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Behind the scenes - working on prototypes of Shimano’s new XTR

Let’s face it, we mountainbikers love new gear. We’re always tinkering with our bikes, tuning them, improving them or…well, fixing them. Our riding improves, we get stronger, better, ride more and farther. Mountainbiking is a passion, fueled by that improvement of fitness, skills and abilities. Shimano’s XTR history goes way back and reflects that passion. It was, is and always will be developed by riders, for riders. Before a product finds its way to your bike, we’ve already tested beyond its limits. On all sorts of terrain, by all sorts of riders. A glimpse into the development of our newest XTR…

Emil Lindgren is one of our riders who plays an active role as a test rider. His racing background, competing at the highest levels of racing, as well as his technical skills, provide Shimano with valuable feedback on our new products.

Development of new products is a long process, going through many stages. It all starts with what our riders and partners want. Their input is used throughout the development cycle, both in drafting the product’s demand as well as putting it to the test as soon as the first prototype is ready to be mounted. Especially for mountainbike products, there is no substitute for real world testing. Call it a zero tolerance procedure; we put our prototypes through hell on the trails.

Our test riders are avid mountainbikers, spread across the globe, active in a multitude of disciplines. Our XTR group is our top of the line product developed with racing in mind. It has to be put through its paces to make sure it can take the beating we mountainbikers will put it through.

Engineers working on a Scylence hub prototype with one of the first Micro Spline mount.

In this development cycle, we get the engineers and test riders together on multiple occasions. This way riders can communicate their findings to the engineers straight away. Alterations can be made on the spot and the riders go out to test the modifications. Sometimes this leads to surprising finds; both for riders and engineers. In the past, super-smooth shifters were given to our riders, who quickly came back and asked if it was possible to have the shifter give an audible. In the field testing offers the opportunity to provide immediate feedback to the developing engineering team. Quick alterations can be made and put to the test. Besides riding, our riders spend a lot of time providing feedback to the engineering team.

‘click’ on shifting, as well as one which could be felt by the rider. Our newest shifter has improved rider feedback even further.

For us mountainbikers, our brakes are cherished. They provide control and stopping power. The lever feel is ever so important; it needs to be firm and precise. Huge improvements were made throughout the brake, but one of the more subtle changes is found in the lever; the dual contact points enhance rigidity resulting in a firm feel of the brake. Although our lab equipment can measure almost anything, the real-life feel of that lever for a rider can not be emulated. Development starts in the lab, but is finalised on the trails.

Sometimes crude measures are used to make quick alterations to prototypes. It is a huge timesaver, as a quick test can be done to see if it will work. Afterwards it is back to the drawing board to make the necessary design changes.

Airport security is in for a couple of surprises whenever our engineers come over

A prototype CNC’ed XTR 9100 shifter.

Years later, we have our new XTR groupset ready. We’ve spent countless hours in designing and engineering, testing it on the trails, going back to the drawing board, churn out new prototypes in our CNC machines and getting back on it on the trails. What you see now is the accumulation of four years of work, combined with Shimano’s heritage in mountainbiking, resulting in the ultimate mountainbike groupset. And while you’re reading this, we’ve already started working on the next generation. TIme to hit the trails. 

A prototype cassette is ready for action.

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