Shimano North America is one of our key sponsors, so let’s acknowledge that, but as with all the products I bring up, I’m only bringing up things I really like, because otherwise, what’s the point? I bought and paid for these components with my own dough, and no one told me to say anything about them.
And I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t expect to like SLX (aka M7100.
I’ve been riding XT Di2 for the last few years, and as I’ve said in other venues, I particularly like Di2 for off-road riding. The speed and accuracy of the shifting is hugely valuable when your shifts are more spontaneous and urgent, like they can be on dirt. My view is that, on the road, electronic shifting is a nice-to-have, but mostly I know when I’m going to shift, in advance, so doing so mechanically, if it’s a little slower, is no big deal, no great compromise.
The reason I have an SLX group on my new Ibis Ripley is that, frankly, it’s what I had money for, and I definitely thought, “Well, this is a stop gap. I’ll upgrade to Di2 next season.” In my mind, I figured once you go electronic, you can’t go back.
I was wrong.
The SLX group I have is amazing. It’s maybe not quite Di2 fast, but it’s working really well for me. I opted for the 1×12 setup, with a 10-51t cassette. I find it plenty wide and plenty responsive. Choosing 1x instead of 2x simplifies things, which contributes to responsiveness.
One of my biases against mechanical systems was cable stretch. I expected it with this bike, and other factors to put it out of whack in short order, because I ride pretty hard and shift under load quite a bit, but it’s been rock solid. No tuning necessary.
I love this stuff. It’s honestly changed my view of what a high-end mountain group is. Mountain bikes can be astronomically expensive, so realizing that SLX performs this well changes my calculus a bit about what you need to spend on a bike. For sure, a lot of top-end components will still be out of people’s reach, but you can get a lot more for a lot less than I previously thought.
So if you’re building up a new mountain bike, and you’re puzzling over where to put your precious dollars, a mechanical Shimano SLX group is not the worst idea by a long stretch. Maybe take the money you can save there and put it into a better dropper post, or nicer wheels, or just keep it in your pocket. Burritos cost money too.
Funny I was having this conversation with a rando on a trail yesterday. For context, I have been riding mtbs for 33 years. Back when I had less money and was working in bike shops, I thought I needed the fancy pants stuff. Even 5 years ago I was an XT guy. Then I got an Ibis HD3 with Sram GX and was surprised at how well it worked. My lates bike that I have had for 2 years has SRAM NX, and the only thing I have replaced is the chain and the shift cable/housing. Once. The stuff works well.
Anyway, the rando guy was talking about how sweet his high end components were. I was stoked to talk about how sweet my middle of the road stuff was. We were both stoked, which made me stoked. We were both stoked to not be riding out bikes from 1993.
Like Padraig says about choosing a bike, keep going up in price until you can’t tell the difference then get the cheaper one. The converse it true with a modification: Keep going down in price until it doesn’t matter to you, then go up one.
I used to be a bike snob, and I am sooooo glad I got over that shit. Maybe it is me that is evolving (devolving?), or maybe bike parts have evolved to the point that mid-range stuff works so well that I don’t even need to know what XTR or XXXXXOOOOO12 does. Either way the result is the same: I am stoked and I have more money for beer, burritos, new tires, and hookers.