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.
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.
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.
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.
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.