2013 Shimano SLX Groupset
Okay, so I’m the editor here and I get to decide who reviews what. When it came time to check out the 2013 SLX groupset, I had to find a contributor who was able put some time on all of the new bits. At the time everyone was busy with test bikes, so it came down to me. My hardtail is SRAM equipped and I was testing their new Type 2 derailleur, so the SLX was destined for my XTR equipped dually. Now I don’t want to sound snobbish, but I like XTR and the thought of stripping my bike down to rebuild it with the mid-range SLX parts didn’t fill me with excitement!
While I run a 2x10 drivetrain on my hardtail, I like having a triple chainring set-up on the dually—I find it better for the more technically demanding trails where I’m likely to be riding that particular bike. Still, I’ve been curious about running a lower geared, more trail oriented 2x10 set-up for some time. As it happens, 2x10 and a broad choice in chainring sizes is one of the drawcards for 2013 SLX. Using the opportunity to try some lower geared 2x10 as my bait, I peeled the shiny XTR off and got the test underway…
The current generation of XTR was launched in 2010/11 and since then the features have filtered down to the more affordable XT and SLX groups. As of 2013, SLX has gained just about every option and feature from XTR, just with a lower quality finish, more affordable materials and some less-involved manufacturing techniques.
As of 2012, SLX had already gained the new-style XTR inspired brakes. For 2013 all of the remaining parts cop a visual rework to signal the update. With the new parts mounted to my bike I was far from disappointed. The contrasting black and polished silver ‘X’ in the cranks and rear derailleur echoes XTR styling and at a glance, I’d say that it looks sharper than XT in its appearance. The only aesthetic let-down in my mind is the pressed alloy big chainring, which clearly signals its more cost-sensitive construction. My initial reluctance had turned around and I really liked the look of my SLX equipped ride.
The double chainring option is one of the big-news items for 2013 SLX. In addition to the 24/32/42 triple (which also gets the updated styling), the double-specific crank will come in 28/40, 26/38 and an all-new 24/38 option. Some may remember that Shimano used to offer SLX in a trail oriented 22/36/bashguard double but it didn’t carry over when they made the move to 10-speed.
Lower ratio double chainrings are appealing to 29er riders as well as 26-inch trail bike riders who want gearing to get up steep hills—pop me into the latter category thanks! Like the current XT double crank, the 2x spider runs a common four-arm 104/64 bolt circle. While this sizing is the same as the triple cranks, the profile is double-specific with no room for a bashguard. Go with the triple ring cranks if you want to run a two-ring with bashguard set-up.
On the scales our 24/38 cranks weighed 837g including the bottom bracket. The older triple ring SLX cranks came in at 887g so don’t expect massive weight savings with a double—it’s more about choosing the gear format that suits your trails. Compared to a 28/40 XT crankset, SLX version only adds 10g. Aesthetically I prefer the SLX arms and spider, so XT really only wins out with its better quality chainrings with their machined teeth and shift ramps.
SLX front derailleurs now come in either double or triple specific versions with the cage profiles tailored to suit. Further to that, each type will now cater for all of the new current frame mounting systems; E-type and direct mount as well as the traditional high and low clamp versions. The cage profile has been tweaked to shift better on suspension bikes (where the chain position varies throughout the travel) and the cable mounting point has been modified to provide better tyre clearance for 29ers.