Shimano have released details of an update to their workhorse SLX groupset that includes many of the features found on the top level XTR and XT groups.
The new SLX is specifically developed for all-round mountain bikers, those who desire to ride on any challenging terrain and trail course. Many new features have trickled down from XTR and Deore XT at a much more affordable price point. The group now features specific XC and trail components and get marques such as Dyna-SYS, Shadow Plus, Icetech, direct mount and Ispec.
The new SLX rear mech is now available in either a standard configuration or the top level XTR Shadow plus technology that includes the clutch system developed for chain tensioning. A simple switch allows you to increase the chain tension preventing chain drops and reducing chain slap and trail noise. Flick the switch back and the tension is reduced to allow you to remove the rear mech. It is also introduced to XT.
Continuing on all things drivetrain, the chainset is now available in a double ring configuration – 40-29T, 38-26T, 39-24T. The last size is aimed at the ever increasing 29er market where the bigger wheels require a lower ratio. XT cranks are also now available in all these ratios.
Shifting has been enhanced by developing a shorter shift lever with optical gear display (SL-M670). Shimano say it supports lighter and easier shifting because of RAPIDFIRE Plus and 2-way shifting and a 3x/2x manual mode converter. The mode converter allows you to manually change the left hand unit to be used with both double and triple cranks which is a really welcome addition for those who think they might change at some point. Next to the standard version there is also a shifter with Ispec for a cleaner cockpit (SL-M670-I).
Braking now includes an Ice-tech option which Shimano claim results in an increase in braking, control and heat management. The new compact caliper with oversized one-way bleeding 22mm ceramic pistons is combined with a lightweight lever. The lever itself has gone on a diet compared to the current version, yet provides more brake power. The center lock disc rotors (160, 180 and 203mm) have a three layer sandwich structure of an aluminum core embedded in stainless steel. The higher heat dissipation of the aluminum helps to reduce the surface temperature of the rotor by around 100 degrees Celsius. Optional Ice Tech brake pads with aluminum cooling fins can reduce the brake pad surface by another 50 degrees (although they cost more as a result – however we have always found that we get great mileage from Shimano pads). The result is high stopping power and practically no signs of fading. Mechanics will appreciate the integration of the one-way bleeding system and riders will enjoy the option for Ispec shifter mount compatibility to shave a few grams and have a clean cockpit.
Lastly hubs have been improved with a new engagement system which doubles the pick up and improves traction. Bearings have moved from a sealed cartridge to a cup and cone bearing system to increase the strength and displace lateral and vertical loads better.
All in all it is a welcome transition of top end technologies to a much more affordable price level. SLX has been a favourite of many riders for a number of years now and seems to have reestablished itself with this upgrade.