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Shimano MTB/Hybrid Bicycle Gearing Groupsets

  • Know your Bicycle
Shimano MTB/Hybrid Bicycle Gearing Groupsets

The derailleurs are one of the hardest working areas of your mountain bicycle; shifting through the gears on punishing climbs, grinding through miles of grit, mud and grime on wet trails and transferring all your brute power when you are pushing for those extra few seconds on a downhill blast. Hybrid bicycles also use the same set of gearing as urban riding requires more levels of gearing than just pure speed as required on road bicycles. Generally, MTB requires low gear ratios to provide mechanical advantage for ascents on rough terrain or for extreme climbs. Hybrid bicycles require a mid-range gearing, which you may modify towards any of the two extremes depending on how hilly is your city, your style and physical condition. Now let us look into the Shimano MTB gearing hierarchy. 

Shimano Tourney is the most basic gearing groupset in the MTB range. These gears are most 21 speed with 3 gears at the front and 7 gears at the back. These gears can be found on the most budget and entry level MTB’s and also on hybrid bicycles. Aggressive trail riding isn’t recommended with these gears. 

Shimano Altus is the next on this list. This gearing has a combination 3x7 or 3x8 and can be found on entry level MTB’s and also urban hybrids. Altus has started using the Shadow design, which refers to a lower-profile to reduce the likelihood of damage from obstacles on the trail. 

Considered as the top of the entry level gearing, Shimano Acera is a complete groupset in terms for performance for amateurs. Acera is essentially a nine-speed system, which although basic compared to higher options, is actually aesthetically and practically rather impressive. Acera can also be found on performance focused hybrid bicycles. 

Shimano MTB/Hybrid Bicycle Gearing Groupsets - Shimano Altus
Shimano MTB/Hybrid Bicycle Gearing Groupsets - Shimano Deore

Shimano Alivio sits just above Acera. Like Acera, this 9-speed group is available with a triple or double crankset. Alivio is Shimano’s starting point if you are seeking a trail-worthy mountain bicycle which can real endure performance. Acera and Alivio are commonly mixed up as they are both a 9 speed group and this mixing can be found on a lot of top end hybrid bicycles as this is usually the highest limit in terms of gearing for hybrids.  Alivio is better than Acera in terms of less weight and a few more refinements, such as choice of either top swing or down swing front derailleur; a rear derailleur with better shifting. 

One of the unsung heroes of mountain cycling componentry, Shimano’s Deore is next in line which mixes the right balance of performance and reliability with excellent value. Over the years it’s been tweaked and refined, and now boasts many of the trickle-down features from the company’s top-end models. 

Next up is Shimano SLX which is a very important group in the Shimano hierarchy. This is the first group to share the same number of speeds as XT and XTR in a more budget-friendly package. Generally speaking, the 11 speed SLX offers the same features and function as the upper-end groups at a higher weight and marginally lower shift quality. 

The first of the discipline-specific groups, Zee, is Shimano’s gravity groupset. It's a more affordable version of Saint. Available only with a 1x crankset, Zee is designed for downhill and Freeride. It’s built heavier and sturdier than the similarly-priced SLX group. 

Shimano Saint is up next. It is ridden by many of the world’s top downhill professionals, and specced on high-end MTB’s, Shimano Saint is the go-to groupset if you are looking for sublime shifting when things get a little rough on trails. Light enough to make the difference but strong enough to take abuse, Saint is geared to take the strain so you can concentrate on the ride. 

Finally we come to Shimano XTR Di2. If you are looking at all-out performance, and money’s no object, the best Shimano groupset for cross-country riders is Shimano XTR Di2, which is at the cutting edge of shifting and braking technology. As the first electronic shifting groupset in mountain biking, it's no surprise that it's also the most expensive. It’s the flagship Shimano group used by the world’s best cross-country racers, and delivers the most crisp, flawless gear changes available.  

Shimano MTB/Hybrid Bicycle Gearing Groupsets - Shimano XTR

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