Basic Guide: Introduction to Shimano Mountain Bike Components

If you’re looking for some of the most dependable, high performance components on the market, then you’re looking for Shimano mountain bike gear. Since the advent of mountain biking, there has been a delicate balance between dependability and performance. Making the components too light, and they’ll be prone to breaking during a ride. Make them too durable, and the weight will be prohibitive.

Shimano was one of the earliest players in the MTB market, introducing now industry standard technology like trigger shifters, hydraulic brakes, and Dyna-Sys, and they’ve continued that innovation today with an impressive line of components that range from ultra-light XC racer groupsets to workhorse components that are perfect for the weekend trail rider.

Figuring out which component groupsets fall where are and how they relate to each other can be tricky, so here’s a guide to help you figure out what’s what.

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XTR: XTR is a pro-level 10-speed group that is available in both trail and race varieties. XTR uses exotic materials like carbon fiber and titanium to strike a balance between race-ready lightness and bombproof durability. XTR also incorporates RapidFire shifter technology, advanced hydraulic braking systems, and the new Shadow+ rear derailleur, which allows the derailleur to be preset to take out slack and minimize chain slap. For the rider who demands the ultimate in performance on every ride, XTR is the groupset of choice. Click here to watch Shimano's video series about the making of XTR.


Deore XT: Shimano XT is perfect for the rider who demands performance on every ride. Deore XT 10-speed is derived from the cost-is-no-object XTR group, and the two share much of the same technology—with a slight difference in weight between the two. Composite chainrings, servo Wave brake levers and a choice between race and trail drivetrain versions sets XT apart from the crowd.


SLX: SLX is Shimano’s mid-tier 10-speed MTB groupset, and delivers plenty of performance at a price that’s pretty easy on the wallet. SLX is available in standard 2x10 or Dyna-Sys 3x10 varieties. You’ll also get impressive Rapidfire Plus shifters, Ice Technologies hydraulic disc brakes and the Shadow+ rear derailleur to reign in chain slap. If you want race-ready technology at an affordable price, it’s hard to beat the technology found in Shimano SLX.


Deore: Deore is the ideal 10-speed MTB groupset for the rider who prefers hitting the trail to have some fun instead of achieving big race results. Deore has a huge range of options that let you customize the group that fits your needs. You can choose from a disc brake or v-brake system, Dual Control or Rapidfire Plus shifters, and a large range of crankset options. If you’re looking for a component set that’s big on fun and value, then Deore is for you.


Alivio: Alivio is Shimano’s workhorse 9-speed mountain bike groupset. Alivio offers plenty of performance for the rider who likes to hit the trails and have a good time, but doesn’t need the latest technology and features. While Alivio is spec’d with a v-brake system, the groupset can be customized with a hydraulic disc brake system from one of Shimano’s other groups. With Alivio you get a choice of Rapidfire Plus or EZ Fire plus shifters, double or triple crankset, and a wide range of cassettes. If you want big performance at a not-so-big price, it’s hard to beat Alivio.


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