11-speed for the masses.
The Shimano SLX M7000 groupset looks like a more expensive groupset, and to a certain extent that matches its performance.
1X crankset: £99.99
Right shifter: £36.99
Rear mech: £74.99
Crankset 718g (32T)
Shifter 120g (with i-spec II)
Rear mech 323g
Total w/o chain: 1,637g
Shimano SLX M7000 review
Shimano SLX has always been an everyman groupset, providing most of the technology advancements of the flagship XTR and XT groups but with a way lower price tag. With SLX finally getting 1×11 shifting it’s time to find out if it’s still a brilliant buy or outclassed by the more expensive XT and SRAM’s latest GX Eagle drivetrain.
Cranks and cassette
I opted for the single ring setup because now that SLX comes with wider range 11-42T cassette it should be possible to get a good enough spread of gears when paired with a choice of 30, 32 or 34t chainrings. The wider-range cassette was introduced into the XT line just two years ago and it’s great to see the technology trickle down to the lower order SLX. Like SRAM’s new GX Eagle cassette, the SLX cluster is comprised of 10 (in this case) individual steel sprockets and one alloy sprocket (42T) that mount to a new lightweight aluminium spider.
Also trickling down from XT and XTR is the crank, which is hollow formed for stiffness and weight saving. SLX also gets the Shimano Dynamic Chain Engagement chainring, basically a new alternating hooked narrow-wide design to help chain retention.
Derailleur and shifter
Shimano still believes in the front mech, so you can get SLX group in 1×11, 2×11 (or even 3×11). If you run the latter you’ll need the SGS rear derailleur with the slightly longer cage but for 1X and 2X you run GS. Both feature the Shadow RD+ design, which means they’re have greater clearance, double-sealed jockey wheels but the GS has adjustable clutch tension.
The SLX rear shifter is lower profile too, and hugs the handlebar more closely and is longer and more ergonomic to make shifting easier. It’s possible to downshift three gears in one stroke, and there’s still the two-way release system. To save space and 15g in weight you can mount it to Shimano brake levers using the I-spec system.
SLX looks like a more expensive groupset, and to a certain extent that matches its performance. The crank is noticeably stiffer than NX, something that’s obvious after just a few turns of the pedals. Shifting is also far lighter and easier and it has a better feel to the lever, although I should point out that a straight comparison between SRAM and Shimano is tricky. That’s because SLX fits bang in the middle between SRAM NX and mid level GX price wise. Putting that aside for a minute then, the gear engagement of SLX is good, with that unique Shimano metallic ‘ting’ as you shift into a higher gear. Going up the cassette is also crisp and precise.
Aside from a bit of crank rub, SLX is lasting extremely well, with the steel sprockets showing almost no signs of wear, although the big alloy cog did start to mark up after six months use. While it can be a noisy in certain gears (higher up the cassette, when it’s muddy and you’re putting plenty of effort it) I didn’t find performance suffered. The only real weakness is the SLX cassette hub — after a month of riding there was a squeaky binding noise emanating from the driver body.
Chain retention has proven flawless, the clutch mech is incredibly strong and does a good job stopping the chain flap. Clearly the Dynamic Chain Engagement system works too. I even tested I with the clutch disengaging at the Forest of Dean in a failed attempt to shake the chain free. No dice.
I’m impressed with the SLX’s spread of gears, 11-42T proving just right for my riding in Surrey when paired with a 32T chainring. Riding in South Wales was harder work and it would have been prudent to switch to a 30T ring.
Is SLX better than NX? Yes, undoubtedly. Shifting is easier, slicker and the cranks are stiffer. Is it better than the pricier SRAM 12-speed Eagle GX? It’s too early to call but it’s definitely available in more options and is better value for money.