Component of the Year WinnerComponents are, by their very definition, just one small part of the big picture. Sure, your bike's geometry, design, and suspension play a more important role in the ride than what kind of derailleur or dropper post you have, but all it takes is one poorly running part to ruin a day. On the other hand, a smoothly running drivetrain, a reliable dropper post, or brakes that won't let you down can all make the day just that much better.
This year's nominees pull at the heartstrings (goddamn, AXS is neat) and at our common sense (who needs anything other than XT), while OneUp managed to improve an already impressive dropper post, and Trickstuff made a brake that might be able to slow the earth's rotation.
So, will it be wireless technology, practical performance at a good price, an evolved dropper post, or pricey but enormously powerful brakes?
COMPONENT OF THE YEAR
Shifting that comes close to perfection.
It's pretty simple: XT's price-to-performance ratio is off the chart compared to other drivetrains out there. Yes, $622 USD is a lot of money to most of us, but it's still around $1,000 less than the best cable-operated drivetrains while shifting just as well. In fact, it might move the chain even better, according to RC. The penalty is just 250-ish grams and, if you care about such things, less clout at the trailhead.
The 12-speed XT drivetrain impressed us with its performance, most notably the shifting under power that matches XTR's abilities. Shimano's new Hyperglide+ chain and cassette design makes it possible to get away with shifting whenever you want, even in the middle of a steep climb.
RC's November review of the 12-speed group is glowing, so much so that some of his cons are a bit of a stretch; the derailleur's matte finish always looks dirty, he wrote, and that the cassette is kinda heavy (470-grams), but that's prefaced with it being the "Best shifting cassette I've ridden.'' I guess it can't be perfect, right?
Nothing's perfect, of course, but Shimano's XT drivetrain comes oh-so-close.