Thursday, 1 March 2012

2013 Shimano SLX

As a person of fairly limited means, Shimano's SLX has been my favourite groupset for some time. It's got most of the performance and features of XT and even XTR, weighs a little bit more but is hugely cheaper. I have bikes with posh stuff on, but the SLX-equipped one gets out the most – I'm not paranoid about tearing a derailleur off and I don't mind putting gritty miles onto the cassette because it doesn't cost enough to feed a family for a month.

So the announcement of the spangly new 2013 SLX is of some interest. Here it is in full:

And here are all the bits:

Chainsets will come in double or triple versions, with the double now being a “proper” 24/38 rather than just a triple without a big ring. The triple runs Shimano's Dyna-Sys close-ratio 24/32/42 setup.

The Shadow RD+ system seen already on Shimano's high-end rear derailleurs makes its way to SLX for 2013. A switch on the cage engages higher spring tension and a friction stabiliser on the cage pivot to reduce chain bounce and slap. Shimano's Direct Mount RD design means that frame manufacturers can opt to do away with the top bit of the derailleur (the “B2 body plate”, it says here) and bolt the rest directly to the frame for more stiffness and hence more accurate shifting. It's not something the end user needs to worry about too much – all new Shimano rear derailleurs can use Direct Mount RD or the conventional mech hanger.

The shifter has seen a couple of tweaks, with shorter levers and a manual mode converter to switch the left-hand shifter between triple and twin-ring setups. There's also an Ispec shifter that shares a mount with the brake lever if your handlebar clutter is beginning to get you down.

It's not all that long since SLX acquired funky new brakes, but here are some more. The lever looks the same but is apparently lighter. The calipers are new, with 22mm ceramic pistons and Shimano's one-way bleed anti-air-bubble fluid routing. More likely to be noticed in use are the new three-layer rotors, with stainless steel on the outside aluminium on the inside. This is meant to improve heat dissipation. You can also use finned Ice Tech pads, although they don't come as standard.

As well as the usual hubs, SLX gets new through-axle (“E-thru” in Shimanospeak) hubs with a 12mm version for the rear and a 15mm for the front. There's also an internal tweak to the freehubs, with more notches and two sets of pawls for quicker engagement.

So there you go. Nothing all that radical, perhaps, but it's got most of the good stuff from further up the heirarchy. We'll have to wait and see how pricing works out, but it's bound to be affordable.

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