Posted by Miles Arbour
After SRAM’s release of their exciting new Eagle 12-speed drivetrain options, it was only a matter of time before Shimano tried to one-up Eagle in the wide-range 1×12 drivetrain arena. It could have been as simple as offering a 12-speed 11-50 cassette with matching shifter and derailleur to make use of the standard Shimano freehub body – which was partly what we were expecting – but it looks like Shimano went a step or two further. Shimano’s newly announced XTR 9100 offers two separate 1×12 drivetrains for enduro or XC riders, a wide range 2×12, redesigned brake levers, and a newly designed freehub body. Here is a brief breakdown of what to expect followed by parting thoughts and link to where you can learn more.
Micro Spline and Scylence
Yes, you heard right, there is now another freehub standard in the mix. While many of us would have appreciated Shimano adopting SRAM’s XD driver for their 1×12 cassette, patent complexity didn’t quite allow it. Instead, Shimano partnered with DT Swiss to develop a completely new driver and freehub design, aptly named “Micro Spline.” The interface mates with their new cassettes via 23 ultra-deep aluminium splines. The main point of innovation there is the depth of the splines which allowed Shimano to use aluminum to keep things lightweight. Inside the hub is Shimano’s new Scylence ratchet system, which shares many similarities to DT Swiss’ Star Ratchet design. But, as its name implies, the teeth completely disengage while coasting to create a nearly silent hub. Although many riders out there have embraced the buzz of loud rear hubs, some bikepackers might prefer a quieter option when trying to soak in their surroundings. The Silence free hub offers 7.6 degrees between points of engagement.
Shimano offers a variety of hub options with the Micro Spline, Scylence, and Center Lock tech, including XTR-level M9110 and M9110-B hubs with straight pull spokes (M9110-BS) as well as a more affordable non-series hub option (MT900-B) that will include a straight pull option as well (MT900-BS). Both styles require a slightly larger drive-side flange for the Scylence freehub, so as with most MTB hubs, multiple spoke lengths will apply.
The word on the street is that the only company that will have access to Micro Spline licensing is DT Swiss, right now. Beyond that, it’s unclear.
Shimano XTR 9100 Cassette Options
The XTR 9100 family consists of three different cassettes: 10×51 (12-speed), 10×45 (12-speed), and 12×45 (11-speed). Each of these drivetrain options will only be compatible with the new 9100 shifter, derailleur, and chain. Also included in the release are new chain designs, cranks, direct mount chainrings, shifters, and derailleurs, as well as redesigned brakes for both enduro and XC riding.
The cassette everyone’s been waiting for, CS-M9100 Wide Range, Shimano’s 10 to 51 cassette, features three large alloy cogs and five titanium ones on an aluminum spider. The smallest four cogs are steel. The entire cassette weighs in at 367 grams and costs $380. That’s about $40 cheaper than the XX1 Eagle cassette and $20 more than X01 Eagle cassette. It weighs just about 10 grams more than both higher end Eagle cassettes. Below is a full cost breakdown of the 12-speed 10-51 drivetrain, likely to be the most popular configuration released.
Shimano 12-Speed Breakdown
- 10-51 Cassette: $379.99
- XTR 12-Speed Chain: $64.99
- XTR Rear Hub: $329.99
- XTR Rear Derailleur (Long Cage): $259.99
- 12-Speed Shifter: $129.99
- TOTAL COST: $1,164.95
It’s tough to say whether or not Shimano’s new 12-speed options will prove successful with the bikepacking crowd. But, it’s hard to argue against a 510% gear range and climbing-friendly granny gear afforded by the 51T cassette cog. The silent hub freewheel will likely appeal to many, as will the the potential for reliability in the DT Swiss designed hub. Cost wise, it’s on par with SRAM’s X01 Eagle, so those tempted by X01 with preference for Shimano will likely be interested in taking a peek. However, with the new freehub design, it requires a pretty extensive conversion that will surely add up quickly. The rest of us eagerly anticipate the trickle-down tech that’s likely to follow. With the all new freehub/driver, it’s clear Shimano took their time to design something to build upon moving forward.