In case you missed it, Shimano announced their new XTR 9100 system, offering two separate 1×12 drivetrains, an ultra wide 2×12, and more. There’s no denying the benefits of a wide-range drivetrain for bikepacking, so how does all this stack up?

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.

Shimano 12-Speed Released

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 12-Speed
  • Shimano 12-Speed

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 12-Speed Released

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

Shimano 12-Speed

Parting Thoughts

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.

Hopefully we can try out the new Shimano 1×12 and report back. In the meantime, for a detailed look the system, read the full press release here and then head over to the XTR site.

  • Steve Fuller

    I find it interesting (and good) that Shimano still feels the need to have a developed a double chainring crank for this new system.

  • Agreed. Aside from an ultra wide range, the 2x chainline with those Ti/steel cogs should certainly add to the life of the cassette (and rings, and chain).

  • John Short

    Just like with the glat pedals, not sure i get the wholw 1x thing. Is it weight savings?? For years we are told not to “cross chain”, inner ring to outter cog, and here the big groups are offering systems that operate in that very realm! I know and realize that the line of a single ring up front is not as extreme as a multi ringed front cranks, but still, the concept is the same. If its not weight, what is it? Are we not liking the gear offerings a tripple or double offer? If you are limiting it to 12 gears, give me adouble and a 6 speed cassete that gives me a stronger less dished wheel and a chain that wont break under norm riding conditions, geared right this would be awesome!

  • I think it’s the cleanliness and simplification that attracts a lot of folks to 1x. A double is certainly better for chainline, and in turn, chain and cog life. But not having a front derailleur, extra shifter, and cable is a nice tradeoff for many. There are a lot of great solutions to gear range and durability—a solid double, a bailout ‘kick’ gear, Rohloff, and Pinion being others—some are far cheaper and others are more costly. But, the reality is, wide-range 1x is quickly growing in popularity. I’ve been running Eagle for a while now and I will say that it’s quite impressive.

  • asposium

    I suspect 1x was more to drop the front mech and allow flexibility in frame design around the bottom bracket area

  • asposium

    Ouch, that is an expensive cassette.
    No drop bar shifters (of course), so not a problem.
    Will certainly be interesting if Shimano follows the rest of the bike industry and jumps on the gravel band wagon by releasing a “gravel” groupset; low gear from climbing, high gear for road, and drop bar shifters

  • I agree with Logan’s response below, and for those reasons as well as the fluidity of riding with a single shift lever I have pretty much only ridden on 1x drivetrains over the past few years now. That is partly due to their popularity with manufacturers as well….

  • Cass Gilbert

    Yes, frees up a lot of options for Plus tires too. I’ve been running the 11-50 Sunrace cassette (11 speed) and love it. I don’t really need the top gears, so I’ve geared it just right for laden climbs with enough at the top end for cruising. Seems hardwearing and so much less clumsy/fiddly compared to double (and triples especially). The 11 speed stuff is nice and affordable too. My only issue is mud clearance between chain/mid fat tire in the lowest gear.

  • Howard Matthew

    Hi Cass – running an 11-50 with shimano I presume – sram 11 speed can’t handle anything over 42 tooth – is that right? looking at upgrading but still not sure who with….

  • Cass Gilbert

    I’m running it with a Shimano drivetrain; I’m not too sure the spec for SRAM. My derailleur is a medium cage XT ( technically designed for 46T max) and it works well.

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