Home > Feature Stories

Shimano CUES Reinvents Mid-Tier Groups With Intercompatible 9-, 10-, and 11-Speed Components

Shimano CUES on mountian bikec. Shimano
22 Comments
Support us! Bikerumor may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article. Learn More

For the longest time, if you wanted modern drivetrain technology on the cheap, you had to wait. As in, you would have to wait for that race technology to trickle down to the more affordable component groups — which could take years. Or even decades.

Shimano’s new CUES ecosystem is the result of thinking, “maybe we could engineer something better now, rather than waiting for the latest tech to reach the point where it’s considered affordable. More importantly, Shimano points out that its new group is designed for the actual use of mid-tier bikes rather than obsolete race tech, which means a lower cost of entry for real MTB performance.

CUES, or Create Unique Experiences, is Shimano’s answer to an all-new mid-tier lineup that’s set to replace multiple existing groups. Gone are the Alivio, Acera, Altus, and the 10- and 11-speed Deore groups, with Shimano CUES rising up to take their place. (Shimano notes it is not cutting support for legacy groups.)

Shimano Deore XT LinkGlide drivetrain is 3x more durable, new LG MTB long-wearing mountain bike groupset, chain

9, 10, and 11 Speeds on a Single Chain

How will a single component family replace multiple separate groups? It all comes down to a single chain. Even though CUES will be offered in 9-, 10-, and 11-speed variants, all of the CUES groups will use the same 11-speed chains (better still, the groups use any existing 11-speed chains). Why 11-speed? Shimano states that while 11- and 12-speed chains are about the same durability-wise, 11-speed chains are more durable than existing 8-, 9-, and 10-speed chains. There’s no specific chain for the group; any Shimano 11-speed chain will be compatible. The cheapest option will be the LG500 chain, listed at $22.99.

Using a single chain also means all of the cranksets are intercompatible. Technically, all of the derailleurs are intercompatible as well, though rear derailleurs will be limited by their cassette capacity. Those cassettes all feature the same cog thickness and consistent spacing so all of the shifters will have the same pull ratio.

This unheard-of level of compatibility will mean dealers will have fewer part numbers to stock, and consumers will have more options when it comes to finding replacement parts. On vacation and broke your 9-speed shifter but can’t find a replacement? Buy an 11-speed shifter and limit out the last two clicks. Then down the road, you could buy an 11-speed cassette and possibly a new derailleur and you have an all-new 11-speed setup!

LinkGlide Technology Expands

Shimano CUES LG700 11-50t cassette

CUES is also based on Shimano’s relatively new LinkGlide technology, which was introduced as a 3x more durable option than HyperGlide+. When LinkGlide was introduced, it was novel that there would be a more durable XT drivetrain option, but we didn’t really get the full picture until now. LinkGlide will still be offered at the XT level, but more importantly, it will create a much more durable mid-tier drivetrain that doesn’t care how you shift.

Unlike some more expensive groups, LinkGlide doesn’t require a special shifting technique or care when shifting. Shimano claims there’s no need to let up during shifting, which makes the entire system great for beginners, or any riders wanting a simpler system.

Shimano was also sure to point out that the original LG600 cassette that launched with the original LinkGlide XT group was admittedly quite heavy. The new LG700, which replaces it, is claimed to be considerably lighter. Not only that but the less expensive LG400 cassette is also lighter than the LG600.

Compatible With Other Chains

Another interesting design feature of LinkGlide is: All of the shifting technology is built into the cassette, not the chain. Why does that matter? While Shimano would prefer that bike manufacturers spec all Shimano components, it’s realistic. It knows that less expensive chains or cranksets will be subbed in to cut costs. But even if you get a bike without a Shimano chain, the CUES cassettes and derailleurs will still shift the same.

CUES will also offer an easier bike-buying experience for both the bike shops and the consumer. There’s no longer a need to explain all the different groups, instead, it’s just 9-speed, 10-speed, or 11-speed.

Shimano CUES mountian bike on sand

One of the big motivations behind CUES was for Shimano to offer bike brands an affordable 1x drivetrain option for mountain bikes, which it achieved. However, there are still front derailleur options if needed. Here too, Shimano is improving compatibility. There were previously three different cable pull ratios for front derailleurs; CUES unifies that into a single pull.

Shimano CUES Group Hierarchy

While all of the CUES components fall under the same family and share the same chain, there are different component levels. You’ll most likely find these groups on complete bikes, but aftermarket parts will be available for custom builds or replacements. As Shimano puts it, “choose the gear range you need, and the features that you want.”

U8000 11-Speed

This is the line’s top-end 11-speed group, which likely won’t be seen much in North America. Essentially the new XT Trekking group, it includes the only brake in the CUES lineup that’s a replacement for the T8000 Trekking brake. It has polished highlights that add to the high-end appearance of the group.

U6000 11-Speed

We’ll see more of what Shimano calls its “benchmark 11-speed series.” This group can be used for everyday fun bike rides to “enthusiastic trail riding.” At this level, you’ll still find a rear derailleur with a clutch and an option for a two-way release shifter.

U6000 10-Speed

This series can be used in the same way as the U6000 11-speed series, but with 10-speeds. As mentioned, this is simply the same chain but with a cassette that features one less cog and a 10-speed shifter.

Shimano CUES U4000 1x9

U4000 9-Speed

The 9-speed U4000 is the new entry-level series. This series can cover a wide spectrum of bike activities, from the enjoyable trail ride to the casual everyday jaunt. The rear derailleur does not feature a clutch but does have a stronger derailleur spring and “clever architecture” to provide chain retention. The biggest difference is that this will be louder than a clutched derailleur but still offers improved chain retention.

How Much Does Shimano CUES Cost?

While most of these groups will be sold as complete bikes, Shimano gave us sample pricing on a few options. At the top end, a Shimano CUES U8000 1×11 group with crank and bottom bracket will total $451.94 HyperGlide+ — not bad when you consider that’s less than some cassettes these days. A 1×11 U8000 group without a crank or cassette drops to around $288.96, which puts it well under XT LinkGlide 1×11 at $361.96.

The pricing continues to drop with a U6000 1×11 group without crank or BB priced at $213.96, a U6000 1×10 group without crank or BB listed at $186.96, and the bottom U4000 1×9 group without crank or BB selling for just $150.96. These sample group prices include the widest range 1x option for each level without brakes.

Will There Be More CUES Groups in the Future?

Regular readers may recall when Shimano already launched the CUES group last year. Focused on e-bike Di2 drivetrains with free and auto shifting, those parts will stick around and join the mountain bike, hybrid, and trekking groups launched today. When asked if we’ll see CUES launch for the road and gravel side as well, Shimano stated it has built an ecosystem that’s open for future products, but currently has no comments on anything drop-bar related.

Shimano.com

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

22 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Nathan
Nathan
1 year ago

Solid.

threeringcircus
threeringcircus
1 year ago

So, a 9 or 10 speed cassette with 11 speed spacing? If so, sign me up. That may help mitigate some chain clearance issues with wider tires (my fat bike and cargo bikes are exhibits A and B).

luddite
luddite
1 year ago

They are touting “interoperability”, yet according to Bikeradar the cable pull (“actuation ratio”) is different to both current mountain and road groups, so they’ve just invented another “standard”. Thanks a bunch. There is a 32/46 hollowtech crankset though that could be good for gravel.

Gary P
Gary P
1 year ago
Reply to  luddite

I like the sound of an inexpensive 46/32 crankset for graveI with a true as. Unfortunately, it will almost certainly have MTB Q-factor and chainline.

Greg
Greg
1 year ago
Reply to  luddite

Reread the article. The cable pull is the same as the previously released XT Link Glide, which makes sense as these new groups are related.
Why they changed the cable pull for Link Glide in the first place, I don’t know.

Hugo
Hugo
1 year ago
Reply to  Greg

They changed because the cogs on linkglide cassetes are thicker. So the chain doesn’t sit in the exact same position as in hyperglide cassetes. At least that’s what I read somewhere,

Pierre
Pierre
11 months ago
Reply to  Hugo

Indeed ! But then, why didn’t they choose an older cog spacing (MTB 10s ?) which could have done the job and allowed for some intercompatibility ?
The fact is that the cable pulls of various existing groupos are all but identical and choosing one of them wouldn’t haver really cleared the mess I guess …

luddite
luddite
1 year ago

According to Bikradar it uses a different cable pull to both current road and mountain groupsets. So much for intercompatability.

Raouligan
1 year ago

So just kind of like Exage was back in the day differing levels with the same name and road and MTB compatibility…

luddite
luddite
1 year ago
Reply to  Raouligan

Sadly no, not compatible with current road or mountain shifters

CrankyCrankster
CrankyCrankster
1 year ago
Reply to  luddite

Guess it’s time to stock up on 11s MTB bits.

Sean
1 year ago

Very interesting

Kuromori
Kuromori
1 year ago

Let me get this right:

The difference between a 9 speed and an 11 speed is that there’s 2 missing cogs, of identical thickness and spacing, worth in total less than $10, and either some limit screw adjustments or a couple of missing teeth on an indexing mechanism that cost nothing to add, requiring the exact same level of precision, but will surely cost an arm and a leg to replace.

There’s no good engineering or manufacturing cost reason Shimano couldn’t have just made everything 11 speed with different levels of features and build quality (CUES+ clutch, CUES++ hollowtech, etc) except to segment the market.

On the surface it looks like they’re making 9-11 speeds compatible with each other. The reality seems to be they’re making everything 11 speed and adding artificial incompatibility that has nothing to do with cost or engineering, just marketeering.

Oscar
Oscar
1 year ago
Reply to  Kuromori

Right? And what’s the purpose of the different speeds? I could only imagine:

a) Freehubs with different bodies and geometries as a reason (maybe for chainline, frame standards etc.), but that in turn would kill the cross- compatibility promised. (And it wasn’t mentioned anyway).

b) More specific cassettes with gear steps for different use cases (think downhill vs. road), but that contradicts the stated purpose and market, too. (And the cassette options don’t seem to deliver that anyway).

So in the end, the only thing I see it doing: When in some years people want to replace parts for their old 9/10/11 systems, they will run into this stuff more and more and get angry…

BTW: If that’s you: Thanks four your Blog, please keep it up! It’s great!

Tim
Tim
1 year ago

I wonder how much of this is an attempt to quash/ forestall competition for affordable 9- and 10-speed groups like those offered by Microshift. There is definitely a lot of demand for groups that combine value and performance without having a zillion gears to click through and that require frequent adjustment.
CUES does offer fewer unwanted gears, but its use of 11-speed spacing across the board means it’s going to be finicky. Also, it looks like there will be no chance to choose, say a lightweight, high build quality 9- or 10-speed group like there is with Microshift.
Overall, I’ve got that “raft of new gear from big S-company is coming” feeling but am non-plussed by the factual offer.

Richard
Richard
1 year ago

There’s no longer a need to explain all the different groups, instead, it’s just 9-speed, 10-speed, or 11-speed”

Customer :Hi shop, U6000 please .
Shop: Sure, U6000 10 or U6000 11? 
Customer: Oh sorry i meant 11 speed please
Shop: Sure U8000 or U6000?
Customer: Im just gonna go buy a car.

Larry Falk
Larry Falk
1 year ago

I like the simplification aspects of CUES, but I do a lot of loaded touring with a combo road/mtb 3×9 drivetrain and CUES does not offer anything to replace this. Not sure what I will do in the future, but it may be time to stock up on 3×9 Sora shifters.

Pierre
Pierre
11 months ago
Reply to  Larry Falk

My understanding is that LinkGlide only concern the rear. So I guess you could use a triple at the front with 10s or 11s rings, as CUES accept 10s or 11s chains. There must be some such rings available somewhere, if not at Shimano.

To be confirmed ! 🙂

Bayard
Bayard
1 year ago

Sport,
Rogue 23 seems to not see the benefits of the clutch. Can these Cues be had with out the clutch? I suspect there could be a weight savings.

Nash
Nash
1 year ago

This is cool, but I really wish there would have been a way for Shimano to maintain compatibility through the past 20 years of drivetrain development. Lamenting the days when the Shimano compatibility chart was just a big EVERYTHING -> EVERYTHING (except front derailleurs)

DearSX
DearSX
11 months ago

I will probably just get rid of my current 9 speed 36T stuff and buy u6000 parts for future proofing and options, especially if I find it on sale. 10 speeds is plenty.

Equis Dé
Equis Dé
9 months ago

Where the F*** price???!??

Subscribe Now

Sign up to receive BikeRumor content direct to your inbox.

Subscribe Now

Sign up to receive BikeRumor content direct to your inbox.