Shimano XTR Trail M980 Drivetrain Review (2013)


How much can a top range of components evolve in 20 years? The answer sits right before our eyes, embodied by Shimano’s XTR groupset. Nothing changed regarding the main pillars of these bike parts, remaining as refined, fast, and precise as they were from the very begining. New technology played its part in this evolution, and you don’t have to be an expert to figure out that lying in front of you is the very best that engineers could come up with regarding cycling.

XTR is currently available in the 2 versions, namely Race and Trail. The first one is designed for cross-country racing, while the latter makes a perfect match with bikes from the all mountain and enduro category. Basicly, Shimano filled the gap that appeared in the past months, now offering a top-end solution for the riders that enjoy enduro and all-mountain, given that up until now, the best that the Japanese manufacturer had to offer in this respect was the mid-level SLX groupset. So, what remains to do when a bike spec’d with the new XTR Trail shifters, derailleurs, crankset and sprockets is within hand’s reach? Test it, of course!

Once on the bike, I started shifting gears without any particular reason or logic, only to convince myself if performance remained the same. And it did, just like in the case of an unchanged old friend which is of a perfect steadiness throught time. It’s quite hard to find the right words to describe how well shifting works, and I kind of believe that those words do not exist yet, so I can only invite you to take a spin with these components if you have the opportunity.

Both the rear and front derailleurs work like clockwork, regardless of terrain type or slope gradient. When shifting under stress, some noises tend to be heard, but that’s rather normal. The main idea is that Shimano took into consideration the more risky situations that a derailleur faces, especially given that all mountain and/or enduro rides simply demand more from the bikes and components. The Shadow RD+ will cancel any attempt of the chain to slap, but you must know that functioning will become slightly slower when the system is activated, yet without any major consequences.

As for the front derailleur, actuation is a delicious piece of cake, and compared to a mid-level derailleur, the effort put into reaching XTR Trail’s performance reveals itself instantly. It’s also true that the shifters play their part, still features like the design of the chainrings suggest that the entire gropuset was built in such a manner as to work perfectly as a whole.

XTR Trail also wins the weight war with it’s main rival, SRAM’s X.0 groupset, by 100 grams. X.0’s performance is mostly the same, but the Japanese components look stronger, and more carefully brushed up. Going further with the comparison, the X.0 crankset has a bigger chance of getting scratched in hectic conditions, and while it uses carbon crankarms, it’s still 130 grams heavier than XTR’s one. Also, XTR’s rear derailleur is more compact, thus sitting behind the frame and out of harm’s way, with the shifters offering the 2-way release function that allows you to go down 2 sprockets at a time, or up to 5 with one push.

Shimano’s XTR Trail offers an unique experience that you won’t forget to soon. What was top notch in the past became even better now, in the same time raising the question: where will Shimano go from here? With all do respect, it’s simply the best transmission system that money can buy, being from most points of view perfect. Of course, in case you didn’t know this by now…

Drivetrain type: 2×10 speed
Rear derailleur weight: 215 grams
Front derailleur weight: 121 grams
Crankset weight: 658 grams

Shifter weight: 232 grams
Sprocket cassette weight: 268 grams