For those of us that enjoy challenging gravity, the big news for Shimano in 2009 will be the release of a completely redesigned Saint gruppo dubbed Shimano Saint 810. The current and original iteration (save for a few tweaks), Saint 800, accomplished much of what it set out to do -- withstand abuse and provide great performance. But as the young gravity industry continues to grow, innovate and refine, it’s only natural that Saint did as well. After all, expectations have elevated. And, the early impression is that Shimano rose to the occasion, shedding approximately 300g (maybe more) from the group, providing more cross compatibility, all while preserving the mantra of Saint: bring it. We don’t have any images, but we do have some of the juiciest gossip yet.
SHIMANO SAINT 810:
Rear Derailleur -- Shimano will say goodbye to the current Saint rear derailleurs in favor of a new design featuring their shadow technology. The Saint RD-M810 will be available in two cage lengths: SS and GS. Each will employ a skid plate design to increase durability. True to the gravity industry trend, lighter weights are in store -- the Saint derailleur will shed nearly 100 grams! The new derailleur will have a mode converter, allowing the user to adjust for AM or DH depending on the cassette ratio they’re using (AM would be 11/32 or 11/34, whereas DH mode would be anything smaller: 11/23, 12/25 or 11/28.)
Shifter -- Following the success of the RapidFire shifters found in the LX, XT and XTR groups, Saint has tweaked the ‘Shorty’ shifter for the 810 group. To avoid conflict with your brake lever of choice, the clamp will allow for either in or outboard positions. It will still feature a short-release thumb lever stroke (hence the ‘Shorty’ moniker), but also offer two-way release to take the burden of your thumb. As a result, (and coming as anything but a surprise) Saint M800 Dual Control levers will be disappearing.
Crankset -- The crankset is another of the Saint 810 highlights -- it’s shed a reported 80-100g, will sport a narrower Q factor (which is especially nice when you’re running a 83mm shell), and will do so without shedding it’s heavy duty intent. Single ring options will be available in 34, 36, 38, 40 and 42t for both 68/73 or 83mm bottom bracket shells. Dual ring options will be available as a 36/22 configuration for both shells as well. We suspect the standard 165, 170 and 175mm lengths will be available.
Front Derailleur -- The only front derailleurs to gain a Saint designation will be compatible with 83mm bottom bracket shells. Naturally, they will be intended for use with dual ring formats only.
Hydraulic Brake Lever -- With the departure of the Saint DCL, Saint gets a hydraulic brake lever. It will feature many of the same technologies as the current XT lever -- free stroke adjustment, reach adjustment, and servo wave action -- with a bit beefier of a lever blade with durability in mind. These features allow the rider to adjust the contact point of the pad to the rotor at the lever and the reach of the lever. The Servo Wave action allows the pads to contact the rotor quickly with very little lever movement. As you pull the lever closer to the bar, the pads react slower allowing for increased modulation.
Hydraulic Disc Brake Caliper -- Our sources couldn’t provide many details for us here, but we do know there will be a new caliper deemed Saint 810.
Front Hub -- Shimano Saint 810 will debut a newly designed front hub which is reportedly lighter than the current version. One striking difference is that Shimano seems to have ditched the oversized diameter Centerlock rotor for the standard diameter, allowing for cross compatibility of rotors from different groups. As to be expected, the current oversized Centerlock rotors will not be retrofittable. The hub is a 20 x 110 thru axle design and we expect to see 32 and 36 hole options.
Rear Hubs -- Shimano Saint 810 will feature two rear hubs: one for 10 x 135 applications and the other for 12 x 150. Like with the front hub, the rear will also utilize a standard diameter Centerlock system. Shimano has developed a one-piece axle system to both shed weight and make the hub stronger.
OTHER DIVINE GOSSIP:
By now, you’ve probably already read about the introduction of a new SLX group. It will replace the current LX and Hone groups, the former of which is also getting revamped, and is headed for the Trekking category. The SLX as a whole seems to be a nice improvement over LX -- many of the components have shed weight and gained performance by comparison to the current LX -- but it appears to have a bit more emphasis on all-mountain riding. The most noticeable component is the Shimano SLX Crankset which comes in three different configurations: 36/22 w/ bash, 44/32/22, and 48/36/26 for all you mashers. From the spy photos we’ve seen, it takes much of its aesthetic from the two-tone look of the XTR 970 crankset, but still maintains an identity of its own. Word is that it’s super strong, and offers improved ground clearance.
XTR BL-975A Disc Brake Lever -- Shimano will release a tweaked version of the current BL-975 Disc Brake Lever -- they’ve made subtle improvements like losing a few grams, and engineered a more ergonomic lever. Details are scarce at this moment, but you can bet we’ll let you know when we hear more.
E-Thru -- We reported from Italy that the E-thru standard was developed for enhanced stiffness for cross country and light all-mountain use, the Saint group won’t see a hub. However, Shimano will introduce the XTR HB-M978 (Centerlock), XT HB-M778 (Centerlock), and XT HB-M758 (6 bolt) front hubs for use with the 15 x 100 system. In addition, XT will host an additional tubeless wheelset: WH-M778, which will also feature the E-thru system and tip the scales around 1700g.
RT79 Rotors -- With Saint waving bye to the oversized diameter Centerlock, Shimano siezed an opportunity to eliminate skus. They’ve elected to go with a non-branded rotor, the Shimano SM-RT79 rotor, allowing them to use the same rotor across various component groups. The RT79 is a touch lighter (10g) than the current XT branded RT78. It’s design is taken directly from XTR, but isn’t quite as lightweight.
Direct Mount Front Derailleur -- Let’s face it: carbon fiber frames are emerging with success in the mountain bike marketplace. Carbon frames define the road bike market. By taking a page from the braze-on front derailleur commonly found on road bike frames (especially carbon fiber) and applying to mountain bikes, the Shimano direct mount front derailleur will provide frame makers a viable option for mounting a front derailleur to a carbon (or any other material) frame. Currently, it’s a great fear that the consumer or shop will overtighten the derailleur and mangle a very expensive frame.
The XT branded direct mount front derailleur will require that the frame be compatible by providing the appropriate base to which it can be directly mounted. By using this mount, the user is virtually assured optimal front derailleur placement, and as such, optimal performance. As the name suggests, the derailleur will simply bolt directly to the frame.
We suspect that industry genius, all-around great guy, and founder of both Titus and Pivot Cycles, Chris Cocalis, played a role in the development of its use in the mountain arena. It’s no secret that he’s long had a terrific relationship with Shimano, and his Pivot Cycles currently utilize a direct mount front derailleur.
Word on the street is that we should see much of these new products toward the end of the summer. Our experience, however, tells us to expect them in September/October.