Shimano held a special media presentation of some new products for this year. With the strong growth in XC racing and the influx of new, young riders and racers in the XC category, Shimano focused their development efforts on their XTR range of products. The Trek Factory XC Racing team is all on XTR and they helped test and develop several of the new products. Even though this was more of a "refinement" year for Shimano, there is still plenty of new changes and upgrades. XTR brakes, hubs, bottom brackets and chains all get improvements. By far, the most exciting new product is the all new carbon 29er tubular wheels.

Carbon wheels are a hot segment in mountain biking. Brands such as Enve, Easton, Roval and Reynolds all have popular carbon models that have been on the market for a while. So, it is not surprising to see Shimano producing an all new carbon fiber tubular wheel. In a strong support of the 29" wheel, Shimano is only offering the XTR WH-M980 in a 29er version. Tubular wheels are not cheap and not easy to deal with, but for the ideal rider or racer, tubulars offer real world, tangible benefits. The way they ride (climb, accelerate, corner) are noticeably different from traditional wheels. With no bead, the tire profile becomes more round which really changes how the tire handles (a 2.0 tire feels like a 2.2 tire). Shimano intends the tubulars as XC oriented, so trail/all mountain riders should take note. There is also a considerable weight savings. The rim itself is 280 grams. The WH-M980 will be offered in 15mm front and 12mm rear E-thru axle options.

The XTR carbon fiber 29er wheels that we were shown were shod with Schwalbe Racing Ralph. Schwalbe is a brand that fully supports the mountain bike tubular technology.


Shimano XTR M980 series adds a new lighter weight hydraulic disc brake system that offers new advanced ICE Technology disc rotors and a refined caliper. The SM-RT99 "Freeza" rotor will now be available in smaller 180mm/160mm/140mm sizes. A new premium level mountain bike bottom bracket will be added that is lighter weight. A new super narrow HG-X chain will be introduced in the XTR line that is more durable.

Also new for this year is the M987 XTR disc brakes. Shimano concentrates on 3 main things with their brake development: power, stiffness, and heat dispersion.

Shimano uses an internal power level rating system and the new XTR maintains the Shimano tradition of a powerful, yet manageable brake engagement.

Maintaining stiffness is a key component of modulation. The new XTR has a magnesium caliper, magnesium master cyclinder, and a (first for Shimano) carbon fiber brake lever. These are all lightweight, but still perform well.

For heat requirements, Shimano uses their ICE technology of making a rotor that has 3 layers with the center layer being aluminum to draw heat. The new finned section comes from technology developed in the SAINT line of products. So now a 160mm rotor draws/disperses as much heat as a 180mm rotor use to. The new XTR brake also has a high powered hose, two piece caliper construction, banjo bolt that flows oil and keeps the two pieces together.

Also improved for this year are:

XTR hubs
-improved seals
-titanium freehub body
-QR or thru axle options

XTR press fit bottom bracket
-lighter, better
-improved sealing
-less rotational drag

XTR chain
-developed from Dura-Ace 9000 (11 speed) technology
-Siltech - nickel plating now has PTFE (flourine) particle wear longer, smoother and better for cross chaining (2x10)