Shimano SLX Review

Shimano SLX has the features and performance you need at a price you want.


Matt Phillips |

Primary use: Mountain bike
Gearing: 1×11, 2×11, 3×10
Shifting: Mechanical
Brakes: Hydraulic

Shimano’s SLX is a mid-range mountain bike group with features that should appeal to most mountain bike riders. It is offered in a 1×11 option with a wide-range cassette that has a big 46-tooth large cog that makes climbing steep singletrack easier. Like a lot of current mountain bike drivetrains, SLX has a clutch rear derailleur that limits chain slap and helps reduce ghost shifting.

SLX Hollowtech II cranks are available in 1x, 2x, and Triple options. Image courtesy of Shimano

The component group is typically found on bikes ranging from R20,000 to about R30,000. SLX occupies the middle of Shimano’s mountain bike drivetrain lineup. It was last updated in 2016, when it gained some style and features that Shimano had previously debuted on its top-end XTR and XT component groups. The current group also jumped from 10-speed rear cassette to 11-speeds, gained a single-ring 1x option, and the brake lever received a sleeker, lighter design.

SLX brakes have great power and modulation and tool-free reach adjust. Image courtesy of Shimano

The Choice is yours: 1x, 2x, or triple chainrings
SLX is positioned in Shimano’s mountain bike line just below XTR and XT, but above Deore. Compared to the two higher-end groups, it uses fewer exotic materials and lower-order finishes. That keeps its price down, but adds a little bit of weight. Shimano still sees benefits in double- and triple-chainring combos and offers SLX with one, two, or three front chainrings Although SLX costs less than Shimano’s more-expensive component groups it doesn’t lack in performance. In fact, the group has every significant feature and technology found XT and XTR.

The Shadow Plus rear derailleur features a clutch to keep chain jumps to a minimum. Image courtesy of Shimano

Component Highlights
The SLX rear derailleur employs Shimano’s Shadow design, which results in a thinner profile that’s less likely to snag on trailside rocks and branches, and – because it’s somewhat shielded by the frame – less likely to be bent or damaged in a crash. Unlike SRAM’s always-on pulley-cage clutch, Shimano’s is engaged with a lever on the derailleur body. Be sure to turn it “on” before you ride or the chain could jump off the front chainring. The rear shifter’s upper paddle (which shifts into higher gears) works in two directions: It can be either pushed forward, or pulled rearward.

Shimano cranks are offered in just one axle format. With the correct bottom bracket, the 24mm steel axle fits into any modern frame. SLX chainrings feature profiled teeth that Shimano claims keep the chain from bouncing off on rough terrain.

Cassettes are available in 11-40t, 11-42t, and 11-46t (shown). Image courtesy of Shimano

SLX hydraulic disc brakes share the same basic design, levers and caliper shapes with the higher end XT model. The brake levers use a tool-less reach adjust to move the lever position to better fit larger or smaller hands. Shimano uses mineral oil as the hydraulic fluid. Mineral oil is less caustic than the DOT fluid used by other brands (principally SRAM), and it does not absorb water like DOT fluid, so it never needs to be changed. However, mineral oil may not work as well at low temperatures, which is something to consider if you live and ride in really cold weather.

 

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