DetailsCassette / Chain:
Shimano's Deore M6100 12-speed drivetrain brings much of the technology found on their flagship XTR components down to a very reasonable pricepoint. In fact, you can get the entire group – derailleur, shifter, cranks, and cassette, for only $40 more than an XTR derailleur alone.
The focus of this review is on the 12-speed drivetrain and its 10-51 tooth cassette that uses a Micro Spline freehub body, but there are 11- and 10-speed options available for riders who don't want (or need) to run a dozen gears.
We went over the details of the new M6100 group when it was launched in May
, but it's worth taking a moment to go over the key details.
Deore M6100 Details
• 12-speed, 10-51 tooth cassette
• Hyperglide+ cassette and chain technology
• Requires Micro Spline freehub body
• Direct mount chainring
• Adjustable clutch derailleur
• Price: $298 USD (cassette, derailleur, cranks, shifter, chain)
The 12-speed, 10-51 tooth cassette is the heart of the drivetrain, an all-steel affair that weighs in at 593 grams. For comparison, that's 59 grams heavier than an SLX cassette, and 123 grams more than XT.
The easiest way to differentiate Shimano's 12-speed cassettes is to count the number of black anodized aluminum cogs. XTR gets three, XT gets two, SLX gets one, and, you guessed it, Deore gets none. A Micro Spline driver body is required to mount any of Shimano's 12-speed cassettes.
The Deore cassette and chain uses Shimano's Hyperglide+ technology, which is designed to allow for smooth shifting under load. That's accomplished by the shift ramps on the cassette and the shape of the chain. That chain is a key part of the equation, and while it is possible to run a non-Shimano chain you'll be missing out on getting the full benefits of Hyperglide+. Shifter:
The shapes of Shimano's 12-speed shifters are similar, as are the weights (there's only a few grams difference between them), but there are a few details that set them apart. With Deore (and SLX), Multi-Release is taken off the table – that's the feature that makes it possible to shift two gears down the cassette with one push. Intead, pushing the smaller paddle drops the chain down the cassette one cog at a time. Moving up the cassette to easier gears is done with the larger paddle, and a longer push can move the chain up the cassette three cogs at a time.
The Deore shifter does have some texturing on the thumb paddles for extra traction, but it doesn't get the rubber pads found on the XT and XTR levers.Derailleur:
The Deore derailleur uses Shimano's adjustable clutch design, which has a lever located near the upper pulley wheel that's used to turn it off to simplify wheel removal. The derailleur uses bushings on the pulley wheels instead of the cartridge bearings found on the XT and XTR derailleurs, and the pulley cages are both steel, rather than aluminum or carbon.
Those design choices put the weight at 318 grams, which is just 2 grams lighter than SLX. XT is a fair bit lighter, at 287 grams, and of course, XTR is the lightest at 242 grams, although you could buy four Deore derailleurs for less than the price of one XTR.Cranks / Chainring:
The 12-speed compatible Deore cranks are single ring only, and use Shimano's direct mount rings. There are 30- and 32-tooth options at the Deore level, but SLX chainrings are available with 34 teeth, and XT options run from 28 all the way to 36. The cranks are made from forged aluminum, rather than using the HollowTech II construction process used on the higher level cranks.Installation
Installation was hassle free, and I was able to get everything up and running with ease. I'm still a big fan of the little line on the back of the inner derailleur cage that makes it easy to set the proper B-tension – there's no need to keep track of a silly little plastic gauge with Shimano's design.
There is one tip to keep in mind – a liberal application of grease on the Micro Spline driver body will help keep any potential creaking at bay. Shimano's 12-speed cassettes do seem a little more prone to emitting the occasional creak compared to SRAM's, but in my experience it's usually due to not enough grease on the driver body.Performance
It's easy to equate a budget drivetrain with sub-par performance – cheap, plasticy shift levers, vague shifting, derailleurs that fold in half at the slightest impact – those traits often start to pop up as the price goes down. However, the Deore M6100 components are a glaring exception to the rule. Sure, compared to XTR the shifting isn't quite as silky smooth, and you can't shift down the cassette more than one gear at a time like you can with Shimano's higher end shifters, but those are minuscule details when the price is added into the equation.
Honestly, without knowing the weight, it'd be easier to convince someone that this was a much higher end drivetrain. In fact, when I first got the group I kept having other riders hop on and give it a try in order to feel just how nice it felt. The shifts are quick and require minimal effort, and even when I shifted hard under load the chain would move up and settle into place without putting up any sort of fuss - that Hyperglide+ design works very well. There is a noticeable difference between the feel of a Deore and an XT shifter - XT has a more positive, snappy feel, while Deore has a lighter, but not quite as crisp feel, although the actual speed and accuracy of shifting between the two felt identical.
I didn't experience any missed shifts, dropped chains (even without a chain guide), or anything at all that would take my attention away from the trail.Durability
The Deore group's durability has been very impressive. After nearly six months of regular use there haven't been any issues to speak of. The crank arms do have the typical scuff marks that inevitably appear after a few muddy rides, but it's minor considering how many miles are on them.
The cassette is still looking fresh too – the steel rings clean up nicely, and there aren't any glaring indicators of all the hard shifting and grime it was subjected to. As for the derailleur, it bears a few marks from close encounters with rocks, but the clutch is still working like it should, and the pulley wheels are spinning smoothly.Shimano Deore vs. SRAM NX
Deore and NX occupy a similar space – this is the pricepoint where components make the jump from being better suited to casual riders to ones that can withstand the use and abuse a more dedicated mountain biker will dole out, so it's worth taking a moment to compare them. SRAM does have a less expensive 12-speed drivetrain in their lineup - SX - but it's only found on complete bikes, and isn't readily available aftermarket.
Both company's shifters can be mounted to their brake levers – Deore is offered in an I-SPEC EV version, and the NX shifter is MatchMaker compatible. As far as shifter feel and shifting performance goes, I'd say Shimano handily takes the win here. The little ridges on the Deore shift lever and the ease with which the chain moves through the gears gives Deore a more refined feel.
Speaking of cassettes, Deore wins when it comes to range, with a 10-51 tooth spread vs. the 11-50 tooth spread that NX uses. I also prefer the 45-51 tooth jump over the 42-50 tooth jump on the NX cassette, although that's a fairly minor detail – at that point on a ride you're usually just looking to find the easiest gear possible as soon as you can to get up some silly steep section of trail.
Don't forget that NX uses a standard splined freehub body, rather than SRAM's XD driver, while Deore needs a Micro Spline freehub body. That can be looked at two different ways - on one hand, if you have a standard splined freehub than NX makes it possible to get 12 speeds without any additional hub parts. On the other hand, that means if you wanted to upgrade to a higher end Eagle cassette in the future you'd need to get a different freehub body first. With Shimano, the Deore- to XTR-level cassettes all use the same Micro Spline freehub design.
The Deore derailleur’s adjustable clutch gives it another point over SRAM – I'd much rather have a rebuildable and tunable clutch over being stuck with SRAM’s one fixed setting, which is often too light for my tastes.
As far as weight goes, the complete NX group is lighter than Deore by 73 grams, a difference that's mainly due to the cranks - NX cranks are lighter by 76 grams. When it comes to price, Deore is the less expensive choice, largely because the derailleur is half the price of the NX option.Getting the Most Bang For Your Buck
My ideal setup, one that keeps costs low with a few higher end bits added into the mix? First, I'd splurge on an XT shifter, in order to get that multi-release capability. Yes, it's an extra $30 more than Deore, but I think it's a worthy upgrade. If I was looking to shed some grams, the next place I'd spend would be on cranks – I'd bump up to SLX, since spending around $45 to save 130 grams seems reasonable.
Other than that, I wouldn't change a thing, and I'd be totally happy running that setup on any bike out there, no matter how fancy the other parts were. I'd rather put my money into nicer suspension and brakes; the Deore drivetrain works so well there's really no need to spend any more other than to save some weight.
Incredible price vs performance ratio+
Adjustable clutch derailleur+
Doesn't feel like a 'budget' drivetrain
Cassette and cranks aren't for gram counters-
Need to upgrade to an XT shifter if you want Multi-Release