The winner of the 2016 BikeExchange Top Bike Mountain Bike Product of the Year - the Shimano XTR Di2
Shop for Shimano XTR Di2 here
When Shimano first gave us a fleeting glimpse of their electronic road groups, we couldn't have been more excited for the potential and eventual carry over to its flagship mountain bike group set. Even though the commercial release of road Di2 was no less than six years ago, the wait has almost certainly been worthwhile.
The rigours of mountain biking must have caused great concern for Shimano's engineers, but our feeling is Di2 offers an even greater advantage off road than it does throughout the relatively smooth world of road riding. There has been countless examples of races won or lost through drivetrain malfunctions, but in the world of mountain biking a shifting problem may well be the difference between riding and walking a trail. This not only applies to the pressure cooker of World Cup racing, but also on your regular social ride with mates. There's no worse feeling than a badly timed shift and the ribbing you'll receive for walking that technical section of trail which everyone witnessed and presumably rode themselves.
Having a drivetrain that shifts seamlessly and under load is something a mountain biker experiences for a very short period of time, usually only after a thorough clean and service. Shimano's new XTR Di2 system gives us hope that this feeling could be maintained for not just one ride, but possibly even weeks on end. Lightning fast and precise shifting, every single time, is the stuff of which dreams are made. If this isn't enough, the thought of Formula 1 level performance is now possible with Shimano's 'Syncro Shift' mapping program. If you are sticking to the highly regarded double chainring at the front, Syncro Shift allows sequential shifting to find the next best gear across the two front rings, regardless of where you currently sit in your range. This setup has been used to great success at the top level of XC racing due to the smaller jumps between gears, something all the single chainring converts secretly envy.
This system isn't just exciting for the flagship XTR group set, but you have to believe there's going to be an eventual trickle down to the universally loved XT group set as well. We’re sure everyone is well aware of the impact Ultegra Di2 has had on the road scene, so we can only hope Shimano is giving us a peak into the future of mountain biking.
For its intended purpose and the possibilities it conjures, it would take an extraordinary product to dethrone XTR Di2 as the most lust-worthy product of 2016.