Prioritizing longevity and smooth shifting, Shimano’s LINKGLIDE technology offers an alternative to the weight and speed focus of most 12-speed drivetrains, with a new cassette designed to last 3x longer than their HYPERGLIDE+ technology. It uses an 11-speed chain, a new tooth design, and Shimano’s legacy HG freehub to achieve these feats. Whether it’s going on a new bike or bringing an old rig into the 1x world Shimano’s new LINKGLIDE technology might just be the right fit for you.
Amid the flurry of proprietary names and numbers for the multitude of Shimano products lies their LINKGLIDE technology. To be clear, LINKGLIDE is a cassette technology and not a new groupset. To recap, Shimano’s HYPERGLIDE+ (12-speed) technology prioritizes quick shifting and weight-savings, whereas the LINKGLIDE technology prioritizes longevity and smoothness of shifting. The Deore XT m-8100 drivetrain in this review represents the highest end of the components currently using LINKGLIDE technology. Many of the forthcoming Cues drivetrains will also use it at varying price points and levels, but today we are here to talk about the Deore XT 11-speed LINKGLIDE drivetrain, say that fast five times.
Shimano’s HYPERGLIDE+ 12-speed groups have moved onto their newer Microspline Freehub standard, a necessary change for the wider range favored by modern bikes. Conversely, the LINKGLIDE cassettes are designed around the legacy HG freehub body that has probably been on almost every bike you have ever ridden. If you have been wanting to upgrade an older bike with an HG wheelset to a proper 1×11 setup with a wide-range cassette this new LINKGLIDE 11-speed drivetrain is a great option. You’ll need a new LINKGLIDE cassette, shifter, and rear derailleur as the components aren’t compatible with older Shimano 11-speed drivetrains.
Almost all of the coverage I’ve seen of this drivetrain to date has been focused on its use on e-bikes. And, while the drivetrain is e-bike-rated I think the use case is—and will be—much broader. One cool feature that I’m sure will appeal especially to e-bike folks is the ability to replace any of the smallest three cogs, the ones most used by e-bikes at high speed and torque. If it is e-bike rated then you know it is going to be tough, enough said.
Most of the hullabaloo around this new technology is in the cassette. The skinny of it is that the base of each tooth on the cassette is much thicker than its HYPERGLIDE+ cousin. The changes in the cassette shift ramps also prioritize smooth shifting over speed. These changes lead to a claimed 3X longer lasting drivetrain. Now, you may go through chains in normal intervals to be expected from 11-speed chains, but your cassette should, in theory, withstand wear that necessitates replacement longer if you keep up on your maintenance. This will be more of a first look as putting that claim of longevity to the test would take quite a while.
The best part about the new Deore XT LINKGLIDE cassette is the range. It falls short of the massive range on e13’s cassette (9-52t) but close to the HYPERGLIDE+ cassette (10-51), landing in the very capable 11-50t range. That’s what I’d call damn well good enough. I don’t like pedaling downhill personally so I don’t miss the absence of a 9 or 10 tooth cog. I found my setup (30t chainring with 29-inch tires) to get me to about 20 mph at a reasonable cadence. More than fast enough for the touring bike it’s currently on. Adjust your chainring size accordingly for your needs. You can use any 10 or 11-speed chain you would like. Unlike many of the 12-speed drivetrains you won’t need a proprietary chainring, so use any old narrow-wide ring you can get. Shimano sent me a 12-speed Deore XT chainring and it worked splendidly. On the climbing side, once again 30x50t is plenty low for climbing; that gear basically translates to walking speed, and you don’t need to clean everything.
Shimano SL-M8130 – $66.99
CS-LG700-11 – $130.99
RD-M8130-SGS – $121.99
SL-M8100-R – $66.99
Out of the gate, you are already saving about $60 compared to a Deore XT 12-speed group. When you factor in the price of that 12-speed chain, the savings will compound as you replace the chain and have to replace cassettes, hopefully, less frequently.
XT LINKGLIDE 11-speed (11-50) 780 grams
XT HYPERGLIDE 12-speed (11-51t) 470 grams
A 300-gram difference is significant if you are into that kind of thing, but this drivetrain is about making concessions. Can you deal with a larger smallest cog and a heavier cassette? Can you deal with only 11 gears and a slightly smaller range? All to increase the longevity of your drivetrain and stretch your buck a bit further. I know that these are concessions that I have no qualms about making.
I think the industry will start to see the LINKGLIDE technology on more and more bikes as an OEM spec and I think that is great. I also love it as an upgrade since you know I love tinkering. Speaking of tinkering, the fact that this drivetrain and all the other Cues components will be using a 1:1 cable pull ratio opens up some interesting possibilities for hacking parts together. I’m gonna stay focused for this review, but expect a follow-up with some bad ideas in the future. Until then, I’m stoked about LINKGLIDE and its ethos.
- 3x longer lasting cassette (claimed)
- More affordable than HYPERGLIDE+ drivetrains in the long run
- Uses legacy HG driver
- A fresh start to unify most Shimano components
- The three smallest cogs are replaceable
- Not backward compatible with older Shimano 11-speed components
- Smallest cog is limited by HG freehub body
- Heavier than the same level 12-speed drivetrain
Check out more at Shimano.