2007 XTR: the inside line New shifters, improved brake levers, carbon/titanium rings and, yes, lots of options in new MTB group Try as Shimano might to keep the lid on details of the upcoming 2007 XTR group, there's only so much pressure that can build up before the top starts to blow. The new group will bear the M970 designation, signifying a total overhaul, and reliable industry sources have confirmed that Shimano has pulled out the stops for the new kit which promises to contain some very interesting new features. We don't have any pictures yet, but these tidbits of information should sufficiently whet your appetite. Shifters This is perhaps the most exciting part of the new kit. Although Shimano will continue to offer Dual Control gear changing, the company has clearly devoted a lot of resources toward developing a new trigger shifter in response to widespread demand (and the somewhat lukewarm response to Dual Control). Shimano has already released photos of the 'Dual Release' badging on the new XT shifters, but details as to its meaning were a bit on the fuzzy side. As some had speculated, the new release trigger will, indeed, be able to shift two gears in one pull for the first time in Shimano's trigger shifter history. However, Dual Release also signifies that the release trigger can be actuated by either pulling it back in traditional fashion or pushing it forward. Two gears can be shifted when moving the trigger in either direction, meaning that you will be able to quickly shift up to four gears in one combined movement. Since Shimano will offer both low-normal (Rapid Rise) and traditional rear derailleurs new XTR group, this means that riders will easily be able to shift multiple gears in either direction, regardless of which rear derailleur configuration they choose. Speaking of multiple gears, the new XTR group will almost certainly still use a nine-speed rear cassette, contrary to rampant speculation that Shimano was going to introduce the MTB market to ten-speed. Shimano apparently hasn't given up on the 14spd rear cassette idea that it patented a few years ago, but it is reportedly trying to push a new 140mm rear hub spacing standard on the industry first (hate to say it, but this is largely a good idea, in my opinion). The new triggers will also feature enhanced adjustability with a new low-profile clamp that is designed to sit either inboard or outboard of the brake lever depending on rider preferences. Brakes If you can mount the triggers either side of the brake lever, that means there will be separate brake levers, right? Well spotted. Singlespeeders now have yet another reason to throw down another beer as Shimano has finally developed a separate XTR-level hydraulic brake lever. Our sources have informed us that the new lever is intentionally slim and low-profile for a clean overall look. Improvements in the lever internals may also provide improved performance as well. Reports suggest that Shimano has done away with the unnecessarily complex 90 degree banjo style of attaching the hydraulic line to the lever. This not only cleans things from an aesthetic perspective, but it also makes for a more direct path for the hydraulic fluid which is said to dramatically improve brake feel. The fluid reservoir for the new lever may also be integrated into the perch, although that detail could not be confirmed. The new hydraulic disc caliper appears to have received relatively minimal changes as the later versions of the XTR calipers were already quite good to begin with. Our sources suggest that Shimano may have slightly increased the fluid capacity of the caliper, though, to better combat brake fade due to overheating. Shimano will also continue to offer both six-bolt and Centerlock disc rotors for XTR, fulfilling the promises of "lots of options" for the new kit. Cranks Shimano will continue with its very well-received Hollowtech II outboard bearing bottom bracket system but is apparently feeling a bit deficient in the carbon department according to our sources. The crankarms themselves will still be hollow-forged aluminum (a material Shimano continues to argue is the best for the job), but Shimano has clearly heeded the cries of current XTR users that the existing middle ring displays somewhat poor durability. The new middle ring will be a carbon and titanium component similar to those made by smaller firms such as CarbonTi. The teeth themselves will be made of titanium for durability, but they will be attached to a carbon fiber main body for reduced weight (and points for coolness, no doubt). It still remains to be seen how Shimano will incorporate their signature complex arrangement of ramps, pins, and gates into this hybrid construction, but there's little doubt that it will be there in order to maintain's Shimano reputation as having the best shifting chainrings in the industry. Pedals For the first time in the group's history, Shimano will offer an XTR-labeled clipless pedal (which will also bear the XTR-specific PD-M970 part number). The new pedal is said to offer an enlarged pedal platform for better support and stability as well as improved power transfer. There's no word yet on whether or not the new pedal will require a new cleat, but it would come as no surprise considering that Shimano is generally happy to abandon standards in pursuit of improved performance and the SPD cleat has remained virtually unchanged since its introduction. In fact, a new cleat would not only be somewhat expected, but may even be warranted if it can truly offer improved performance over the existing SH51 version. Shimano is clearly hoping that the new M970 XTR group will make at least a big an impact as M950 did back in the mid-90s. Whether or not they will admit it, Shimano is clearly feeling the competitive pressure from "the other big S" over in Chicago and is doggedly determined to claw their way back into the undisputed Number One position. Whatever the outcome, let's hear three cheers for healthy competition, eh? It's a good time to be a mountain biker.