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Shimano XTR M9000 Di2 - The Review

04 July 2015
portrait-on-wall2015 - Year of the Shimano XTR Di2 upgrade.

It was a few months ago now that I was gifted with the 2015 Liv 27.5 Lust Advanced 0 from Giant.  This years colours are to my liking with aqua purple and black giving it a feminine and strong appearance.

Stoked to get the new bike, I was only a few weeks off receiving my aftermarket special delivery of XTR goodness to stick on this lovely Lust.  The conversation with Mitch at Shimano went something like this,”Jess would you like to try out the Di2 XTR gear this year on your no.1 bike?” and my answer went something like this, “Yes MITCH, yes please, that would be awesome and I would love to…did I sound too eager?” 

Along with this special present I also received the mechanical XTR gear to pop on my other bike when I get a moment…but dear me, bike refits, moving house, racing, overseas trips and running a business have made the process a bit a slower, but I am here now and I am going to rave about it and give you my take on why Di2 over the standard XTR. 

Back in late April, before I could even ride with it, Norm had to sift through the sexy XTR boxes, read manuals and watch youtube videos to make sure he got it all right. After market fit outs are never bog standard let alone ensuring you get all the wiring and external battery housing, gear shifters etc…all on the bike and working like they should be.

Like anything though if you do your research first, work out the plan for how its actually going to happen, then the rest runs smoothly.  Having a Norm helps too, everyone needs a good Norm.

shifterSome of the important things we had to decide early on was did we want the FD Firebolt shifter on the handlebars, or did we want it set up as a single shifter dedicated to synchronise when the shift up or down the front chain rings would occur.  You might think right now sounds a little confusing or a bit of work before you can even ride this sexy gear, but really it simplifies the end result, which is You out on a trail, just changing gears with one shifter as you feel the need and stuff just happens.Screen Shot 2015-07-04 at 19.47.01And even then you can go back into the Shimano Di2 software portal and rejig it again if you know you have a race coming up that is more big chain ring orientated or small chain ring climbing.

Just plug the cable into the charger port and then the usb into your laptop, we run Mac so we had to grab an old windows lap top for this job. Mac version soon??
Its called the E-tube project http://e-tubeproject.shimano.com/synchronized_shift_map.html 

rear-derailluerThe XTR Cassette is 11-40t so you are totally covered for any terrain and with a 2x11 XTR Race Crankset of 36/26 there is so much range, you wont ever have to wish you had a bigger front chain ring or smaller front chain ring like happens with the 1 x’s.

The last big race I used this for was the Forrest 6hr on May 2nd, a 6hr multi lap enduro with laps around 12km long and approx 120mts of climbing per lap.  Based on that information I asked nicely for my “Norm” to synch the gear shifts so that I could use more range of the cassette without it dropping into the small chain ring and for the entire 6 hrs I was totally happy being in the 36 at the front with a couple of gears left at the top on the rear.

cranksAs I said at the beginning of this topic, it might sound like work you can’t be bothered doing, but once its done, you can set and forget, or re synch based on the information you have about a course or race you have coming up…or better still, you can just pop on a LH shifter and use the FD  manually.  For me I now have the uncluttered look that many 1x riders claim to love, and I agree, its simple and clutter free…but it also gives me the room for my beloved front fork lockout and dropper seat post lever. Win! whole-bikeSo how do you power all this technology, especially if you are popping these babies on a bike you own and love already?
A battery! But where do you put it?

There are a lot of options including for tall kiddies without dropper seat posts, a hidden internal battery for positioning in such places as a seat post. Not for this short legged friend that has a dual suspension bike, dropper seat post and small frame.  The external mount is an a streamlined bottle cage mount unit.  I am yet to work out how to best tidy up the cables that run to and from it, but have wrapped them up neatly in black electrical tape for the time being until I see the perfect gadget to make it happen.

displayI have used 2 of the 5 bars that show up on the di2 display area.  That was a 6 hour race, many many MANY gear changes and 100km of single track riding.  There is every probability the battery would last around 300km of proper mountain bike riding and even more if it was dirt road/fire road kind of riding.  I run the Dura -ace Di2 on my Liv Envie and after doing 3000km over in Europe over 30 days of riding I thought it might be a wise idea to charge it when I got home, but I didn't get caught out - yet!

Now speaking of the battery and the mount, it does add weight, but it really doesn't matter because the rest of the group set is light weight, sexy and in the end its on a par with the mechanical job, but you now have the technology!

Once my bike was set up and we got the gear synch right for me I could not be happier with the shifting, I have instantly become lazy, one shift Annie you can call me. No brains, do I need to pedal easier? Do I need to pedal harder? click click…  And speaking of click you might think that an electronic shift doesn’t give you that mechanical feel, however the Shimano guys have made sure there is a firm and positive mechanical feel to the shifting, which I love.

Six hours of constant single track was a perfect test ground to get my groove on with the new fit out and I was happy with how I presented myself to the masses.

I mean, the shining glossy in your face smoky metallic look is sexy, there is no one on this earth that would not get a smile on the dial polishing this gear up on race day.

Another major benefit that I can see with this new electronic wizardry is in the lack of cable stretch etc and hence lack of maintenance… might be doing Normie out of a job. 

wheel2I have been using Shimano XTR for over 5 years now, I have always said its hard wearing bombproof and reliable as I have taken my bikes to many places over many races.  This year I am looking forward to testing this with the battery life, as I have a 24hr race coming up in October at Mt Stromlo.  Over the next few months I will rack up the hours and see what the limit is, hopefully I remember to post about it! 

Good luck with your upgrade…just like the road Di2, it WILL become more mainstream over the next 12 months, have fun when you do get onboard!