A Review and Some Tinkering with Shimano CUES 1×11 Drivetrain


A Review and Some Tinkering with Shimano CUES 1×11 Drivetrain

With Shimano releasing CUES to replace Alivio, Acera, and Altus groupsets, is it possible we are getting something better? CUES unites all the parts under its umbrella with the same flat cable pull ratio and chain pitch across 9, 10, and 11-speed drivetrains. Spencer Harding devised his own mix of CUES parts to fit his touring demands at a low price point. Check out what he found and his thoughts on this new parts offering from Shimano below…

CUES Ethos

Shimano CUES replaces the brand’s budget-friendly Alivio, Acera, and Altus groupsets. CUES is made for everyday cycling prioritizing durability and affordability. After really enjoying my time with the Deore XT 11 speed LINKGLIDE groupset I was excited to see how the technology trickled down to the even more affordable CUES lineup. So I combed through the new Shimano CUES suite of parts to find a drivetrain that was: affordable, wide range, 1x, and uses a square taper bottom bracket.

Affordability: There are always ways to cut corners and find cheaper parts, but I wanted to make a solid list of a full drivetrain available at almost any bike shop. The resulting drivetrain costs right around $300.

Wide Range: I wanted a gear range comparable to higher-end 12-speed drivetrains on the market. Of course, utilizing the HG freehub body we will never get down to a 10-tooth cog like the SRAM Eagle or Shimano Microspline systems. Though, I’d prefer to have a massive low range rather than be able to pedal downhill.

Single Chainring: I don’t ever want to set up a front derailleur ever again, they are a hassle and I’ve wasted too much of my life fiddling with them. I don’t need a 3×13 drivetrain, no one does. I don’t need to pedal downhill at 30 mph without spinning out. I crave simplicity, so we are sticking with one chainring for this exercise.

Square Taper: I wanted to find a modern square taper crankset. The sealed bearings in square taper bottom brackets, in my experience, last for good goddamn ever. CUES offers a square taper crankset, with some concessions which I’ll get into later.

Putting all of the Parts Together

Cassette CS-LG400-11
The most expensive part on our list is the cassette. This is the cheaper version of the LG700 I previously reviewed. The range is the same (11-50) but it weighs a bit more for $20 less. The important part – besides the huge gear range – is that the cassette mounts to a legacy HG freehub. And, SO many hubs out there have HG-style freehubs. Slap this on your bike from the 90s and let’s go.

LINKGLIDE technology is meant to make your cassette last “three times longer” by strengthening the base of each cog. This means it’s heavier, but sacrifices need to be made for longevity. To save some money and weight, the smaller-range cassettes from the CUES suite could be used if a huge pie plate gear isn’t your cup of tea.

Derailleur RD-U6000
I love that (even being low on the price spectrum) this derailleur still has a serviceable clutch mechanism, which was a swift downfall of my short time with a SRAM SX Eagle derailleur. This derailleur works great with the new CUES line and most importantly allows us to use the large 50t cassette range at a great price point.

Chain CN-LG500
I went with the recommended LINKGLIDE chain because it’s still very affordable. If it’s an 11-speed chain it should work with the CUES system. I’ve been using SRAM chains on my Shimano drivetrains for years because they were cheaper, though they are now similar in price.

Crankset BB-UN300/FC-U4000-1
I wanted to find a modern drivetrain that gives us all the sweet simplicity of modern 1x with a legacy square taper bottom bracket. The square taper bottom bracket has been ubiquitous for decades and thus I wanted to utilize one. I used a 73x123mm bottom bracket on my Crust Scapebot to get a 50mm chain line for a boost-spaced hub.

For the crank, I went with Shimano’s FC-U4000-1 with a 30t chainring. It’s one of the cheapest cranks that Shimano offers. The chainring is riveted to the cranks and thus isn’t interchangeable. I was willing to sacrifice interchangeability to use a square taper bottom bracket in this instance. There are endless options to swap this out to suit your preference of crank, chainring, or bottom bracket in the CUES lineup or your parts bin.

Shifter SL-U6000-11R
A new CUES shifter is necessary for compatibility with the new flat cable pull ratio. This one felt understandably cheap, but I appreciated the separate release levers. I spent a very short time with two SRAM SX shifters and this CUES shifter has already outlived them a few times over at a similar price point. While the shifter performed admirably during my time with it, I have some ideas for an alternative that segways nicely into my next section…


Rejoice warranty voiders and parts bin aficionados alike! While the new CUES system works wonderfully within its ecosystem as would be expected, that doesn’t mean we can’t play around a bit. Of course, take all this advice with a grain of salt. None of this is condoned by the manufacturers and any promise of performance goes out the window.

If you are like me, then you probably love the reliability and flexibility of a friction shifter. As of this review, Shimano has not released a CUES friction shifter and I’m doubtful they will. Instead, I tried the Microshift SL-SR-M11-R. This shifter is designed to work with SRAM 11 speed’s exact actuation which is also a flat cable pull ratio. Niether Sram nor Shimano publish how they measure this flat cable pull ratio, but nonetheless, the CUES and Microshift thumb shifter indexed properly enough. I haven’t had time to test the plethora of combinations that could come out of this, so I won’t make any grand claims beyond my tested setup.

As to be expected, friction shifting will always work if you have the patience and thumb dexterity. Not to mention if you don’t mind overly wearing your cassette and chainrings down, friction shifting will let you continue shifting long past when indexed shifting would have failed due to chain stretch and wear.

Alternatively, I saw a post from Andrew at NSMB where he mounts an old friction shifter and reverses the cable routing on the rear derailleur to achieve enough cable pull with the shorter throw 9 speed shifter. I tried his reverse cable routing method and was able to barely achieve shifting through the whole cassette with a 9-speed friction shifter. This involved some delicate cable tensioning and was not easy to achieve. This is, of course, not a proper use of the derailleur so hack at your own risk.

The Shimano shifter is about half the price compared to the Microshift thumb shifter, so if you prefer a trigger shifter and want to stay away from a thumb shifter the SL-U6000-11R is still a great option.


  • SL-U6000-11R – 117G
  • CS-LG400-11 – 720g
  • RD-U6000 – 377g
  • BB-UN300 73x123mm – 291g
  • FC-U4000-1 170mm 30t – 758g

While weight was hardly a concern for something that we want to last this long, I figured I’d throw the weights in this article for those who care. I left the chain’s weight out since it will depend on length. There will, of course, be variances for bottom bracket spindle width, chainring size, and crank length.


  • SL-U6000 – $34.99
  • CS-LG400-11 – $108.99
  • RD-U6000 – $69.99
  • CN-LG500 – $22.99
  • BB-UN300 73x123mm – $18.99
  • FC-U4000-1 170mm 30t – $44.99
    Total: $300.94
  • Optional Microshift’s 11 speed SRAM thumb shifter – $60.99

The total price for the whole drivetrain is right at $300, which is pretty sweet. The highest-end Deore XT LINKGLIDE system was ~$340 without a bottom bracket or crankset. While it isn’t necessarily about prices, all of these components should be available through almost any bike shop you have locally.

How Does it Feel?

Trigger shifters have always been a weak point in drivetrains for me in the past. This inspired the idea to replace the CUES shifter with a Microshift thumb shifter. I had no issues with any of the parts malfunctioning so far. The shifting performance is slow but solid, which is to be expected from the LINKGLIDE technology. Each cog engages in a very positive and secure way. The square taper bottom bracket spun smoother than any external BB I’ve used in years right out of the box.

Keeping this drivetrain in the 11-speed range opens up tons of crank, bottom bracket, and chainring options for all types of riding styles. The mentioned FC-U4000-1 comes in 30t,32t, 40t, and 42t options if you like pedaling downhill more than me. I found the 30t variant to pair well with the 11-50t cassette.

My first ride on this drivetrain had me tracking through thick caliche mud. Even while caked in mud, the drivetrain persisted with little issue. I was ready to lose my derailleur or hanger that day chugging through the sludge. While it would take a few years to properly put these pieces through their paces. I’m going to lean on my years of experience to confidently recommend these parts. Nonetheless, I will update this article with my long-term experiences and thoughts when I have them.

Looking Forward

CUES opens up so many possibilities and this article is just a distillation of my preferences within the CUES ecosystem. There are also 2x drivetrains within the CUES suite, which I’m not even gonna touch at the moment.

Overall, I think the move to unify all of the parts with CUES will be a good thing. The CUES release upset many retro grouches who were angry about losing backward compatibility. Legacy Shimano parts use a varying number of cable pull ratios and the new CUES parts use the same flat cable pull ratio. In an extreme example of what the compatibility entails; you have a 10 speed shifter and cassette, and the shifter breaks. Your local shop only has a CUES 11-speed shifter, it will still work. With the limit screws adjusted, you would just lose that last click. Flip the situation and you could elect to lose a high or low gear and use a 10 speed shifter with an 11 speed cassette in a pinch. The cassette spacing and cable pull are all the same between the various gear ranges in CUES.

While I understand the ire of losing backward compatibility, this opens up many new avenues of compatibility in the future, which I see as a good thing. We have to rip the bandaid off some time.

Wrap Up

I’ll be continuing to use various parts of this drivetrain on my Crust Scapebot as my touring setup for a long-term review. I will probably swap the crank for something a bit lighter with an interchangeable chainring, but keep the square taper BB now that I know it works on a boost-spaced bike. I’m happy to share the joy of tinkering and finding a drivetrain that combines all the elements that I hold important. I hope that you find something useful in these recommendations here as well.


  • Affordable
  • Gear range to suit many riding styles
  • Serviceable clutch on rear Derailleur
  • Durability and Longevity-focused
  • Widely available
  • Lots of options for compatibility within CUES


  • Heavy
  • No 9 or 10 tooth cog due to HG freehub