There are many different saddles on the market, and for good reason: there’s a huge variety of riders.
Choosing a saddle can be a challenge, but it’s worth putting the effort in to find the right one for you, and the key thing to look for is comfort – the more comfortable you are, the longer (and faster) you’ll be able to ride.
Unfortunately, saddle comfort is extremely subjective – ask a dozen riders what the most comfortable saddle is and you’ll get a dozen answers. This isn’t surprising – when you sit on a bike, your weight rests on a pair of bones collectively called the ischial tuberosity or, more familiarly, the sit bones. These are positioned differently in different riders.
Not only that, but depending on your riding style and bike set-up, you’ll experience pressure on different areas to the next rider.
Choosing the right saddle tends to be an iterative process – most experienced riders have tried a few before settling on a favourite. To avoid buying a succession of saddles, think about what it is with your current one that isn’t working for you.
If it’s just that it’s comfortable but knackered or just a bit heavy, then choosing a new one is fairly easy. The same saddle shape is usually available in a range of cost, material and weight variants, so upgrading within the same family is generally a safe bet.
A bigger challenge is replacing a saddle because it’s uncomfortable. This needs a bit of thought – try to pin down what it is that doesn’t work for you. If you feel you have to constantly correct your seating position, why not try a seat with a more pronounced dip to keep you in one place? Maybe it’s too wide and rubs your legs, or you like to sit on the nose but it’s hard and narrow? Use your observations of previous perches to narrow down your choice.
Figure out what it is you do and don’t like about your current saddle before choosing a new one
Once you’ve got a checklist, see if you can audition some likely candidates.
This might involve cadging rides on friends’ bikes or getting test rides at shop or manufacturer demo days. Some shops have lending schemes so you can get a few miles in before buying, and some manufacturers have 30-day ‘comfort guarantee’ schemes for risk-free purchasing.
There are variations between mountain bike and road cycling saddles – mountain bike saddles are usually made from stronger, more durable materials, and road bike saddles tend to be lighter, for example – but fundamentally, the things you need to consider to find one that suits you are the same.?
Mountain bike saddles need to be robust enough to cope with trail abuse
Here’s what you need to consider…
Most modern saddles use synthetic materials, although you’ll still find real leather on more expensive ones. The key thing is to make sure any seams, sticky bits or reinforcing panels don’t chafe. Mountain bike saddles are likely to suffer crashes, so a hard-wearing cover is essential.
The base of the saddle controls the basic shape and how springy it is. Several manufacturers produce different width or shaped shells for different physiques. The majority of saddles have a Nylon shell, but often there’ll be some carbon reinforcement. Really posh perches have all-carbon shells.
Some saddle shells have a groove in the centre or a hole cut out – this is designed to reduce pressure and heat around your sensitive veins and nerves.
This Specialized Rival saddle has a cutout in the centre to relieve pressure
Padding distributes pressure from your behind across the surface of the saddle. Polyurethane foam is the most common padding material – it comes in a range of densities to give firm or soft saddles. The crucial thing to remember is that while a soft, deep saddle might feel comfortable at first for a beginner, more contact and movement is likely to increase heat and discomfort the longer you’re in the saddle.
The padding in the Fizik Gobi is well placed and offers a good balance of firmness and comfort
The rails are the bars that the seatpost clamps onto under the saddle. Cheaper saddles use steel alloys, while titanium or carbon rails make for a lighter saddle. Single rail saddle and post systems are gaining ground in road cycling for their light weight and adjustability.
You’ll find all sorts of other touches on saddles, from Kevlar-reinforced corners or plastic bumpers, to built-in mounts for tail lights or saddle packs.
Trek today announced a brand-new Boone carbon fiber ‘cross bike for Katie Compton and new signings Sven Nys and Sven Vanthourenhout. While the bike itself is newsworthy, what also stood out was a pair of prototype Shimano pedals on Nys’s machine.
The new Shimano pedals bear a strong familial resemblance to the current PD-M970 XTR Race model with a cartridge-style spindle and retention hardware that appears to be wholly carried over. The new prototype pedals feature an aluminum body that’s much more pared down than the current version however, with minimal – if any – dedicated contact area for the shoe tread.
While increased contact area is generally regarded as a good thing when it comes to clipless pedals, some top cyclocrossers have voiced complaints that the current version’s increased platform doesn’t perform as well in mud as the previous version, which many racers continue to use. The slimmed-down body should alleviate this issue for more consistent engagement and release, plus we also expect it will be slightly lighter, too.
The prototype Shimano pedal spotted on Sven Nys’ new Trek Boone
We don’t have confirmation from Shimano on whether this prototype will eventually be added to the standard catalog but given the company’s usual mode of operation, it’s a safe bet that it will be. Since the current pedal’s larger body still holds benefits for general mountain bike use – which is still a much larger market than cyclocross – we anticipate that this may end up being billed as a CX-specific model that may not even use the XTR designation.
Stay tuned for more information.
BRISBANE, Australia (BRAIN) — BikeRoar.com , an Australia-based site that contains bike product information and links to IBDs, has added several new features to its site.
We’re enjoying an unbelievably rich and diverse period of mountain-bike design these days, with competent choices from enduro rigs to 29er trail bikes to short-travel slopestyle machines and more. A few are built for racing, but many styles are built for what real-world riders do every day. When it comes to road riding, however, the choices are basically race bikes, or… slight variations on race bikes. This is dumb.
The mountain bike market is no longer driven by cross-country racing like it was just a few short years ago. Likewise, the prototypical ‘mountain bike’ is no longer a lightweight hardtail built for shaving seconds off of the day’s big climb. That being said, even the most specialized cross-country racing equipment – tubular tires included – are perfect given the right application. If you’re not competing, though, race bikes aren’t always the best tool for the job, and it hasn’t taken long for the average mountain biker to recognize that.
Take a look at your current mountain bike right now. What kind is it and what goes through your mind when you ride it? Are you thinking of channeling your inner Nino Schurter and besting a PR around a prescribed course or are you simply out having a good time?
Now take a look at your current road bike and think about the type of riding it’s really designed to do. If your mountain bike is aimed more at fun and versatility, why is it then that most of us still riding road bikes that are purpose-built for racing? Why are so many of us so singularly focused on some imaginary finish line?
Can you find yourself in the Giro d’Italia peloton here?
The nature of mountain bike competition is increasingly driven by what’s going on in the consumer marketplace – note the growth of enduro – whereas on the road it’s still a “race on Sunday, sell on Monday” relationship with pro competition. Perhaps we can blame the UCI, pro racing’s global government that often seems mired in tradition and hell-bent on stifling technological innovation.
Sure, so-called ‘endurance’ bikes have exploded in popularity. But even those machines are little more than standard road racing bikes with slightly taller front ends, tires that are a scant few millimeters wider than the norm, and overall frame geometry that’s just a smidgeon more relaxed than the frenetic caffeine-addled thoroughbreds on which they’re based – think sports car with all-season tires and cushier seats.
Is this what the average road cyclist really should be riding?
I am not proposing that true road racing bikes should be eliminated from the retail lexicon. I absolutely enjoy rocketing up climbs on a ridiculously light-and-stiff machine and blitzing down the other side with aero-profile wheels. Similarly, there’s no match for a good 29er hardtail (or any other type of dedicated off-road race bike, for that matter) in terms of speed given the right conditions. I’ve tested countless samples of both and have absolutely adored more than a few of them.
But then again, I also cherish a sublimely smooth and refined ride, the float of higher-volume tires and the confidence of fat contact patches, gear ratios that are designed for real people, and brakes that are more than two blocks of rubber clamped on a surface whose primary function isn’t friction. Race bikes are brilliant adaptations for the task at hand but they’re also functionally compromised when used even slightly outside their comfort zone.
Let’s face it: road surfaces are worse than ever, we aren’t getting any younger, and only a very small percentage of the riding public regularly sees a 200m-to-go marker. Just as most average consumers have much more fun off-road with some kind of rear suspension than not, I dare say that average road cyclists would have an eye-opening experience if they ventured just a little off of the straight and narrow.
How about something with plump-but-fast tires, superior braking and comfortable-but-efficient geometry?
The Anyroad is a surprising and commendable departure for the often-conservative Giant
Independent lab data has already proven that fatter tires roll faster than narrower ones (weight and aerodynamics set aside and other factors being equal). If that’s not intriguing enough, consider that the everyday road bike of 1988 Giro d’Italia winner Andy Hampsten – who’s still insanely fit, by the way – is shod with 33mm-wide rubber.
Still unconvinced? Consider that Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) admitted to me just prior to this year’s Paris-Roubaix that his Specialized S-Works Roubaix SL4 feels just as stiff and efficient as his Tarmac SL4 but with more comfort. Yet when I then asked why he didn’t use the Roubaix all the time, he wasn’t sure how to answer.
Classics superstar and 2013 Paris-Roubaix winner Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack-Leopard-Trek), on the other hand, is more emphatic. He races his Trek Domane ‘endurance’ bike year-round.
By all means, let’s continue to advance race bikes. Make them lighter, make them more efficient, make them faster, and make them more affordable to more people. If competition is your thing, buy the fastest and most purpose-built machine you can afford; take no prisoners and exploit every legal advantage.
Sylvain Chavanel says this Roubaix is as efficient as his Tarmac, but more comfortable. Why doesn’t he ride it year-round, then? He can’t quite say
But the bike industry should also present us with more real-world choices instead of leaving those options to smaller niche companies. Once upon a time, mainstream companies were more willing to take some risks with their product offerings, but these days, many ranges feel more motivated by predicted earnings than simply making better bikes.
What ever happened to following your gut, pushing the envelope, and shaking things up? Specialized rolled the dice ages ago with the original Roubaix. Ditto for the original Gary Fisher 29ers, which were widely chastised when they were introduced in the mid-90s. Neither were necessarily safe or logical choices but look how things have turned out.
Hey, road bike industry: grow some balls. Cast aside the UCI’s silly, archaic requirements and pay more attention to what real-world consumers actually need and want. Take some chances again.
Gravel grinders? Bring it. 650b randonneur bikes with fast-rolling, high-volume slicks? Sure thing. Clothing that doesn’t make every redneck in America scream out the window, “Hey, Lance Armstrong, get off the road!”? By all means. Full-blown road racing bikes with disc brakes? Hell, yes. Of course those aren’t proven big sellers – because the industry hasn’t yet made them widely available.
Small builders display signs of what is possible, like this fat-tire, disc-brake Calfee
There are some indicators that change is already happening. Custom builders at NAHBS have long been building road bikes with fat tires, Giro has taken a big gamble with its New Road line of clothing, and even perennially conservative Giant has decided to bring its versatile Anyroad machine into the United States on an experimental basis.
I’m not telling you not to buy a road racing or endurance bike if you’re interested in cranking out the miles on your favorite stretch of pavement. Just keep in mind that there may be more available than what’s presented and be aware of the limitations of your choice. While one of those so-called ‘fringe’ machines might not be the first thing you see, it might end up being the perfect fit for what you actually intend to do.
It’s time to expand our collective horizons a little bit, wouldn’t you say?
CamelBak’s MULE has always been a safe bet for a big-but-not-too-big pack, and the current model continues the trend. You’ll find a three-litre reservoir and 12.5 litres of cargo space split between an array of pockets.
The outer pocket floats on compression straps, giving a place to carry a helmet or, more usefully, an easily-accessed rain jacket. The reservoir itself has useful features like in-situ filling, an easy-to-open cap and a handle that drops into a pocket inside the pack to support a partially-full reservoir.
Stability and comfort are good, and there’s enough space for the essentials without tempting you to bring the kitchen sink. Some riders may find the straps a bit long, but you can always shorten them. If you find the bright blue a bit lairy, it’s also available in red, orange and good old black.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.
Giant Bicycles today confirmed what we’d suspected: the release of a new higher-performance carbon fiber version of the Anthem X 29er cross-country bike. The composite version is lighter and stiffer as expected, and it’s accompanied by a new women’s-specific aluminum version for 2013 as well.
Meet the Anthem X Advanced 29er
The 100mm-travel Anthem X Advanced 29er features a new one-piece carbon fiber front triangle that Giant say shaves 185g (0.41lb) off of the current aluminum Anthem X 29er â€“ claimed weight of the new bike is just 2,200g (4.85lb) for a medium frame and rear shock. Giant readily acknowledge that the Anthem X Advanced 29er could have been lighter yet but off-road category manager Kevin Dana says he didn’t want to sacrifice “tangibles” in order to do so.
According to Dana, the current Anthem X Advanced 29er has been Giant’s most successful full-suspension mountain bike ever largely due to its balanced and versatile capabilities, not just because of weight. “The Anthem X Advanced 29er is more capable, more of a good thing,” he said at the media presentation just a few days before this year’s Sea Otter Classic. “It’s stiffer where it matters most: steering and pedaling.”
Changes include a move to Giant’s OverDrive 2 tapered front end, which uses a 1-1/4in upper steerer diameter instead of the more common 1-1/8in dimension to provide a seven percent claimed boost in steering precision. Pedaling stiffness climbs by a more modest three percent thanks to the rectangular-section MegaDrive down tube and carryover PowerCore press-fit, extra-wide bottom bracket.
The new Anthem X Advanced 29er features a PowerCore extra-wide press-fit bottom bracket shell. Giant don’t bother with a guard for the underside of the carbon down tube
Derailleur cables are now internally routed and there are new guides for a dropper post, too, but the rear brake hose is still zip-tied to the down tube. Geometry is wholly carried over, including a 71.3-degree head tube angle and 462mm chainstays.
The new bike will also continue to use a 15mm through-axle front end and a conventional 135mm quick-release rear. Dana told BikeRadar that the Maestro suspension design’s compact and fully enclosed rear triangle omits the need for a more robust axle assembly, which would only have added weight with little benefit.
Speaking of the rear end, Giant have also kept another tangible in mind when conceiving the Anthem X Advanced 29er: how it feels to your wallet. Rather than go all-out with a carbon rear triangle and upper link like on the flagship Anthem X Advanced SL and Trance X Advanced SL, the new 29er carries over the current bike’s all-aluminum construction out back.
Giant decided to stick with an Aluxx SL aluminum rear end to keep costs down. We can’t help but think this leaves the door wide open for an even higher-performance model next year, with a full-carbon frame
Giant will offer the new Anthem X Advanced 29er in three models along with a bare frameset, with availability starting in May in the US and Australia, and globally later in the summer. The top-end Anthem X Advanced 29er 0 will come with a SRAM XX group, a RockShox SID 29 RCT3 fork and SRAM Rise 60 carbon wheels for US$8,900 and a claimed weight of 9.98kg (22lb).
The 29 1 switches to a SRAM X0/X9 drivetrain, Avid Elixir 9 brakes, a RockShox SID 29 RL and Giant house-brand aluminum wheels for $4,650 and a claimed weight of 11.34kg (25lb). The entry model 29 2 will come with a SRAM X5/X7 drivetrain, Avid Elixir 3 disc brakes, a RockShox Reba RL fork and Giant house-brand wheels for $3,300 and a claimed weight of 11.79kg (26lb).
Giant say the current Anthem X 29er is the most successful full-suspension bike in company history so it’s safe to say the new carbon version will be well received
New women’s-specific model, too
Joining the Anthem X Advanced 29er is the new Anthem X 29er 0 W, which Giant claim is the world’s first women’s-specific full-suspension 29er. It differs from the current (men’s) aluminum model mostly in the fit, with a slightly shorter top tube and barely steeper head and seat tube angles.
In addition, head tubes are slightly longer and standover is increased across the four sizes (XS-L, in contrast to the standard bike’s S-XL). Parts are custom tuned where applicable to maintain the desired ride characteristics. Gearing is lower in some cases and forks will use Giant’s standard 1-1/8 to 1-1/2in OverDrive front end instead of the stiffer OverDrive 2 setup.
Giant will offer two women’s Anthem X 29ers for now. T the Anthem X 29er 0 W will come with a SRAM X7/X9 drivetrain, Avid Elixir 5 hydraulic disc brakes, a RockShox Reba RL fork and Giant house-brand alloy wheels for $2,950. The Anthem X 29er 4 moves to a Shimano Deore drivetrain and Avid Elixir 1 brakes, a RockShox Recon Silver 29 fork and Giant house-brand wheels for $1,925.
The new women’s-specific Giant Anthem X 29er 4 W features a modified frame geometry with a shorter top tube and longer head tube than the standard bike
A preview of new wheels to come
The Anthem X Advanced 29er 0 will come with SRAM Rise 60 carbon wheels for now but later this year, Giant will begin equipping the bikes with their own P-XCR Composite 29er 0 wheelset built with their own carbon rims, alloy hubs developed in conjunction with DT Swiss, and straight-pull DT Swiss Aerolite stainless steel spokes. Claimed weight is just 1,430g per pair.
As with the new Giant road wheels, component category manager Bill Miller has concentrated on spreading the spoke flanges further apart for additional lateral rigidity â€“ a key weakness in many 29er wheelsets. According to Miller, the stacked flange design allow the spokes to sit 2mm further apart than usual and they’re also angled almost perfectly tangentially with the flange for more direct power transfer. Engagement speed is set at a reasonably quick 10 degrees.
Flange spacing on the new Giant P-XCR Composite 29er 0 wheels is pushed extra wide to help boost lateral rigidity
The standard axle configuration will be 15mm through-axle front and 135mm quick-release rear, although the latter will be convertible to a through-axle if needed. Even so, Giant aim the new P-XCR Composite 29er 0 squarely at the cross-country crowd with its 19mm-wide (internal dimension) rims. Maximum recommended tire size will be 2.2in when the wheels are released later this summer. Pricing is yet to be finalized.
Miller didn’t say so explicitly but there was also the subtle suggestion that a more all-mountain friendly set of carbon wheels might be coming at some point in the future as well. Either way, we’ll have an early ride report on both the new Anthem X Advanced 29er and the new wheels tomorrow, as Giant have set up our test bike with pre-production samples. Stay tuned for additional details.
Rim width on the new Giant P-XCR Composite 29er 0 wheels is just 19mm but we’re expecting a more all-mountain friendly version to follow
The tide of new gear spotted at this year’s opening UCI Mountain Bike World Cup round in Pietermaritzburg continues with Adam Craig’s Giant XtC Composite 29er and its prototype Shimano carbon fiber tubular wheels and Terralogic-equipped Fox 29er fork.
Rabobank-Giant’s race tubulars use all-new carbon rims that, according to Shimano, are purpose-built for the project and not merely borrowed from the road range or rebadged from another company. While we didn’t have calipers on hand to measure, they’re visibly wider than Shimano’s road wheels for better support of mountain bike sized tires and also sport a braided external reinforcement layer at the spoke bed to better handle the rigors of off-road use.
Despite the racing intentions, Shimano don’t seem to have overlooked ease of maintenance. The hubs â€“ which look to be borrowed from the company’s XTR wheels â€“ feature rebuildable angular contact cup-and-cone bearings and the external nipples won’t require tire removal if a wheel goes out of true.
Rabobank-Giant’s prototype Shimano carbon fiber tubular wheels are ultralight
Claimed weight for the 26in version is around 1,180g for the set, while the 29ers creep up to about 1,300g per pair. Actual weight of the complete 29er wheelset with tires, rotors, skewers and cassette was 2.98kg (6.57lb) and the complete bike in full-blown race trim was just 9.22kg (20.33lb).
Shimano representatives on site in Pietermaritzburg told BikeRadar that these wheels are currently only available in prototype form for testing by key sponsored riders but we’re hopeful that at least the 29er variant will make it to production. While it may not sell in big quantities for mountain bike use, we’re hopeful it’ll be compatible with more ‘cross-appropriate rubber.
Adam Craig’s race machine also offered a preview of a new 2013 Fox 32 Float 29 fork with updated lower legs. As compared to the current version, Craig’s fork features a more heavily sculpted arch and trimmed-down 15mm through-axle dropouts, both of which we expect to shed a few extra grams. We don’t have details on the internals but Craig’s fork was equipped with Fox’s auto-locking Terralogic damper so we at least expect that option to continue moving forward.
Adam Craig’s Fox 32 Float 29 fork has an updated chassis, with a more sculpted arch than the current model and trimmer 15mm through-axle dropouts
We knew Mavic were launching some new wheels soon but we weren’t expecting to see quite so many variants at the opening round of the UCI World Cup. Here in Pietermaritzburg, we spotted not only a new 29er version of the company’s Crossmax SLR but also an alloy tubular version, a 26″ Crossmax SLR alloy tubular, and even the elusive Crossmax Ultimate with carbon spokes.
The new Mavic 29er wheels were showcased on the bikes of Cannondale Factory Racing â€“ which also confirms a Lefty-specific edition is coming. Though they weren’t labeled as such, they look to essentially be a 29″ version of the current Crossmax SLR â€“ so we’re going to go ahead and declare these to be C29ssmax SLR based on Mavic’s existing nomenclature.
The machined aluminium hubs and round Zicral aluminium spokes are similar to the current 26″ Crossmax version and the tubeless-compatible aluminium rims are also heavily machined on the sidewalls and inner walls to reduce rotating mass. Rim width, however, looks to be about the same as the current 26″ Crossmax SLR or perhaps just a slight bit wider. Unfortunately, we didn’t have calipers on hand to verify.
Team rider Jeremiah Bishop stuck with his usual tubeless setup but European pros Marco Aurelio Fontana and Manuel Fumic were spotted with alloy tubular editions instead wrapped with Schwalbe Racing Ralphs. We don’t have official information from Mavic to confirm this but presumably, the tubular rims should be a fair bit lighter than the tubeless hoops and based on previous experience, we expect the tubular tires to deliver a smoother and more ground-compliant ride as well.
Elsewhere, we also spotted tubular-specific versions of Mavic’s 26″ Crossmax SLR wheel wrapped with multiple variations of Dugast rubber. Just like in ‘cross and on the road, cross-country racers are starting to favor tubulars for their ultra-supple ride quality and ability to conform to the ground. Weight benefits as compared to top-end aluminium rims and tubeless tires are honestly quite negligible though we’ve also seen some carbon rimmed tubulars here as well (more on that later).
Most surprising were the Crossmax Ultimate tubular wheels fitted to the bike of Jean-Christophe PÃ©raud â€“ yes, the same Ag2R-La Mondiale professional road racer who has decided to compete for a spot on the 2012 French Olympic mountain bike team.
We’ve seen these wheels before â€“ as early as 2009, in fact â€“ but their reappearance here lends a bit more hope that they’ll be slated for production. Based on earlier information, the carbon-and-aluminum hybrid tubular rim and carbon fibre spokes yield a total claimed weight of well under 1,200g without sacrificing stiffness like some other ultralights currently available.
It’s unclear at this point which of these new mountain bike wheels are team-only items at this point. To be fair, mountain bike tubulars still have limited applicability to amateur mountain bike racers but with the coming wave of disc-equipped ‘cross bikes, those C29ssmax SLR alloy tubulars would be appealing indeed.
Mavic is set to announce their new wheel range this April at Sea Otter so we’ll have more information then.
SEATTLE, WA (BRAIN)â€”REI is set to enter two new markets, with plans to open a store in San Antonio, Texas, this fall and its first Florida location, in Jacksonville in spring 2013. The San Antonio location will be housed in 27,500 square feet at Huebner Oaks, while the nearly 23,400-square-foot store in Jacksonville will be located at The Markets at Town Center
Shimano’s mid-range SLX mountain bike groupset has always punched above its weight, offering a similar level of performance to Deore XT at a much lower price, with a little extra weight the only penalty to pay. There’s a new version for 2013, and the big S have wisely decided not to mess with a successful formula.
There’s a new clutch-equipped rear mech based on the highly praised XTR Shadow Plus derailleur and it’s had a cosmetic overall, but overall the new M670/5 group looks set to continue SLX’s solid tradition of high performance at a reasonable price.
Probably the biggest change is the new Shadow Plus M675 rear derailleur. The ‘Shadow’ tag refers to the way it hugs the cassette to keep out of harm’s way (as on the current SLX M660 mech), while the Plus refers to the clutch mechanism. Flicking a switch slows down derailleur cage movement, dramatically reducing chain slap. This is a boon for aggressive riders who regularly ride rocky terrain.
Shimano haven’t forgotten the more traditional cross-country crowd, though â€“ a lighter (both in terms of weight and shifting action) non-Plus M670 version will also be available. Both will be available with medium or long cages, and with standard or direct mount fittings â€“ see below for more on the latter.
There’s a new bottom-swing front mech design that’s been designed to give more rear wheel clearance on 29ers (this will be available for XT and XTR, too), but the most obvious change to SLX is the new crankset â€“ it retains the two-tone look of the current version but has a new chainring spider that draws inspiration from Shimano’s higher-end mountain bike groups.
There are three close-ratio Dyna-Sys options â€“ 38-26t and 40-28t doubles, plus a 42/32/24t triple â€“ plus a wider ratio 38/24t setup, which is also now available for XT. The shifters have shorter levers and a mode converter that means they can be used with 2×10 and 3×10 drivetrains.
SLX received a brake upgrade last year so there are no major departures for 2013. There have been some cosmetic changes so that the stoppers match the rest of the group, the levers have shed a little weight, the brakes now come with three-layer Ice Technologies rotors as standard, and OEM pads (ie. those which come with complete bikes) are now the finned Ice Tech version, too â€“ last year these were only supplied with aftermarket brakes. The levers are compatible with Shimano’s Ispec bar clamp system, too, if you’d prefer to integrate the brake and shift levers into a single clamp.
Direct mount rear derailleur
As if we haven’t got enough conflicting standards to deal with already, Shimano want to introduce another one for 2013: direct mount rear mechs. At present, Shimano derailleurs have a ‘B2 body plate’ between the top pivot and the bolt that threads into the dropout. Under the new system, the B2 body plate is removed and replaced with an ‘arm’ built into the dropout. This means the derailleur hangs in the same place but is attached directly to the dropout.
Shimano say this improves shifting accuracy due to reduced flex, gives a stronger rear derailleur/frame connection â€“ although this isn’t necessarily a good thing, in our books, given that rear mechs often take the brunt of crashes â€“ makes it easier to get the wheel in and out, adds flexibility for frame designers (because it allows more space for through-axles and suspension pivots) and gives a cleaner look.
They say that as lots of modern bikes have replaceable dropouts, it shouldn’t mean big changes to frame designs, and they point out that current mechs can be adapted to work with the new system simply by removing the B2 plate. It works the other way round too, so a direct mount mech can be adapted to work with a standard dropout by attaching a B2 plate. Direct mount rear mechs will be available for XT and XTR, too.
However, one can also take the opinion that Shimano’s proposed hanger design change is merely a way to shift the burden on to frame manufacturers. Currently, that relatively thin B2 plate is a vulnerable failure point in the event of a crash or jammed stick. While this direct mount hanger would eliminate that Achilles’ heel, Shimano could alternatively just reinforce that bit and retain the current hanger standard.
Mountain bike wheels
Shimano now offer 12 mountain bike wheelsets, including four 29er options. New for 2013 are two SLX-level wheels: the MT66 (Race) and MT68 (Trail). Both are tubeless ready, with UST-profile rims.
The MT66 is 19mm wide and Shimano say it can be used with up to 2.25in rubber. It uses 24 straight-pull spokes front and rear, has a 15mm E-Thru axle option at the front and comes in black or white, with mono tone or lime green decals. Claimed weights are 840g for the quick-release front wheel and 985g for the rear (omitting skewers). There’s also a 29er version, which uses 24 spokes at the front (claimed weight 945g) and 28 spokes at the rear (1,080g for quick-release; 12mm axle also available).
The MT68 is wider at 21mm, and can be used with tyres up to 2.5in. It uses 24 butted spokes and comes with a 15mm axle up front and a choice of quick-release or 12mm axle out back. Available in the same colours as the MT66, claimed weights are 910g for the front wheel and 1,050g for the 12mm rear. Both wheels are set up for Center Lock rotors only but Shimano have a new SLX-level adaptor (SM-RTAD05) if you prefer to use six-bolt discs.
Also new for 2013 is a 29er version of the XT M785 wheelset. It has a 19mm, UST-profile rim and is available with a 15mm front axle if required. All three wheels run on cup-and-cone bearings, as is usual with Shimano.
Last up are the new CLICK’R pedals. Aimed at beginners and commuters, these are designed to be much easier to clip in and out of than a regular SPD pedal. In fact, the highest tension setting on the new pedals is said to be similar to the lowest setting on a standard SPD.
Shimano say clipping in requires 60 percent less force, and clipping out 50 percent (at the lowest tension setting). This lighter action is partly due to reduced spring tension but the pedals also have a narrower step-out angle (8.5Â° rather than 13Â°) for quicker disengagement.
The T700 (pictured below) is a dual-sided XT-level pedal that’s available in black only, while the T400 (pictured above) will come in at a lower price, in black or white. Both have pop-up cages, wide platforms and built-in reflectors for safety, and will come as standard with multi-release cleats. Shimano will also offer a choice of six CLICK’R shoes, designed to be easier to walk in than standard cycling footwear.
Pricing & availability
Pricing of Shimano’s new mountain bike kit is still to be confirmed. First deliveries of the new SLX are expected to be made in May 2012, with some parts not available until later in the summer. Here’s a quick rundown: