Tech Feature: Shimano for 2009, February 14, 2008
Edited by James Huang
Yet another front axle standard
Even though we're barely into 2008, information has already begun to trickle out of the Shimano camp about its 2009 wheel lineup.
Most interesting (for now at least) is the introduction of a wholly new 15mm thru-axle system specifically targeted at cross-country mountain bike applications. According to Shimano, the new 'E-Thru' system is 15% stiffer in torsion and 25% stiffer in transverse shear than the industry-standard 9mm quick-release system. More significantly, it's supposedly nearly as stiff as the current 20mm thru-axle standard (although Shimano doesn't say exactly how near) but the E-Thru hub and skewer combination could potentially offer a 100g weight advantage. The corresponding fork dropouts also require less material than a 20mm thru-axle system which could yield more savings there as well.
We have yet to get our hands on the setup but the operation is said to be similar to a standard quick release skewer so there should be little, if any, learning curve involved. While obviously a new system, E-Thru will at least use the standard 100mm OLD (outer locknut dimension) instead of the 20mm system's marginally wider 110mm measurement. Shimano says the extra 10mm doesn't confer enough additional spoke triangulation to justify using it and the 100mm figure should make it a little easier for fork manufacturers to adapt. So far, Fox Racing Shox has thus far been the only company that has officially adopted E-Thru as an option.
In conjunction with the new E-Thru front hubs, Shimano will offer an E-Thru-equipped Deore XT WH-M778 wheel which will reportedly save nearly 350g over the current WH-M776 20mm thru-axle version. Shimano will also launch its first dedicated 29" MTB wheelset, the WH-MT75, which will essentially be an analogue to XT in design and carry a claimed weight of 1850g per pair.
Shimano's introduction of yet another front axle standard will undoubtedly have many riders (and companies) up in arms but Shimano feels that the increase in performance and potential weight savings justifies the headache. According to Shimano PR Officer Devin Walton, "It's an evolution of the standard that addresses current usage."
New SLX group and slight changes to XTR and XT
Shimano has also announced that its workhorse LX group will now split in two. The next Deore LX generation will be aimed more towards the trekking market with a sleeker look, front hub dynamo option, and pavement oriented gearing while a new SLX group will supposedly cover the range "from All Mountain Extreme to Cross Country use" without adding weight from the current LX group.
SLX will feature the Shadow low-profile rear design (claimed to be both tougher and 45g lighter than Deore LX), RapidFire Plus shifters with two-way release triggers and removable gear indicators, and a new two-piston hydraulic disc brake with tool-free reach adjustment and 20% greater stopping power as least partially due in part to new Servo Wave levers.
The SLX crank will be available in a wide range two-ring-plus-bashguard configuration (22/36T) or standard triple chainring setup, both using existing Hollowtech II construction. According to Shimano, the SLX crank is twice as strong as the current Deore XT. The two-ring setup will be accompanied by a double-specific front derailleur which will also be offered in a clamp-free direct mount version along with Deore XT. The rear SLX hub will also feature Shimano's newest micro-ratchet freehub for faster engagement.
Shimano has also mentioned that the XTR and XT brake levers will also get slightly revised shapes "for better ergonomics and a more confident feel" and a new value-oriented flip-flop BL-M575 hydraulic lever will be introduced as well.
As we hinted a few weeks ago, the Dura-Ace wheel line will gain a Road Tubeless-compatible version of its current WH-7850-C24 to create the new WH-7850-C24-TL. The new wheelset will use a similar 24mm-deep, 390g carbon wrapped aluminum rim as WH-7850-C24 but the updated rim will directly integrate T-nuts beneath the carbon reinforcement layer. This will allow the spokes to directly thread into the inner rim wall, thus leaving the outer wall solid and airtight. Claimed weight for the pair is just 1400g.
In typical Shimano fashion, the carbon reinforced aluminum rim technology will trickle down to two less expensive models, the WH-RS80-C24-CL and WH-RS60-C24-CL. Claimed weights are 1521g and 1590g per pair, respectively.
The workhorse 105 group will receive a new 'slate black' finish but sounds otherwise unchanged.
And what about 2009 Dura-Ace componentry? We don't have anything official to report just yet, but rest assured that we're working on it.