Throwback Thursday: The First Ever Shimano Deore XT Groupset From 1982

Jul 30, 2020
by James Smurthwaite  

In March 1921, Shozaburo Shimano and a former co-worker rented a single lathe to begin manufacturing the 3.3.3 freewheel for bicycles. Little did he realise he was launching one of the biggest and most important cycling brands that would still be at the forefront of cycling nearly 100 years later.

His brand is now gearing up for its centennial celebrations and is dipping back into its archives to look at some of the most significant products it has released. This week the original Deore XT drivetrain that was built to capitalise on the mountain bike boom in the 1970s gets put in the spotlight. It's a model that is approaching its own 40 year anniversary and remains one of our favourite drivetrains to this day. Check out the video above for all the details on the thumb shifters, four-finger levers and cantilever brakes with safety stopper technology that were considered the height of mtb tech at the time.

bigquotesIn the latter half of the 1970s, Shimano, upon receiving news of a mountain biking boom in the west coast of the United States, assigned members from the Japan headquarters to investigate locally. Experiencing the joy of it first hand, the members were confident in the potential of mountain biking and began the development of specialized components. The most challenging aspect was meeting the firmness required. The fact that these components would be used in unforeseen harsh environments, coupled with the exposure to rainwater and mud, made shielding-effect necessary. Durability tests were repeated with mud and sand collected from across the United States and finally, the first mountain bike component, “DEORE XT” came to life. The mountain bike movement had since spread further throughout the globe and contributed to the growth of Shimano as well.Shimano

Here's another Shimano video on the 3.3.3 freewheel that the brand started producing nearly 100 years ago.



103 Comments

  • 80 11
 This is why Shimano is just better the SRAM.
  • 45 7
 My first mountain bike was circa 1983 (with shimano friction shifters and a 5 spd freewheel), it is with all confidence I will say I'd ride 1982 shimano over 2020 sram.
  • 3 2
 @Tcolbert: amen to that!
  • 4 2
 The year I was born, yeah baby!
  • 4 0
 Still got the original deore II on my first bike, a mongoose iboc. That bike was put through the wringer. Rear shifter has been set to friction since '89 lol. Still performs great when the bike gets ridden, which isn't often anymore.
  • 4 1
 100% agree
  • 56 0
 10/10 would wear t-shirt with the XT deer logo on it
  • 32 0
 What's the secret shield mechanism which allows the cranks to spin freely without human input?
  • 13 2
 Shimano invented e-bikes back in 1982
  • 11 0
 i think fishing line is the secret shield
  • 3 0
 @mert123: Such a simple solution, here I was wondering how they rotoscoped the person spinning the cranks out in the early 80s haha. Don't know why my mind went to the complex when the simple always works better.
  • 1 0
 @cueTIP: haha looked cool though
  • 1 0
 The left of the wheel is off camera so I'd imagine they had a set up that would spin the wheel by spinning the tyre. A bit like how they start MotoGP bikes
  • 1 0
 @mert123: it makes sense, utilising their fishing equipment expertise Wink
  • 16 4
 You spent more time adjusting Pad gap, toe in and straddle cables than riding, oh and there was no such thing as modulation. Don't miss those days. Thumbies lasted forever, later ones had a friction setting so if you banged your rear mech. you could still shift. Shimano has always made great gear, not like some others I will not mention
  • 3 0
 Totally agree on the brake thing,cantis were horrible. Shimano has always made good- AND bad stuff..don't forget the money you paid for stuff back then. But there is something about material quality, not only shimano,but lots of 80s stuff,it look almost brand new,when you stumble upon it in the workshop..
  • 16 1
 A lot of people are unaware but you can still get those same levers today if you simply purchase any sub $200 Magura brake.
  • 14 2
 Maybe the Deore group was named after a moose not a deer. Part deer, part donkey... DeeOre....
  • 8 0
 I saw a few of those drive trains come through the shops I worked at from '06-'11. They still worked well 20 years on. I always thought the deer head logo was sick, too Pretty cool stuff.
  • 10 0
 Running some deer head XT on my commuter, friction shifting works most of the time, all the time!
  • 9 0
 That is absolute gold. I love those 80s ads. Tamiya used to do similar style ads for their RC cars.
  • 9 0
 I am sure this stuff is still ridden somewhere, I am not sure if I can say the same in 40 years about my 12 speed set up :-/
  • 10 4
 Seriously, I've been a Shimano guy forever. I picked up a bike with full GX this spring just to give it w whirl. The ergonomics on the GX shifter suck compared to even the cheapest Shimano. How do people enjoy riding that crap?
  • 6 24
flag thenotoriousmic (Jul 30, 2020 at 8:42) (Below Threshold)
 Because most people aren’t deluded biased shimano fan boys. So when you don’t have a dog in the fight there’s absolutely no way your wasting your money on those cheap plastic thumb shifters. You’re going to pick the best of the two and that’s why everyone’s using sram shifters and pretty much everything else.
  • 10 1
 GX shifter ergonomics? Whoever came up with that has a pretty unique hand.
  • 5 0
 Yep me too, usually goes something like this, buy lowest spec model of awesome bike with sram components, replace with XT as things wear out. I do have an older bike though with X9 and the shifter has a high quality crisp feel.
  • 1 0
 Yeah, I'm not going to slag SRAM, but I greatly prefer the ergonomics of the Shimano shifters. That's just my preference. I've got a cheap bike that came with NX that I'll replace with Deore as things wear out or break.
  • 1 0
 @Ritgut: to be honest, the best shifting I've ever had was 9 speed XO. But then, I've never ridden XTR, XO was horribly expensive and the latest SX/NX/GX seems to me overpriced and underperforming.
  • 9 0
 haha that video was awesome...
  • 5 1
 日本語教材に使う!
  • 3 0
 @orientdave: Really, Shimano is teaching material in Japan?
  • 2 0
 @Geochemistry: Not really,just that video is useful for my business Japanese study!!
  • 5 0
 Does Japanese not have words for 'brake power' or 'safety'? These are just some of the words I heard that sounded very english while being said with a japanese twist. Seems like pretty generic words to englishize?
BTW, before someone get's offended I'm not ridiculing, I'm curious and would like to know.
  • 3 1
 French is like that as well.. english terms that seem really generic, but are actually english 'technical' terms without an equivalent. I'm sure there are ways to describe it, but it probably takes more words when saying the 'official' english term gets the point across asap.
  • 2 0
 @typx: really? Wich one?
  • 1 0
 @fracasnoxteam: It's probably kind of like how 'schadenfreude' has no English equivalent other than to explain it.. so we just say schadenfreude. I'm in Montreal and Quebecois french is populated with English terms. It's like someone would be talking about bikes in french and then say 'downhill mountain biking' in English, then carry on with French. It may not always be that the terms are without equivalence, sometimes it may be that the term is just an 'english' term.. as in it's etymology is English.
  • 3 0
 There's something about a Shimano groupset layout photo, they weren't even just a single groupset, they were series sets. I don't know what the formula was, the lighting? the background? the right amount of sparkle off each component? Don't see many Shimano seatposts, headsets these days. I would've like the 'shield mechanism' term to have hung around instead of that weird whiskered amphibious thing.
  • 4 0
 A lot has changed in 100 years! wounder if will get as much change in the next 10?
  • 8 2
 Depends if they move to gearboxes Smile
  • 1 3
 @Jacquers: Since they will not cover the chain to keep it clean, do not see gearboxes working any better any time soon!
  • 4 2
 @aljoburr: No way. Exposed chain is nothing compared to exposing your entire transmission, which is what we tolerate now. Consider that basically all vehicles have a drive shaft of some sort that transfers power to the wheels, and of course....motorcycles. Hell, just one errant tip over and your derailleur is bent out of alignment. Sure, you can maybe eyeball it enough to bend back to get home, but it's crazy that this is even a thing. And with today's super tight tolerance drive trains, the slightest hanger bend means nasty mis shifts.
  • 3 2
 @Jacquers: I predict that by 2030, gearboxes will be as standard as 1X is now.
  • 3 0
 @Chuckolicious: changing a little the subject here, but does anyone know the gear % ratio en these ?
  • 3 0
 Hmmm... so their 100 year anniversary will be March 2021.... Que the release of Shimano wireless shifting to celebrate (hopefully)?
  • 5 0
 I was conceived to music like this around the same time.
  • 2 0
 I actually lost my virginity to that music! ..two weeks ago...
  • 5 0
 @orientdave is Deore a Japanese word? If so, what is the meaning?
  • 3 3
 Means deer in Japanese. Japanese somehow likes to give ‘names’ associated with nature for their products.....Honda Blackbird, Honda Fireblade, Suzuki Hayabusa, Yamaha Serow.....oh yes, the classic Mitsubishi Starrion....
  • 10 0
 @jaame As far as my quarter of a century here tells me, it isn't anything traditionally Japanese; it is likely to be a loan word from another language. Shimano don't use a lot of Japanese words in their product lineup.

If it were Japanese, it would be made up of the sounds で、お and れ. Honestly, the only thing I could dig up is a surname 出尾 (deo) from the area in the West of Japan, so at a real stretch it might be the brainchild of an engineer called 出尾, but I think the chances of my dog receiving a Nobel prize are higher than that being the case... There aren't very few nouns ending in れ (re) either, just lots of imperative verbs. Sorry, can't throw more light on it.

I did find out that it might be an old Germanic word for "dear", as in "my dear", but the marketing team at Shimano will be the best bet to find out... if you really are interested I could shoot them off a mail if I find their e-mail address and see what they say.

@Ben-76 Deer? You sure about that? I know カモシカ (kamoshika) and 鹿 (shika) for deer, never Deore... or am I missing something?
  • 1 0
 @orientdave: don't put yourself out Dave, but if you do find out let us know. It's one of life's little mysteries.
  • 1 1
 @orientdave: wouldt deore just be the "japanization" of the english word Deer? At the end of the video there is a design of a deer as the logo of the product....
  • 2 0
 @Narro2: Japnization via Katakana alphabet would be ディア (Dee-ah) with no 'o' anywhere in it, however it is only really used in names of companies in my experience...

Maybe it is a play on words of Deer / Dear however, safe to say, in response to Jaame's question, it is not a traditional Japanese word that any native speaker uses.
  • 13 1
 For me there are no references to English, but to Spanish .... "De Oro" = gold.
The same goes for "Acera" - Acero = steel.
  • 1 0
 @matiasmere: ha!! you are totally right, Spanish is my 1st language and that didnt cross my mind at all.
  • 2 0
 @matiasmere: Glad you brought this up! Back in the early 90's, when I was a shop grom, one of the know-it-all guys in the shop had said Shimano used the name Deore because it meant gold in Spanish. He was the sort of guy who also liked to joke around and play tricks on people though, and since it isn't a direct translation/spelling, I was never sure if he was extrapolating, joking, or if he actually that was truly Shimano's inspiration.
  • 2 0
 @orientdave: Dave, I think we're going to need that email!
  • 1 0
 @orientdave: Yeah my bad, probly a little ingnorance on my part. I guess it’s more like a play on words like what you’ve clarified. But like I’ve said, I liked how the Japanese uses names to decribe how their product performs....hey if Deore parts really helps me climb like a ‘deer’, I’m all for it ????
  • 1 0
 Darn, that ???? was meant to be a cheers emoticon
  • 3 1
 @thekaiser: It doesn't really mean gold though, "de oro" is "of gold", gold is just "oro".
  • 2 0
 I've always thought it comes from the French D'or, made of gold, not so much from the Spanish De Oro, because how it's usually pronounced.
If it comes from "deer", then it's just a common case of engrish.
  • 2 0
 @jaame: I'm drunk now, but give me Monday and I'll shoot off an e-mail!!
  • 1 0
 Woah, is it just the angle, or are those like 25-30mm wide rims? In late 80's-early 90's, I hated that all I could get were stupid skinny rims for my 2.3 tires. Made total sense that the tires should not be a big balloon in profile so they just bend when cornering.
  • 9 0
 The first wave of mountain bikes in the early/mid 80's did use wide rims, ~ 25mm inside width. Then Keith Bontrager started cutting down Mavic road rims, in part to save weight, but also because the hollow cross section was strong. Mainstream rim designs followed, and we all endured the dark age of rim design until relatively recent wide rim availability.
  • 3 0
 SunTour XC was the actual choice of the day, replacing the earlier ARX GT mechanisms just a few months after the Deore hit the market.
  • 1 0
 The MounTech was the mech that came out about the same time as the Deore, but was soon replaced by the XC. The MounTech was essentially an aRX GT with a new name.
  • 1 0
 I still have two sets of the old Shimano Deore XT 7-spd thumbshifters and the Shimano Deore DX and XT 2-finger cantilever brake levers. These are just so awesome. What's cool about the Deore XT 7-spd Thumbshifter is that it'll match up with 5-spd all the way up to 8-spd cassettes. In addition, you can go top to bottom cassette rings with one press with the thumb forward or backwards. You can only do 4 up and 2 down with Shimano XT and XTR since RapidFire shifters came about. The Deore XT groupo is also very solid and smooth in every way. This is why Shimano dominated the biking industry for so long. Their stuff lasts, they can be maintained, and there are replacement parts still available. I'm still using the 1986 Shimano Deore XT, DX, and LX components on my older bikes and they're still running like they're brand new. The only thing I regret replacing is the Deore DX U-Brake that's mounted at the bottom of the chainstay and I neglected to clean out the salt from road salting in the winter. The chemicals corroded the bosses and springs so bad that no replacement parts can be put back in.
  • 2 0
 Ahhh Tioga Comp III tires. I'd love it if they still made a modern version of the Comp III. I'm sure it would be super dated compared to todays super technological tires but it would still be cool!
  • 4 0
 Ahh I miss the days of Spirited Riding.
  • 11 0
 ...vibration resistant rigid steel frames...
  • 2 1
 Springs and pivots of 1982 Deore XT derailleurs... still working just fine... springs and pivots of 2000 Deore XT derailleurs... meh.... not working very well. 2012 derailleur ? certainly not as well as the 1982 ones.
  • 1 0
 yeah, and that derr from 1982 weights the same as a derr, shifter plus cable today. I get your point, and a few of the mid 1990's xt derr got play very quickly plus we had to us aftermarket springs for more power.. However, the newer XT derr are much better. I have beaten the crap of of a few and they are still solid.
  • 2 0
 Vintage MTB festival o ver a big weekend in the belgian ardennes next year, if covid allow it to happen of course m.facebook.com/events/287164818943673
  • 1 0
 I updated some of the components of my first (cheap)mountain bike with some of their components with the deer on, especially loved the shift levers(same as video)!
  • 3 0
 those Compe 3 tyres tho!!
  • 4 0
 4-finger braking FTW!
  • 5 0
 Yeah 4 finger braking & over-bar shifting.....perfect for DH
  • 10 0
 4-fingers but you really wanted to be able to use few more fingers after a creek crossing.
  • 3 0
 @Ben-76: Entitled Millenial. (I kid!)
  • 5 0
 Back then we used 4 fingers for everything
  • 1 0
 @Chuckolicious: correction.....been mixing around too much with the Millie crowds. Haaaa
  • 1 0
 @deepcovedave: Not really, remember the Dia Compe MX-120 bmx brake levers....2-fingers but mounted vertically down from the grips.......Yoann Barelli’s nightmare.
  • 1 0
 I put the XT M732 groups on both of my commuter bikes, the shifting is so fast and crisp with the thumb shifter. It's such a well designed group.
  • 2 0
 Can we be honest about the music switch at 1:05 and the subsequent mix-in of the indexed shift clicking?!

Brilliant.
  • 8 5
 Your mom still uses 4fingers
  • 2 0
 You can take all 4 at once?
  • 3 0
 The Comp III tires!! So rad
  • 2 0
 Who else still has a Campy peanut butter wrench they used for wheels and crank axle bolts?
  • 3 0
 We heart Shimano.
  • 3 0
 4 finger breaking!
  • 1 0
 ビデオの撮影中にチリ南部のシロナガスクジラは負傷していません Smile
  • 2 0
 there fishing reels are really good
  • 1 0
 This is so cool. I remember my father as a child, "INDEXED SHIFTING SON, OMFG". Very memorable.
  • 1 0
 Shimano better be bringing back the Deer logo for 2021! I want a vintage Deer logo T-Shirt god dammit!
  • 2 0
 Deer XT, best groupset ever
  • 1 0
 Lucky me, i have one of this nice derailurs. Only on pulley is missing, Does anybody have one?
  • 1 0
 I haven't had to grab a brake lever like that since I was a child, haha.
  • 2 0
 Vintage bike porn
  • 1 0
 the gold xt thumb shifters are my all time fave
  • 1 0
 Back in the four finger braking days!
  • 1 0
 RIP Superplate-oh how you list spring tension when dirty.
  • 1 0
 the handlebar wow!
remenber me my mom ORANGE CRUSH mountaine bike Smile
  • 1 1
 What a bunch of shima-know-it-alls...
  • 1 0
 Vintage bike porn.
:-p

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