You cannot halt the great wheel of progress! Since unveiling their first 11-speed groupset two years ago with the show stopping XTR Di2 groupset, Shimano have continued to roll out 11-speed offerings. The renowned SLX grouppo is the latest to get a freshen up, and we've just secured a kit to test.
The not-so-minor details
Shimano SLX 1x11 Groupset
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Pricing is approximate
Price with brakes:
Price w/o brakes:
Amazingly good value.
Build quality seems excellent.
Without a doubt, this is best looking version of SLX yet. In many respects, at least visually, we prefer it to XT, especially the new crank arm. It’s a stunner.
While Shimano do offer the SLX in multiple chain ring options, we opted to go for a 1×11 setup. For the trails we ride, a single chain ring paired to an 11-42 cassette is all the range we need.
Upon receiving our SLX grouppo, we were both surprised and pleased to see that there have been some major changes to the Shimano 1×11 chain rings. Gone are the blocky, square-topped teeth that we saw on XT and XTR single rings. Instead, you’ll find an adaption of the narrow/wide tooth profile that has been utilised by SRAM and so many aftermarket chain ring manufacturers. Shimano call the new profile Direct Chain Engagement +.
The tooth profile change is a positive move. We always found that the previous square tooth profile was rather noisy when riding in the lowest gear out back, and we had suspicions this was causing premature chain wear too. Shimano claim the new profile is both quieter running and harder wearing, and it will be introduced as a running change to XT and XTR as well. We’re yet to ride this bike in anger, but in the work stand at least, the chain seems to run noticeably more smoothly with this new chain ring, when compared to our XT test groupset which has the old tooth profile.
Just like with XT, the SLX grouppo has a number of cassette options, with 11-40 or 11-42 sizes in 11-speed. There’s also an 11-40 ten-speed option, which is designed for use with a triple chain ring – it’s purely intended for touring, towing trailers up Kosciusko and the like.
The 11-42 cassette we opted for is rather hefty, at just over 460g (about 50g heavier than XT). When it comes to 11-speed cassette weights, Shimano have some ground to make up. SRAM’s GX 11775 11-speed cassette, which we’d say is roughly equivalent to SLX in market positioning, is a sizeable 140g lighter.
Externally, the SLX brakes are basically unchanged, excluding the new new black finish. But internally, there has been some tweaking to the master cylinder shape to ensure even more lever feel consistency. The pads get the F1-esque Ice Tech fins, and the rotors are Ice Tech numbers too, with a two-piece design for better heat dissipation. The actual braking surface itself is stainless steel, but the inner core of the rotor is aluminium, which further aids heat management.
We’ve fitted our groupset to a Giant Trance 1 frame. A real workhorse of a trail bike, perfect for testing out this workhorse groupset we feel. Built up with XT wheels (tubeless), a FOX 34 and PRO Koryak alloy bar/stem and XTR Trail pedals, the complete bike weighs in at 13.14kg.
Pricing on SLX is pretty damn hot, and we’re sure it’ll inspire a lot of fence sitters to make the jump from their old 10-speed groupset and go to 1×11. Shimano don’t set RRPs, but based on our estimates a 1×11 conversion (an SLX shifter, cassette, derailleur, chain and 1×11 crankset) will set you back about $650. Adding brakes into the mix will make it about $1000. Now that is seriously affordable, especially as you don’t need to swap out a freehub body too.
We’ll be riding SLX consistently over the next few weeks to see how it performs, so check back soon for more.