Shimano Deore - The Unsung Hero
Should we be singing the praises of Shimano's Deore more loudly?
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...