Greatest mountain bike groupsets defined and rated by specialists

In search of the slickest shifting and widest gear vary? This is our information to the very best mountain bike drivetrains and groupsets from SRAM, Shimano and others.

Though traditionally known as groupsets, the element system in your bike that gives ahead propulsion is now extra recurrently often called a drivetrain, and we’ve tried and examined an enormous quantity to make sure this record accommodates choices to go well with each funds, choice and objective.

Your drivetrain or groupset includes a shifter, rear derailleur (or rear mech), cranks, chainring, chain, cassette, backside bracket and cables (except it’s a wi-fi drivetrain like SRAM AXS). Usually talking, it doesn’t embrace your braking system or your wheel hubs.

Most drivetrains can be utilized in a mix-and-match trend, and also you don’t have to exchange the entire thing if one half has worn out. Additionally, because of the trickle-down impact, quite a lot of funds drivetrains provide very spectacular efficiency.

Shimano Deore M6100

Shimano Deore M6100

Shimano Deore M6100

Greatest bang to your buck

Value: £365

Shimano’s unsung hero groupset delivers a lot bang for buck it’s all we actually want on a mountain bike. 12-speed with a single-ring crank, wide-range 10-51t cassette and low-profile Shadow mech with switchable clutch, it’s bought all of the fundamentals lined. Match and end is as much as Shimano’s traditional excessive requirements and ergonomic controls guarantee the suitable ratio is all the time at your fingertips.



High quality shifting, safety and styling at an inexpensive value

Value: £365

Easy pedalling, optimistic shifting and the very best chain safety marks the newest SRAM GX Eagle out as the very best actual world groupset within the SRAM vary. SRAM’s new end and refined options have elevated this workhorse drivetrain to new altitudes, whereas the broader wingspan of the Eagle cassette enables you to soar with much less effort.

Learn our full take a look at evaluate of the SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain

Shimano SLX M7000

Shimano SLX M7000

NB: 11-speed (if you will discover it)

Value: £351.94

NB: that is for the older 11-speed SLX. One in every of our favorite MTB gruppos of all time. Was/is SLX 11-speed higher than SRAM’s NX 11-speed Sure, undoubtedly. Shifting is less complicated, slicker and the cranks are stiffer.

Was/is it higher than the pricier SRAM 12-speed Eagle GX? It actually is dependent upon what offers you will discover – and you probably have outlay any additional cash on changing your wheel’s freehub to a unique design (ie. XD driver for SRAM Eagle GX). Nicely price a fast trawl of the web – or actual world native bike retailers – to place collectively a basic and reliable wide-range 11-speed marvel.

Learn our full take a look at evaluate of Shimano SLX M7000

sram x01 axs

SRAM X01 Eagle AXS

Wi-fi shifting for the final word in velocity and effectivity

Value: £1,900

SRAM’s AXS system at the moment gives the final word shifting in mountain biking. Ridiculously straightforward to put in and set-up, boasting spectacular actual world battery life, beautifully exact light-action shifting and a surprisingly sturdy construct, AXS is the final word alternative for any dream construct.

Learn our full take a look at evaluate of the SRAM X01 AXS improve equipment

Microshift Advent X

Microshift Creation X

Alt. model discount brilliance

Value: £134.97

Microshift Creation X is remarkably good for the worth; it’s dependable, shifts nicely sufficient and doesn’t weigh a ton. It will make an amazing expendable setup for e-bike use, the place chains and cassettes have a tough life, or just as a path bike drivetrain for prime mileage riders. Kind out the marginally agency lever motion (sure, we’re a extremely choosy punch of bleeders) and we may see it getting awarded full marks.

Learn our full take a look at evaluate of Microshift Creation X

How we take a look at drivetrains and groupsets

Every of the drivetrains above have been totally examined by set up on a mountain bike that has then been extensively ridden. The product tester shall be checking for efficiency whereas shifting gears up and down, climbing, descending, and parts like weight, high quality of development and sturdiness.

The 2 huge S manufacturers: Shimano and SRAM

The 2 largest, and mostly discovered, manufacturers that produce mountain bike drivetrains are Shimano and SRAM.

As a rule* it’s finest to stay with one of many two huge manufacturers – Shimano or SRAM – for the key elements within the system (chain, cassette, derailleur and shifter), however there’s nothing stopping you mixing and matching completely different drivetrain ranges from the identical model. So you might run a SRAM X01 cassette with a GX rear mech and shifter. Or a Shimano XT 12-speed shifter with a Deore 12-speed mech. You may also select to run third celebration hubs, backside brackets, cables, chainrings and cranks if you want. In reality that is generally a wise transfer.

(*guidelines are made to be damaged, which is why we’ve gone and beneficial a Microshift drivetrain in our prime 5!)

Shimano drivetrains

Shimano’s named and numbered correct mountain bike groupsets for XC/path/enduro driving. NB: the sequence quantity is essential, it denotes it’s the newest model of the groupset tier, eg. Shimano XT M8100 is present XT.

  • Shimano XTR M9100
  • Shimano XTR M9050 Di2
  • Shimano XTR M9000
  • Shimano XT M8050 Di2
  • Shimano XT M8100
  • Shimano SLX M7100
  • Shimano Deore M6100

Shimano additionally make two gravity/downhill groupsets (though Saint additionally designed for enduro, as is Zee, which additionally strays into ‘aggressive path driving’ too).

  • Shimano Saint M820
  • Shimano Zee M640

SRAM drivetrains

SRAM’s named groupsets for mountain bikes. Beginning with the highest stage.

  • SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS
  • SRAM X01 Eagle AXS
  • SRAM XX1 Eagle
  • SRAM XX1
  • SRAM X01 Eagle
  • SRAM X01
  • SRAM EX 1 (designed for e-bikes)
  • SRAM GX Eagle AXS
  • SRAM GX Eagle
  • SRAM NX Eagle
  • SRAM SX Eagle

Extra sprockets, fewer chainrings

Again within the day, mountain bike drivetrains have been all about pushing ever bigger numbers of gears, however within the final ten years they’ve moved away from extra is healthier, to less complicated, lighter, simpler single-ring drivetrains. As a substitute of getting two or three chainrings mounted to the cranks, together with a entrance derailleur and a second shifter, now there is only one entrance chainring, with specifically formed enamel that cease the chain from falling off in tough terrain.

The only entrance chainring is linked to a stack of sprockets mounted to the rear hub. Most fashionable drivetrains have 12 such sprockets mounted collectively right into a cassette that slides onto a splined interface on the hub. Inside it is a ratchet freewheel mechanism, that enables the sprockets to rotate anti-clockwise towards the rotation of the wheel, so that you could cease pedalling. There are a number of of those freehub our bodies relying on who makes the drivetrain; SRAM makes use of the XD driver physique design, whereas Shimano makes use of a splined interface for 11-speed and fewer, whereas its 12-speed drivetrains mount on a smaller Microspline unit.

Components of mountain bike groupsets

Parts of mountain bike groupsets

What are the completely different components of a bicycle groupset or drivetrain?

Usually when persons are speaking about ‘groupsets’ or ‘drivetrains’, the main focus is on the entire bits that run between the pedals and the rear wheel (additionally known as the drivetrain). Usually this drivetrain includes of entrance and rear derailleurs (although most mountain bikes not include a entrance derailleur), shifters, chainset, backside bracket, chain and cassette.

‘Again within the day’ a groupset additionally used to all the time embrace issues like brakes, wheels and even headsets and many others. However nowadays no-one actually consists of issues like wheels in when discussing groupsets.

mountain bike groupsets

SRAM GX Eagle 24mm cranks


The chainset comprise the crank arms, backside bracket axle and entrance chainrings. For contemporary mountain biking the vast majority of chainsets characteristic a single entrance chainring. That is generally known as a ‘1 by’ system. As a result of there’s just one chainring, there’s no want for a entrance derailleur to shift the chain; this protects weight.

These single chainring programs are attainable as a result of the cassette behind the drivetrain now have many extra sprockets on them – as much as 12 – which supplies them an analogous vary of gears as previous double and triple chainring programs.

There’s a huge vary of chainring sizes to select from, with the dimensions being dictated by what number of enamel the ring includes. In easy phrases, the extra enamel equates to tougher gearing however extra velocity, while smaller chainring sizes will present simpler gearing for higher climbing prowess.

Nonetheless, it’s nonetheless attainable to seek out bikes with a double chainring. Triple chainrings are exceptionally uncommon on fashionable bikes.

mountain bike groupsets

Carbon cranks can provide a good weight saving

Typically the model of motorcycle will dictate essentially the most appropriate chainring measurement.

Longer journey, burlier bikes supposed for path centre black routes or extra aggressive driving terrain are likely to have smaller chainrings, resembling 28 or 30 tooth chainrings. That is to offer simpler gearing to go well with the extra sluggish velocity, sit down and spin model of climbing that riders are likely to undertake.

Shorter journey or extra cross nation oriented bikes can get away with bigger chainring, 34 or 36 tooth being extra frequent choices. Once more, these types of bikes are usually extra environment friendly climbers and might deal with quicker, extra aggressive or out of the saddle climbing.

Crank arm lengths

The crank arms themselves can even differ in size, though the most typical size is 170mm, which supplies slightly extra clearance when cornering and pedalling with out compromising an excessive amount of on leverage.

As our technological and biomechanical understanding has elevated crank arm size will be decided by rider measurements and supposed use of the bike.

Longer (175mm+) cranks provide a greater mechanical benefit however are tougher to show and so are higher suited to taller riders and for extra XC oriented bikes.

Shorter (165 or 170mm cranks) are simpler to pedal, higher for riders with shorter legs and in addition scale back the probability of pedal strikes.

mountain bike groupsets

Set off shifters are the most typical shifter model


Nearly all of mountain bike gear shifter are of the under-bar, set off model (though SRAM do nonetheless produce a twist-grip that rotates across the bar). These set off shifters usually use two levers that may be both pushed or pulled to alter to a better or tougher gear.

Shimano shifters have a thumb pushed set off to alter to a better gear (downshift). Behind which a secondary lever will be both pulled with the index finger or pushed with the thumb to return to a tougher gear (upshift).

SRAM utilise gear shifters that incorporate two thumb pushed triggers in an analogous orientation. Each Shimano and SRAM enable a number of downshifts depending on how far you push the ahead set off.

Field is one other producer that makes use of a singular single set off shifter. Downshifts are produced in the identical means as different types, nonetheless upshifts are supplied by miserable the set off finish inwards towards the shifter physique.

Voodoo Bizango Carbon

12-speed SRAM Eagle drivetrain is spectacular for the worth

Derailleurs or mechs

It’s loopy to suppose that in its present type the derailleur programs are essentially no completely different to these produced within the Nineteen Twenties! Though they could look advanced, their job is to easily push the chain from one gear sprocket/chainring to a different.

Trendy mountain bike derailleurs have developed very sturdy springs to assist chain retention and minimise chain bounce.

Shimano has its Shadow+ system, with a change to cut back stress permitting simpler wheel removing. SRAM’s Kind 2 system has a mechanical pin that may maintain the derailleur in a de-tensioned state so it can also enable wheel removing.

While Shimano nonetheless produces entrance derailleurs for all of its groupsets, SRAM has totally dedicated to the 1x drivetrain.

Two largest sprockets on XT cassette are alloy. SLX solely will get alloy 51t sprocket.


Variety of cogs and cog sizes are an important elements for a cassette. Located on the rear wheel, the cassette (asometimes often called the block) is chargeable for the fine-tuning gear modifications that make up the vast majority of on a regular basis gear shifts.

Cog numbers will be wherever from 7 to 12 relying on the groupset. The benefits of having extra cogs is that you simply both have much less ‘jumps’ within the unfold of gears or a wider vary.

SRAM has the drop on Shimano with its 12 velocity Eagle groupsets. These have the widest gear vary of any cassette, going from the smallest, 10 tooth cog to the large 52 tooth cog. Shimano isn’t far behind, nonetheless, with 10-51t cassettes. These broad ratio cassettes are ideally fitted to groupsets operating a single entrance chainring.

mountain bike groupsets

A sequence, yesterday


Typically neglected, with out the chain a motorcycle is ineffective. The kind of chain is linked to the variety of cogs within the cassette. The extra cogs, the narrower the house is between the cogs (as all cassettes successfully need to be the identical width). Correspondingly the chain hyperlinks will alter in width, with a 7 velocity chain being considerably wider than a 12 velocity chain.

You shouldn’t combine completely different velocity chains and cassettes. Chains, like cassettes put on with use and so must be modified regularly.

What do you get to your cash when shopping for a groupset?

Wanting via the groupsets on provide it’s apparent that costs can enhance dramatically between tiers. However what do you get if you spend more cash?

Is it price pushing to XT over SLX or XX1 over GX?


As costs enhance so too does the extent of of development and materials tolerances that the elements are constructed to. That is evident within the high quality of the gear shift.

The shifting from larger tier groupsets is commonly smoother, extra fast and extra exact. This permits them to carry out higher even beneath load (when climbing, for instance). Whereas a low tier shifting efficiency might sound extra clunky, unreliable or delayed. Excessive finish components will use bearings for pivots, whereas decrease finish items will rely extra on bushings, which might develop play and get sloppy over time.

As you go additional up the ranges shifting efficiency tends to be fairly constant, due partially to the extent of shared element applied sciences.

Weight is one other facet that modifications as costs rise. On the decrease finish anticipate extra elements to be made out of primary supplies resembling pressed metal or to characteristic much less intensive machining and manufacturing processes. Increased tier groupsets are usually lighter, usually utilizing extra unique supplies resembling carbon fibre or titanium.


In all probability of extra significance to the typical mountain biker is how lengthy the elements are anticipated to final. It’s usually the mid-level groupsets resembling SLX or GX which have elements that, with the suitable care, can final a very long time.

Increased tier teams resembling XTR or XX1 Eagle have been usually  thought-about ‘raceday’ elements, because the light-weight nature of the components would see them put on extra rapidly if used each day. However now, hi-tech coatings and sturdy supplies imply that the highest finish chains and cassettes are sometimes equally sturdy, and even longer lasting, than decrease priced elements.

What’s out there?

Mountain bike groupsets: purchaser’s information important information.

At all times a shrewd cost-effective alternative, SLX gives a lot of XT’s efficiency at a cheaper price


Shimano at the moment produces seven particular MTB groupsets, plus different normal objective groupsets/elements that bike corporations would possibly make use of on decrease fashions, resembling Acera and Altus.

All Shimano groupsets are designated with a nicely acknowledged identify that continues to be the identical regardless of the mannequin yr. Shimano additionally embrace a numerical code to simply determine chronologically completely different variations.

For instance, one present model of XTR is coded M9100 (The M implies ‘Mountain’).

At the moment Shimano’s MTB groupsets from XTR to Deore run 12 speeds.

Speaking about chainsets, Shimano solely produce a single, 24mm diameter axle possibility on all of its chainsets. Completely different backside bracket types are required to have the ability to match to a particular body.

mountain bike groupsets

Shimano XTR Di2

Di2 digital shifting

Shimano gives digital shifting within the form of Di2 for its as choices for its XTR and XT groupsets. These Di2 groupsets lose the cable operated derailleurs and shifters and as a substitute depend on battery run derailleurs and easy button-like shifters.

The upside of this digital shifting is unbelievable reliability with not one of the degradation of shift high quality that may happen when cables change into stretched or contaminated with dust and water.

One other neat trick of the Di2 system is the flexibility to run each entrance and rear derailleurs off one shifter, utilizing Shimano’s Synchro-shift. This routinely shifts the entrance derailleur relying on which gear you’re in on the rear to permit a very seamless shifting expertise.

Which Shimano drivetrain is finest for you?

And what do you get to your greenback?

Shimano XTR M9100

Shimano’s final MTB groupset has all the time been a mix of unique supplies and lusty styling, and that continues to be the case at this time. Carbon and titanium prime the record of surprise supplies, whereas options resembling Hole-forged cranks, Shadow derailleurs and Ice-Tech rotors guarantee spectacular path efficiency. Now 12-speed, XTR nonetheless provides you the choice of operating a twin ring chainset.

Shimano XT M8100

The workhorse of the vary, and nonetheless a way more lifelike possibility for riders than XTR. You get a lot of the efficiency and options with slightly further weight. There’s a 12-speed drivetrain with 10-51t cassette, Hole-forged cranks, a intelligent shifter with two-way launch and multi-shift (permitting you to shift upto 4 gears at a time, in addition to push or pull the discharge lever to upshift) and two and four-piston brakes.

Shimano SLX M7100

Extra inexpensive than XT, SLX is sort of inconceivable to distinguish in efficiency phrases when driving. Positive, there’s a weight penalty available, however the principle down grade is the less complicated, single-release shifter. Our tip: pair a SLX mech with a XT shifter for the very best efficiency to your money.

Shimano Deore M6100

Not too long ago given the 12-speed therapy, Deore continues to punch nicely above its weight. First rate shifting (it pings a bit beneath load) with a wide-range cassette and clear strains makes this an amazing entry-level drivetrain that may be upgraded as funds enable. In case you’re upgrading from 11-speed, you have to to modify to the brand new Microspline driver physique, which can nearly actually drive up the associated fee except you could have a suitable wheel/hub.

mountain bike groupsets

SRAM Eagle XX1

Which SRAM groupset is finest for you?

SRAM pioneered the single-ring method to drivetrains, arising with the XD driver physique and narrow-wide chainring as intelligent options to chain safety and wide-range cassettes. Arguably they nonetheless maintain the benefit within the drivetrain wars with wi-fi AXS shifting at one finish of the spectrum, and sorted cable shifting with marginally wider vary gearing on the different.

SRAM XX1 and SRAM XX1 Eagle

Now with AXS wi-fi shifting, or conventional cable operation, SRAM’s flagship drivetrains are jewel-like affairs. Regardless of the light-weight, susceptible components just like the rear derailleur are surprisingly sturdy, and shifting and drivetrain sturdiness are glorious because of trick coatings and complicated ramps and proffiling. For clear strains and speedy, easy shifting, the AXS wi-fi possibility is next-level.

SRAM X01 and SRAM X01 Eagle

There’s little or no to separate XX1 and X01. In reality, on the floor they seem similar. Nonetheless, whereas XX1 utilises the lightest weight components making it supreme for weight aware XC racers, X01 has extra of an eye fixed in direction of sturdiness. Supplies are slightly bit heavier and development will not be fairly as delicate, permitting X01 to be slightly extra relevant to ‘actual world’ use. It nonetheless shares the identical DNA and technological efficiency as XX1 simply with a slight weight penalty.

mountain bike groupsets



GX is SRAM’s most assorted and widespread groupset. It as amongst the most well-liked groupsets or elements that bike corporations spec on their bikes, as it’s out there in 7, 10, 11 and 12 velocity derivatives. All variations utilise a few of the trickle-down applied sciences of upper finish groupsets resembling Kind 2 derailleurs and X/Precise Actuation set off shifters.


NX opens up 11 velocity and 1x shifting to a large viewers, being each dependable sufficient to placed on mid vary bikes but additionally by being nice worth. It won’t have the unique supplies of upper groupsets, or essentially the most refined end however SRAM has nonetheless endowed NX with glorious efficiency.

High suggestions when taking a look at groupsets on a brand new bike

Typically when taking a look at buying a brand new bike the elements and groupset are components to contemplate.

Bike manufacturers will fairly often match the principle elements of 1 groupset however would possibly drop a tier with components resembling chains and cassettes.

That is usually to maintain a motorcycle inside a sure value level however remember and examine with the store as to the precise specs.

Keep in mind, elements will be upgraded over time so it may be price investing in a greater high quality body with a decrease tier groupset and preserve one eye on future upgrades.

Which groupset must you get then?

First off, Shimano or SRAM? A few years in the past this could have been a better query to reply; SRAM have been nicely forward of the sport in comparison with a caught-napping Shimano. SRAM appreciated the truth that just about all mountain bikers hate entrance mechs and love wide-as-possible vary cassettes.

On the prime of tree is the place issues actually sizzling up. That is the tier that feels extra just like the old-fashioned ding-dong battler between Shimano and SRAM. Shimano XTR or SRAM XX1? And to be frank, get both! Nicely, you probably have the money that’s.

If pushed we’d say that Shimano XTR M9100 edges it within the mechanical shifting drivetrain area and the brand new SRAM Eagle AXS stuff is main the way in which within the digital wi-fi market.