Back in 1995 I was Head Team Mechanic for Diamondback Racing and we had riders who knew how to pedal a bike, including the likes of Susan DeMattei, David Weins and Dave Cullinan, the former Downhill World Champion. We were one of Shimano’s “skunk” teams and they would routinely hand deliver equipment that was in the final stage of prototype design. We were at the Rockhopper , a NORBA sanctioned race in the early season when a Japanese engineer flew in to show us an amazing XTR crankset; the M950. Instead of a forged 5-arm design like its forerunner, this crankset had hollow arms and a detachable 4-arm spider. It was significantly lighter and still sufficiently strong. To my shame, I still remember asking this polite Japanese why they were changing something that worked well. He lowered his head in embarrassment because I had criticized his creation. What an ass I was! It turns out that the XTR 950 group set would become a benchmark that raised the bar a good few notches. I think Shimano may have done it again with this years Deore XT M8100 component group. This progress is exemplified by the hub set.
Let’s compare weight with its predecessor, the M8000 ; the 11 speed hub set with its steel axle and freehub body weighs 525 grams; the new 12 speed M8110 hubset weighs 447 grams, a reduction largely due to aluminum axles front and rear and Micro Spline alloy freehub body. 78 grams represents a 15 percent weight reduction.
The freehub mechanism is a departure from the system employed for the last thirty years. Shimano has named the technology Scylence because the mechanism makes very little noise when freewheeling. Additionally, hub engagement is significantly quicker than the old model; I estimate that it’s in the 8-10 degree range. Instead of pawls supplying the forward motion the job is now done by a couple drive plates that are pulled together under pedal load. When freewheeling the plates are allowed to disengage. How to characterize this design? Imagine the result of Chris King and DT Swiss in a Sushi bar (with lots of sake).
Considering that the XT 8100 hub set owes so much of its design to the XTR, am I right to bestow so much significance on the lower priced model? I reckon so. Compared to last years 11 speed XT hub set it is way lighter and capable of delivering 1 x 12 gearing at a price everyone can afford. The Boost model is only six grams heavier than White Industries’ CLD and around 60 grams lighter than King’s Iso Boost hubset. All while selling for around $160 per hub set! Now, to plagiarize Henry Ford; you can have any color you want as long as it’s Gunmetal Grey. They come in 28, 32 and 36 hole drillings; look elsewhere if you want a 24 hole setup. Those limitations aside, I would bolt these beauties to any rim on the market with no worries of limiting the wheels’ potential.
No matter what you are building, these hubs are worth a second look! Go check’em out!