Review: Shimano XT 11SPD – Best component group ever?

Shimano XT

Shimano XT has always appealed to me over the years with its value, reliability and performance.  The latest evolution of XT exceeds my expectations and brings joy to my bikes life.

Products Tested: Shimano XT M8000 1×11 shifter – rear derailleur – 11-42 cassette – brakeset

I first rode this new 11speed XT group last summer while demoing 2016 bikes at Interbike’s Outdoor Demo.  It’s surprising how a fresh a bike with crisp shifting, light action, and great ergonomics can effect a demo experience.  Some of the first bikes I rode at Interbike had the new XT.  As I switched back to other bikes with other components, I immediately noticed how much I was liking the new XT.  I now have close to 900 miles on the group that is on the new Ibis Ripley, so here are my thoughts.

Shimano XT M8000 shifter

The shifting feels very crisp, light and positive.  A stab of the shift lever is light, yet has a positive indexed click when shifting through its range.  This gives a very precise and high quality feel.  Its also nice that you can drop 2 gears at a time by pushing a little further on the lever.  SRAM does not currently offer this feature.

Shimano XT M8000 brakeThe industry benchmark brakes have some nice refinements.   The lever feel and action are buttery smooth with a wickedly light pull.  Reach and pad contact adjustment work as previous generations to customize the lever pull to your desires. The metallic dark grey finish gives a nice modern aesthetic update.

Shimano XT M8000 brake shifter

The new clamp for the brake has been refined to take up a slightly smaller amount of real-estate on the bars.  This is important for those with smaller hands or those running dropper seat posts and lockout levers in order to get the desired lever positioning.

Shimano XT M8000 derailleur

The XT derailleur exceeded my expectations compared to Shimano and SRAM derailleurs I have used in the past.  The clutch is strong and does not allow the chain to slap around excessively.  No adjustments to the clutch have been needed and is as strong now after 900 miles as new.  I really enjoy the quietness while riding over rough terrain without feeling like my chain is going to break my bike as it slaps around.

Shimano XT M8000 11-42 cassette

I don’t miss the 10 tooth cog that SRAM’s cassette’s have AT ALL!   I rarely find myself in the lower two cogs running a 30T chainring and 29″ wheels.  Only having a 11 tooth cog IS NOT AN ISSUE unless you’re on the road…then you just buy a larger chainring (or ride the road bike)!  The low replacement cost and shifting performance are great and make up for the largest difference in weight between XT and other single chainring component groups.

Is there anything I don’t like?  When in the largest cog grinding up a steep climb, if I back pedal too far (more than a half a revolution) the chain may drop down to a lower cog.  This is quickly remedied by simply pedaling forward, but a little annoying nonetheless.  Immediately, it hasn’t bothered me enough that I’ve spent too much time looking for a remedy.

Bottom Line:  The Shimano M8000 group is my absolute favorite group to date. Shifting is super crisp, derailleur keeps things super quiet, the brakes are flawless and the light action creates a quality feel that I prefer to all others.

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