Shimano just launched the M9000 XTR mountain bike component group (see our first look here), moving to 11-speeds and adding a single chainring option.
Eleven speeds and single ring sound familiar? SRAM released its Force CX1 cyclocross group a month ago (see our Force CX1 review here), and so you can be forgiven if you, like us, wondered if some of these new XTR M9000 mountain bike components will be compatible with 11-speed road components to help you assemble your dream cyclocross, adventure or gravel bike.
We pinned down Shimano’s reps and asked a ton of questions related to compatibility with road and legacy components, and have the answers, in our own language, for you here.
Will I have to buy new mountain bike wheels?
No, surprisingly the 11-speed XTR cassette, with its 11-40 tooth configuration, will fit fine on 8, 9 and 10-speed Shimano freehubs. That monster 40 tooth cog has such a large diameter that the chain will not touch the spokes. Due to the angle the spokes take from the hub to the rim, the spokes are far enough away from the cog that they won’t interfere with the largest cog.
Why didn’t Shimano make 11-speed road cassettes compatible on 10-speed hubs?
The smaller large cogs of road-oriented cassettes, even with a 28 or 32 tooth large cog, would interfere with the spokes if fit on old freehubs, and if it the large cog clears the spokes, the extra width of the chain would likely cause problems.
Did Shimano go wide/narrow with its single chainring teeth?
Shimano didn’t increase the thickness of the teeth, but rather increased the width of each tooth. See the slide below for a diagram on how Shimano approached chain retention on its single ring setup.
Will the new M9000 XTR derailleurs work with 11-speed Dura-Ace, Ultegra or the new Shimano 105 STI shifters?
In typical new component group fashion, no. The cable pull is different. No clutch option for road Shimano road shifters yet.
Can I use the new XTR M9000 single ring crank with my road components?
It depends on chain line. If you can get a good chain line with your bottom bracket and rear cassette and rear spacing, it should work.
Will the XTR M9000 hydraulic brakes work with the R785 or the new RS685 hydraulic STI levers?
Yes. Sven Nys and Lars van der Haar used a similar setup this year in Europe. The brakes are plug and play, but the R785 and RS785 uses narrower hoses for more modulation with road levers.
Can I use the XTR M9000 cassette on my 11-speed road setup?
Maybe. It should clear your spokes and fit on your 10-speed and 11-speed (with a spacer) freehubs, but your rear derailleur will likely be incompatible with the 40t cog. However, some clever folks have figured out that a longer rear derailleur B-screw can be a cheap hack to make it work.
Why can’t Shimano make these components all compatible?
Much to some cyclocrossers’ chagrin, the company is optimizing components for their intended use, and not prioritizing universal plug-and-play or necessarily worrying about the bastard stepchild cyclocrosser who falls in between road and mountain bikers. However, if or when Shimano moves towards electronic Di2 mountain bike groups, which is widely expected, that may open the door wide open for mix and match 11-speed components, assuming it remains loyal to its E-tube project.
Will the new M9000 pedals look like Sven Nys’ modified M980 XTR pedals?
No. Shimano didn’t change them at all. Only the graphics are different. They were not on display, and images weren’t available, but they will not look like this.
Will the XTR WH9000 tubeless and tubular wheels make good cyclocross wheels?
We have no idea, since we haven’t ridden them yet, but two limitations exist: They’re disc brake only, and they’re Thru-Axle only on the front. If you can work with those restrictions, they could be dual-duty mountain bike and cyclocross wheels, and the carbon tubular option is a light if not spendy option that may have a shallower gluing surface that could work well with wider cyclocross tires (compared to narrow road tubular rims with a deep rim bed).
We wish we could say stay tuned for a full test of compatibility on a cyclocross bike, but this stuff is always hard to get your hands on, so don’t hold your breath.
Check out all of our tech goodies from Sea Otter 2014, and keep checking as we start to get rolling into the long weekend.