|Count 'em! Yep! There are 14 cogs there.|
So, first off, I have to give you a bit of background here. I was a former member of the "He-man's Shimano Haters Club". It was quite fashionable back in the 90's to hate on Shimano. "The Big Bad Guy" of the component world was quashing the hopes and dreams of would be cycling companies with thier CNC operators who were churning out anodized bits and baubles by the thousands. Many of which were of questionable quality. But that didn't matter. Shimano was evil and you had to hate them. It just was how things were back then.
But over the years as I became more attuned to what worked and what did not work, I realized that Shimano was a quite clever company with some solid products. Yes, they had their hiccups, (Bio-Pace, Octalink v1, original "push-push" Rapid Fire- to name a few), but by and large whatever Shimano laid their hands to worked really well. Take any XTR group, or XT group, and it can be considered "the best" of its day. Road stuff is someone else's beat, so I won't go there.
So,about six or seven years ago, Shimano did an unprecedented "tour". They invited several shop owners and mechanics to join them in certain metropolitan areas to meet with factory representatives and Shimano "Skunk Works" riders, who were the "secret" product testing team of riders who worked for Shimano. My visit was in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
|The XT DynaSys 10 speed group|
I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with Paul. He was immediately engaging and enthusiastic to have a willing listener. Throughout our 40-45 minute conversation Paul laced his tales with so many new bits of information it was mind boggling. I learned about completely handmade, $15,000.00 chains that he tested, I learned about which Shimano Dual Control levers were actually the best, (hint: not XTR), and that there was a top secret "warehouse" that held secrets so incredible that Thomasburg was literally shaking with excitement just thinking about it. Of course, he couldn't reveal much about it, but he did tell me that Shimano had working prototypes of every speed group through 14 speeds.
So, think about it: when you heard about SRAM's 12 speed Eagle group, you were shocked that SRAM had pulled off a fast one on Shimano. Well, no- not so much. That is old news to Shimano, who have working 12 speed, 13 speed and 14 speed groups in "the warehouse". And of course, they are all patented.
So, when you hear people bagging on Shimano, keep in mind that they have stuff that you've never seen that would blow your mind. They are waaay ahead of the game, and when they do pull the covers off what will sure to be their 12 speed groups soon, you can bet that they have tested the bejeezus out of it years ahead of SRAM or anyone else. That counts for something to me. It makes sense when you realize that Shimano stuff seems to work pretty darn well most of the time.
Oh.......and they make some pretty good brakes too.