Strengths: Performs together flawlessly. All components work together for a set-it-and-forget-it experience.
This is an update from my September 2004 review.
I've since moved to Denver. The rides have gotten longer and more technical. I have demanded more of my bike and the XTR setup then ever. I'm happy to report that everything still performs admirably. There have been no problems whatsoever with this 2003 XTR setup. The shifts are still smooth and crisp. The crank arms still feel solid and flex-free. XTR has really lived up the hype for me. Solid crankset through and through.
The wheelset have NOT NEEDED TO BE TRUED. I've NEVER experienced this kind of performance before! The hubs still spin smooth and free.
The shifters continue to hold up very well. Rapid Rise makes sense to me. I really like that I can shift to a higher gear really quick. Down shifts are quick with the dual control levers.
The hydro discs continue to provide great feedback and confident stopping power. I use them with the Shimano disc wheelset and with Mavic Crossmax discs. The stopping performance is up there with the best of them.
Overall, I've still VERY happy with the integrated performance of the whole system. There hasn't been one part of the system that has let me down.
Similar Products Used: 2002 XTR drive train, Hayes discs.
Bike Setup: 4.5" full sus mtn bike w/ full 2003 XTR drive train and brakes
Date Reviewed: January 20, 2006
Strengths: Dual Control is for ME. Smooth shifting. Simple barrel adjustments. Simple disc brake set-up and adjustments. Smooth and stiff cranks. Super shiny gunmetal look.
Weaknesses: Set-up on the dual control shifter can be a pain if you screw it up. It's a pain to get into the housing...those tiny little screws can get stripped with very little torque. No one stocks replacement screws, either.
If you feel brake fade, check the pistons to make sure that they both push on the rotor.
This was the first bike that I built up by myself. Except for the shifter cables, everyting was installed with ease. The hydraulic brakes came pre-bled, but I've bled a pair that was on my other bike and it was pretty simple. Installing the cranks and derailleurs were just as easy. Then I noticed that the rear derailleur no longer had a barrel adjuster attached to it. I realized that the only barrel adjusters were attached to the shifter. This made me skeptical of how easily adjustable the derailleurs would be.
After a few rides, it came to me. The barrel adjusters on the shifters are SO COOL. You turn the barrel one way you can see the gear indicator move. So, there's no more guessing on which way you turn it. This is a huge bonus if you set-up your rear shock for all mountain because when you tune the bike on the stand, it won't necessarily shift the same way when you put your weight on the bike.
The hydraulic discs were more powerful than I thought. Center lock rotors are no fuss. Just make sure the rotors are clean so they don't get noisy. I felt the front brake fade during a ride last week. I checked it out and noticed that only one piston was pushing on the rotor. I checked the installation manual and found the solution. It took me 5 minutes and it felt new again.
No problems whatsoever with the cranks or derailleurs.
Bike Setup: Intense 5.5, Marzocchi Marathon SL120, Mg60 stem, Monkeylite riser, Progressive 5th Element Air CVT, Thomson seatpost, Specialized Rival, XTR gruppo, XY765 Wheelset
a Weekend Warrior
Date Reviewed: September 8, 2004
Strengths: Integration; each component redesign makes sense and works very well. New disc brakes are da bomb, new wheels are sweet, new crankset sets new standards, combo shift/brake levers make so much sense! Light weight, strong engineering.
Weaknesses: Pricey (but worth it). Personally, I perfer the matte grey of the previous XTR.
I usually ride Yankee and Custar every other weekend in MI. I've taken this bike to Pisgah, Tsali, and Manistee. I ride in winters down to 12F. I also bike commute to work.
Brake/shift pod: Integration makes sense. Reverse rise shifting works well and makes sense. Shifts are effortless and crisp. Shimano has shifting down so well, they set the standard. The shift/brake pods are a little porky but it's minor. Being able to shift and brake at the same time is a new technique I'm starting to take advantage of- it rocks!
Brakes: the new hydro brakes are a dream! Minor drag at first but it fixed itself. The brakes provide all the power I need and have great feedback. I can easily modulate them all the way up to lock-up. They're a little mushy at the limit but that's lock-up territory and you DON'T want to go there.
Crankset: The best EVER! BB is smooth and rigid. The bearings have held up very well through mud and stream crossings. The crank arms are incredibly stiff and the power transfer is noticable. This is the reason why everyone is starting to mimic the outboard BB design.
Derailleurs: As usual, Shimano makes the best derailleurs. The reverse rise takes only 1-2 rides to acclimate. After that, you're wondering why no one thought of this before - have the spring pull you up to the bigger gear. Shifts are so incredibly smooth and silent. XTR reverse rise is the only setup I've ridden where I can shift to larger gear without losing a beat when I'm grinding uphill.
Wheels: light, strong, fast, intelligent. The new disc attachments are slick. They're quick and sturdy. It has so much more contact surface with the hub than IS. And one tool to mount. This is serious engineering.
I've never ridden anything else like it before. This really is a complete system and it works together so well!
Weaknesses: Price is a killer, finish rubs off of crank arms, arms poke out farther than my old RaceFace LP's (thus the finish rubbing off...) throw is a little long for upshifting to bigger front chain rings
The bottom line is just that, if you can handle the bottom line with applicable taxes than go for it brother. Keep in mind XT is available with the same benefits at 6/10 the price. This stuff is extremely expensive, not for kids on a budget. This is for old guys like me that make too much money and no wife and kids. I always wanted an XTR equipped bike and now I have one. There really is a difference riding top end stuff. So smooth, so well designed, so right.
Bike Setup: S-Works with Full XTR, Crossmax SL, iRC Serac tubeless, 959
a Weekend Warrior
from chicago, il
Date Reviewed: January 29, 2004
Strengths: the strengths ironically are also the weaknesses; the intergration of the system really helps make the bike feel more like a complete machine rather than a bundle of parts forced to work together.
Weaknesses: the weakness of intergration is obvious...the system doesn't play well with others (more like WON'T play with others!). this is only an issue with me when i'm looking at putting the lastest-greatest gadget on my bike, but honestly i can't find one component that is built today that i would rather ride for my riding style.
the thing i'd add to those who have already written reviews about the new XTR, is that this system may not be for everyone. i have found that this is a system that does have a "break-in" period which some riders may find too much of a hassle to bear, but to those who ride on longer rides and give it a chance, it might be the best system you have ever ridden, which has been my experience. i am head-over-heels in love with XTR (again) and will carry it on the rest of my geared bikes. i do recommend the wheels also, if not just the hubs, because of the quick removal of the disc brake rotor. i used this feature in a recent trip to arizona and it was a breeze take them off and on. i'm not sure that the discs would have been bent had i left them on but the insurance was worth it. the crankset has made an already great pedaling bike a better pedal-er. it is so stiff and solid, these have noticed the advantage over the last XTR cranks i owned (and those were stiff/strong enough for prolevel downhill bikes!). the brake/shift system was the one thing that i hated at first but have fallen in love with because i have grown use to them and will never go back to the rapid-fire stuff. i believe that this shifting system is far more anotomical and correct feeling.the shifting is unremarkable, just the way shifting should be, forgotten and effortless.the the brakes are fantasic, they don't have "on-off" feel of the other disc brakes i have ridden, but have the same control i found in the ceramic V-brakes but with alot more power. it's like have all the braking power you ever needed but never used. i remember a wise man told me once that my brakes were not for stopping but for going...there's alot of truth to that. the wheels are truley a work of art and have given me a reason to never buy another french-made mavic product again. this is another XTR product that has been flawless, light, strong and beautiful to look at. since i assembled my bike around 6 months ago i have had NO problems with anything. i took my time making sure everthing was properly adjusted and phoned in to shimano at times just to make sure, and i can tell you that if this system is properly installed it works better than the previous generation XTR and anything Scam makes here in chicago. five flammin' turds for value cause "ya get what ya pay for" and overall, once everthing is figured out, it's still the best thing going for performance. i would also like to add that i would be buying the XT system in a heart beat if i couldn't afford the premium stuff, until that time i'll be dumping money into my japanese friends pockets to get the good stuff..LONG LIVE SHIMANO!!!!!
Similar Products Used: last generation xtr on every bike i have owned...i'm an XTR slut, and proud of it!!
Bike Setup: my favorite my with everything xtr is my titus switchblade...if you ever have the chance to ride one i highly recommend it.
Date Reviewed: December 15, 2003
Strengths: Weight, Looks,
Weaknesses: Maybe too light? SHimano needed to put in some more product testing time before they released the groupo.
I am objective about the groupo, as I have put in a season of racing (14 races) In the first week the outer chainring was bent on a training ride. It took a hit from a rock, not a big rock mind you, just one of those that gets flipped up every time you ride. The brakes are a pain in the a$$ they need to be adjusted every ride, due to the pistons comming out of adjustment. But on the good side the brakes (when they work) work very well. The bottom bracket- is a leap forward and will be all that, but the bearing seals sucked so much mud into them, after one muddy ride, that I had to completly tear them apart and clean the mud off the bearings, as they were too gummed up to spin freely.Hopefully that will be fixed soon. (When you pay over $400.00 for the crankset, it better be able to get a little mud on it.) My biggest complaint is the rear deraileur. What a piece! From day one it was the most finicky piece of metal I have ever delt with. (I know how to set up a rear deraileur. However I even had a LBS try to dial it in, and same result) It ghost shifts, and lord help you if you get a little dirt on the cable, as it will shift all over the place with no reason. Mmmm I hear Sram calling my name ....XO....XO...XO... As for the shifter lever combo, I have mixed feelings, it shifts no faster than rapid fire, but does cut down on weight, we will just have to see on this one...
Overall my feeling is that Shimano and most of all XTR, has been the best, and should be all that and a bag of chips. With this new group XTR is still at the top, but with a little more R&D the 2003 line would have set all companies back to the drawing board in order to catch up. This model year is a near miss.
Oh and by the way Shimano, dont try to shove non-compatible groupo's down my throat. If I want to mix and match give me the choice, or have the confidence to know that your product IS the best and everyone will want the whole package anyway.
a Cross Country Rider
from Dredford OR USA
Date Reviewed: November 2, 2003
Flailer’s 400 to 500 miles later update:
After 600 to 700 miles I am quite pleased with this gruppo. And giving them 5 and 5 freak'n flamin' hot chilis - a rating I have given nothing else.
Again, the integrated cranks/bottom bracket is just the sweetest – I’d recommend them to anybody.
The disks are grand. I would guess that it is an issue with all disks, but these babies go through pads! No, haven’t changed ‘em yet, but getting ready to start thinking about it.
When I first started using this gruppo, I was sad over the loss of thumb and finger triggers (rapid fire plus) cause their were so cool / such a break through. But now I am fine with the loss. Using the levers as shifters doesn’t seem like as big a break through as rapid fire was, but it is a break through and I wouldn’t go back. In fact I have removed the thumb pads used for down shifts as I never used ‘em. And I guess that if they would have thumb and finger triggers in addition to the level shifting, I wouldn’t use the triggers. I don’t think the free-riding crowd would agree with me though, as braking, at times, feels wiggly, if you will.
Rapid rise – I fail to see the point, and I suffered many mis-shifts before getting it straight in my head. And, and, I can see me laying off the bike for the worse part of the winter, and having to get used to the reverse shifting all over again (cause the normal high is just so ingrained in me brain)
What else… Light – quite noticeably lighter. Still great shifting! NO CHAIN SUCK. Great chain rings. Take the time to tweak the disks and you will not suffer at all with drag. I have noted that some people don’t know or don’t care, and their brakes (non xtr) squeak and drag, as the miles add up - after the 5 10 or 20 mile mark - and they perhaps dont notice.
I’m the moron you’ll see on the trails in the PNW this winter – partly cause I love this group – and it’s disks.
Strengths: light overall weight quality of every component is unrivalled performacne of every component is unrivalled except perhaps brakes, Magura Marta's are just as good and lighter Low Normal or rapid rise is da bomb!!! Hollowtech II is the future cup and cone bearinghubs
Weaknesses: perhaps finish on crank could be harder but not really an issue
Well i liked SRAM's 9.0SL drivetrain mated to a Coda Tarantula CX2 2x9 crank and thought that things were pretty much settled. Then I tried SRAM's X.0 shifters and mech at Amsterdam bike show and that was an improvement. Was about to fork out the dosh for the SRAM kit when a mate of mine in the industry said I should wait a month. Called me 5 weeks later and said that Shimano's new XTR stuff was out. I was pretty settled that i was going to get X.0 but I gav ehimne the beefitof the doubt. He lent me his Schouten MTB, kitted out with Rond Magura forks and all the new XTR kit on it. WOW! I was old on the Dual control immediatley. The Low Normal return derailleur was spot on with the flippy shifters. I tried it a few days later with the older derailleur and it did'nt feel as intuitive.
I bought the entire groupset and have not looked back since. Even though the X.0 has a faster upshift action the XTR's downshift is more accurate in panic shifts and under load shifting. The upshifts are pretty quick too.
The crankset is stiffer than a stiff things daddy! and so easy to fit. Some people have comp[lained of it scratching easily butI have not has this problem as i ride with my feet pointin straight ahead and not duck or pigeon toed.
The brakes have as much modulation as Mugura Martha's ( the best XC disc brake bar none!!!) and perhaps slightly less power but theres more here than you'll ever need. Fit some fibrax pads and the bite improves. This groupset is the best I've tried. It's not the ultimate best inever category but it's so close to those that are that it would influence your lap time in a race. That couple to Shimano's fabled reliability makes that groupset the best there is.
5 for value 10 for performance (cr*p it only goes to 5)
Bike Setup: Cannondale F3000Sl, XTRM965 group with mavic X3.1 rims, Cane Creek thuudbuster or Easton EC70 seatposts, Easton EA70 flat bars
Date Reviewed: October 24, 2003
Strengths: - very stiff (and light) crankset! - shifting is very easy (streangth?.. not for everyone) - light! light! light! - derailers work well, but i'm convinced that XO are way better, especially if you're riding a FS - rear cogs are very stiff as well - brakes (disks) are strong for XC. don't fade or sound - design (though i don't care about it, i need performance)
Weaknesses: - DAMNED SYSTEM INREGRATION!!!! can't stress enought how much i hate it!!! - integrated prake/shift controls!!! - hubs are not that good as might be and heavier than others (hugi) - outer crank ring is fragile (be very carefull not to bhit it!) - XTR wheels are heavy! lateral stiffness is not as good as i expected it to be - i don't like the new quick rise rear der. - my rear caliper was leaking oil from day 1, and was replaced under worranty in 2 weeks however) - Sram PC99 chain is better than XTR. it didn't last as long as Sram, and once (on a very hard uphill) i proke it, which however happened to almost all of my chains except for the pc99
1) i hate the system integration that Shimano introduced this year. if you're a racer or a marathon rider you likely understand what i'm talking about. integrated controls are sucks!!! often times i unexpectedly shift when braking or brake(though slightly) while shifting. however, i need to admit that shifting is very easy and rather fast.
2) SI actually feels like a monopoly force from Shimano: if you wonna have XTR shifters, you'll need XTR brakes as well. and if you wonna have XTR brakes, you'd better have XTR hubs as well. bla-bla-bla well, you can actually deal with it by installing XT levers with XTR calipers, xt rotors and Hugi hubs. but, HEY!!!it's gonna be damn lots of money and mess to do.
3) XTR wheels look very impressive, but that's it. coz performance is not as good as the appearance. these are somewhat heavy and not as laterally stiff as custom build wheels (as described above)
4) brakes are OK. but no more. coz they are not the lightest, they have no adjustment, and do require maintanance. (my rear was also defective, but replaced under worranty)
5) i do love the crank. it's very stiff and light. shifts flawlessly. however if you're building up a bike, consider Truvative Stylo, which is almost as stiff and light, but at least 2-3 times cheeper (shifting though is not as good with it). and Next LP is stronger.
RESUME: overall, i think XTR '03 is a good group for the trailers, and XC riders. but not good for the freeriders, coz it's rather fragile, and racers(weight weenys) coz there are still better products on the market to build up a racing machine.
i actually would suggest XO shifting (except for the front derailer), B4sl or Hayes(stronger) disks, hugi or CK(little bit heavier)hubs with mavic 317 rims(or 517 if you ride V's), and TrueVative Stylo ISIS crankset(much cheeper). this is actually the configuration of my other bike, and i'm sure it's so much superior (FOR RACING) over the full XTR kit.
good luck ride fast!!! but watch out when i'm passing on your left...
Similar Products Used: many. XO on my hardtail, next LP crank and several Truvatives, XT stuff (good enough for the money excetp the V-brakes (they squeak), hugi240-revolution-517 wheels (best!), hayes mag, b4sl and deore 555 disks. lots...
Bike Setup: Giant NRS, complete XTR (including the wheels)
a Cross Country Rider
from Medford, Or, USA
Date Reviewed: September 27, 2003
Strengths: Shifting has been so sweet and flawless. No chain suck, no missed shifts, no issues whatsoever – unlike the crap that came on my bike. Brakes are very nice n precise (disks) – but are still breaking in I believe. As I built this bike up myself, it took me a while to get used to tuning disks ( can you say virgin, sure, I knew you could)
Well, the new XTR group is so light it blows my mind.
I am starting to get used to the shift method and even the rapid rise Up and down-shifting with the brake lever it easy and neater than all get-out! I am going to remove the thumb levers soon as I haven’t even used them after the first 20 mins. BTW, I have my levers set fairly flat – meaning some-what parallel with the ground – say 30 degrees off parallel or so. But that is how I have always ran my levers due to steep downhills (which is where I NEED (need) sure handedness.
I have been a little worried about shifting accidentally while braking – but it hasn’t happened – at least not yet.
The the crank/bottom bracket are fantastic. Impressive is the word.
Weaknesses: Zip, so far. -- lub the BB well or it will creak! $$$$ is high, i thought long and hard before dropping the money. But am happy now that i did ( i knew i would be)
I have about 4 rides and 100 miles on the bike and the components and I have yet to have an issue – so far…...
I find I rest my hands on the levers. Before using them i thought they would be big large bulky and perhaps in the way -- they are not.
Weaknesses: A bit too jewel-like, scratches easy. Pricy.
I went with the older XTR shifters so that I could use Avid Mech discs and levers, but the crankset, cog, and derailleurs are all '03 XTR. Very impressive how light the shifting action is, whether going up or down in gears. Really notice the stiffness of the cranks over my old XT's. I'm very impressed, but feel like they're going to look trashed way before their time.
Weaknesses: Not realistic for true MTN biking. Brake levers contact trees and other things while racing/riding. New light crankset comes with sprockets that bend just a little too easy for the money charged for the product.The spider setup on the crankset does nothold the large ring as it used to.
I have had the bike for three weeks. After I had to change over to the XT shifters/brake levers, everything seemed awesome. At the MT Snow Nationals my chain went over the big ring. It got sucked up by the exposed spider and took me almost a minute to get back on to the ring.
After the race I noticed how badly bent the big ring was. I still cannot even imagine what I could have hit in order to do that damage. After removing the sprocket and looking closely at the design I realized that it is much weaker with the big ring on the inside of the spider arms. I think it is a good idea to keep it on the outside of the spider for support and chain clearance issues in those situations.
I replaced that ring and it was fine until a practice race on thursday when it happened again. This is not from being set up wrong. The bike has now been seen by shimano at the nats. along with some of the best mechanics around. I thought that maybe it was just a fluke. When it jumped off this past thursday at a practice race it took the front derailluer along with it. For the $ it should be a little more tough/reliable.
I just ordered my 2002 XTR crankset and front derailluer. I like the lightweight of the 2003, but if it doesn't work, why use it.
Oh, by the way, for those who are going to say I must be a huge beater rider. I am 5'6" 125lbs.
Similar Products Used: have always used XTR cranks. sometimes have used 2002 and older XTR shifters/brakes with no reliability issues such as these.
Bike Setup: Complete XTR when it came in. The bike was knocked over while leaning against a car. It bent the front shifter/brake lever in a way that it did not work right after that. Shimano said, "sorry" that was all. I bought XT shifters/brake levers, they work and are financially realistic.
from Bridgeport, CT
Date Reviewed: June 17, 2003
Weaknesses: See below
The 2003 XTR came on my new C'dale. The shifters work great. Crisp shifts. A little finicky to adjust, but smooth once done properly. A barrle adjuster on the der. would be helpful. The rear shifter is a little tough on the top of my fingers when upshifting. The lever should be have a flatter bottom to it. The front shifter does take some extra effort to shift, but still easier to use than rapid fire. It takes very little time to get used to the shifting. I tightened the levers only tight enough to be able to shift without the lever rotating. This helps save them in the event of a crash. The cranks work great. The finish wears off very quickly. The bottom bracket is cheesy. Mine cracked after 3 rides. Apparently, Shimano is aware of this and is trying to correct it. Mine was warrantied by the shop. Cranks are easy to install. The gearing is great. The brakes are very powerful. I've used and loved my hayes for quite some time. Shims are used to adjust the caliper. This seems cheap as well and makes fine tuning very difficult. The strength of the brakes comes at a price! A very soft pad is used which wears out very quickly. I have hayes with the original pads with 10 times the time on them and much worse riding conditions!! The changing of the pads is VERY easy. I love the light lever feel, one finger is all you need. Overall, a good groupo. But, no need to upgrade from previous XTR.
a Cross Country Rider
from Hyattsville, MD,USA
Date Reviewed: June 12, 2003
Strengths: Great performance, crisp shifts, disk brakes are powerful and controllable. The crank is stiff.
Weaknesses: Finish scratches easily, but who cares, it's on a mountain bike dummy.
The new stuff is definitely worth the money. The disc brakes give tremendous confidence even when muddy and wet. The shifting took no time at all to get used to, one ride and it was second nature. I haven't removed thumb triggers yet, but have never used them. My only complaint is the chainrings, I wish they had kept the old tooth counts, it has taken a while to "find" my gearing. The hubs are great, had them built up with Mavic X317 disc rim. My bike lost a 1/4 pound with this upgrade, not bad for discs.