Originally known for its lightweight, cross-country, racy bits, Shimano‘s top-shelf XTR line recently split most of its components into “Race” and “Trail” versions, the latter prizing durability and performance over anorexic bragging rights. In addition to sturdier trail versions of components, technologies premiering at the XTR level such as ICE-Tech brakes and ShadowPlus clutch-type rear-derailleurs appealed to aggressive all-mountain and trail riders and—not surprisingly—the burgeoning enduro crowd. But just as enduro racing approaches its Zenith, Shimano reminded Sea Otter crowds that it is indeed still a heavy hitter in the lightweight arena. Lighter brakes, a lighter bottom-bracket, more durable chain and an ultra-light carbon-fiber tubular 29-inch wheelset come in at fighting weight on the Race side of the fence for 2014.
Carbon Tubular 29 Wheelset
Cross-country types may want to brush up on their glue skills; one of the most shocking announcements in regard to Shimano‘s XTR Race group is the introduction of a carbon-fiber tubular 29er wheelset. While tubulars are the preferred race-day setup of most road cyclists, they are far from common in the dirt, even for cross-country. So, why tubular? No flanges mean light weight, low rolling resistance and fewer flats. Developed for the Olympics through Shimano‘s sports marketing program, the XTR WH-M980 will be available in limited runs for competitive cyclists looking for every-race-day advantage. Coming in at 280 grams per full-carbon offset rim, the complete wheelsets boast absurb numbers: 1,298 grams per set for 15-millimeter front, quick-release rear or or 1,349 grams for the 15-millimeter front, 12-millimeter rear combo. Geax and Schwalbe currently make tubular-compatible 29-inch tires. Shimano says 26 and 27.5 (650b) versions will be available later this year.
Magnesium Brakes and ICE Tech Rotors
The M987 disc brake shaves 40 grams per wheel off its predecessor, the M985, thanks to a magnesium caliper and master cylinder, carbon-fiber lever blades and titanium bits but gives up nothing in stopping power, according to Shimano. New ICE Technologies discs join the party with a few tricks they picked up on the World Cup Downhill circuit a-la Saint. Utilizing what Shimano calls FREEZA, the ICE Tech rotors feature aluminum cooling fins and according to Shimano reduce peak temperatures by up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Makes sense for the downhill tracks where it was born and bred, by why should weight weenies care? Better heat dissipation means you can run a smaller rotor without increased fading—and that means fewer grams of rotational weight. The new SM-RT99 rotors will be available in 140, 160 and 180-millimeter sizes to fit your flavor of fast.
Sil-Tec Chain and Premium Bottom Bracket
For 2014, the new CN-M981 HG-X mountain bike chain borrows Sil-Tec—an advanced surface plating technology to increase both performance and durability—from the Dura-Ace 9000 chain on the road side. Shimano says the technology adds a low-friction surface treatment that runs smoother and lasts longer. Along with the Sil-Tec coating, a narrow design better holds lubrication and helps to shed mud.
Premium level SM-BB93/SM-BB94 mountain-bike bottom brackets loose 19 grams, and according to Shimano is sealed better to keep gunk at bay.
by Don Stefanovich