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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.