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Shimano Deore - The Unsung Hero

17:35 25th March 2013 by Ed Haythornthwaite
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In the latest issue of Dirt (134) I wrote the article at the bottom of this post about the often overlooked Shimano Deore groupset, but now I’m interested in hearing what you lot reckon. Does the lure of a higher end label on a rear mech make you lose any sense of reason? I mean can you really tell the difference when riding, or would the extra money be better spent elsewhere? Personally I would rather the money go towards something that makes a bigger difference, like upgraded suspension or wheels. I know people will claim that an XTR rear mech (by the way we’re not just talking rear mechs here, but they offer a good example) gives better shifting and lasts longer than a Deore mech, but in reality I reckon those qualities are almost indistinguishable and all that’s really left is a weight difference. If all you want to do is save weight, then I reckon pound for pound (or should i say gram?) you could spend your money more wisely.

If I had to build up a new bike to a set budget the most important thing to me would be the frame. Then I’d make sure that it has the best suspension that I could afford, front and rear, and then I’d find myself a great set of wheels. Whatever money I had left would then be spent on all the other bits and bobs. The problem as I see it though is that very few, if any bike manufacturers sell complete bikes in this way. Instead you’ll get a particular frame which is then offered with a range of different builds with all the components set at a similar level. For example at the cheap end you’ll get cheap everything, in the middle you’ll get average everything, and then at wallet busting prices you’ll get pimp everything. Do we all want this though? I don’t, I’d rather have those key points addressed and then gradually upgrade the other bits and bobs as and when I can/they wear out. Why not take that attitude with the suspension and wheels? Well for one those items are normally amongst the most expensive components on a bike and so you don’t really want to have to change them if you can avoid it (how many people really upgrade their rear shock from the one that their bike came supplied with?), and secondly I think those parts make the biggest difference to a way a bike rides and so I’d want those bits as good as possible from day one. The rest is almost a luxury as far as I see it.

So, would you prefer it if bike companies carried on offering bikes the way they are doing so now? Does that almost out of place fancy rear mech hold your gaze so much that you almost overlook the rest of the bike? Or would you rather see well thought out savings in some areas which allow upgrades in other arguably more important areas? I suppose the killer question is would you be happy riding a rad bike which has a Deore mech stuck on the rear, or would that somehow detract from your riding pleasure? Come on, be honest with yourself…

THE UNSUNG HERO; SHIMANO DEORE

THE BARGAIN GROUPSET GETS A MAKEOVER

It always seems to be the ‘latest and greatest’ products that get us mountain bikers talking. If a company releases some new high-end wonder, then you can bet that we’ll be talking about it, even if there’s not a cat in hells chance that we’ll ever be able to afford it. That’s all well and good, but I reckon we should stop for a moment and instead focus for a minute on appreciating just how good something can be, even if it’s neither expensive nor particularly exciting.

I think it’s probably fair to say that very few, if any of our readers aspire to own a Deore equipped bike. XTR, XT, X0 etc. then maybe, but Deore no. The thing is though that ever since it was first introduced years ago I reckon Deore has probably been Shimano’s best value groupset. I think we almost take for granted these days just how well it works. Yes it’s obviously a bit heavier than more expensive offerings, and it might not have all the latest bells and whistles, but when I had a quick spin on this latest version of Deore it struck me that it’s probably all that I really need.

Let’s start with the gears. The shifter feels light and positive, worked for me in terms of ergonomics, and it even has ‘2-way release’. Should you wish to you can even get an ‘I-spec’ version which mounts directly to your brake levers. Yes it may well have some plastic internals that aren’t quite as robust as those found in more expensive shifters, but if you make sure your gear cables never get too grotty then that’s unlikely to ever become an issue. At the back Deore now gets a Shadow + clutch system on the rear mech. Perfect. There’s no short cage option, but a medium will do the job. In terms of actual shifting performance both front and rear, if the truth be told it felt just as crisp and quick as my XTR setup. Oh, and of course you can get a Deore 10 speed 11-36t cassette, plus I reckon the cranks (which are plenty stiff and strong enough) actually look pretty decent.

I’ll ignore the hubs, because although they are dirt-cheap I just can’t be bothered to deal with cup and cone bearings these days. Sorry Mr Shimano. That then really leaves me with just the brakes, and those are possibly the biggest Deore success story. The previous Deore brakes were so good that Shimano have taken the wise move to leave them largely unchanged. What they have done however is make the brakes compatible with Ice-Tec pads (should you want to upgrade at a later date), and they now come with a new cheaper Ice-Tec rotor (which makes more difference than the pads anyway). Ok so you need a tool to adjust the reach and you don’t get any bite point adjuster, but that makes little difference on the models which do have it and crucially in use you’d be hard pushed to tell the difference between these and the incredible XTR trail brakes. Remember though, these brakes will set you back just a fraction of the cost.

So now do you see why I reckon we should be singing the praises of Deore? It might not be sexy or cool, but it works a treat and doesn’t cost a fortune. Personally I’d like to see more bikes coming equipped with Deore and then any money that is saved by doing that can be spent on upgrading more crucial parts like suspension and wheels instead. I mean I’d much rather ride a bike with those bits sorted and some Deore, than a bike dripping in XTR which has suffered cost cutting as a result elsewhere. Deore really does embody the whole ‘trickledown technology’ thing, and maybe the smartest move is to let all the suckers fund pushing things forward while you sit back and reap the bargain benefits. Don’t all do it though, otherwise we might be screwed…

And in case you missed them before, here are some shots of the latest incarnation of Shimano’s Deore…

  1. Rod Kimble

    Love Deore – got a set of brakes that have been faultless for the 5 years they’ve been on my bike. Been all over the Alps and UK with nothing more than an occasional top up of oil and change of pads. Bargain.

  2. Andy Trafford

    You’re absolutely 100% right. I’m currently building up a new bike, and while it’s going to be the most expensive bike I’ve ever owned, I still had to work to a budget. Frame and suspension were the first things to be chosen. After that, wheels, brakes and dropper post. Drivetrain and finishing kit were left to fight amongst themselves for whatever pennies were left. I’m ending up with a mixture of Zee and XT, and that suits me fine. I’d rather the money go to those super-sexy Industry Nine wheels. As for Deore, I think it says a lot that the only parts of my old bike (a 2002 Orange Patriot) that haven’t been upgraded are the frame and the Deore brakes. The Deores may be 11 years old, but they aren’t outclassed (much) by the X0, Noir, and Renthal bits that they share a frame with.

  3. Mushy

    I’ve been using my set of deore brakes since 2006 and they still work perfectly. Completely agree with the article, would make so much sense for the consumer for bike companies to offer bike builds in that way. Not sure if the drivetrain manufacturers would agree though…

  4. Rich

    Agree, Deore brakes at £80 a set are far better than brakes of other makes costing twice the price (eg Hope, Magura, Formula one)…

  5. Beau

    I have been using deore rear derailleurs, shifters for years, I have had lx and xt and xtr but deore seems to last me alot longer.I am an average rider, i.e. not world cup calibre, the cost savings far outweighs the very small extra weight increase. Additionally i use avid mechanical discs brakes and never have to bleed them…Just change a cable and go! more riding time less mechanical issues!

  6. Kristian Kennedy

    The only things I don’t like about Deore is the name (because it sounds a little ‘deflated’) and the manufacturer…let me explain: I started off with an LX Deore loadout on my first ‘serious’ bike (Marin Wolf Ridge 2006/7 – don’t laugh!), then over a period of 2 years gradualy worked up through the ranks and got to the dissy heights of XTR (the 970 series) throughout, then that failed on me, failed to the extent that gear-slipping was happening every ride after a car-park tune-up prior, yes I was using pre-stretched cabes and adjusting the tension yadda yadda yadda, even tried going to saint because I thought I was being too rough with the XTR kit, AM & a bit of DH…same issue. Basicaly the shifters are sweet as (for XTR and saint)… the derailiure-mechs are CR4P for the money paid!… the return spring is no-way near strong/ rigid enough to give you a solid return… before I went all pimp-daddy with the XTR and saint kit I never had/ very rarey had any issues with the LX loadout. Then, begrudgingly, I tried a SRAM X9 series on a 1×10 setup – OMG: after 4 years of admitedly blind loyalty to shimano – I was converted in one ride! Basicaly for low-end to mid-range spec kit: Deore is your friend for the high-end stuff – you really are in the realm of diminishing returns, and if spunk1ng cash on XTR/ Saint kit – I’d argue: your better off with LX!! for the drive train, the saint and XTR brakes are good – but the cash-delta between them and the LX brakes is no-way near justified IMHO! to summarise:
    Chain-rings: Shimano (they’re good at cutting shapes from metal)
    Cranks: Shimano (or truvativ if you can get the right price)
    Shifting Gear: SRAM X7/ X9 (not that XO XX Xi crud – aint worth the cash, and doesn’t take a bash-guard – DUH!)
    Brakes: Shimano/ Avid (Hope if you can afford it)

    Hope & Easton everywhere if you can afford it

    Best regards,

    K-Lunge, Monmouth Mud Mashers [M3] ;-)

    1. sammy

      That could of been due to a bent mech hanger or worn chain/cassette very unlikely that it skipped because of the mech

  7. Johan

    Completly agree with the author. Runnig Zee mech/shifter on a v10 carbon with CCDB shock, carbon wheels and an AVA kitted boxxer to name the important parts. Cant even fault the Zee one bit, one small adjustment in seven months on it. No slop or play, shifts good enough (not as a positive feel as a X9 setup. So in short, i think shimano really has done a wonderful job with their low end mechs, and this is coming from a previous SRAM fanatic.

  8. dirtmonsta

    Ed, I’m with you on the bike build front. It drives me crazy. Bike manufacturers spec their bikes with stuff they think will sell it. Often not what will make the best bike for the money. Most buyers see a fox fork / shock and they are happy because it is fox and that’s what loads of the pros use. They don’t know the difference in the models and that loads of companies spec OEM fox kit – which often lacks the performance of the aftermarket kit. They then look at brakes, groups sets etc.

    In my opinion only one company have it right for sensible money and that’s Morewood. Frames designed and manufactured in the same factory in South Africa, quality build specs with BOS front and rear on most the bikes. The rest of the build is pretty good too. You can also get one through your local bike shop so you have the on going support that is lacking on the direct offerings. The Makulu Coil at £3,500 has got to be the cheapest worldcup level bike?

  9. joecantello

    I had a set of deore cranks on my Spec Pitch but upgraded them to XTR cranks. For me the only reason was that i adored the old XTR cranks for years and they looked way better than silver deores.

    So basically at the time i had to more money than sense!

  10. Maximilian

    Ed, this article is necessary, but if I didn’t read all your other writings in the last six years since I am a Dirt Mag subscriber, I’d say you’re a bit naive.

    The bike industry sells bikes on a “what rear derailleur it has” criteria since 20 years now; it didn’t happen yesterday. As you work in the media, thus in the industry, I find it a bit contradictory.

    Clutch, non-clutch, 2-way release or not, 10-speed, 8 speed, the drivetrain is less important than we like to believe most of the times. Of course there are differences, but how much do they matter? I bet you can still ride a bike that comes with a M737 XT rear derailleur and the simplest 8S shifters of 1998 just like you do on your 10-speed freshie. I use old 9-speed X-9 on my DH bike, but I do have a CCDB, Boxxer R2C2 and DT/Mavic/Sapim wheels. The rear derailleur didn’t bother me once and when it did, it was the cable or the housing’s fault. This is another myth that we are forgetting about: when the rear derailleur doesn’t work as it should, it usually is the last piece of housing that is dirty as it is the most exposed.

    Deore has been great value since it had another name, the days of STX, STX-RC and Alivio of 1994. How do I know? I still have bits from those groupsets and they still work flawlessly. So this is not new, as I said. And our perception also isn’t. Product managers are maybe the smartest people of the industry. They know what we want before we know we want it. And they don’t gamble much. Speaking of archaic cup and cone hubs, did you notice how many brands still spec ugly-ass and heavy M475 rear ones? To me this means they must be a product with a very good price/functionality/durability ratio or otherwise no brand would use them. And let’s also be honest about trendy bearing hubs: not everybody is King or Hope and anodizing doesn’t mean quality. And you can have the best SKF or INA bearings if your hub isn’t well constructed and attracts grime like a magnet. Just ask NukeProof about their first generation Generator hubs and how many seals they thought of on the front hub! ;) Hope weight, almost Hope price, but miles away from Hope quality. In the meantime, my M737 and M565 still spin perfectly and I don’t even like Shimano.

    And the day of indestructible M730 XT and M900 XTR? They are never coming back. Never. And Bologna-made Marzocchi with full-metal internals neither. Those companies need to eat, just like we do.

    Bottom line: it’s good to tell people about this, but it’s been here all the time. Let’s open some more minds and, as Chuck D put it, don’t believe the hype!

    Keep it up, Ed!
    Mx

    1. Ed

      You’re spot on Max, and yes the whole selling of a bike based on its rear mech has indeed been going on since the dawn of time. I just wrote this piece to try and get people to think about it some more, and you’ve actually made me do the same.

      I think you’re right about product managers not being wrong as I bet the vast majority of bikes are sold to people who don’t really take cycling too seriously. For those people a fancy rear mech almost certainly does help sell them a bike, and it’ll probably always remain like that too. But, I definitely reckon there’s a place for companies that tailor their spec’s towards the more discerning rider. I mean there are plenty of high-end companies who must sell the vast majority of their bikes to serious cyclists, and so shouldn’t they offer some really well thought out spec’s rather than just following convention?

      To be fair there are few companies who offer custom build kits and I reckon this is a great way to go. For example with an Orange Five you could go for a basic ‘S’ model and then you can chose to upgrade any of the more crucial components. This means that you can get very close to a full custom build, but without having to pay such a price penalty compared to an off the peg bike.

      Of course offering this isn’t easy for either the manufacturer or any shop having to sell them, and of course taking the easy route has it’s obvious attractions. From the days when I worked in bike shops I can still remember how much easier it was to sell say a Giant bike which came with fancy kit hung off an average frame, compared with substantially nicer frame which had fractionally cheaper kit. If you had a real enthusiast as a customer then you might have some luck with the later, but your average Joe would almost always go for the former. Actually, that’s just reminded me of a classic customer who really did get a bit confused about the whole ‘upgrade’ thing. He bought a £250 hardtail and then over the next couple of years he kitted out bike with the most expensive groupset and finishing kit that he could lay his hands on. The frame and forks remained the same, and unsurprisingly it still rode like a piece of shit despite all the money spent on it. I reckon a new gear cable is often by far the best upgrade that you can treat your bike to, and it costs just a few quid.

      So are we doomed to these kind of off the peg builds forever? Well I reckon your ‘average’ bike probably is, that’s a lost cause, but I reckon it’d be great if we did see some more companies offering more affordable semi-custom builds, or even just great off the peg ‘real world’ specs.

      Oh, and contrary to what you might think, not all media feels compelled to constantly please the industry as a whole, I just say what I feel.

      1. Maximilian

        Thanks for replying, Ed! The “media” part of things was meant as props to you for making this move. It is a matter of admiration and “there still is hope” even though people bitch and whine about Dirt Mag being less what it was in the past. But it is true that it is becoming harder and harder to filter through the quality articles and the hype these days when everybody can put up a blog or a site. As a MTB journalist in a small Eastern European country, trust me it’s even worse in terms of what you are expected to do and how the industry perceives you. So please don’t take it any different than brotherly respect and send a hello to Jones. His rants always get the best of me.

        No back to bikes, I agree with all you say but I can’t help replying that we can’t be upset when it rains. The industry is business oriented and it’s main goal is making money. Let’s not forget that. It’s just the way things are. I remember that in the late nineties there were a few smaller companies who were going a different route than the big players. Trek or Giant were putting LP-26 BBs and cheap cables on their mid range LX/XT bikes while Rose or Steppenwolf upgraded LX bikes to XT range BBs and had Gore Ride On cables. Now, of course this has something to do with a certain German way of doing things and it’s not to be taken out of its context, but there were always companies like that, thank god. Times changed a bit and there is a different kind of competition between bike brands out there. Of course a lot of things “would be fair” but they almost never are and the least we can do is take action like you did and express it. Hype will always be here and also good people fighting it.

        I can’t help but thinking about one of the bikes I have around, a 2008 Enduro with X.0, nice DT wheels and awful Specialized suspension made by Fox. Two friends have lower end Pitches with the same frame but “inferior” parts and OEM Pikes. Guess which rides better? I can’t really understand WHY Specialized insisted on shoving us those POS forks down the throat, but I can’t be really upset with that, just happy they don’t do it anymore. And Fox? If there is an epitome of hype, then they are it.

        I always try to educate people in a friendly way, telling them what to focus on and, the most important thing, that the bike that they have at that moment is the best bike in the world, as long as it’s functional. Sadly, people don’t always take positive advice as such and sometimes have the impression that you only want to be a smartass. There will always be people who will ask for advice and then ignore it and others who are so in love with bike bits that they forget the most important part of a bike is the frame. XTR parts with 454 Pike on a Hi-Ten steel supermarket bike? Yes, sir! Well, I guess the battle never ends…

        As I said: keep up that constructive criticism, because we need it!

        Cheers,
        Mx

  11. tombrown

    My performance in terms of fitness & skill can only justify Deore!

    I get through far too many rear mechs to buy anything but Deore. Does an XTR one withstand rock strikes better? No they don’t because you can bend a steel Deore mech back with a bit of stone age trail side mechanics.

  12. Ben Pinnick

    Ed, You and I were clearly separated at birth as we’re preaching the same cause. It drives me nuts that bike companies upspec components with XT mechs and fancy brand OEM forks and then pair back on everything else. I bought a cube a couple of years back that had heavy lifeless wheels, and that set me down a path which I hope I wont regret. 2 buddies and I have set up a bike manufacturing business (were approaching proto stage right now – I wont name the company, this isn’t a plug) building bikes the way people build their own. We’re starting with 3 key elements:

    Frame
    Shocks (Fr and Rr)
    Wheels

    Even our base models (sub £1000) will have lightweight, tough wheels, forks with aftermarket dampers, and quality built frames. No compromise there. These are bits for the life of your bike. These define the bike more than anything else and should be where you spend your money.

    The components are well specced ODM parts, from manufacturers that make alot of great stuff. We stick our name on them so we dont need to pay someone else to have theirs, but they offer good value, sane bar lengths etc. Nothing too pimp, as most of these parts are personal preference, but good enough you’ll only want to change them to save weight, but that will be at a high cost to you.

    The drivetrains? Mainly Deore we imagine. Why not? Its as good as anything once you throw some good old british mud at it. Stuff breaks. It wears out. You will need to replace these parts eventually. They cant be serviced back into life. They just die. We’ll let you decide what you want and when. Yes we’ll probably have an SLX option, maybe XT, who knows maybe even XTR. But you’ll get the same parts on the rest of the bike in most cases.

    Finally, we’e planning on letting you change bits round. Not everything, were going mass market Canyon style, not small niche so we can’t afford to allow everyone to custom spec the bike. But we’ve worked out that the cost of manufacture increases only marginally if we build the bikes 90% of the way, and then let you customise the last 10%. That 10% will make all the difference to the fit and ride of your bike, but adds only 2-3% to the build cost to let you mess with critical ‘feel’ items. You’ll be able to change stems, bars, grips, saddles, pedals, wheels (for rim/width/spoke choice specifically) and tyres without paying a penny more unless there is a material difference in the cost of the parts, which we hope will only be in a few cases.

    We hope what we can end up with is a bike that is fantastic value (no middle men) but built around a core set of components designed to never need upgrading, even if you buy the budget model, a controls/wheels set up that suits you and where you ride, and a drivetrain/brake set up that can grow with you as you replace them out…. which we know you will eventually.

    Wish us luck. I hope for our sakes your sentiment is right :)

    1. Ed

      I do indeed wish you you luck, sounds perfect to me. Make sure you keep us posted on any developments…

  13. Lawman

    Couldn’t agree more!! Spend the money where it’s wise on frame/forks/wheels/brakes and the rest is easily changeable over time as stuff wears out.

    As much as I agree though, still doesn’t stop me buying an XTR mech because I wanted too!! I’ve found shimano stuff lasts way longer than SRAM doesn’t require as much maintanence and the brakes are the best on the market. Those recommending hope if you can afford it are clearly delusional, hope are miles behind shimano in the brakes stakes and the sooner I get rid of my axle snapping happy pro2′s the better. Avid fail at brakes too, utterly hopeless. You’d be mad not to have full shimano on your bike these days, except the hubs, only thing letting the side down massively!!!

  14. owen

    if they made a short cage deore mech, I think it would be more appreciated than it is now. but then, they probably wouldnt sell many of their more expensive short cage mechs…

  15. Maximilian

    The opposite:

    [img]http://www.dirtbike.ro/img/foto/149/38906.jpg[/img]

  16. Matt

    I grew up running Deore as it’s all I could afford at the time. I hammered it and barely ever serviced my bike. Can’t fault it.

  17. Tamas

    What we have to keep in mind is that the whole thing is about one thing, and one thing only: profit. There is a margin to be made for the manufacturer, the importer/distributor, and the dealer too. I think it is no secret that any bike that hits the shop floor at £999 RRP costs about £100 to make, the rest is shipping, marketing plus margin for every link in the supply chain.

    Manufacturers design their bikes within a range to certain price points, and there has to be a big enough price gap between a Random Bike 1.0 and a Random Bike 2.0. If the only upgrade from 2.0 to 1.0 is that you get a SLX mech instead of a Deore, then the retail price difference will only be 5-10% if that, and the consumer will go for the better one almost every time. You have to remember that when buying small parts OEM, price differences are almost negligible from Deore to SLX and SLX to XT.

    So product managers have no other option than to change major components like forks and wheels along with the group sets to create big enough steps in the range. There are some companies who try different business models, like Canyon or Rose, or even YT industries. But the majority of the bike brands still sell in the shops, using the classic supply chain method so they can`t be flexible with the spec. In some cases bike manufacturers have to make a decision on what spec they want 1-2 years in advance in some cases.

    SR Suntour has released their 2014 OEM price list 6 weeks ago for example.

    Sometimes common sense is not the viable option. Especially in corporate environment.

  18. Matt

    Shame they don’t sell it in 9spd… :@

    1. Matt Grindrod

      i’m pretty sure they do…

  19. Sam

    Got to say that ths new Deore looks great, before hand it has looked like the budget option.

    I’ve just bought some of the brakes to replace soe temperamental M4′s and I can’t believe how good they are for eighty quid. Just hope they works as well as my XT’s do.

    The cranks look great as does the mech. I’m yet to try any of be newer Shimsno mechs and shifters though because I run Sram and have done for a while now. My X9 stuff seems to last well but is getting expensive.

    Alo agree about chucking on a few shines parts to hide deficiencies elsewhere. I’d be happy with Deore on a bike if I knew that the wheels brakes and suspension was good. I’ve never been taken in by it, but I know that people do.

  20. mr A

    I run a deore front brake and it’s great.

    I think magazines like MBUK are half the problem. They have always obsessed over components and target riders who are sucked I’m by gimmicks (free stickers!). I subscribed when I was a kid and regret it. They take the focus off riding and put it on ridiculous product comparrisons and upgrades.

    When your aim is to enjoy riding to the best of your ability, then all that matters is whether your bike setup us allowing that. Not being able to say that ‘my rear mech is better than yours’.

  21. beau

    tombrown you think very similiar to me! Very refreshing to see other riders build their own and value what is functional and affordable not what the latest rage is .. i ride azonic.. eliminator and evolution and even being over a decade old are still ripping it up!

  22. David

    Bikes we buy aren’t just specced for the mtb consumer but road cyclists who take up mtb. In road bikes the groupset is almost more important than the frame. There are many more mtb riders with a road background who are buying so many of the bikes. Also bikes are sold to bike shop owners not the consumer and their opinion is important. Most bike shop owners are slightly older generation riders again with a road background. The experienced ‘hardcore’ mtb only riding enthusiast who lives and breathes the sport is a tiny percentage of the market. Road still has a large impact on our sport.

  23. Jonny

    Does anyone know what the product numbers are for these brakes, are they M596? I find it hard to tell the difference between the various generations. I’m looking to replace a set of Avid elixir 3/5 brakes that I’m not getting on with.

  24. WAKi

    When I started biking in 1999, there was a big difference between 950 XTR and Deore. XT was excellent. These days Deore did step up, but at the same time the higher groups went to shit. XTR is only ok while latest XT is utter crap for the money. I wasted 250 quid this season for this pish incl. brakes. For me SLX is the new XTR. And hold your horses SRAM boys, as since 10sp stuff came along, the build and operating quality went down as well. So yes ED, I agree with you 100%

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