XTR vs XT
Many riders will find themselves trying to decide between XT and XTR. Thankfully both are completely interchangeable, meaning riders can mix and match as they see fit. XTR cranks will work with an XT drivetrain etc. The core difference between the two isn’t features, but materials and coatings. Quite honestly, I’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two in a blind test, since performance and on the bike feel are so similar if not almost identical. And for that matter, if we were building our own bike, we’d probably select some SLX to save even more money.
Boiled down to the most basic principals, XT simply uses more cost effective materials than XTR, and has different coatings throughout the system. For example, the chainring on XT is an aluminum inner with a steel tooth outer ring. One key area of difference is actually the chain. Shimano offers three chains in three price points at the XTR, XT and SLX levels. All retain Hyperglide+ abilities, but the difference is in the surface treatment. XTR has the most durable surface coatings, and is a worthwhile upgrade even on an SLX drivetrain since it improves reliability along with having lighter hollow pins and has more strength since a hollow pin can be peened more effectively and is thus stronger.
XT and SLX also got two new aluminum wheelset models for each. One is a 24mm inner width rim, and the other is a 30mm inner width rim, Both have 28 spokes, but the 30mm has traditional J bend spokes for easy replacement when things go wrong. Keen observers will also notice that Shimano pulled back on the Sylence hubs launched with XTR because of reliability issues. Instead, XT and SLX wheels come with a 7-degree play angle traditional hub design with 100 points of contact. The tubeless wheels are available in Boost, non-Boost, and pretty much anything else you can dream up.