The Pinkbike Podcast: Shimano's Linkglide Drivetrain Tech Explained

Mar 14, 2023
by Mike Levy  
Art by Taj Mihelich

March 13th, 2022

The tech behind Linkglide and explaining CUES.

Hosts: Mike Levy & Brian Park
Guest: Shimano's Nick Murdick

Shimano quietly launched a new drivetrain technology called Linkglide last year, but it takes a much different approach than their Hyperglide+ family. While the latter will continue being used for their gram-counting, fast-shifting components, Linkglide is framed as an ultra-durable, solid-shifting approach at lower price points. Oh, the Linkglide shifters and derailleurs employ a different cable pull ratio than Hyperglide, but it's all in the name of compatibility across 9, 10, and 11-speed drivetrains.

Today's show sees us talking to Shimano product manager, Nick Murdick about all that and more, including the CUES series of components intended to simplify their entry- to mid-level families.
Pricing starts at $150 USD for the 9-speed U4000 package, which could represent a near full overhaul of a drivetrain, save for the cranks and chainring. The highest tier group, U8000, is priced at under $290 USD for a shifter, chain, cassette, and rear derailleur. For comparison, an XT Linkglide system currently retails for just over $360.

If you'd rather read than listen, possibly because you're at work and your boss is watching, below is an edited version of our conversation with Shimano product manager, Nick Murdick, about Linkglide's development and how it differs from Hyperglide+. We also dig into how shift gates and ramps help move the chain across the cassette, the claimed 300% increase in durability, using it on e-bikes, and how it makes Shimano's automatic shifting possible.

Speaking of where Linkglide is employed, Nick also unfolds the new CUES range of components, how its sales might compare to XT and XTR, and why Shimano is sticking with an HG freehub rather than Micro Spline for these components.

Linkglide can be found on 10-speed Deore, 11-speed Deore XT, and lower-price point components like the new CUES series.

Linkglide overview and triple the durability

Levy:: Hey, everybody, and welcome back to another Pinkbike podcast. I'm Mike Levy and I've got Brian Park with me. Today's episode is presented by Shimano because we're talking about Linkglide.
What the heck is Linkglide? Shimano says that it's a bunch of new drivetrain tech that's all about long-term durability, shift performance, and cross-compatibility across different levels. There's a whole bunch of stuff to cover, and that's why we've got Shimano mountain bike product manager, Nick Murdick, here to help explain it in a way that even I can understand.

Nick, thanks for joining us. First off, where are you? And how are you?

Nick: Hey, I'm great. I'm here at Shimano US headquarters in Irvine, California.

Levy: Are you ready to get really dorky about some mountain bike drivetrain components?

Nick: I hope so. I mean, that's my specialty, nerding out and going too far down the rabbit hole, so I hope people like it. I hope this can be the source where people can go find the rest of that information, "Wait, so how does it do all that?"

Levy: Well, why don't we start with exactly that? Tell us what Linkglide is, and give us an overview of the Linkglide tech.

Nick: Sure. Basically, we could say that it's a kind of shifting technology. So we've had Hyperglide for many years. Hyperglide + came out with the new XTR group a couple of years ago. So Linkglide is a different system of moving the chain smoothly across the cassette, so the way that the shift ramps are cut in, the way that they work together.

Levy: So my first question right away is, I mean, for the last bunch of years, we've been writing about how well Hyperglide + shifts, especially under load. So why something different? Why and how is this different than Hyperglide+?

Nick: Well, Hyperglide + is looking for a balance point that's geared more towards racing, going as fast as possible, and a lighter bike, for sure. So it's trying to balance shifting speed and the weight of the group. And in order to do that, it's relying on some pretty high-tech stuff, like a special chain design, and everything has to be super precise.

Linkglide is basically a different approach. It's starting with thicker steel cogs, and cutting really deep shift gates into them, so we can end up with basically the smoothest possible shifting that Shimano can produce, but also a group that's focused on durability and longevity.

The 11speed 11-50T CS-LG700 cassette pictured here weighs 609 grams, which is about 15 grams heavier than the 12 speed 10-51 HG+ Deore CS-M6100.

Brian: You guys are claiming a 300% increase in durability over what? Over standard Hyperglide +?

Nick: Over Hyperglide. That's the comparison, just to be technically accurate.

Brian: So Hyperglide is the technology that's found on the current Altus, Alivio, and Acera?

Nick: Yeah, and most of the road bike stuff as well. We've had it since the mid-'80s. It's served us well.

Brian: So 300% over those groups. On a consumer level, if I were a rider that went through a drivetrain every year, does that mean that I would now have a drivetrain last me for four years?

Nick: Well, you're asking the easy version of that question. Let's get to the hard version because, in the promotional materials, it says "drivetrain," and what's changed is the teeth on the cassette. And so those being thicker, taller teeth with a wider base to them, those are three times as durable. For the chain, Linkglide is based on an existing 11-speed chain design, so it doesn't require anything special other than something that was super common already.

So with the chain not being any different, there are some small differences in the amount of support that it gets from the cassette, but basically, you still want to replace your chain when it says that it's worn out by a chain checker. The big difference is how many times you can reuse that cassette by replacing your chain, and what the consequence is if a chain goes too far.

For sure, what's a common scenario right now is somebody takes their bike to the shop for service, and a mechanic throws the chain checker on it, when they're checking in the bike for service, and says, "Oh, this thing's pretty far gone. I have bad news for you. You're going to need a new chain, and you're also going to need a new cassette." And with Linkglide, I would try putting on just a new chain first. The cassette maybe could have stood up to it.

Brian: So I mean, again, not great at math, but doesn't that mean like 75% fewer cassettes sold?

Nick: Yeah. I think early on we were faced with the issue that our bike shop dealers are very important partners to us, and we don't want to present them with an idea that fundamentally is taking business away from them. But at the same time, we have to balance that with people who legitimately are getting so frustrated with their bike that they're selling them or putting them in their garage and not using them anymore. And so kind of early on we developed this philosophy that whatever's better for riders is ultimately going to be better for the industry as a whole.

Levy: The material that you guys are using for the cassette, is it different metal as well? Is that also a factor in the cassette's longevity? Or does it all come down to just more of that material and taller teeth?

Nick: Little bit of both. Linkglide, it's obvious that they're all going to be steel teeth all the way across the cassette. So it's got a lot in common with a Deore 12-speed cassette, which is the other one that's all steel. The rest of it though, the durability really is coming from the thicker, taller teeth. So a Deore cassette, for sure, we can see on an e-bike that you're less likely to snap a tooth off if you've had a really rough shift, especially in bad conditions. There's a benefit to using steel just in general. So of course, Linkglide's going to use it, but the rest of it really is coming from the shape and the thickness of the teeth.

Brian: So the technology isn't in the steel, it's in the tooth profiles and shift ramps. You could conceivably, one day, I don't know, make a titanium Linkglide system?

Nick: Sure.

Linkglide development in 2017 and why it uses a different cable pull ratio

Levy: How long does something like this take to develop? A cassette is a pretty complicated thing, all the little ramps and the tooth shapes and all that stuff. I'm not even going to pretend to know how complicated it is, but how long does it take to develop something like this from scratch? Has Linkglide been in development since... 2017?

Nick: Well, 2017 is the year that I joined the product development team and started going to Japan and working with the product managers and engineers over there. And I can tell you that Linkglide was an idea that had been kicking around for a long time. They started putting together a plan to actually bring it to market around that time, and so the development really started getting fully underway. But that basic concept of thicker cogs with really robust shift ramps had been around, I'm not even really sure how long... I got the impression it was 10 years ahead of that.

Levy: I should also ask this question: Linkglide is not compatible with Hyperglide, correct, Nick?

Nick: Correct. I mean the one thing that is cross-compatible between them is the chain, and so by extension, any chainring that was compatible with it. So your crank may be not so picky, but the parts that are specific to Linkglide are the shifter, a rear derailleur, and a cassette. And so there's a little bit more to the logic behind that as well.

We could have used some existing cable pull ratio, but things get a little bit complicated. It made sense for the identity of the Linkglide technology to use a new cable pull ratio that's perfectly flat. It's not a progressive cable pull like we've used on basically every group that we've done before. The easy advantage of that is that it can be kind of modular. So we can do 11-speed and 10-speed groups, as we saw with the original XT and Deore Linkglide groups, and then at 9-speed with the CUES brand as well.

Levy: I'm curious, internally, were there any arguments during the development against going that route? Because as soon as you say different cable pull ratio, from a consumer point of view, as soon as they see that something isn't compatible with something, I think a lot of people are like, "Oh," you know what I mean?

Nick: Right. I mean these are the stories that never make it to the press release or the print articles either. But I mean, this is basically what a product manager's job is, to find out maybe some little bit of bad news from the engineers and then make the decision about, "Okay, well which one's less bad?" In a lot of cases. I can say, we had, basically, a single cable pull ratio for many years.

Brian: So just to be clear, you mean to say that when brands say there are no compromises in their products, that they're just full of shit?

Nick: I mean everything is a compromise. That's literally what my job is, finding the best compromise every day. We had a lot of laughs about 27.5 wheels when they came out. "It was the Goldilocks," "It was the sweet spot," "No compromises." It's literally a compromise between 26 and 29.

So you could say we had a single cable pull ratio for the first, I don't know, 15, 20 years of index shifting, with the exception of the Dura-Ace 8-speed group. When it came out, it tried to use a different cable pull ratio, and that did not go over well. So we kind of learned our lesson and didn't do it again until, I think, mountain bike 10-speed came out. And the reason for the new cable pull ratio there is the same reason as the new cable pull ratio now: it's that the original universal cable pull ratio, basically cassettes all looked the same and they were pretty tight spreads. And so it would progressively pull more cable or less cable as it moved across the cassette so that the leverage and the shifter would make more sense.

But of course, those original shifters had cable pull ratios designed around down tube shifters or top mount thumb shifters. And things have changed a lot since then. There wasn't really so much shift housing on the bike back then, and now that bikes have full-length cable housing. That was basically the reason for the change in cable pull ratio when 10-speed mountain bike stuff came out. And so it's using more leverage inside the derailleur to make the shifts easier as you get to the bigger jumps, bigger gears in the cassette, and not so much a changing progressive cable pull ratio as you move across the cassette.

Brian: So the Hyperglide system is how many years old now?

Nick: 1986, off the top of my head.

Brian: So that's the year I was born. And I'm sure that there will be shops and consumers that will be frustrated to have a change, but I think that that's a pretty good run, honestly. And I think that the cross-compatibility of 9, 10, and 11-speed group sets at the sort of entry and mid-level price points, it's kind of a huge deal for a lot of people and a lot of bikes. To me, it seems like there's short-term pain in a transitional period.

Nick: Yeah, this is ripping the bandaid off, for sure. And ultimately, what we want to have is cable pull ratios that are appropriate to the task. So you could say the high-end road components that are using STI levers have a cable pull ratio that's appropriate to shifting with that kind of lever on the kind of gear spreads that the derailleurs are matched with. For a mountain bike, same thing, cable pull ratio that's appropriate. And for Linkglide groups, a cable pull ratio that's focused more on universal compatibility as much as possible. And then below that, we have the Tourney stuff, which does use that original legacy cable pull ratio still.

Levy: Okay. Am I correct in saying, if the ratio is the same for 9, 10, and 11, then that must mean that the cassette spacing is the same for 9, 10, and 11 Linkglide drivetrains?

Nick: Yeah, absolutely. I think the way to say it is that as we've moved from 8-speeds to 9-speeds to 10-speeds, even when they were the same cable pull ratio, the cogs were getting thinner and closer together. So there were different chains for each of them. I mean there were different freehub body lengths for each of those guys as well. So there was this complex web of compatibility.

And those things were all... They got implemented the first time. The cable pull ratio was the best that we could make for the way bikes looked in the mid-'80s. And then as the 9-speed and 10-speed versions came out, they were the best for how bikes looked at the time. But now, if you're trying to navigate compatibility between 9, 10, and 11-speed stuff on your Deore and Alivio, Altus, and Acera bikes, you have to be really careful about that compatibility, because there are all of these different systems.

What shifter can work with what? Can I use this rear derailleur as a service one? And the reason that you can't is kind of silly. It's because it's trickled-down technology that was developed for XTR or Dura-Ace a decade or two ago. And so that's why this is really kind of a ripping off the bandaid moment. Let's actually engineer stuff for bikes with a different purpose. That's not race-developed technology. It's developed for a different way of using your bike with different priorities.

Brian: I mean, you do have higher-end Linkglide options with XT, but it is interesting, to me, I can't think of in recent memory any brand developing for the meat of the market, and then extending up rather than everything's, "Race proven," except now it's heavier and cheaper, "Here you go."

Nick: And that was really kind of how the development went too, that Linkglide existed before we knew what to do with it. It got the green light to get development for two main reasons, I'll say. One was to be able to offer wide range, single front chainring groups down to the 9-speed level, something that we didn't already have in the catalog, and avoid things like chains and cassettes that break really easily, because there are big shift jumps based on the Hyperglide system. It needed to be some new technology to be able to confidently deliver a wide range single-ring 9-speed group.

And then the other one is that since the shifting is so smooth and it's focused so much on durability that it was obvious there should be a version to support people who are not satisfied with the durability on their e-bikes. And basically the push, especially for me – I was beating the drum really loudly on this – was don't tell anybody what this is for. Let's just put it out and let people decide.

And if there's an XT version of it, then it's not an e-bike-specific group. It's a bike that many people might choose for their e-bikes, but there are a lot of people that, I think, would adjust their priorities when they're riding doesn't line up with somebody who's racing their bike. And along those lines, actually, more on this later, but maybe not all racers have those priorities that we assume that they would.

Brian: How do you develop mid-tier groups? And I just want to say to listeners, it might seem weird that we're spending all this time talking about mid-tier groups, when most of the time we talk about XTR, Hyperglide+, electronic shifting, and crazy robot suspension. But honestly, all of us started riding bikes on Acera or Altus. I remember getting an STX RC rear derailleur, which was quite bougie. It had cool silent hubs, too.

This stuff will have a bigger impact on cycling and mountain biking, and I expect it's going to show up at next year's Value Bike Field Tests. But my question for you is how is it developed? Because you can't just give it to Richie Rude and be like, "Hey, tell us what you think." Or maybe you can, I don't know.

Nick: Well, we gave it to Richie Rude last year at the Finale EWS when he jumped in the e-bike race. We said, "If you're going to have fun and jump in the e-bike race, please enjoy this drivetrain and tell us what you think."

That's a Hyperglide cog tooth on the left after 1,200 shifts, and a Linkglide tooth after 5,000 shifts on the right.

Brian: Do you have testers for a mid-level group that are just weekend warriors and school teachers and lawyers and whatever?

Nick: Well, we can have pretty easy access to testers. You don't need to be a professional tester to work on this kind of group. So it ended up being me for a good amount of it. And I know what to look for in a test, so I'll jump in when we're having test camps and working with our Skunk Development Team.

The main thing, I think, was that we had years and years of feedback from bike shop mechanics and OEM product managers saying, "This is the kind of bike that I want to make." And it could be something like, "Man, drivetrains really wear out fast," coming from a bike shop, "there are a lot of different things that I need to stock to service really similar bikes." From a product manager's point of view, "I can't make the bike the way that I want to," something simple like the wide range 1 x 9 group. But anytime you see a bike that's got friction shifters in order to make a derailleur work, because it's using friction mode instead of indexing, because they wanted those parts to work together. That's a sign that we needed to open up compatibility a bit.

Levy: Do you have a fleet of average riders that you would seed with these sorts of components earlier beforehand to make sure that everything is good? You mentioned Richie Rude earlier, but are pros helping to develop and give feedback on this stuff?

Nick: It ends up being people around the office, largely, asking somebody what their opinion is. There are a lot of people that work at Shimano that are not necessarily cyclists and you can go ask them, "What do you think of this technology," or family members at home. I could bring it home and ask my girlfriend what she thought of it. I'm really excited for my parents to use a Linkglide drivetrain, especially when we start getting into the auto-shift versions of it as well.

Auto shifting might not be for you, but the concept is interesting.

Linkglide on e-bikes and auto shifting explained

Brian: Linkglide is sort of the foundational technology, the shifting technology, but I'll be honest, the way it's all getting rolled out is a bit confusing. Because you're sort of simultaneously talking about some new drivetrains and consolidating those Altus, Acera, and Alivio drivetrains into this new family of things.

How are you using Linkglide across your lineup?

Nick: I feel like it's always going to be a temporary answer. As of today, in 2023, it made sense to launch it first as a high-durability mountain bike group. And so that's why we saw it come out with XT and Deore. And then a year later, we realized it was the key to being able to play around with automatic shifting, which people may love or hate.

This is where things get split a little bit because New XT Di2 works with the EP801 or EP6 drive unit to be able to do the automatic shifting. There are Hyperglide+ and Linkglide versions of it though, and that kind is just with mechanical where you could choose whichever one you feel like is right for your ride, and the same thing with the Di2 version. So automatic shifting, I like it more than I thought. There are a lot of fire road climbs where I don't care about this shifting. What really is important to me is being able to use it on the descent so that I know that I'm pedaling out of any corner.

Brian: You mean the free-shifting side?

Nick: Specifically automatic shifting well coasting, so it's using free shift technology to do it, but it's doing it automatically. That is the key thing. And it was the reason to develop automatic shifting for mountain bikes, and this is where the more professional development side comes from. So the way that our Skunk riders were getting experience with Linkglide through the years was basically through this kind of side project of playing around with auto-shift, which we've been doing, basically, since 2017 or so.

But we didn't have that technology available. And no one ever really thought that auto shift was going to come to market. And it was impossible at the time because, in a week of testing, we might have broken twenty chains or something like that with Hyperglide. So this was before the current 12-speed groups came out. So when we moved to Hyperglide+ things got a lot better. We stopped breaking chains and started breaking cassettes instead because full-power shifts are completely unexpected, you're not letting up on the pedals at all. And so then when Linkglide came out it was like, "Okay, we can actually start developing this other thing." We do have full-time e-bike test riders. They're the Skunk Development Team in the US, Joe Murray and Paul Thomasberg, and they've been with us forever.

Brian: You may have answered this, but free shift and auto shift are two separate things. So both e-bike specific, and two separate technologies. If I have an e-bike with new XT Linkglide on my EP8 motor, I can choose auto shift or free shift?

Nick: Yeah, like anything else, this is for new complete bikes, because it has to be an updated drive unit that has the ability to rotate the chainring while you're coasting. That's kind of the key thing to make it work.

Brian: And then free shift is literally me shifting while the bike is moving, but I'm not pedaling. Let's say I'm cruising downhill and I want to get into an easier gear for an upcoming climb, I shift from my harder gears to my easier gears, but without pedaling. I hit that climb and I'm already in the right gear. That's free shift, yeah?

Nick: Yeah, free shift is just the ability to shift whenever you want to, even if you're coasting.

Levy: Nick, it almost sounds like you were surprised about the auto shift when you were using it.

Nick: Yeah, I mean I could see the benefit of being able to shift while coasting right away, I think that's fairly obvious, and was really hoping that it would be able to keep up while you're descending and shift automatically so that you could pedal out of any corner. So it was fairly easy to make an algorithm work that chooses the right gear for that. Automatic shifting while you're pedaling sounded like a much harder thing to do.

And now that I've been riding a bike that way and turning it on and off, now that the development has been wrapped up and it's just a bike to ride, I am surprised that I leave it on basically 100% of the time. I do still have a shifter on the bike, and I can still do manual shifts whenever I want to, but for the most part, I'm letting the computer just go for it.

Levy: What a time to be alive, eh? Earlier we were talking about friction down tube shifters and that stuff, and now here we are, talking about these bikes shifting on their own so that you can accelerate out of a corner in the right gear.

Nick: Right. I think it kind of speaks to the breadth of Linkglide and even automatic shifting. And to answer your question, Brian, if somebody buys an EP8 bike that has XT Di2 on it, they're not required to use automatic shifting. You'd need to go turn it on in the app. And if you don't like the idea of it automatically shifting while pedaling, then great, set up your profile so that it only shifts automatically while you're coasting or be fully manually in control of the thing all the time. You have a Di2 bike, it has capabilities that you can turn on or off.

Brian: But I want to be outraged!

Nick: I expect that you probably could find a reason to if you'd like.


Testing with Mick Hannah

Nick: We had a really fun project this last year. It was fun for me. It was definitely very hard work, but I got to follow the Yeti EP racing team around and go to the EWS-E races, just to see what we could learn from it. And Mick Hannah has been an absolute joy to work with. I mean, he's at the perfect point in his career, kind of retired from downhill racing and able to have a focus that goes beyond just race results. Of course, he wants to win and that's what makes him such a good racer, but he's open to doing things like riding a data-logging bike during practice, which he did at a Big Mountain Enduro race last year. I think you guys got some pictures of it.

Going into the beginning of this season, he just got a regular e-bike to start with, and then we started throwing things at him. And so there was a day where we're all kind of checking to see, "Hey, would you please go ride this Linkglide drivetrain, with mechanical shifting at first and tell us what you think? And no pressure, you don't have to use it, you don't have to race on it."

Still, at that time, we were kind of very conservatively thinking Hyperglide+ is for racing and Linkglide is for some other stuff, people who prioritized smooth shifting. He basically went out for a full day of riding, drained a couple of batteries, came back, and said he didn't think he ever wanted to ride Hyperglide + again. So it was very extreme... We thought maybe he could find some things that he liked about it but didn't think that it was going to be that far, that he didn't want to ride Hyperglide + again.

And so of course we're asking, "Why?" He said, "That was the first time I've been able to ride my bike and shift absolutely whenever I want to. I don't need to let off the pedals at all when I hit the shifter. So it means that I can shift at the right time, and I don't ever have to wait for it. It's just, let it go."

Levy: Nick. It kind of sounds like a 7-speed Linkglide drivetrain would be a really good downhill drivetrain. I'm just saying.

Nick: It's got us asking the same question too. I mean, is it appropriate for other racers? If they can shift under more load... I guess I'm not allowed to talk about what the Syndicate's riding.

I can tell you that we had a test camp where we gave Greg Minnaar a Hyperglide+ group to ride on his downhill bike, and he said, "I need this technology right away because being able to shift under load can mean a 10th of a second in those first couple of shifts coming out of the starting gate."

Levy: Sorry, you said Hyperglide + but did you mean Linkglide?

Nick: Hyperglide+. No, this was in 2019, so we have not really given Linkglide to any downhill racers to try out yet, we'll have to do some exploring and see what people think of it. So it was good to have that opportunity to put Richie Rude on it in Finale when he jumped in the e-bike race. And even backing up, we were anxious to do it, because at the first race of the season when we get to Scotland and build up Mick's bike, the whole team was kind of screwing around with it. Jared Graves hopped on it and rode it around a little bit. He was like, "Yeah, we got to get Richie on this right away. You can shift while you're absolutely hammering, this is crazy."

But no one wanted to risk having to change to derailleur in a pit or something like that to a totally different shifting system or run out of prototypes and make him switch back if he really liked it. So the end of the season was a good chance to try it, the pressure was off at that point. His feedback, I mean, basically was, "Too soon to tell. It's an important thing to keep in mind." He could appreciate some stuff about it, but he could notice that it was slower shifting, and it wasn't as black and white as it was with Mick.

Brian: I've only had a limited amount of time on the system, but it definitely is slower than Hyperglide+. But it is, you guys say smoother, I think I'd say more positive. When you shift, you really know you shifted. It's a bang. It's like it's hydraulic.

Nick: That's a good way to describe it. I'm going to come back to smoothness because that's the word that's locked into my head. But you can basically feel that shift gate come around, and then it feels smooth, like a hydraulic piston pushing the chain over.

Shift gates and ramps explained, and the difference between Linkglide and Hyperglide+

Levy: Can you explain what a shift gate is? And why it's so important to have everything shift smoothly and quickly?

Nick: Yeah, this is maybe a good opportunity to draw a line between Hyperglide + and Linkglide. We could call it a shift gate or shift ramp, they're not really properly well-defined terms. For me, I've kind of always thought of a shift gate as letting the chain go, and a shift ramp kind of pulling a chain up. Linkglide is using more shift ramps to guide the chain down. A shift gate felt like it was more appropriate with Hyperglide because it literally is letting the chain go. And that's why when you're shifting to a higher gear with Hyperglide, you get this clunk, clunk, clunk as you move into higher gears, like this very satisfying clunk. That was what we all got used to, right? Until Hyperglide + came around.

The way that Hyperglide+ works is that it gets rid of a nagging engineering problem that has been around since modern bicycle chains started moving across cassettes have been out. The inner plates and outer plates are not the same, they don't have the same space between them. And your shift ramps on the cassette, they don't know if it's going to be an inner plate or an outer plate that's coming around. So you have to design that shift ramp gate to be able to work with both of them.

So the way that Hyperglide+ works, the key thing is the inner plate is extended past the roller into the space where the outer plates sit. So that means that the chain plate is contacting the teeth on the cassette at a consistent width all the time. So that's why if you have a non-Hyperglide+ chain on your Hyperglide+ cassette, you don't have Hyperglide+ shifting because you don't have this consistent width anymore.

So relying on that surface area contact from the extended interlinked plate on the chain is a key part of how Hyperglide+ works. It's relying on the chain to basically keep holding onto the last tooth before the shift gate on the larger cog. So you start shifting down to the smaller cog and with Hyperglide, and as soon as it starts that momentum of dropping down to a smaller cog, the chain wants to just whip down the rest of the way on its own. So the simple thing that Hyperglide+ does is it just tries really hard to not let go of the chain so that you can start driving the smaller cog immediately. You're not waiting for the chain to kind of shift forward, skip forward, and slam up against the teeth and start pulling it. You can start driving it right away.

Actually, a Hyperglide+ shift takes longer to finish, but it starts driving the next gear faster. Linkglide works a different way. It's just a shift ramp that guides the chain down, so it's never just letting the chain go. And it's not just holding onto the chain until it rotates out of the way. It's waiting for a shift gate or ramp to come along, and then the chain will take that shift gate and basically take the escalator down to the next cog, instead of getting let go.

Levy: If you go look at an older cassette, the cogs are so flat, there's nothing on them. It looks like they're just stamped steel. But now if you look at a modern cassette there are all these scoops and cutaways and divots and little things that are helping to move the chain, which is what you are talking about.

The U6000 series is intended to be a long-lasting and relatively affordable option.

The CUES family, complete bike prices, and upgrade paths

Levy: So we talked a bit about how Linkglide might be used in the future on downhill bikes, but you're obviously using this stuff right now on some different drivetrains, like the brand new CUES stuff. Can you explain what CUES is? And where are we going to see it?

Nick: Maybe I can answer both of those at once. CUES is replacing mid-class segments from Shimano, starting at Altus all the way up through the lineup; Acera, Alivo, and Deore on the mountain bike side, and the flat 'bar road stuff with Claris and Sora, and a bit into Tiagra. Currently, Deore has got 10 and 11, and 12-speed versions, with the 10 and 11-speed versions still relying on Hyperglide shifting. They'll get a little bit better with Linkglide technology, which we feel is a good match for those riders. Less worried about upkeep, stuff like that, smoother shifting, easier to get back into the cycling if you've been away from it for a while. I could go on and on, and I will. But wider gear ratios as well!

So we've got 9-speed, 11-46, 10-speed, 11-48, and 11-speed 11-50. Those are the widest ratios we offer for those 9, 10, and 11-speed groups. So basically, this CUES brand will bring real mountain bike performance down to that 1 x 9 price point, which could maybe replace some 2 x 8 bikes that are out there now. So really, the price range of bikes that we could be looking at is $800 USD aluminum hardtails all the way up to $2000 or $3,000 full-suspension bikes, depending on how somebody wants to use it. If it's an e-bike, then we for sure could be pushing $5,000 USD with CUES products on it. So it's not cheap stuff, it's not entry-level stuff. It's solid mid-range components. And if you like Deore 10 or 11-speed, you're going to like CUES.

Brian: The CUES brand, is it a single tier? Or are there multiple tiers within CUES? Obviously, there'll be different numbers of gears, but is there a fancier CUES Deore and then a cheaper CUES Alivio?

Nick: There is, yeah. I'm going to keep coming back to talking about the group like a mountain biker, but we talked about 9, 10, and 11-speed. You'll also see the U4000 group, the U6000 group, and the U8000 group, which are all called CUES. But you can kind of imagine, if it's 8000 level, it's kind of like XT grade, we're pushing up against that. So not XT mountain biking, but there's an XT trekking group, which we don't see in North America all that much. It's popular in Europe, though. And so CUES U8000 is basically geared towards that kind of high-end trekking group. I don't expect to see it on mountain bikes.

The U6000 group comes in 10 and 11-speed versions, and it's kind of the sweet spot for a mountain biker. U4000 is basically trying to bring the best technology we can to an entry-level price point so that somebody can get into mountain biking with as little barrier to entry as possible. That U4000 rear derailleur works with a 9-speed 11-46 cassette. It's got great chain retention so you don't need a chain catcher up front or anything special, anything high-tech and expensive, basically, in order to save cost. It doesn't have a traditional clutch in it, it just kind of has clever architecture and a stronger spring. So the chain stays on, which is that minimum level of performance for real mountain biking, but it's noisier, and we hope you can accept that, but we've lowered the barrier to entry.
The U4000 group gets a riveted crankset and chainring.
The U6000 crankset uses the same 11-speed chain as the rest of the CUES family..

Brian: And there's an upgrade path that doesn't require replacing all of the other things?

Nick: Yeah, it's pretty sweet. I mean, obviously, if you're going to have more teeth on the biggest cog, you need a longer chain and stuff like that. But you don't need to change your chainring because you're going to be moving from a 10-speed system to an 11-speed system. It's the same chain design. It's the same chainring design. Linkglide was basically designed so that we didn't have to require fancy, expensive chain technology either. That is a key difference. By putting that shifting technology squarely in the cassette, then you don't have to have a super specific chain requirement.

Brian: There are product managers making decisions on your just-under $1,000 USD price point hardtail that are deep in spreadsheet land, and trying to get the most performance for the minimum amount of money. Trying to work all the variables to make it work out for the price-performance ratio thereafter.

It sounds to me like so much of what you've said today is kind of what the comments section says they want all the time. And I don't want to curse this, because the last time I had Levy write about an e-bike-specific drivetrain that we thought more people should be on, it then was immediately canceled. But...

Levy: It made everybody angry too.

Brian: And it made everybody really angry when we suggested that they ride e-bike parts. But this isn't just an e-bike drivetrain. To me, it seems like what the vast majority of mountain bikers should be on, genuinely.

Nick: That's a good question. Who it's for, I don't want to think about it too much, because I don't want to decide. I think that product managers will go different ways, and for sure, we are officially making the statement that for those mid-range bikes, 9, 10, and 11-speed that, "Yeah, this is the best technology for you." It's really more when we get into the higher-end Deore and XT versions of it that it really is a choice.

9-speed, 11-46 cassettes make a lot of sense.

And I like them both for different reasons. If I'm being completely honest, I come from a cross-country racing background. I would probably put Hyperglide+ on my e-bike. I can see why a lot of people will Linkglide. And if a product manager is doing their job, they're not making products for them, they're making them for their customers. And so that's what I'm trying to do, to use years of feedback from bike shops, OEM product managers, and Pinkbike commenters, really, first and foremost.

Levy: That's dangerous.

Brian: Will there be an aftermarket for these things as well? There's some sort of consumer-level access to all this?

Levy: It's not just OE?

Nick: For sure, yeah. The XT and Deore Linkglide products are in stock at Shimano North America right now.

CUES sales numbers, aftermarket availability, and an HG freehub

Levy: I want to ask a question that you probably don't want to give me exact numbers too, but maybe just a rough estimate. I would imagine something like this has got to be Shimano's bread and butter, more than XT and XTR. So just really rough, how much of your sales would this account for? Would a group like this account for, do you expect it to be... 50% of drivetrain sales in two years?

Nick: That's probably not far off. I honestly don't have great visibility on what our global numbers are, so it's not like I could pull up a spreadsheet and look it up for you, real quick. My feeling is that if you look at the volume of where these groups sit, that doesn't feel far off base. I think we've been throwing it around to bike shops to make sure that they are ready for it, that 20% of the bikes coming in for service in a year could have Linkglide on them. And there are obviously several decades worth of bikes coming in for service now.

Levy: Exactly, that's a whole other part of the equation. You guys release this drivetrain, but there also has to be a whole bunch of support for bike shops, spare parts, and technical support that goes into making something like this happen. It's not just like, "Here's a drivetrain," drop it in the wild and walk away, right?

Nick: Yeah, for sure. And I mean with this big of a change, we've been trying to get out in front of it as much as possible, even giving the industry as a whole heads up that like, "Hey, 11-speed chains are going to have a big increase in demand soon, so stock up. Get your orders in now."

Levy: So I asked you earlier when did the ball start rolling on this and you said 2017, a fairly long time ago, when does a bike brand know that this is coming? How long ago are you going to bike brand X and saying, "Hey guys, we have this. Do you want to spec it on your 2023 model?" When does that happen?

Nick: Man, everything has been changing in the last three years or so. Because people had to place their orders further out ahead of time, we had to push our presentations further and further ahead of the product. Something like this, we knew we were going to have to give people a long runway just so that they could be ready, that your bikes will have to change over. This is basically something that they all wanted, so it was something that they were eager to do anyway. Managing the transition is always tricky. And so I think 2020 is probably when we started giving the CUES presentations to bike brands.

Brian: Jumping back on the tech side, Linkglide uses exclusively HG drivers, right?

Nick: Yes, Linkglide is all based on a traditional HG freehub body. The one that basically has been around since we went to 8-speeds. So there's a road 11, 12-speed version as well that's 1.85 millimeters longer. Those work as well, just throw a spacer in there. We didn't want to use Micro Spline because it adds cost, but it's something that we are wondering about actually. I don't know if this is a good idea or not, but I've been thinking about it. We'll throw it out there as a tester. If people want to let us know what they think, should there be a Micro Spline version of a Linkglide cassette? You could push the weight a little bit lighter.

Right now, the best Linkglide cassettes are about the same weight, just a little bit heavier than a Deore 12-speed, full-steel cassette. But we could theoretically go lighter. The wheel could get lighter with an aluminum freehub body as well. That really is the key thing with Micro Spline, that you can make the freehub body out of aluminum without it getting completely gouged out. It's compatible with a 10-tooth cog as well. So there's no technical reason that we need to do it with Linkglide because Linkglide makes sense. So stop it at an 11-tooth cog.

But if there's a reason to try to push the performance or if people want compatibility with wheels that they've already got, obviously, it would take us several years to implement something if the idea came out now. But I can't tell you the temptation to just ask Pinkbike commenters, "Just tell me what you want me to make."

Brian: My answer is yes, just for the swapping from wheel to wheel. And I think that everything I hear about this, I don't know what the future is and I hope there's good market adoption of this because for me, this is what matters to so many mountain bikers, even when everybody wants Kashima and XTR. But often what they need is this. And I would love to see this brought up a level or two for the people who want high performance but different high performance.

CUES brakes, STX RC and Alivo gone, Interglide front shifting

Levy: Nick, before we wrap this up, the CUES name, are we going to see this on any other components? Or is it strictly drivetrain stuff? Are there going to be CUES brakes or is that a silly question?

Nick: There is a CUES brake, and it's part of that U8000 trekking group that I was talking about. There was an XT trekking brake before with a long brake lever. It's got kind of semi-clean hose routing where the hose stays nice and parallel with the bar. It looks nice. It matches with the U8000 group.

For the most part, though, we didn't want to change our brakes because that would be huge for the factory to change over to a different brake. And people already are pretty happy with the non-series brakes, those 420 and 520 brakes. Those things are hitting the sweet spot already. And so we're just going to let those brakes live on.

Levy: Dude, give me some MT500s all day. Those things cost, I don't know, $80 USD an end or something, and they are amazing.

Nick: Yeah, that's a kept secret. And I mean the same power as a Saint or XTR brake too. We're like, "Yeah, this makes them all the same power. Why not?"

Levy: Nick, all this stuff sounds kind of neat, but I got to admit, I'm a little sad to see the names like Alivio disappear, and STX RC. I remember my Giant ATX 980 with a Quadra 21R, and I upgraded to V-Brakes with the parallel push, it had an STX RC rear derailleur. It was chrome and it looked so nice and now it's gone.

Nick: I had an STX RC that sounds pretty similar. I think that I'm probably only a mountain biker because of this, that my first mountain bike... I went out to the garage one day and found that it had been stolen. And my dad said, "I think this is probably an important thing that we should take care of right away. I don't want you to have a bad taste and never ride a mountain bike again. You seemed like you liked it. Let's go to the bike shop right now."

And we hopped in the car and we went shopping. They had, it was like $100 more than he said I could spend, but it was a closeout on a GT Timberline FS, and it had the Team Scream paint job, like the splatter paint transition between the yellow and the blue. It had that RockShox Quadra fork on it, and it had an STX RC rear derailleur. So coming from Alivio before, I was blown away. So I mean, you can imagine he said, "Yes, we could take this thing home." And I loved that thing. And I upgraded the hell out of that too. It was a full XT bike with a Marzocchi fork on it, by the end.

When I was working at a bike shop in probably '99 or 2000, I just rode across the parking lot to the pizza place, came out afterward, and the bike was gone. So it got stolen a little more than 20 years ago, and for maybe five years or so, I've had an eBay alert up for that thing. I wanted that bike back. This was one of the nice side effects of the COVID bike boom, that everybody was taking their bike out of the closet and putting it on eBay. And so I started getting all these hits for the thing, and I had some close calls. I was interacting with people and told them how to measure the frame to figure out what size it was.

I finally found the perfect one, and the guy was close to home too. I was able to go look at the bike just up in Long Beach. The guy had found it at an estate sale and it was 100% original, aside from the seat. But it had the original cable housing on it! I remember Interglide, that technology was kind of the first crack at it.

I think it came out, it's on my computer, 1996 Interglide came out. It was front and rear shifting technology. So that was the key thing, guiding that chain, using basically more robust shift ramps to try to force the chain to go smoothly down to a smaller cog or chainring as the case may be. It was used up to the STX RC level because it was a little bit slower, but it was on the front all the way up to XTR. And it basically got discontinued because it wasn't viable as the mainstream thing for XTR, and Hyperglide was faster. It was unnecessarily complicated and I think we've got a better strategy now, having two versions of XT and you get to choose which one is right for you.

When I looked down and saw that the bike still had the original IG cassette and chain, I'm like, "I finally get to, as a product manager, ride an IG bike and see what it's all about." So actually, I took it out for a spin last night, just to kind of refresh my memory. It definitely is smoother. It didn't drop down to a smaller cog. It's kind of more like it skipped down. So if you weren't pedaling super hard, then it would be really smooth. You'd barely notice the shift. But if you were given it a little more, you'd feel it go down in two steps. It was a shift ramp, but it was the '90s version of it. Cogs were still thin and you could only do so much.

So Linkglide is basically taking that concept and letting an engineer really go wild with it. They're like, "You need more surface area to work with?" "Yeah. Have some thicker cogs, and start cutting away. Do what you need to do."

Levy: Now we have the real estate and the technology and the engineering to make it way better.

Nick: Let the engineers go nuts. They are obsessed with this idea of making a shift as smooth as possible. Because you're a shift engineer, of course, that's going to be your metric. Let's make it as smooth as possible. And the rest of us are like, "Hey, I mean that's cool and all. I don't know how much people really care about that though." And I guess it was RC and Kazimer that came out to our media camps for XTR, but we barely said the words Hyperglide+ because we were so nervous about being the company that prioritizes shifting smoothness, and people prioritize descending on their mountain bikes. So you're not speaking the right language if you're talking about shifting smoothness.

And then it came out and we saw blowback anytime somebody used the wrong chain on it, "You didn't get a Hyperglide+ shifting. You can be so much more aggressive on the bike because of the shifting smoothness." And then it was kind of like, "Yeah, that's why we did it. Totally. It's awesome, right?" So for the XT media camp, there was a lot more focus on Hyperglide+. Like, "Yeah, let's own this. We are nerds."

Brian: All I'll say is that I'm annoyed about Linkglide because do you know how much more resources we're going to have to put into testing a drivetrain for four years? Why don't you think of the media when you make these decisions?

Nick: See, now this is why I need to add you to our pool of resources that we listen to. Years and years of feedback from Pinkbike commenters and retailers and product managers, but you guys are the ones that get left behind.

Featuring a rotating cast of the editorial team and other guests, the Pinkbike podcast is a weekly update on all the latest stories from around the world of mountain biking, as well as some frank discussion about tech, racing, and everything in between.

Subscribe to the podcast via your preferred service (Apple, Spotify, RSS, LibSyn, etc.), or visit the Pinkbike Podcast tag page for the complete list of episodes.

This episode is presented by Shimano
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Author Info:
mikelevy avatar

Member since Oct 18, 2005
2,032 articles

  • 96 0
 Top tip for office drones: copy & paste article text into a word document as plain text so you can read at work without fear.
  • 31 0
 Modern problems require modern solutions. Big Grin
  • 23 1
 I absolutely love that it is written down. I prefer to read than listen, discover I lost my focus and then have to search back to where I was. Thanks Pinkbike!
  • 71 0
 @jake28 can we please have a Pinkbike "office mode" feature? Click a button and the whole page transforms to look like Excel + Asana + Slack?
  • 3 0
 @brianpark: You are onto something there!!
  • 7 0
 @brianpark: It's called "boss key" and has a long history going back to the early 80s.
  • 1 0
 I read books this way lol.
  • 1 0
 @brianpark: this is as good an idea as a pipe in a bike! Let the upcoming commence haha
  • 43 0
 THANK YOU PB! I love the transcription.
  • 2 0
 Favorite article of the day for this very reason!!
  • 25 0
 Careful, you guys are going to convince Brian to make me transcribe every podcast...
  • 51 0
 @mikelevy: please transcribe all your podcasts from now on.
  • 3 0
 @brianpark: get him an OtterAi subscription! It's pretty dang good.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: you can do this.
  • 25 0
 For the average consumer this makes so much sense. They just pull their bikes out of the shed and ride. Long lasting durable components that are simplified with 1x and wide ratio cassettes. Only issue is the name lol.

How long does the chain last? 9 speed chains could not be killed easy. On my top fuel racing and training i was able to kill a 11 speed chain in 400km
  • 16 1
 According to this study newer 11 and 12 speed chains last longer than 9 speed:
  • 11 5
 I would tell you the opposite: this is going to confuse the average rider.

It’s really an e-bike drivetrain, that you “could” put on a regular bike. Buts it’s going to add weight. A lot of weight: 3/4 of a pound for starters on just the cassette.

Shimano should not have kept the same names: Deore, SLX, XT etc. give it its own name, just like the CUES.
  • 17 0
 @Saidrick: no average rider buys drives man. Lol. They are going to buy their trek marlin 5-6-7 with this and ride it forever.
  • 2 1
 @solarplex: This is the way.
  • 2 0
 I have SRAM, Shimano and KMC 12 speed chains with over 3000 km on them and they're not even close to worn out.
  • 1 0
 @boozed: i get 800-900km out of a gx eagle chain. Going to try an xx1 as ive heard they get more miles than gx
  • 6 0
 @Saidrick: New lower end mountain bikes still come with 2X drivetrains, these new lines should bring 1X down to a lower price point, so huge improvement for entry level riders.
  • 1 0
 @solarplex: This one's NX!

My riding conditions: Fine granite dust that gets into everything, liberal usage of Squirt lube.
  • 1 0
 @boozed: I have Sram XO chain with over 4000 km
  • 22 0
 SRAM's 10 speed X9 shifter is one of the best shifters I've ever used and since it's 1:1, I suspect it'll work with CUES derailleurs. I knew I was smart to horde those, this is going to save me 10's of dollars!!
  • 24 6
 If there was a way to get rid of the heavy ebike motor and battery you wouldn't need this
  • 16 2
 Sadly, it’s impossible to eliminate the motor and battery, because then the rider would have to apply effort into the pedals. You’re asking the impossible.
  • 16 0
 Yes please on the Micro Spline cassettes in the Link Glide system. I would replace the drivetrain on my eMTB with an XT or Deore LG setup if I could, but I'm not going to replace the freehub/wheel, yaknow?
  • 5 0
 preach man! Why would they come out with the new microspline free hub which is barely even being stocked on other wheels companies to build with and now you make us go back to the old freehub body? Why do you scam us like that shimano?
  • 7 0
 @makemymountain: I agree a higher end Microspline option would be great. But to answer your question they went with HG (at least for now) because Microspline is built around making an aluminum FH body, which is going to be prohibitively expensive for the majority of the bikes CUES is getting specced on.
  • 4 0
 @brianpark: I feel like one of the overlooked issues with forcing all CUES bikes to spec HG freehub bodies is that the upgrade/downgrade options become so much more expensive to all riders. It's the same issue when you look at SRAM's NX drivetrain. Riders become shoehorned into drivetrain and wheel options due to what was initially specced on their bike. Drivetrains often are replaced as complete units because people don't replace their chains frequently enough. While I appreciate Shimano is addressing part of that, they are reducing options for those riders by forcing them into the HG freehub. In the same vein, I'm sure that some riders would love to ride the higher end CUES system on a park bike, but they will have to find a new wheelset or freehub, which increases costs to downgrade their system. Just offer a MS cassette Shimano!
  • 1 0
 @EricLanglais: One of the main selling points about shimano drivetrains is that they are substantially less expensive to purchase or replace parts with compared to sram. Now they are making the cost of entry higher for shimano fans, seems like they are going against their own business strategies with this design...
  • 15 0
 my wallet and riding style both like this
  • 15 2
 Hey Shimano, how about hyperglide+ in 10 and 11 speed for us that don't want the extra 400g Cues, or finicky 12 speed shifting added to our bikes. Thanks, The Masses
  • 15 0
 Once recording stops you remember all the things you wished you talked about and the weight penalty of Linkglide is sure one of them. The original LG600 cassette that weighed 780g was only around a for a single year. It was essentially a stack of cogs bolted together. While Linkglide is heavier than the high-end HG+ cassettes, it's mostly because it is all steel. If we use a carrier we can bring the weight down to the same as other all steel cassettes. The new LG700 cassette weighs 609g. We don't publish weights on Deore cassettes because they have a wide manufacturing tolerance but 609g is only a few grams heavier than a 12 speed Deore M6100 cassette and a few grams lighter than the 11 speed Deore M5100 cassette.
  • 13 0
 @nmurdick: the people want titanium Linkglide cassettes.
  • 6 0
 "We don't publish weights on Deore cassettes because they have a wide manufacturing tolerance"

What's wrong with X ± Y g? Or if the tolerance is so loose that would be embarrassing, what's wrong with simply publishing the maximum?
  • 1 0
 Surely the linkglide XT cassette could come with an aluminium carrier to reduce weight.
  • 4 0
 @brianpark: thank you for your feedback... but actually I want it too
  • 13 0
 @boozed: I just work here and have to choose my battles wisely. This is a 102 year old Japanese company that can be very conservative. Embarrassment is not a bad way to put it. It would be dishonorable to publish a number and not meet it, so the number just isn't published.
  • 5 0
 @Bhaack: The LG700 cassette does indeed use an aluminum carrier and that's how it dropped 170g. It would also be theoretically possible to go even lighter with Micro Spline, a fancier carrier, and some titanium. We're keeping an eye on feedback and how people end up using the product and if it makes sense we're happy to add lighter cassettes down in a few years.
  • 1 0
 @nmurdick: also wishing for close spacing low gears for leg motors
  • 2 4
 @nmurdick: very conservative is an understatement but if they stopped using 102 year old machinery they might have some clue the weight of the final product they’re going to end up with. Though let’s be honest they do know they’re just don’t want to tell us because it’s over 600g.
  • 1 0
 @nmurdick: thanks for letting me know. Some feedback i guess - the problem was I didn’t know the LG700 existed (nor do most i think) and it is buried under the EP8 product family online. E.g. its above the XT product, but not XTR. And tucked away online.

As for consumer demand, there are a few i know that are interested.
  • 1 0
 @nmurdick: Brian may be joking. However, I’m not alone in wanting a drivetrain that is robust first and light second. An XTR level, microspline linkglide cassette is a dream for me.

I have a pile of cassettes that only the 10 tooth cog wore out on, I’m waiting readily available replacement cogs.

I had a linkglide XT drivetrain in my cart, then I found the weight…
  • 7 1
 Shimano would do well to copy the gear ratios that SunRace implements on their 11-46t cassette. The jump between the biggest 3 gears on Shimano 46t+ cassettes is waaaaaayyyy too wide. And what's with the riveted chainrings? Seems like an unsustainable choice that forces a rider to recycle (no pun intended) their whole crankset rather than reuse their old crank with a new ring.
  • 1 0
 Running their 10speed 11-46, kmc ebike chain, eagle rear mech with sram 11speed shifter. pull ratios correct and adjuster limit screw in mech takes out top click on shifter too.
  • 1 0
 Funny, I hated the gaps my 11-46 11spd sunrace cassette, and have gone back to a standard slx 11-46 and far prefer it.
  • 7 0
 Fabulous job on the art Taj. I really liked the attention to detail, the sleeping Bigfoot, the alien ha ha ha.

Now I'll listen/read the podcast about some new drivetrain from Shimano.
  • 6 0
 I know I'm late to this and nobody will likely ever read it, but my goodness how refreshing was it that Nick Murdick's responses were actually real rather than carefully curated marketing responses. A real breath of fresh air compared to that interview with the guy from Scott a few weeks ago who sounded like he was reading the copy off the full-page add out of an old bike mag.
  • 6 2
 On the one hand this is good in that it is simplifying Shimano's drivetrains but after reading this and some other articles I actually find it more confusing. So now you have CUES but it has U4000 and U6000 and U8000 etc instead of at least somehwat memorable names like "Alivio". And it also comes in an XT version ?

Doesn't really affect me as I'm a 12 speed XT/XTR guy all day long.....unless I'm working on a friend's low end bike. But I guess in the end it will help as everything seems cross compatible anyway. Not that it will be fun figuring out old bikes in ten years that have Alivio/Tiagra etc.

Gotta admit I miss the old days when you just had SLX, XT, and then XTR. Good, better, best.
  • 4 0
 To be fair I always mixed the Alivio/Acera/Altus lines as well.
  • 6 0
 There is not an XT version of CUES. Just a XT Version of Linkglide shifting. It is going to confuse a lot of people at first. We have LINKGLIDE only decals on our items we have already gotten in for stock (XT level only). That is so no one will try to put a LINKGLIDE cassette on a Hyperglide Shimano system.
  • 9 0
 When were these good old days? The old days still had altus, alivio, stx, stx rc, dx (for bmx), lx, xt and xtr that is before saint and eventually zee showed up.
  • 7 0
 @jlauteam1: I think you forgot acera and tourney too lol

I always thought it was insane how many divisions there were at the low end of the Shimano lineup. Like who's the customer for Tourney, and how are they different than the altus/acera/alivio customer? We can't consolidate these lines at all?? Cues seems like a big step up.
  • 1 0

Exactly the problem I see. They should have put an E next to the new, recycled, names. EXT, E-Deore etc…
  • 1 0
 @bkm303: I knew I missed a few, to be fair all the low end stuff worked about the same too. It wasn't terrible, still isn't. People are spoiled.
  • 1 0
 @bkm303: I always just assumed those groups were for mass production complete bikes, and hitting a certain price point. I doubt they had much after market sales.
  • 4 0
 I've only listened to the first 10 minutes, but what I'm taking from it is that (as I'm still on 11sp) the only Linkglide component I really need is a wide-range 11sp cassette - which weighs around 100g more than my current cassettes.
That seems a fair trade-off for 3x the longevity (which is already pretty decent).
  • 1 0
 The sprocket spacing on the LinkGlide cassette won't work with a Hyperglide mech and shifter.
  • 3 0
 Probably would have bought XT Linkglide over mechanical X01 this winter if I had been aware of the LG700 cassette! I’m sure I’ll be running Linkglide eventually. I like HG freehubs and would love to see some even lighter LG cassettes.
Probably will never happen but a Linkglide cassette for XD would be awesome too, to make it easier to switch over from SRAM.
I bet the 9 and 10 stuff will be awesome for entry-level bikes!
  • 3 0
 Im gonna throw out a torch: I’m not sure large cassettes is the right thing for cheaper rear hubs. A 46-50t cog makes for a tremendous amount of torque applied to two or perhaps a single spring-loaded pawl under the right legs.
I’ve broken the chamfers holding the pawls on several q-tec/novatec/halo/wtb/+++ hubs with 36t cogs. Will this increased durability of single ring lg drivetrains lead to increased freewheel failure?
  • 2 0
 @Nick Murdick you asked for response on freehubs and all I have to say is yes to compatibility with other new drivetrains. Just pick a lane. Go all in on new. Or stick with old. If Microspline is the future then lets pull the band-aid off.
  • 6 0
 100% want a microspline linkglide!
  • 2 0
 Great Podcast! Brings back memories of my first real bike a 1996 GT Tequesta with STX and STx Rc mix. I still remember those red IG stickers. I thing LG has a great potential. Could imagine using a 10 or 11 speed LG cassette with 10-45 range on MS freehub body, combined with a GS rear mech and an XT level shifter.
  • 4 1
 I got to the end of the podcast and though… ‘Whoa, I don’t think they ready any ads!”

Then I realized the *entire podcast* was and ad.

I still want a slightly lighter, micro-spline link-glide cassette.
  • 2 0
 Shimano Hyperglide debuted in 1989, not 86

86, I’m sure was Shimano Index shifting

1990 - Shimano STI - underbar shifters. Also promod as “piano touch”

On the subject of “touch”

87’ - the year I discovered my old man’s porno stash (which was much more exciting than Biopace)

Yes, that did distract me from my early days of mountain biking, but never more than a few minutes at a time
  • 2 0
 You are right! 1986 was the SLR brake, I knew something came out that year. SIS was 1984 going by the year it first showed up in our dealer catalogs.
  • 2 0
 Working in a bike shop for over 20 years this makes sense… but you need a microspine version if your getting into 3000+ bikes just for the bike that could have upgradable potential.
  • 1 0
 Does this mean that the current Deore 11-50 11-speed cassette and chain will be discontinued?
Presumably if you replaced them together there would be no reason why the Linkglide cassette and chain couldn't be used with the current 11-speed Deore rear mech and shifter?
  • 2 0
 Good question, 11 speed Deore M5100 is only being discontinued for OEM spec. It will remain available through bike shops for many years. A Linkglide 11 speed rear derailleur travels about 5mm further from the smallest cog to the largest because of the thicker cogs compared to existing 11 speed Hyperglide. That's a big difference so Linkglide shifter and derailleur are really required for a Linkglide cassette.
  • 1 0
 @nmurdick: thank you!
  • 6 5
 "9-speed, 11-46 cassettes make a lot of sense." - yes, but this one only for commuting, gear spacing is totally awful for mtb.
BTW, Shimano should be ashamed of the original 11-46XT, this was an mtb cassette designed by a roadie or maybe just for XC races who never use those 46T, the gap on lower gears was just too big.
  • 4 1
 I have that 11-46 on my bike, I've ran it for years - it works fine. I think it was the perfect stop-gap that allowed the largest range with the existing HG drivers without switching everything over to 12 speed and microspline.
  • 4 0
 @thustlewhumber: It works fine, but that 9t jump on the biggest gears was a real buzz kill. Unlike typical Japanese engineering, this was a case of Shimano forcing what they think an end user should use vs. observing what end users actually do use, and designing around that.
  • 6 0
 @woofer2609: fortunately Sunrace did.
  • 1 0
 @thustlewhumber: the 11-46 11 speed franken cassette was a terrible kludge and a direct result of Shimano being caught with its pants down on 1x gear range. Nothing more or less.
Shimano designed 11 speed MTB M8000 primarily as a 2x system. 1x11 was basically a badly designed afterthought. Shimano even ran multiple advertising campaigns encouraging people to select 2x11 to get the desired range.
Once it became apparent that XX1's 420% range was what people wanted, Shimano did the best they could while spending minimum R&D money: They took the existing 11-42 cassette and replaced precisely one cog to get 418% range
It is poorly designed, pushes the RD beyond it's design spec and should be avoided.
  • 1 0
 Super nice that they invested in durability. As I ride a hardtail, the added weight at the wheel isn't that much of an issue compared to someone riding a full suspension bike which has been painstakingly designed around a low unsprung weight. This article is aimed at the mountainbike group, but do they also make a smaller range cassette? I'm using a Shimano Zee mech which takes a 11-36 cassette but won't accept anything bigger than that. Is there a suitable 10sp road, CX or gravel cassette which is as durable as this one?
  • 1 0
 Sad there wasn't any talk of extra durability of the derailleurs. Those break a lot more often than cassettes go bad. It's pretty insane to me there isn't a really heavy super beefy derailleur option out there. The tradeoff of not ruining a ride or crashing with a rear endo is worth more than a few grams to me. (and is also likely cheaper)
  • 2 1
 Their 'new' alloy is made of cheese. I have seen so many breaking that i stop counting. Where is the class action lawsuit?
  • 7 6
 Yes, please link glide. I break so many MTB parts I've moved over to DJ almost exclusively. It's a feat worth announcing to the wife when I do not break an MTB part or wear one out on a ride. Please continue to make bikes suck less instead of be more capable
  • 2 5
 Dang, I got downvoted lol
  • 3 1
 I always wonder how people go through so much stuff. I'm a fat smasher and rarely break anything other than spokes.
  • 1 5
flag jimmyricard (Mar 13, 2023 at 17:08) (Below Threshold)
 @iridedj: the trails where I live are steep up and down and I ride long days and work with/ on my bike. I'm under 170lbs on nice equipment. I ride hard andy bike pays the price. It would just be nice if parts were made a little more robust, like this link glide. They mention people giving up on their bikes because of maintenance/ replacement intervals on so many parts and that resonates with me. My nearest trail is 2500' vertical of fast and rough terrain. Parts do not last on my rig
  • 1 0
 Linkglide…the biggest product launch spoof. Announced almost 2 years ago to consumer and the 10 or 11 speed cassettes are still not available while other bits are. Back to full steel Deore 10spd cassette (11-36), Zee FR RD, Saint shifter. My go to durability set up on the cheap as well
  • 1 0
 Interesting. I never thought the HG+ was nearly as good as everyone says, and I was always told I was doing something wrong when I said that. Here we are with a Shimano rep saying the same thing.

I do like the idea of LG. Not sure it is for me though.
  • 1 0
 Does this mean next we see sram coming out with a sweet wide range 10 or 11 speed on xd...again, just wider range. Also at a lower price point. Id run nx cassettes for durability if the had an xd version, but would still prefer the lower gear count to reduce the set up precision needed. One stick or rock kicked up into a derailleur and its never the same.
  • 1 0
 The 11-50T XT cassette pictured here weighs 780-grams, while an 11-43 Deore cassette comes in slightly lighter at 634-grams
“Slightly lighter”. That’s actually a lot. That’s 1/4 pound. About 20%. That’s fantastic
  • 1 0
 Having different cable pull ratios between different speeds and also between MTB and Road is a big historical and unnecessary own-goal for Shimano. How stupid of them that they have painted themselves into a corner at exactly the same time that gravel crossover drivetrains became a big thing.
  • 1 0
 My main wear item on the e-bike is the chain. Like, it lasts for less than 100 mi before it’s stretched and slipping like crazy in the high gears. And since the replacement rule of thumb is 3 chains for every cassette, doesn’t that mean that a beefier chain should a part of linkglide? He says the chain is an existing 11 speed item, nothing specifically designed for durability like the cassette. So shouldn’t a burlier chain be a part of the offering? Or do 11 spd chains naturally last longer than a narrower 12 spd chain? Anyone care to comment?
  • 1 0
 @nmurdick - My current drivetrains are Zee mech (wide range), 10 speed 11-42 cassette, XT shifter and HG95 chain - the 10Zee as I call it. I use this with a stainless steel Wolftooth ring.

It's cheap, robust and changes well. The Zee mech is short enough to stay out of the way whilst giving just enough range with a 30t chainring to get up most hills.

Once I can't get parts for this I'm going to jump onto CUES but hope a Saint or Zee mech will be in the works to keep the short cage mech. I do like the look of CUES and think it will be a game changer.
  • 2 0
 Slightly off topic but those wanting a good look at the new axs stuff can head over to moi moi tv and have a good gander. I think someone forgot to tell him about embargos
  • 1 0
 Yeah, new Sram breaks, axs drive train, completely new unreleased rear shock, and I think the axs dropper was running the new remote.
  • 1 1
 It is interesting because the advertisement makes it seem like Linkglide is superior to Hyperglide with better shifting under load, smoother shifting, better durability, etc, yet it is on lower end groups. It does sound funny that the Linkglide technology did not roll out to the higher end groups and the technology trickle down to the lower groups. So, is Linkglide going to be a trickle up technology to the higher end groups or is it only better for ebikes?
  • 1 1
 Not sure if you listened to the podcast, but the LG drawbacks are weight (necessitates thicker cogs) and slower shifts. Not what most customers are looking for on high end bikes.
  • 1 0
 @sfarnum: I read all that about weight and shifting. But how much weight and how much slower? A small weight penalty is not necessarily bad if the shifting is better and better shifting under load. I like how LG eliminates chain jump on shifts and shifting better under load. The Shimano advertisement still made it look much better than HG.
  • 1 2
 As a general question to the PB crew for a future podcast, what is it that makes one bike or component or apparel company cool vs. another? As an example, why is Santa Cruz considered cooler than Pivot? They both make great bikes and their pricing is broadly aligned. Or SRAM vs. Shimano as another example, from a function/weight perspective they are more or less identical, but one is still thought of as 'cool' vs. 'conservative'
  • 2 0
 Kudos to the hosts for heroically resisting the urge to endlessly mock the name 'CUES'.
  • 3 3
 I can see the application for this heavy drivetrain on DH bikes and obviously mopeds (I expect that’s the real application), but I can’t see much of anyone else wanting such heavy boat anchor.
  • 1 0
 And dose that mean turnney up to 800$ bikes … that’s kinda … welll ya
  • 2 0
 We neglected to mention it, but there are legacy 8 speed versions of Altus and Acera that we never stopped producing. Those will continue to live on to fill the price gap between CUES and Tourney. There's even a new 8 speed Acera rear derailleur that can shift up to a 40 tooth cog that just came out last year.
  • 4 6
 I feel like this is a groupset that is designed for casual riders or riders who just don't need a big gear range due to their terrain or preferred riding.

If you live in the majority of the world and enjoy mountain biking, 4.5:1 is too narrow of a gear range unless you either never have hard climbs or just don't like going as fast as possible. Even the 5.1:1 range isn't good enough to not run out of gears before you run out of desire for more speed in a lot of cases.
  • 12 0
 Maybe if you have a need to pedal 35+mph and climb steep hills yeah, otherwise a smaller chainring gives the low end you need and tucking in is usually better at speed.
  • 1 0
 @asdfg3: why not tuck and pedal? Fast is fun.
  • 14 1
 28t chainring. I have zero desire to go over 25mph on pavement or dirt on my mtb. Most of the trails around here are pretty much gravity descents. YMMV.
  • 5 0
 @asdfg3: For example you'd need a 25t front cog to match the granny gear of a 30f-50r set up, with a 42t rear cog. Most frames wont have the clearance for that unfortunately, I'd happily sacrifice faster gears for a smaller front cog and shorter derailleur.
  • 1 0
 @pbuser2299: My old bike had a 3x10 24,32,42 chainrings with 11-36 cassette. Newer bike has 1x 32t chainring with a 10-51t cassette. This is identical granny gear ratio but a little bit less top end.
Personally, I don't miss the extra top end speed. But I also don't think putting big power through the little 10t cog is good for chain or cassette longevity.
  • 2 0
 cue madmon sending cash....standing by.........and.......GO
  • 1 1
 @mikelevy when are we going to have a podcast about what is the best vehicle for a mountain biker, and why its not a sprinter/tacoma and why its a Mitsubishi Delica?
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: so it is a delica that is the ultimate vehicle
  • 1 0
 @schlockinz: Retired ambulance is definitely better
  • 1 0
 If link glide is anything like huperglide then it will not work as claimed at all.
  • 1 0
 Tastes great, less filling?
  • 2 0
 Transcripts! Yes!
  • 2 4
 Just tell me the centre to centre cog spacing then I can decide myself how compatible it is with the current 11 speed hyperglide cassette at 3.76mm
  • 2 2
 Linkglide, hyperglide …. Shouldn’t these be reserved for condom specs?
  • 1 2
 This is great for the low end and e-bikes. Now how about updating XTR M9100. It hasn't been updated in several years...
  • 1 0
 what updates are required to XTR? Do people still want wireless?
CUES is all about reducing SKU's. Adding even more 12 speed SKU's is probably not a priority right now.
  • 1 0
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