Saturday, May 26, 2018

Shimano Changes A Longstanding Standard

That ubiquitous free hub spline pattern may be a thing of the past now that the new XTR is here.
Yesterday the big news in MTB circles was the release of the new XTR group by Shimano. It went to 12 speeds, a major focus on 1X, and introduced new derailleurs, cassettes, and hubs, none of which are backward compatible with anything we have now. See the particulars in this excellent Cyclingtips post HERE.

But the biggest news, to my mind, and a sea change moment in cycling, was the "Micro Spline" cassette body. This small part will radicalize cycling for years to come, just like Shimano's cassette body standard did in 1988.

When Shimano moved the free coasting mechanism from the cog set to the hub, it made every wheel set in existence in 1987 and before obsolete. Cassette technology overwhelmed the cycling industry so quickly that by 1990 free wheels were dead.

This may not happen so quickly with wheels today. Shimano has made this technology a "closed system", meaning that it would have to be licensed from Shimano for others to use it. Shimano has allowed DT Swiss to use the design for its free hub bodies though, so an aftermarket choice will exist there. This does two things- First it controls who gets to use Micro Spline, and secondly, it keeps Shimano's current free hub design relevant for the short term. Shimano doesn't necessarily want the current free hub design to be tossed aside like free wheels were in the late 80's, since it would be a huge strain on the company, not to mention the bike industry, to just dump the old for the new today.

This stuff won't hit the market till the Fall, so effectively not until next season, but I look for it change our wheels entirely within the next five to ten years. How this affects smaller, "artisan" wheel brands like Industry 9 and others will be interesting to see. But make no mistake- wheels will never be the same again. 


Skidmark said...

Wanted: dump truck— to backup to my garage to haul off all this obsolete bike crap from the last 25-30 years.
ps, all good condition, runs fine.

youcancallmeAl said...

Time to buy a few rear hubs and casettes I guess. At least enough to last me until someone starts making a simple bicycle again. There is a new 35mm SLR film camera coming out in the fall for exactly this reason and I'm sure someone will do the same for bikes.

Unknown said...

What a bunch of bs in my opinion. So 8,9,10,&11 speed stuff will become obsolete?

Unknown said...

Nothing stops working just because something new came out. You can still run 7 speed and/or windows 95 if you really want to.

Are these freehub bodies the same length as 11s road? I'm just curious if it'll be possible to replace the old ones without redishing the wheel.

Guitar Ted said...

@Ranier Wolfcastle- Here is what the linked tech article says about the free hub body width:

"In addition to the size and spline changes, Hyperglide+ is 0.55mm-wider than the current Hyperglide body. By comparison, Shimano’s move from the original Hyperglide to the road-specific 11-speed version saw the body grow by 1.8mm."