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Since first being announced in May 2018, Shimano has seen extreme delays of its new 12-speed XTR M9100 groupsets. Complete production groupsets remain unavailable, and now, the situation seems even more significant. Shimano has gone so far as to altogether cancel a couple of the expected components, as recently reported by Mike Kazimer on mountain bike website PinkBike.
Somewhat confusing matters is the fact that the new XTR has been seen in use since it was launched. It’s been raced at World Cups and tested by media. Additionally, many components are available for sale on European, English and Australian websites, and some bike brands, such as Pivot and Cannondale, have even been shipping XTR-equipped bikes.
As it turns out, the pros and media who have used the groupset were riding pre-production versions. The brands and stores offering the components, meanwhile, are doing so without the new crankset and hubs.
What’s the hold-up?
With a new 12-speed chain design, the crankset is perhaps the most important component to be delayed. According to Shimano Cycling Australia’s marketing manager, Toby Shingleton, the delay is a direct result of a fire in Shimano’s surface treatment factory. That fire has impacted the availability of Dura-Ace and Ultegra cranksets too, and the factory is in the process of being set up again.
For XTR, the interim answer is an XTR-level crank with a simpler, non-series finish. From a functional and structural point of view, the stop-gap MT900 crank offers all the same features as the anticipated M9100. “It’s effectively an M9100 crank without the special surface treatment. It looks like a black M9100 crank,” explained Shingleton. At least for Australia, stock of these new cranks will be trickling in from as early as next week.
More significantly, the much anticipated Scylence rear hub has been canceled — at least for now. The new silent-coasting hub was certainly one of the more intriguing developments of the new groupset, and we had previously speculated that it would be carried over to the road with the next generation of Dura-Ace.
For now, Shimano plans to release an XTR hub that uses the same Helical spline design as previously announced, but rather than coast silently without contact of the ratchet rings, the rings will instead stay in contact. It’s safe to assume that the hub won’t be silent and that it will coast with more drag than originally desired.
“It’s frustrating that we advertised something we’re not able to bring to market,” said Shingleton, who also explained that they’d been using prototypes of Scylence hub for well over a year locally without a single issue, but that clearly the product didn’t meet Shimano’s stringent quality control testing.
Finally, the rather unique 11-speed version of the 12-speed group has been canceled. The original concept was to combine a narrower 10-45T 11-speed cassette option with a specific hub to offer a wider spoke brace angle. Both that specific hub and cassette have been canceled, at least for now.
So what does this all mean for the industry?
This isn’t the first time in recent years that Shimano has suffered delays. Similar delays occurred with the release of Dura-Ace R9100, which effectively hit the shelves almost a year after its announcement. But it’s certainly something that irritates those who are trying to sell the product – not to mention the consumers that want to get their hands on it.
As media (and the ones who help spread the word on new gear) it’s something we hear plenty of. Retailers suffer when a new product is released without availability. The bikes they stock which feature the previous generation groupsets are devalued, and in some cases, the high-end market effectively goes on hold awaiting the new gear.
When you factor in Shimano’s long history of price undercutting from online retailers, it’s just another reason for retailers to support other options. Speaking with Ryan Mclennan, a brand manager at Rowney Sports – the Australian distributor of Yeti, Ibis, and Devinci – there’s an obvious sense of frustration, and the company’s bike line-up is almost exclusively equipped with SRAM for 2019.
Surprisingly, the M9100 XTR delays, at least according to Mclennan, haven’t had such a huge impact on the premium mountain bike distributor’s sales.
“SRAM have had the drivetrain dialled since Eagle. We’ve been losing a lot of XT sales since [the release of] Eagle GX. Our Shimano sales were dipping before the XTR release. SRAM have done a really good job, and Shimano have had a little bit too long between drinks,” said Mclennan. SRAM’s up, Shimano’s down, in other words; consumers want SRAM’s 12-speed offerings, and Shimano has been slow to keep pace.
Mclennan also highlighted that SRAM and a growing number of other brands are increasingly dialled in their product release timing. When the media embargo is lifted – for SRAM, at least – the product is typically ready for sale on shop floors.
Perhaps that’s a lesson Shimano could learn from.