Interbike: Riding the Shimano XTR with Di2 and FOX iCTD

Gearing range, simplicity and flexibility is the name of the game

Components Interbike

Interbike Mtbr

Shimano Di2 Display

Introduction

What’s the best thing I saw at the show? XTR Di2 is an easy answer. Is it available for purchase today and is it practical and affordable? No. But it is a clear demonstration of the future and it opens up a world of possibilities.

Still the best shifting feel

We’ve had two opportunities to ride Shimano‘s XTR Di2 system and now have some insight to share about its usability. The first thing we’ll mention is Shimano XTR is still tops when it comes to metals quality, ergonomics and shift quality. XTR still feels crisp and accurate and it seems like the XTR Di2 has reached another level because of the tactile feel and shift speeds and force are tightly controlled by the motors and electronics. Couple that with the best brakes in the business in Shimano XTR and the system worked well to say the least.

Does XTR Di2 shift better than mechanical XTR? Yes. The reason is the movement of the derailleurs is powerful, precise and not dependent on how hard or soft you push the levers. The speed of the movement is optimized for best shifting performance at a certain pedaling range. And if you like to shift even when you are pedaling slow, Di2 XTR can be adjusted for that by slowing down the speed of the derailleurs.

The other factor is the shifters have been optimized to provide the best tactile feel, but have minimum effort from the rider. In any temperature or bike maintenance condition, the shifter is going to feel the same.

Pivot Mach 4 with Shimano XTR Di2

The best range for you

Shimano XTR Di2 is available in 1×11, 2×11 and 3×11 so the range is there for whatever riding you do and whatever capabilities you have. 2×11 is the sweet spot of this group, so we’ll spend most of our time talking about this setup.

XTR Di2 is really two systems in one. It can be a simple, set and forget one lever setup that’s intuitive and functional. It can be the most configurable shifting system around. The rider gets to choose.

On the simple end of the spectrum, the rider can just start using it in manual mode and it will shift perfectly. The real sweet spot though is one of the Synchro shift modes, where the system shifts the front derailleur for you. Just use the rear shifter and when it runs out of gears, it will shift the front shifter for you and auto-shift the rear to minimize the jump. Hold the right shifter down and the system will continue to fire the shifts until it runs out.

Note that since the front derailleur is automatically shifted in the Synchro modes, the rider can remove the left shifter and never use it. This will open up the left, under bar location for a dropper post lever.

Configuring Di2

On the configurable side of the rainbow though, everything can be set by the user. Lever assignments, single tap, double tap can be assigned. Synchro shift is completely configurable as well, as the user can decide when the system will shift in and out of the big ring and how many gears to adjust on the rear.

Integration possibilities

The Pivot Mach 4 I rode had the FOX iCTD system installed where the CTD functions were electronically controlled by a separate switch beside the grip. Climb, Trail, and Descend modes are actually a lot more useable when it’s at your fingertips and the front and rear can be synchronized. The FOX system shares the battery and the display screen with the XTR Di2.

XTR Di2 Drivetrain

So the possibilities start opening up. What if the suspension automatically went into Climb mode when the shifters are in the three lowest gears? Descend mode on the three highest gears? Yes, no? Doesn’t matter since you’ll be able to decide.

What if there was an electronic dropper post powered by the same battery and lights that do this and that. Maybe, maybe not but they will all be open for discussion now.

So who is it for?

Sure, everyone would love to own XTR Di2 but for 2015, the ideal buyer is the affluent cross-country racer. It comes with a steep price tag of about $3500 for the group. If you want the Fox, iCTD suspension as well, don’t ask about the price. But it really is a polished and capable drivetrain and it will help you go faster with a great gearing range, good spacing between gears and more precise shifts. Of course many more riders would be ecstatic about XTR Di2 but the rich, XC guy is the bullseye of the market.

For the future as this technology trickles down to more affordable groups, it can work for a whole lot more people. It is both simple yet very configurable and it opens up a world of possibilities.

Availability will around Jan, 2015.

For more information visit bike.shimano.com

This article is part of Mtbr’s coverage of the 2014 Interbike trade show in Las Vegas. For more from Interbike CLICK HERE.

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.


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  • Steven says:

    Anyone build a $20,000 mountain bike lately?

  • Dave says:

    Is that a water proof system? Not all of us only ride when its sunny and 75* plus…

    • Mtbr says:

      Yes. And Shimano says their Di2 road systems had no weather-related issues in this year’s Tour de France, which was quite wet.

  • Mark says:

    So does that make it an ebike? It has motors, and a battery, that are intended to aid you. I’ll be sure to chastise users of this technology on trails designated non-motorized use only :D

  • BlackBean says:

    I can’t wait to use a DI2 system on my mtb specifically. But at $3500 I don’t think it would even be reasonably priced in 2 years from now. Huge fail, but let’s hope.

  • Happy Bill says:

    Its very cool and interesting. But what I find interesting is that it seems many people are looking to make their bikes “simpler”. I.E. Single chain ring, drive systems. To me, adding a ton of new tech doesn’t make sense.
    Of course they could make it blue tooth compatable so I can change the gears of the guy who is riding it behind me, could be quite humorous. To me its a never buy. Cool they can make it, but really simple is so much more of a selling point for me,

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