2012 Shimano XT M780 788 785

Shimano released their new XTR M980 components late last summer and their recently launched 2012 Shimano XT components see many similar revisions. XT has always been a go-to setup for most riders who want quality components without the additional expense of XTR. From racers to enthusiasts, the XT line of products offer some XTR features but at a more affordable price point. Shimano has brought many updates to the XT components in the M780 series that should have many riders jumping for joy. Inside is a preview of some of our first impressions on the new XT gruppo.

So for this press presentation of the 2012 Shimano XT components we’ve lined up a Pivot Cycles Mach 5.7 to bolt the new components to. Pivot Cycles is well known for providing good pedaling performance without sacrificing bump absorption. It makes for a good work horse to bolt the 2012 XT components to given the demograph of the Mach 5.7. FOX has updated their fork seals and more for 2012 so a 15mmQR 150mm FOX Talas 32 RLC with Kashima coating was bolted up front to handle front suspension duties. It’s been doing quite well so far and the actuation has been smooth and full travel utilized. The Talas option allows the travel to be swapped to 120mm or 150mm but we’ve stayed with 150mm mode so far.

Ride one on the new XT components took place outside of Northstar in Galena Creek state park. We rode a wide variety of trails in this region that tested out almost every aspect of the new components. We descended, climbed, and did most everything in between. You can see some snips of the ride in the video below.

Shimano XT overview with Devin Walton

So to begin with the BL-M785 / BR-M785 Hydraulic Disc Brake System sees similar revisions that are carried over from the XTR M988 brakes. Servo wave technology, iSpec, oversized 22mm ceramic piston, and much more. The brakes feel almost identical to the XTR M988 brakes. In a blind test without the holes in the XTR brake lever, I’d be hard pressed to identify them from each other.

Shimano claims 25% more power with the ICE brake pads and rotor combination. These brakes have a lot going for them. The short lever I’ve found has made me move the brake lever inboard quite a bit more in comparison to other brakes. One finger setup is ideal for these.

You will notice the servo wave technology carried over again here form XTR. Free stroke adjustment is there again, but in my opinion still isn’t as great as it could be in terms of a wide adjustment range.

The styling is clean. Shimano offers this new XT component set in either a black or silver setup.

Front detail shot with the shifter snugged nicely inside. If you are after an integrated setup, Shimano also offers these shifters to mate to the lever with an ispec adapter.

One bolt access for the brakes allows them to be removed without removing your other components on the bar. There is a safety mechanism in place that helps ensure the lever doesn’t disengage fully unless you depress the safety mechanism on the side of the brake lever clamp.

The rear caliper sees 22mm ceramic pistons as well as ICE-Tech rotors that have finned pads to aid in cooling. Additionally the brake rotor has a sandwiched aluminum design that helps keep things cool here as well. For those of you who have been after ICE-Tech rotors but do not run centerlock hubs, Shimano has a new 6 bolt disc option for ICE-tech rotor.

Finned pads to aid in keeping things cool.

A close up of the ICE-tech center lock rotor.

The new XT crankset is offered in a double option or a triple option this year. The triple option you see here (black 24-32-42) is available in black or silver options as well as a variety of chainring sizing options. The shifting on these cranks are similar to XTR but there certainly are differences. The DynaSys 10speed chain is also a big component to ensuring things work properly as the asymmetrical chain allows the chain to traverse up and down the cog/chain rings with ease.

Classic pinch bolt setup to ensure these cranks stay on. Proven design and has worked quite well in our experience without any issues.

The rear XT derailleur is available in black or silver as most all of the new XT components. They have revised the cable routing as well as still utilize their Shadow Technology that keeps the derailleur tucked nicely out of harms way. The 11-36t 10speed cassette is a nice feature that allows you to stay in a given chain ring longer. The 36t offers some nice bail-out that lets you stay in the middle ring.

Shadow derailleur tucks inside out of harms way from rocks and other trail obstacles.

The front derailleur on the Mach 5.7 uses a direct mount front derailleur setup. This makes aligning derailleurs almost 100% idiot proof but some will find a way to set things up incorrectly. Shifting is crisp and predictable.

One of the big highlights of the XTR M980 series was the addition of the trail pedal. Similarly, XT also gets a Trail version that offers much of the same benefits but in a more affordable package. Weight wise they’re not as light as the XTR option, but you’ll save a good amount of money here with similar performance. The wider pedal body allows for more contact with the shoe in general whether you’re clipped in or not. If you are after a more traditional XC style clipless pedal, Shimano XT also an option for that as well.

These new XT shifters have a lot of new features to them that have trickled down from the M980 series shifters. The action is quite light and you can feel the mechanical advantage of Shimano’s Vivid system. In comparison to XTR these are very close in quality shifting. We did find they do offer a very positive click in comparison to XTR. Some may actually prefer the actuation of the XT to the XTR. Additionally, XT has adopted XTR’s dual down shift technology. So with the push of the downshift lever, you can click one or two gears easily. The detente spacing has improved since M970 that I felt was easier to downshift twice accidentally. The new XT and XTR shifters offer a better predictable double down shift in comparison.

Gear indicator on the XT shift levers as well. They hug low so should prove to be more durable in crashes. The shift indicator can also be removed as well should you decide you don’t want it.

The front shifter features a mode select option. If you are running a double or a triple XT crankset, this handy switch allows you to run the same shifter without having to spec a specific front shifter for both systems.

Shimano has revised the XT wheels here as well. They are still tubeless rims but the rim bed height has been reduced slightly. The XT wheels are available in two trim levels. The XC-ish setup offers a 19mm internal rim width and a 135QR / 15mm / Front QR option. The Trail level offers similar options but has a 21mm internal rim and an additional option for a 142x12mm wheel. Both wheelsets are still centerlock and utilize the classic Shimano angular contact bearings as well.

Overall the 2012 Shimano XT components have a ton of trickle down from the XTR M980 series. The brakes, pedals, shifters, wheels, shifters, derailleurs, and much more benefit from XTR’s technology advancements. This workhorse gruppo can work well on a variety of bikes. I suspect many riders will spec XT over XTR based on price alone. XT offers a great amount of new Shimano technology found on their higher priced XTR gruppo. XTR still offers a finer finish and polish to it but I suspect for the general rider, it will be hard to pony up for XTR when XT offers much of the same from a features perspective.

The new Shimano 2012 XT Groupset are available at Tionghin now!

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