Shimano has all-new 1x Deore XT & Deore LinkGlide mountain bike drivetrains that promise three times the durability of regular XT for higher load applications. They even come in both 1x 10-speed & 11-speed options. But with completely new cassette shaping, cog spacing & cable pulls, the new LinkGlide gear is somewhat confusingly not backwards compatible with the current Shimano HyperGlide(+) components we’ve been riding on for years. So is the extra durability worth the trouble…
Shimano Deore & XT add 3x more durable LinkGlide drivetrain
Shimano says to say hello to LinkGlide, and say goodbye to drivetrain wear and tear. OK, not goodbye really. But with claimed 3x longer cassette durability, LinkGlide aims to increase the mileage you get out of your drivetrain, and cut down on degradation of performance over time.
Developed to be robust but smooth, the new Shimano Deore & XT LinkGlide groups were developed to increase drivetrain durability for cycling disciplines that are already hard on components, but where a bit of extra weight wasn’t a huge concern, like e-bikes, leisure mountain bikes, commuter bikes, trekking bikes, and bikepacking or adventure bikes.
But why? And what’s the benefit?
Shimano’s big selling point behind LinkGlide is the increased durability. And while a major justification of the extra strength of the new drivetrain components is to withstand the harder life of e-bikes and new riders shifting under load, it does also mean that anyone who pedals a regular bike with a new XT or Deore LinkGlide setup should get a drivetrain that lasts a claimed three times as long – especially said to be more durable in muddy conditions.
And in a world of squeezing ever-more gears into the same space in the interest of smoother cadence shifts and wider gear ratios, it’s kind of refreshing to talk about fewer gears, but longer-lasting performance. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m also still anxiously awaiting 12-speed wireless Di2 for both road and mountain bikes!)
Shimano says LinkGlide is for any rider that would choose reliability & low-maintenance over the quicker shifting & lower weight of HyperGlide+.
What’s really different? What’s new? Tech details
The secrets to making the drivetrain last longer essentially comes down almost entirely to the two new LinkGlide cassettes. First, the individual steel cogs simply start life as thicker plates. Those thicker cog bases under each tooth can resist much higher loads. They get stamped & finished with more complex tooth profiling that Shimano says results in good chain retention & quick shifts.
Plus, overhauled shift ramps & gates deliver smoother shifts & smoother pedaling, with less “shifting shock” compared to the older HG design (no mention of the newer HG+.)
Those new thicker cogs also get new wider 10 & 11-speed spacing. They still fit on standard Shimano HG freehub bodies, but it’s not the same-old 10sp or 11sp spacing. With new spacing must also come new derailleurs & shifters.
The 1x only rear derailleurs use a revised linear cable pull that is said to be more tolerant of wear, but include the standard low-profile Shadow RD+ design and Chain Stabilizing tech clutches of the light HG+ groups. The accompanying 2-Way Release, Rapidfire Plus shifters come in 10 or 11-speed LinkGlide variants, with I-Spec EV (11sp only) or regular band clamps
There is also a new affordable LinkGlide chain, but any Shimano 11sp chain will work, and all are e-bike-rated.
LinkGlide cross-compatibility, but no backward compatibility
Shimano LinkGlide will first come in Deore XT & Deore levels as Shimano says these are the biggest sellers, the most popular across multiple disciplines including eMTB & e-bikes. More LinkGlide components are likely to follow, and are internally interchangeable/compatible with one another LinkGlide-labelled component.
In fact, it seems the new linear cable pull means either shifter will work with either derailleur, the shifter determining how many gear shifts you get.
That stylized LG LinkGlide logo is especially important. The new Shimano Deore LinkGlide 1×10 & Deore XT LinkGlide 1×11 are NOT cross-compatible with any other existing Shimano 10-speed or 11-speed drivetrains.
If you want to upgrade to a longer-wearing LinkGlide setup, you’ll need new matching LG-labelled shifter, rear derailleur & cassette to make it work (plus the new chain which is optional).
According to Shimano MTB product manager Filip Scholliers, “HYPERGLIDE+ technology still offers competitive cyclists a lightweight drivetrain with our quickest shifting, whereas LINKGLIDE is an extra option for increased durability. Or to put it another way, HYPERGLIDE+ is made for fast and LINKGLIDE is made to last.”
Shimano Deore & XT LinkGlide – Pricing, options & availability
As for individual Shimano LinkGlide component pricing, it looks to be generally in line with other recent XT & Deore releases. Although, the more durable LinkGlide generally seems to get one less gear for the same price at each level.
Just the one $23 / 30€ Deore chain (CN-LG500) is offered specifically for the new setups, but you can also still use any other 10 or 11-speed chain with the rest of the new Shimano LinkGlide components. Only Deore-level LinkGlide cassettes are offered in either the 10sp, 634g 11-43T (CS-LG600-10) for $62 / 65€, or the 11sp, 780g 11-50T (CS-LG600-11) for $98 / 108€.
The Deore 10s shifter (SL-M5130-R) sells for $34 / 46€, to be paired to the Deore 1×10 GS rear derailleur (RD-M5130) for $55 / 60€.
The XT 11s shifter (SL-M8130-R) sells for $67 / 75€, paired to the XT 1×11 SGS rear derailleur (RD-M8130) for $122 / 124€.
Shimano Deore XT LinkGlide drivetrain is 3x more durable, new LG MTB long-wearing mountain bike groupset,
Actual consumer availability dates vary between the individual LinkGlide XT & Deore components, but Shimano says mountain bikers should start seeing LinkGlide pop up in bike shops from August and into September when everything is expected to be widely available. Complete bikes with OEM XT & Deore LinkGlide groupsets should also start popping up in late summer 2021.