Home > Reviews > Component Reviews

Shimano’s Affordable XT LinkGlide 11-Speed Drivetrain is Solid & Dependable

Gus-Boots-Willsen-Review-LinkGlide-drivetrain-e1698364924417(Photo/Ron Frazelle)
20 Comments
Support us! Bikerumor may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article. Learn More

I’ll just jump right in. So, I’ve been riding Shimano’s new group, the XT LinkGlide, for almost a year. After logging a few hundred dirt miles on the group, I’ve been mostly impressed. I’ve purposely done some hard shifting while under load on techy climbs. I’ve run it relentlessly, and unnecessarily I might add, up and down the cassette for long periods while riding.

So far it’s taken the abuse with aplomb. Not to mention that you can get the cassette, chain, derailleur, and shifter for the price of some of the cassettes that are on the market right now. So super big kudos to Shimano for that.

Shimano XT LinkGlide review old XT Push Push
(Photo/BikeRecyclery.com)

I’ve been a Shimano user for quite some time. And it’s kind of the camp that I’ve hunkered down in since buying my first real mountain bike back in late 1988, early 1990. What sold me on that bike way back then, was the fact that it utilized the brand new XT ST-M091 Rapid Fire “push-push” 7-speed shifters.

Up to that point in my riding, I had not experienced such precise and mindless shifting. That’s a pretty bold statement, I know. But it was friction thumb shifters for me up until then. And, after the rapid-fire shifters, I never looked back.

Hold On…

I just wanted to say, before we do actually jump into it, that I’m not getting super in the weeds for this review. I know it’s easy to do with drivetrain components, but I’m going to resist this and keep this review top-level. That way your eyes won’t glaze over. You can get all techy-tech from our original tech post if you want.

But for this review, I’ll cover how good it looks, what new tech it has, what it weighs, how easy it was to install and adjust on my mountain bike, and what I thought of its performance. And maybe a few anecdotes and opinions along the way. Who knows, we’ll see what kind o’ time we have.

No big whoop… let’s get on with it.

Shimano XT LinkGlide

Back in March 2023, when I was looking to build up my Rivendell Gus Boots Willsen, Shimano had reached out and asked if I wanted to review their new XT LinkGlide group. If you read my stuff, you know I’m not always pumped to try something, just because it’s the “latest-greatest”. So, originally I thought, “Naw, I’m good, thanks! I’ll just use my existing m8000 XT shifter, cassette, and rear derailleur”.

Shimano XT LinkGlide review on the Gus
(Photos/Ron Frazelle)

But I reconsidered when they told me who the LinkGlide was intended for, how it was supposed to perform, how much it cost, and how it was different. So, I said yes…I even told them what bike I intended to use it on, and they were on board.

The Cassette is Where the Tech is

Shimano XT LinkGlide review cassette on wheel
LG700-11 speed cassette 11-50t

Built to fit a standard HG cassette body, the LinkGlide cassettes are designed to be extremely robust and durable. They boast teeth that are shaped differently than the HyperGlide teeth, are way thicker, and have “2-way shifting guides”. Shimano says that the cassettes are 3 times more durable than their HyperGlide equivalent. As you can see in the above pictures, the XT M8000 cassette’s teeth (photo on the right) are much thinner.

They are marketing LinkGlide as optimal for both high-torque shifting applications (e-bike users) and “less than perfect” shifting (newer cyclists). As mentioned before, the different shaped and taller shift ramps differ from the HG cassette. These ramps allow a completely different shift point. In theory, these ramps will offer a smoother shift while shifting under load.

The LinkGlide system is not supposed to suffer from, what Shimano calls, “shift shock” while shifting. You know the feeling…where the chain “drops” onto the cassette during a shift like you get sometimes with the HyperGlide system. I found this to be true… most of the time… more on that later.

XT LinkGlide Installation

The XT LinkGlide was installed on my Gus easily enough. I was just using the shifter, cassette, and rear derailleur. There’s not a LinkGlide crankset. Not sure if there ever will be. One of the cool things about the XT LinkGlide is that you don’t need a specific chain to run the group like you do with HyperGlide. LinkGlide will work with any Shimano or aftermarket chain.

Review-LinkGlide-drivetrain chain length
Long-ass chainstays… double chain.

They sent the group to me with the Dura-Ace/XTR chain, so that’s what I used. I actually had to reach out to get another chain because my Gus’s chainstays are so beautifully long.

The understated matte and gloss black color that adorns the XT LinkGlide was a pleasant surprise. Usually, or at least historically, Shimano’s more entry-level components have always looked well… entry-level. But, not so with with this group. It’s very handsome and looks high-end.

When I picked up the LinkGlide cassette box, it had some notable heft. If you’re used to smaller cassettes with the larger cogs made from aluminum, this could feel fairly heavy. So, I weighed it against a Shimano Deore CS-M6100 10-51t 12-speed cassette. The two cassettes aren’t compatible, but both cassettes have full steel cogs with an aluminum spider to reduce weight. The lower tier 12-speed Deore cassette has another gear, more range, and is still lighter, but only by 31g. I found the new 11-50t LinkGlide cassette to be 626g compared to the Deore cassette’s 595g.

Two Different Cassettes

That being said, the LinkGlide cassette that Shimano sent me is the LG700-11. This cassette is the best match for the XT LinkGlide series, but according to Shimano, “is a non-series cassette that lives outside of the branded families, it is the best pairing for the XT LinkGlide”.

Shimano XT LinkGlide review back of cassette on wheel
the LG 700-11’s aluminum spider

The LinkGlide shifter comes with a traditional clamp, like mine, or the I-Spec with its ergo adjustability. After installing the components, I ran the housing and cables. The rear derailleur was easy to set up. I just set the high and low stops and then set the cable and it shifted perfectly.

Shimano XT LinkGlide review rear derailleur pre-instalation
XT LinkGlide Rear Derailleur

The derailleur doesn’t have a barrel adjuster, but the shifter does. This made it easy to adjust the “stretch” out of the cable after the first few rides. Other than my unique situation of combining two chains on my bike, the installation was easy.

How Did it Perform?

Shimano XT LinkGlide review rubbed finish but no damage

Overall I didn’t mind the way the XT LinkGlide shifted. It was a slower shift than that of the XT HyperGlide. And, that may have led to the occasional feeling that the shifting felt cumbersome. And speaking frankly, it took some getting used to.

Another small learning curve was the LinkGlide shifter. The shifter allows you to throw a two-gear jump up the cassette with one push. But, limits you to a single push/pull to come back down the cassette.

Shimano XT LinkGlide review cassette compairison
LG700 Cassette 11-50t (left) XT M8000 11-46t cassette (right)

I’ve been riding the 11-speed XT M8000 stuff exclusively on every mountain bike I’ve owned since 2017. As most of you probably know, the M8000 shifter can throw three gears up the cassette in one long push. And can throw two gears back down the cassette in a quick “double-click” push.

So using the new LinkGlide shifter took a little getting used to as well. I had to adjust how I approached a few specific sections on two of my favorite rides because of it. And I’ll tell you, even after I got used to it, and have ridden hundreds of miles on it, I still prefer the way standard XT shifts over this.

In Conclusion

Overall, the XT 11-speed LinkGlide system seems to be very tough. And after hundreds of miles of use and purposeful abuse, it never missed a gear shift. I did, however, “suffer” from the occasional “shift shock” or “pedal shock” that Shimano says the LinkGlide eliminates.

It really wasn’t a big deal if you’ve been riding the HyperGlide stuff, cause it happens all of the time with that system. And maybe it would be eliminated if I was using this system on an eBike.

Shimano XT LinkGlide review couple hundred mikes of wear

I never did quite get used to it, nor did I love how slow the LinkGlide shifted. Look, I know I’m not racing or anything, but I do like my bike stuff to work exceptionally well. And I’ve really gotten spoiled by the shifting of my current XT HyperGlide stuff. I am a non-transitional human, and I love my M8000. Sue me.

However, if you don’t have that high-end reference point, new riders will find the shifting more than adequate. Excellent even, if the comparison is other inexpensive groups that come on entry-level bikes.

Shimano XT LinkGlide review rear derailleur held up well

If you have an eBike, don’t need 12 speeds, and you’re shifting under large amounts of torque, then the XT LinkGlide is your group. If you are ok trading weight savings for durability? Then the XT LinkGlide is your group. The sheer durability of the LinkGlide cassette will save you money on chains and cassettes in the long run. If I owned an eBike, I would run the XT 11-speed LinkGlide system, and it would be fine with me.

It’s easy on the wallet as well. At Jenson USA, as of the writing of this article, the prices are as follows:

  • XT LinkGlide Rear Derailleur: $122
  • XT LinkGlide Shifter: $67
  • LinkGlide LG500 Chain: $23
  • LinkGlide LG700 11-speed Cassette (as tested): $130

That’s only $342 before applicable tax and shipping for the group. That includes the cassette that was tested, a LinkGlide chain, the XT LinkGlide derailleur, and the XT LinkGlide shifter. That is a great deal.

A Different Take on XT LinkGlide (From Zach’s POV)

Along with Ron, I also got an XT LinkGlide kit to check out. Originally, I had planned to use it on a fat bike. My thought was that winter road salt, sea salt, and all the mud and grit are notoriously difficult on fat bike drivetrains, and something that was more durable and less expensive would be a great option.

But… I also had some lighter Shimano 12-speed Deore/XT parts available for the build, and my inner weight weenie got the best of me. That left me with an XT LinkGlide group to put on something else.

Then it hit me. My Raleigh Redux commuter came with a 9-speed drivetrain that was in need of an update. Given that LinkGlide is designed to work well with ebikes, it seemed like a perfect match… only the hybrid gearing up front made it a little interesting.

Like Ron, I also needed a longer chain to make the big cassette work with the large chainring. However, I found out that Shimano offers an E-MTB chain, the CN-E8000-11. This chain is 138 links instead of 116, and was long enough for me without having to use two chains. I also had to remove one side of the chain guide plate around the chainring and shift the chainring over using chainring spacers to create a chainline that would work with the rear cassette. These changes weren’t due to anything related to LinkGlide, but rather me trying to run a wide range MTB drivetrain on a hybrid e-bike with a big chainring.

In the end, it all worked surprisingly well and I was left with a drivetrain that had much more range. Like Ron, I found the shifting to be different, but I didn’t have any problem getting used to it. It’s a very positive feel to the shifter and lacks some of the finesse that you’ll find at the higher end. With that said, it works great, especially when hammering through the gears on an ebike.

Prior to the LinkGlide install, I’ve actually broken more chains on this Raleigh than my other bikes combined. So the fact that the LinkGlide drivetrain is still operating flawlessly, is impressive. Because of that, I’d have no reservations about recommending this group to anyone looking for a durable drivetrain on a budget.

Bike.Shimano.com

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

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

20 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Sprawl
Sprawl
1 month ago

So XT is the new LX.

Nagy
Nagy
1 month ago

any idea if the new LG700-11 cassette is compatible with the M-8000 Lever and shifter?

John
John
1 month ago
Reply to  Nagy

It’s not compatible. The spacing is different. You need the LinkGlide derailleur and shifter for it to shift correctly. Typical Shimano, how dare they make something that is standardized.

User
30 days ago
Reply to  Nagy

it is not

nooner
nooner
1 month ago

With Linkglide i think mid-drive emtb was the target market. Or hipsters who don’t mind the weight and frankly will not notice with a 1x 24T chainring. What are you riding trials dude?

nooner
nooner
1 month ago
Reply to  Ron Frazelle

Just imagine what is possible if you could keep all that 28Tparty pace goodness and then BAM! hit a magic button and have another larger chainring.

TheStansMonster
TheStansMonster
1 month ago

And maybe a few antidotes and opinions along the way

Matt
Matt
1 month ago

Sometimes an anecdote is the antidote for a bad opinion.

will
will
1 month ago

i agree with Zach this seems like a good fit for commuters and even gravel stuff perhaps:

it works on 10spd mtb HG driver bodies, so older bikes with older hubs, but still 11s which is nice. i know theres a couple of shimano mtb cassettes like that though these arent as though

you can even convert a sram derailleur and shift this cassette on a road bike (force x1 fin) for a sramano setup

Pierre
Pierre
1 month ago

At last a test of the LG system !
Regarding the chain and crankset, it may be added the the LinkGlide standard uses a 11s chain (of any brand I understand). That means you are free to use whatever crankset you want, as long as it is designed for a 11s chain. That includes the CUES range, whether it is with a 9, 10 or 11s cassette.

Also to be noted, the guide pulleys of the XT and LX derailers have a large offset (relative to the cage pivoting axle). That means they are optimized for 1x transmissions and wide range cassettes which have a marked concavity.

In the more conservative CUES range, some of the derailers have guide pulleys with a smaller offset. So, they may be used with double-chainrings provided you install a narrower cassette. I am not sure about triple chain ring though.

All the best !

threeringcircus
threeringcircus
1 month ago

Based on the performance Ron describes and prices, this doesn’t seem like something I’d go for on anything but an ebike. The Deore M5100 series seems like a better alternative–11 speed, fits an HG freehub, performs (in my experience) flawlessly and is much less expensive. LG cassette’s durability isn’t a strong enough selling point if the performance isn’t there. It’ll be a long time before I wear out the steel cogs on an M5100 cassette.

Robert
Robert
30 days ago

I set up linkglide on a sponsored enduro rider’s bicycle and the shifting being slower than HG was seen as a disadvantage in a fast technical environment . The shift shock still occurs if you try to shift when there is high load due to cross chaining but less than with HG . Sometimes noise is heard as the gap between each cog is less due to closeness of chain pins . Older HG cassettes seem to last longer than current generation ones . This was done to make the linkglide’s introduction display a greater degree of difference in durability compared to HG . HG is still smoother and allows more shifts at a time than linkglide . The linkglide is aimed at ebike /amateurs where refined feel and performance are not a priority .

Sirclimbalot
Sirclimbalot
30 days ago

An I the only person that finds it odd – tested for hundreds of miles…. Isn’t this supposed to be a super durable long wear group? How about a review after 5000 miles? 10k?

nooner
nooner
30 days ago
Reply to  Sirclimbalot

Well, it takes a long time to ride a few hundred miles when you are coasting around with a 28T chainring….

dontcoast
28 days ago

Linkglide XT is absolutely amazing on mid-driver e-bikes. 3k miles+ on a Bosch Speed motor in extreme(ly) varied terrain and weather.

The worst part is it rides so smooth with a crusty chain that I forget to lube it.

King County
King County
27 days ago

As someone else said, the ebiker is the target audience with durability as a priority, therefore the extra shifts per push were probably cut down to diminish stress on the system. A non-ebiker will shifter when approaching a hill. The e-biker will activate the throttle first. This group isn’t for the person that has used traditional XT for years and doesnt have an ebike.

deepwoodsbiker
deepwoodsbiker
24 days ago

The cassette is where the focus should be and not the rest of the group set. You can use the cassette with any 1×11 shifter and derailleur. I’m curious if the author tried the cassette with his existing (M8000) shifter and derailleur. If so, I wonder if if he would have a different opinion. I’ve got an LG400 on my RDS Mayor fat bike with a SRAM X1 shifter and SRAM NX derailleur (SRAMano). It replaced the 11-46 XT cassette that lost many teeth and destroyed a chain. The shifting is smoother now under load with less shift shock. I don’t mind the slower shifting for my riding. I’ve only had a few miles on it and it seems fine so far. I’m interested for the durability, backward compatibility, and reasonable price compared to standard. I’ve bought the LG700 for a summer wheel set on the Mayor as well.

theKaiser
theKaiser
14 days ago
Reply to  deepwoodsbiker

Glad that your setup is working for you, but officially the LinkGlide cassette is not compatible with any of the standard format 11 speed stuff that we’ve all been using for the past several years. I often roll my eyes at the “not compatible” proclamations, as we all know many companies just want to sell you the whole setup, or are simply trying to shirk any liability if you use some of their stuff mixed with a different brand’s. Having said I think that the cautions about incompatibility between LinkGlide and the standard 11 speed stuff are well founded due to the dramatically thicker cogs and gradually stacking up spacing issue that should cause. If you adjust your shifting in the small cogs, it will likely not be indexing properly when you shift up to the largest ones. Sometimes, with small variations in spacing, you can adjust to make it perfect in the middle cogs and get away with it as then the variance will be halved at the extremes, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Just for the sake of clarity, LinkGlide is cross compatible with the new Shimano CUES lineup.

Subscribe Now

Sign up to receive BikeRumor content direct to your inbox.

Subscribe Now

Sign up to receive BikeRumor content direct to your inbox.