No other groupset comes close to rivalling the Shimano Deore XT in both reputation and durability, having dominated the mountain biking scene for over three decades. Down in Northern Italy’s Riva del Garda, we had the opportunity to test the latest addition, the 11-speed Shimano M8000 and here are our first impressions.

Die neue Shimano Deore XT kommt im schicken schwarz / anthraziten Design und begeistert bereits im Stand mit hoher Qualitätsanmutung.
Coming in a slick black and stone grey, the Shimano XT screams high quality even while it’s still balanced on the stand.

More gears – more possibilities

With the high-end XTR groupset explicitly aimed at racers, Shimano set out to render the Deore XT as versatile and variable as possible – hence the presence of 1×11, 2×11 and 3×11 shifting. The finely-toothed cassette has a 1×11-specific 11-42-tooth cassette, and the 2×11 and 3×11 run a 11-40 cassette. Like the high-end XTR, the spider of the XT cranks can be changed and converted from 1- to 2-speed and vice versa. This isn’t possible with the 3-speed chainset though. Shimano offer the cranks in both a regular and a Boost-compatible variant.

Bei 2- und 3-fach Antrieben kommt am Heck eine Kassette mit 11-40 Zähnen zum Einsatz.
The 2- and 3-speed drivetrains take an 11-40 toothed rear cassette.
Schick und Edel: Die neue XT-Kurbel erinnert nicht nur optisch stark an die der top Gruppe XTR.
Tidy and chic: the new XT cranks aren’t just visually reminiscent of the high-end XTR, but match it in performance too.

Pull it up – the new Side Swing

Alongside the move towards an 11-speed cassette, Shimano’s other new venture includes the DEORE XT Side Swing front derailleur, which routes the cable straight from the frame rather than routing the cable to the derailleur via the top or bottom. This should vastly reduce shift effort and speed up shifting.

Ohne Umlenkungen direkt ans Ziel ist die Devise des neuen Side Swing-Umwerfers.
The new Side Swing front derailleur makes shifting more rapid and efficient.

Get in touch – the new triggers

Not only do the Deore XT cranks appear remarkably similar to the top-end XTR ones, but the gear shifters have had an overhaul since last year’s model and Shimano’s improvements to the ergonomics of the levers are said to result in a 20% reduction in shift effort. Moreover, the levers have been texturised to provide better grip when changing gear, and the I-spec shifter integration has been further adjusted to suit your hands when riding.

Der neue Schalthebel erinnert stark an den der Top-Gruppe XTR.
The new shifters look a lot like the more expensive XTR model.
Der hintere Trigger kann weiterhin sowohl gezogen wie auch gedrückt werden und verfügt außerdem ab jetzt über eine angenehme Riffelung für mehr Grip.
Changing the back rings can be done as before with a pull or a push on the now texturised (and therefore grippier) lever.

Increased tension – the new rear derailleur

Still making use of their own proven Shadow RD+ technology to minimise any risk of chain damage, the friction clutch on the new Deore XT rear derailleur can now be adjusted externally with the help of an Allen key.

Beim neuen XT-Schaltwerk ist die Stärke des Shadow Plus-Dämpfers von außen einstellbar.
The strength of the Shadow RD+ friction clutch can be adjusted easily with an Allen key.

On the trails – our riding impression

Ready to roll: Nach dem Bikesetup geht es auf den Trail
Ready to roll – once set-up is complete, it’s time to hit the trails.

When you’re out testing new shifters then it’s all about how they switch between the gears – up, down, down, down, up, down. You’ll go through them all at least once – and this is where the Shimano Deore XT presented us with our first pleasant surprise as it spun through them majestically. Until now shifting had never seemed as precise and easy as with these. But until we have opportunity to compare them directly with the top-end XTR shifters, we can’t make any direct comparisons.

Gangwechsel erledigt die neue Shimano Deore XT extrem schnell und präzise.
Rapid and precise: The new Shimano Deore XT shifts gear like a natural.

With their new ergonomic and texturised form, we were immediate fans of the new shifting levers, which felt good to the touch and carried out their duties well. We particularly approved of how the short movement on the rear gear shifter gives an accurate and precise change and the satisfying click to confirm shifting is being carried out on the rear chain rings. However, what really blew us away was the ease displayed by the front derailleur. Naturally, as before, it takes time to shift to the bigger front ring, but once that satisfying click is heard then you know that the chain is sitting comfortably on the big ring.

ENDURO Redakteur Christoph testet weit über dem Gardasee die neue Schaltgruppe – und posed für die Kamera.
ENDURO editor Christoph tests out the new Shimano shifters high above Lake Garda.

The new shifters also come complete with the Rapidfire+ technology, which allows two gears to be shifted through at once in either direction with the ease of a double tap on the lever. On one particular downhill, characterised by a quick-fire string of hefty bumps, the chain didn’t entirely stay in place. We rectified this with a turn of the cranks, and it fortunately didn’t come off properly.

shimano 11 speed (4 von 4)-2


Not only impressive because of its rapid and precise gear shifting, the Shimano Deore XT also has a stylish finish and displays first-rate manufacturing. Thanks to the enormous gear ratio and your own choice of chain rings, every rider should be able to find their desired setup. This initial round of testing has left us with two pressing questions: can this new groupset hold its own against the long-lasting nature of Shimano’s older models? And what’s the performance of the 1-speed variant with the 11-42 cassette?

During our test we were unable to clarify what the official prices and availability of this groupset were going to be.

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Words: Christoph Bayer | Pictures: Irmo Keizer/Christoph Bayer

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