It’s no secret that mountain bikes are expensive, and at times fragile things, so, we’re always stoked to hear a company pushing to improve the durability of their products. What’s got us even more stoked is that while some brands continue to push the envelope of insanely priced, top-tier components that most will never experience, Shimano is working on more affordable and longer lasting components that mean the every-day-rider won’t have to break the bank to replace a spendy cassette or costly chain three times a year. There’s no denying that the insurgence of electric mountain bikes (eMTB) has done even more to expose the weakness of existing drivetrains than traditional bikes, but this drivetrain will be equally welcome by all riders who punish their equipment, no matter the power source. We’re not alone in saying that snapped chains, broken sprocket teeth and botched shifts under load have been affecting the MTB experience for quite some time now. Shimano is hoping to solve drivetrain durability woes for both analog and electric mountain bikes with their LINKGLIDE technology, as featured on their newly released CUES drivetrain system as well as select models in the Deore and Deore XT ranges. Let’s dive into what Shimano is doing differently with the LINKGLIDE drivetrain system and discuss what that means for life out on the trail.
SHIMANO’S LINKGLIDE MISSION STATEMENT
Shimano identified the need to tailor their drivetrain systems to the rider and bike style. While their HYPERGLIDE+ drivetrain is an excellent choice for the performance-minded rider looking for the lightest system weight and quickest shifting, there were concessions made to achieve these goals. With this in mind, Shimano developed the LINKGLIDE system to offer a more user-friendly experience that caters to riders with concern for longevity and ease of use. With less of a “shock” as the drivetrain shifts, benefits can be felt for both beginner riders in the feeling of safety and smoothness during shifting as well as more advanced riders in the seamlessness during each change. With efforts made to boost durability and reduce the likelihood of the degradation that can result in shifting performance dropping, Shimano LINKGLIDE drivetrains should be enjoyed by riders across the spectrum and the reduced need to replace parts should keep the environment happier all the same.
EFFICIENCY – SHIFTING PERFORMANCE By developing a new shift ramp design that is very different to the HYPERGLIDE+ system, Shimano achieved improvements to shifting smoothness and durability. This means that riders are no longer required to back-off of the power during gear shifts as the system is designed to shift smoothly when loaded and should not jump as the shift is made. During a shift, the LINKGLIDE cassette cogs are designed to produce a smoother handoff for the chain and keep it in contact with the cassette at all times instead of falling or jumping into the next gear. This is especially notable under the higher forces of a shift into a harder gear. The downside to this technology is that the chain shifts slower and only when it reaches the keyed ramps in the cassette. This can mean a micro-delay in shifting compared to HYPERGLIDE+.
Whilst shifting smoothness and consistent power transfer is a high priority of the Shimano LINKGLIDE system, it doesn’t complete the shift as quickly as a HYPERGLIDE+ system, and so racers looking to obtain the optimum gear in as short a time as possible will not be as well served. As an extra bonus, the simple design of the shifting gates allows the LINKGLIDE drivetrain to be used with any 11spd chain, making sourcing spares easier in a pinch.
THE DURABILITY ASPECT Shimano sought to improve the durability of their drivetrain all-round with the LINKGLIDE system. This was not only to cater to the increasing demands of eMTB, but also to keep the drivetrains of regular riders safer while also being better equipped to handle the demands of less experienced shifters and riders in sloppy environments.
The cassette teeth profiles have been adjusted to make the transition of the chain between each cog smoother to improve the feel, while also limiting the damage that the chain can cause to the cassette teeth. The base of the cogs was made considerably thicker, and the teeth are taller to promote increased chain engagement and to prevent the chain from slipping over the top of a cog and causing damage. The chamfering was modified too, with a shallower chamfer on the driven side of the teeth to offer up a more direct connection for the forward-facing portion of the chain rollers; and a larger chamfer on the reverse side to reduce the likelihood of chain suck. By mitigating the damage that the chain can cause to the cassette, LINKGLIDE should continue to shift at the same level of smoothness and without skipping for considerably longer – up to three times the mileage of previous systems.
AVAILABILITY Shimano LINKGLIDE technology mainly featured on the new SHIMANO CUES mid-tier drivetrain system, is also available on select DEORE and DEORE XT components. The Shimano EP801 and EP600 electric drive units will harmonize with the LINKGLIDE-equipped Di2 drivetrains to offer their FREE SHIFT and AUTO SHIFT gearing technologies, improving the eMTB experience. With options for 9 through to 11-speed, and cassettes reaching the 11-50t range, LINKGLIDE tech is available to suit the vast majority of bikes and riders.
In a time when other drivetrain and component manufacturers seem to be in a race to make more expensive and elite-level bits, Shimano’s commitment to offering a cost-conscious drivetrain technology that improves safety and will last at least three times longer is a breath of fresh air. Now, it’s certainly not going to be for everyone as the delay in shifting could be a deal-breaker for some, but we’re excited to report back with a long term review as we’ve just got a couple new test bikes with Shimano LINKGLIDE installed.
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