The new SLX group is quite the bargain at $928, and the powerful brakes, durability, great gearing options and good shifting, make for an excellent package.
Last year, Shimano revamped the SLX group, and it got trickle down technology from the XT and XTR product lineups. SLX has always been about durability and good value, and the 2013 iteration raises the bar for performance and value, with a retail price of $928 for the group (sans rotors and hubs). The group gets a plethora of technical trickery and designs, including the Ice Tech brake pads and rotors, the Shadow Plus clutch on the rear derailleur, upgraded shifters and front derailleur and brakes, and ‘Rider Tuned’ cranks and cassettes. The gearing choices include a 2x of 38-24, 38-26 and 40-28, and 3x of 42-32-24, and three cassette options of 11-32, 11-34 and 11-36.
I have been using the SLX drivetrain and brakes for the past six months, and I have put it through its paces, tossing it in every type of terrain and harsh conditions, just this side of prodigious quantities of mud. It has been brutally tough, durable, has shifted admirable, and has some extremely powerful brakes. The group that I tested included the following components:
- Cranks (2×10 38-24T 175mm) – 745 grams
- Bottom bracket – 88 grams
- Brakes – 602 grams
- Rotors (180mm) – 138 grams each
- Shifters – 295 grams
- Cassette (11-36) – 372 grams
- Front derailleur (High Direct) – 178 grams
- Rear derailleur (Shadow Plus) – 302 grams
- Chain – 279 grams
The front derailleur is available in four mounting options, High Direct Mount (tested), Low Direct Mount, High Clamp and Low Clamp for both 3×10 and 2×10 gearing, and retail for $55. They did some minor redesign of the derailleur, and altered the shape and profile, and tweaked the cable routing for better frame, suspension and tire clearance, making it ‘suspension friendly’. The SLX front worked nicely, and rolled up and down smoothly, without any stickiness, slop or clunking, giving the usual Shimano front quality shifts.
The rear derailleur is available in two cage lengths, the 2×10 specific SG medium (tested) and 3×10 specific SGS long, and in Shadow Plus (tested) and Non-Plus versions, and retail for $100 and $85 respectively. It can be used in a wide range of 10-speed gearing, with a maximum of a 36-tooth cassette capacity. The SLX gets the second generation of the innovative Shadow Plus, which uses a simple on/off lever to engage the friction clutch damper system, which prevents chain slap and derailment, and quiets and stabilizes the drivetrain. Shimano does offer a new ‘Direct Mount’ option, which lets you remove the B2 link and attach the derailleur directly to the Direct Mount arm of the frame, but this only works with a frame that was designed to accept this setup, and those are currently somewhat rare.
I liked the Shadow Plus system, and it makes a big difference in keeping everything stable and quiet, and when hammering along extremely rough terrain it’s an obvious improvement, though the shifting is slightly stiffer when engaged. Even shifting under load, I never felt the rear give me any issues, regardless of how hard I torqued and slammed the system. The rear has performed pretty darn well, and always did what was asked of it, even when the chain wasn’t well lubed, the tuning was slightly out of whack, and I shifted poorly. The rear has been very durable, and has taken a lot of abuse, getting slammed and scrapped against rock squeezes and ledges, and the only thing it has suffered is some mild cosmetic scratches. It might lack the precision of the XTR rear, but it’s tough, cheap and seems to deal with ‘out of tune’ situations more ideally.
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