Where to spend your money on Shimano 1x drivetrains

Splurge on shifters and chain, pinch pennies on your rear derailleur

Components Tech Video
Thanks to the trickle-down effect, most of the technology found in Shimano XTR has made its way to the SLX group.

Thanks to the trickle-down effect, most of the technology found in Shimano XTR has made its way to the SLX group.

Editor’s Note: This article is courtesy of the team at Art’s Cyclery. The original post can be found here.

So you want to install a 1x Shimano groupset, but are on a budget. The key is knowing the best places to save and spend some extra money. The good news is that thanks to the trickle-down effect, most of the technology found in Shimano XTR has made its way to the SLX group. And even if you were to find XTR parts on deep discounts, it’ll still be a hit to your wallet. In order to get the most bang for your buck, you’ll need to mix and match different components from Shimano’s lower level groups. Press play to learn more.

Here’s a recap of what you just saw, starting with the rear derailleur. Although rear derailleurs are critical to your bike’s functioning, their value is overrated. They’re only as good as the shifter that they’re attached to. Because the indexing is so small in a rear shifter, a little bit of imprecision in the shifter itself makes a large difference at the rear derailleur. For this reason, pairing an SLX or XT rear derailleur to an XT or XTR rear shifter will deliver crisp and sharp shifting for the best value.

Although rear derailleurs are critical to your bike’s functioning, their value is overrated. They’re only as good as the shifter that they’re attached to.

Although rear derailleurs are critical to your bike’s functioning, their value is overrated. They’re only as good as the shifter that they’re attached to.

As you may have noticed, most bikes come spec’d from the factory with nicer rear derailleurs and lower end shifters. This is because the rear derailleur is much more visible and thus more enticing to the consumer making the purchase.

We recommend mating an XTR rear shifter to an XT rear derailleur for the budget build. The XTR rear shifter operates smoother and is more precise than XT. And in XTR fashion, they continue to work flawlessly for years. The XT rear derailleur has tighter pivot tolerances than SLX, which means they shift better and last longer. XT rear derailleurs also come with bearing equipped pulleys that improve shifting precision, efficiency, and lifespan.

Go with an XT cassette over an XTR cassette. It shifts almost identically to an XTR cassette, but will last longer because it is made of steel rather than titanium.

Go with an XT cassette over an XTR cassette. It shifts almost identically to an XTR cassette, but will last longer because it is made of steel rather than titanium.

As for the cassette, go with an XT cassette over an XTR cassette. It shifts almost identically to an XTR cassette, but will last longer because it is made of steel rather than titanium. XT cassettes are also lighter and cost less than XTR.

With performance and weight differences between XT and SLX cassettes being nearly unnoticeable, opt for an SLX crankset.

For the chain, go all in with XTR. The finish is better and it contains more stainless steel parts to resist rust, meaning you get a longer lasting, better performing ride.

For the chain, go all in with XTR. The finish is better and it contains more stainless steel parts to resist rust, meaning you get a longer lasting, better performing ride.

When it comes to bottom brackets, the XTR unit has lower friction seals and nicer bearings, and because the price difference is minimal, XTR is the way to go.

For the chain, go all in with XTR. The finish is better and it contains more stainless steel parts to resist rust, meaning you get a longer lasting, better performing ride.

The SLX brakes are the same brake as XT, but don’t have the freestroke adjustment. Because we don’t feel that the freestroke adjustment is necessary, our budget pick for brakes is SLX.

The SLX brakes are the same brake as XT, but don’t have the freestroke adjustment. Because we don’t feel that the freestroke adjustment is necessary, our budget pick for brakes is SLX.

With brakes, the differences between groups are weight and features. XT has all the same adjustment features as XTR, including tool-free reach adjust and freestroke adjustment. The SLX brakes are the same brake as XT, but don’t have the freestroke adjustment. Because we don’t feel that the freestroke adjustment is necessary, our budget pick for brakes is SLX. However, if you can afford the extra $20 to upgrade to XT brakes, take the plunge.

For rotors, go with Ice Tech. This type of rotor utilizes aluminum sandwiched between stainless steel to dissipate heat.

For rotors, go with Ice Tech. This type of rotor utilizes aluminum sandwiched between stainless steel to dissipate heat.

For rotors, go with Ice Tech. This type of rotor utilizes aluminum sandwiched between stainless steel to dissipate heat. While the XTR rotors are the best, they’re only compatible with centerlock hubs. So for those running centerlock hubs, run SLX RT-68 rotors and for those with 6-bolt hubs, choose XT RT-86 rotors.

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

About the author: Arts Cyclery

This article was originally published on the Art's Cyclery Blog. Art's Cyclery is dedicated to offering free expert advice, how-to videos, and in-depth product reviews on ArtsCyclery.com to help riders make an educated decision when selecting cycling gear.


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  • butch says:

    I could never live with a standard 11tooth cassette on a 1x setup, I would need to use my bike on the road and that gearing doesnt cut it unless I got a big chainring. SRAM is the only 1x system I would ever consider.

  • ColinL says:

    You absolutely can put an XD driver on your rear wheel (if there is one – shouldn’t be an issue for any midrange or higher wheel 2014 or newer) and use a SRAM 10-42 11 speed cassette with a Shimano crankset, long cage derailleur and shifters. The question is… why? Why would you do that instead of just use SRAM. Heck, or RaceFace cranks.

    • Butters says:

      I would, just because Shimano crank fastening design is light years better than either RF or SRAM. I hate interference fit and messing with daft little grub screws.

  • Bob says:

    Can you cover the differences in standard vs Boost vs Boost+ cranks and chain rings. I understand their are difference widths and offsets. I also understand some Cinch chain rings will work if you flip them around. I have also been told that you can use downhill chain rings for boost… Confusing.

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