Best Mountain Bike Drivetrain

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TRS Plus Cassette

Over the past few years we have seen a tremendous improvement in the entry and mid level drivetrain components category. SRAM surprised us all with the quality and performance of the GX groupset, and then by releasing the NX groupset. Shimano redesigned the SLX and Deore groupsets, M7000 and M6000 respectively. All this, left previous drivetrain components very behind.

SRAM GX Eagle vs Shimano XT M8000

Following the release of the 12-speed Eagle X01 Groupset more than a year ago, SRAM decided to release a more “affordable” but fully compatible 12-speed GX Eagle groupset that completely raised the bar in the mid-range category. Shimano on the other hand offers a fantastic 11 speed groupset for a lot less. The thing is, SRAM’s GX Eagle is definitely cheaper than the X01 version, but still a lot more expensive than the XT counterpart.

A Shimano CS-M8000 cassette goes for about $60 at the time of writing this, while the SRAM XG-1275 cassette is about $115, and that is just the cassette.

Eagle Intro

SRAM GX Eagle

While we made clear that the GX is still more expensive than the XT counterpart, it is still affordable at about $375 for a cassette, shifter, chain and derailleur. Add the crankset and you are still just below the $500 mark. Impressive, just thinking about switching to a 12 speed drivetrain last year was crazy talk.

But keep in mind that to get your bike switched to an Eagle drivetrain you will need to replace your shifter, derailleur, cassette and chain. Also check your crankset for compatibility.

Shimano XT M8000

In 2015, Shimano released the M8000 groupset, replacing the M780 and rasing the bar in the mid range. The M8000 is available in 10-42T range (can be one-up’ed to 46T) and can be used in a 1x or 2x configuration. These components are almost as light as the GX, reliable and even 3 years later are still considered top in the category. The XT brakes are an industry standard, offering excelent raw power and reliability.

Shimano SLX M7000

Now, let’s talk about the SLX. For years, Shimano’s SLX groupset has offered incredible performance for less. In fact, you can now grab an M7000 shifter, cassette and derailleur for a total of $126. Should I mention that it’s the same price of a GX Eagle cassette?.

Another thing to consider with Shimano drivetrains is that they are compatible with 2x and 3x configurations. If you still haven’t jumped on the bandwagon of one-by, Shimano will be your best option.

Are electronics worth the cost?

We can’t talk about drivetrains without talking about Shimano’s Di2 electronic groupset: M8050 1×11.

Ride what’s good enough for you

At the end of the day it comes down to what you feel is good enough for your style. If you are one of the riders that barely or can’t even feel a difference between using SLX or XT components, then stick to SLX. If you are already riding XT or can definitely feel differences between SLX and XT components, stick to XT. If you have been dreaming about owning a 12 speed drivetrain but found that X01 Eagle was too expensive, you will be extremely happy with the GX version. At the end, it all comes down to how much you want to spend and if you can take real avatange of it.

Categories: Buying Guide