Shimano Component Groups for Mountain Bikes: A Comprehensive Overview

Just in case you mtb-ers thought I forgot about you, think again.

Here’s a look at all the component groups for mountain bikes that Shimano has out, starting from the bottom up.


Shimano Alivio

This is Shimano’s entry level mountain bike components group. The shifters are ergonomic, with a very visible display so that you can see what gear you’re in. The system offers v-brakes or discs and comes in 9 speeds. There are no brakes that come with this but Shimano makes several non-series parts which you can mix and match with.


Shimano Deore

What Tiagra is to road biking, in terms of reliability and a good yet versatile group to build on, Deore is to Shimano’s mountain bike component group line. It’s got 9 speeds in the back and may not be as quick to shift as its higher end counterparts but it is flexible enough to meet the needs of your mountain biker who doesn’t have the coin to really shell out but is looking for performance. It may not look as sharp but it does get the job done.


Shimano SLX

This group has several perks: you can easily upgrade it, it has the Shadow clutch system (which prevents chain sag and bounce, keeping your chain nice and taut) and it’s got 10 speeds, as opposed to the Deore’s nine. It also features RapidFire shifting and the Ice Technologies braking system which prevents overheating of the brakes and the underperformance that heating can cause. This is your value package with a performance edge.

Deore XT

Shimano Deore XT

The XT stands for “exclusive technology” and the Deore XT is exactly that. With a new generation RapidFire Plus shifter, Ice Technologies brake pads and multi-layered brake rotors and 10-speed Hollowtech II crankset system (a two-piece crankarm/bottom bracket which was originally introduced in 2004 for road bikes with the Dura-Ace), you’ve got yourself a ride with nothing to be ashamed of. This is a fantastic component group for those who want to hit the pavement hard, love the mountain biking but can’t really shell out the performance change. It may not be as light as the heavy-hitters but you do get a whole lot of bang for your buck.


Shimano Zee

The Zee is an interesting component group in that it only has one chainring and 10 speeds in the back, offering less slack on the chain and a shorter jockey cage for crisper and quicker shifting. The single chainring also means that the Shadow Plus clutch system is perfect for this group and the chain is specifically designed for the 10 speeds. It’s got the Ice Technologies on the disc brakes, so you don’t overheat your pads. This is a fantastic option for the wallet of the downhiller or the cross country biker.

The New Saint

Shimano New Saint

This is the downhiller’s wet dream. The older jock brother of the Zee, it was designed under the Pure Gravity concept and dedicated to the God of Speed. It also features the Hollowtech II crank, which is made out of duraluminum, making for a light but durable component. It also uses Ice Technologies on the brakes, has a single chainring, 10 speeds in the back and all the sweet perks of the Zee but with a difference: it’s lighter and more refined. It’s got radiator fins on the disc rotors for better cooling and it’s very silent going through the gears. And the look of the group is just damn sexy.


Shimano XTR

Top of the line Shimano mountain bike component group, this line comes in two modalities: race and trail. Introducing a first for Shimano, this group offers a two-ring crank for off-road. In terms of brakes, the difference between the race and the trail is that the trail brakes are heavy-duty and are made for the severe punishment that trail riding entails. With 10 speeds in the back, wheels that only come with the option for disc brakes and no v-brakes, duraluminum crank construction and the Ice Technologies of the brakes, you’ve got yourself a technologically advanced system for the serious trail rider who wants to get in a good ride without compromising speed.