di2 mechs, they just have an extra bulbous lump on them. The excellently named Firebolt shifters on the other hand are significantly different to regular XT cable shifters. Much more paddle-like and squared-off. With “an ergonomic rotary action, short single-click action and effortless multi-shift possibilities”, apparently. Nice.
The shifters have been joined by something else you can bolt to your handlebars – the SC-MT800 digital display unit. This displays what gear you’re in and how your battery power is doing. It’s also the control point for front mech trim adjustment, reboot function and the aforementioned Synchronised Shift set up.
How long will the battery last? Several hundred kilometres of heavy usage. Ages then basically. Battery charging takes 90 minutes. It’s a simple operation to bung in a spare battery on-the-trail too for those folks riding across continents of power-free wilderness.
Who is it for?
Shimano are aiming this groupset at privateer racers but it’s sure to find a home on the bikes on any techno-minded rider out there who’s unwilling to splash the cash on XTR Di2.
We’ll update this story with pricing and availability as soon as we know the numbers.
Shimano Deore XT Di2 M8050 components:
SW-M8050 front and rear shifters
SC-MT800 system information display
FD-M8070 front derailleur
RD-M8050 rear derailleur
Built-in battery BT-DN110
Battery mount BM-DN100 with external battery SM-BTR1