While the trickle down of Di2 to XT is the big mountain news from Shimano today, an update to the hardworking SLX group is a positive step both for its affordability to riders looking for 1x or 11 speed upgrades, as well as for the huge OEM deals Shimano works out. In the last couple of years a lot of 1x bikes have been built up with SRAM groups as there hadn’t been as many mid-spec options from Shimano. Even though Shimano still isn’t offering quite the cassette range of the XD driver cassettes, bring the price down for their 11-42 options will certainly help sell more on the groups.
The mid range SLX trail group gets a big aesthetic makeover in this M7000 reboot that focuses on delivering affordable performance. With three main options based around separate cranks and then appropriate derailleurs and cassettes for 1×11, 2×11, and yes 3×10, the new SLX aims to offer something for every trail rider. Take a closer look at how they match up below the fold…
The 1×11 setup is the most straight forward, and simplest. A new single ring only 4-bolt crankset gives riders the choice of 30, 32 & 34 tooth chain rings that can pair up with either an 11-40 or 11-42 cassette with the mid-cage rear derailleur and a single shifter. The crank without a ring will sell for just $90, plus $30 for the chainring, and another $66 for the 11 speed rear mech.
The single and double cranks are both available with what Shimano calls a B-spec option to pair with Boost 148 rear hubs. All of the new cranks also spin on better bottom brackets with improved seals against water and dirt ingress.
2×11 isn’t much more complicated. The 4-bolt double cranks get 10 tooth spreads for close gear ratios and fast shifts with options for 34/24, 36/26 & 38/28 combinations, for $121 with the pair of rings. Add in a front derailleur for around $27 that gets a redesigned cage for faster and more accurate shifts, the same new 11 speed mid-cage rear derailleur that brings XT/XTR tech down a step, and only one option for a cassette – the 11-40. The mid-cage-only 11 speed rear derailleur doesn’t wrap enough chain to pair the double cranks with the bigger cassette. A pair of 2×11 triggers keeps it all running smoothly.
The triple is a bit more complicated. Possibly to keep a single length cage on the 11 speed gear, the triple does not make the upgrade to 11 speed leaving a big part of this group incompatible with the rest. There is a new SLX M7000 triple crankset (40/30/22) that gets the new look, but it only pairs with the new long-cage 10 speed rear derailleur. That means that the group sticks with using existing 11-32, 11-34, or 11-36 10 speed cassettes. Its front mech gets similar updates, with Side Swing, Top Swing, and Down Swing versions available here (as well as for the 11 speed doubles.)
Of course the new SLX uses Shimano’s Shadow Plus rear derailleurs to max out chain retention and minimize chain slap for both 10 and 11 speed versions.
One of the key new elements of the new 11 speed M7000 group is the relatively light 11-40 cassette. At a claimed 467g and just $68, it should offer a lot of value vs. the more expense XT & XTR parts which are about 55g & 140g lighter, respectively. Interestingly the 1x only 11-42 will sell for the same price, and I’m sure that plenty of riders will be happy to try it with other 1×11 and 2×11 setups.
SLX gets updated Rapidfire Plus shifters for either 10 or 11 speeds that lets you downshift 3 gears at a time and brings in the index finger or thumb shift release function. They also add in I-spec II or I-spec B-type mounting options, depending on model for a cleaned up cockpit. Single setups seem to be spec’d with one $35 XT shifter, while doubles get a pair in the SLX line for $66.
SLX hubs get upgrade seals and angular contact bearings, plus an improved fast 36 point engaging rear hub, and have both standard and Boost 110/148 options available
Brakes look to get a mostly cosmetic update, although the do get a few new Centerlock rotors that appear to not use the superior IceTech alloy core of the higher end groups. A front lever+caliper will set you back $105, and $110 for the rear, plus $25 a piece for the 160mm rotors. An HG701 chain will pair with the new 11 speed group for $29 to finish out the build.
The entirety of the new SLX 11 and 10 speed M7000 groups will be available from retailers mid summer around the start of July 2016.