Shimano XT Di2 1x11 Upgrade - First Impression

Discussion in 'Drive Trains' started by Daddy Dirtbag, Oct 27, 2016.



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  1. Daddy Dirtbag

    Daddy Dirtbag Member

    Location:
    Castaic
    Name:
    Jeff Johansen
    Current Bike:
    2016 Trek Stache 9 29+
    Part I. I just thought I would share my experience and thoughts on the new XT Di2 system. I am a mechanic on weekends at a local shop, so I am able to have access to the Shimano S-Tec online technology education and certification. I completed around 140 different modules in the past year, which has some side benefits, such as being eligible to buy some components at a discount, and any time you complete any courses in a given month, you are automatically entered into a monthly drawing. I won one of the monthly prizes for completing some modules in June and was notified in July that I would be receiving some new XT Di2 components.

    After several delays, the good finally shipped withing the past week. I received the last of the items on Tuesday, and completed the installation Tuesday night. Had my first ride on Wednesday night.

    The Installation

    I was able to get a Shimano XT Di2 upgrade installed on my 2016 Stache 9 last night, and got my first real ride in on it this evening. The installation went pretty smoothly all things considered, but there were a couple things that needed to be worked out.

    Before hooking anything up, I downloaded the E-Tube software, then connected all the parts together on the work bench, and connected it to my laptop via the USB cable provided with the SM-BCR2 battery charger. It indicated that some firmware updates were needed to at least some of the components, so that was done so all of the components would have the latest firmware installed. I was hoping to be able to use the E-Tube software on my iPhone to program, but as far as I can tell, it will only work with an iPad. Somebody please correct me if I am mistaken on this as it would be nice to connect with bluetooth.

    On to the installation. . . .

    It's difficult to estimate the length of the wires needed. Ideally, you would have access to all the sizes available as you're installing the system. I actually did pretty well on two of the three wires I needed. I totally missed on the third one, but was able to get the wire I needed with one trip to the shop where I work. I actually bought two, and will return the one I don't need (didn't even need to take it out of the box as the first size I thought it would be was perfect, but more on that later).

    The first part I installed was putting the battery (BT-DN110-1) inside of the battery holder (SM-BTC1). The battery holder is the type that mounts to one side of a bottle cage on the down tube. The mount is designed to attach the same way that many mini pumps do, with the mount being placed under the bottle cage.

    Installing the battery into the holder was easily accomplished by following the instructions. There is a tool furnished with the shifter (SW-M8050-R in my case) that is used to push the wire ends into place (and it removes them too). It's possible to do it without the tool using just your fingers, but the tool makes it easy, and less likely damage something.

    The SM-BTC1 is designed to mount on the non-drive side of the down tube, but unfortunately for me, there is a cable guide that interferes with the holder on that side of the down tube, so I ended up flipping it over and mounting it on the drive side. If it were mounted on the non-drive side, the part of the holder that mounts under the bottle cage is smooth. When it is flipped over, the under side of that part is relieved in places, so aesthetically it does not look great. I may modify the holder so it fits on the non-drive side by cutting away that section, but for the time being it is mounted on the drive side. It looks pretty clean, but would look better on the other side. Functionally, it is just as good on one side as the other as far as I can tell.

    Once the wires are connected to the battery, and the battery is mounted to the frame, it was time to install the rear derailleur. The rear derailleur (RD-M8050-GS) is like a low-normal design as it is in the granny gear position by default. I am running a SRAM 10-42 cassette, and the jockey wheel was hitting the large cog as I installed the derailleur. Once the derailleur
    is in place, I put the chain on and and as the jockey wheel cage swings forward, the jockey wheel no longer hit the large cog on the cassette. I did a little adjusting of the B-screw to get it up close to get it adjusted properly. The wire for the rear derailleur is 750 mm and fits perfectly. It would not have bothered me to have a little more, but the 750 mm wire is fine.

    On my bike, the rear triangle has internal cable routing, and the original cable housing had a sheathing over it for the entire length as it passed through the chainstay. The wire ends were not quite slim enough to pass through the sheathing, but I was able to get the sheathing over the end connector and use it to pull the wire through. It would be nice to have some sort of grommets to fit around the wires as they come out those holes, so I will keep my eye out for a clean solution to address that.

    I can envision the day coming soon, where bikes and components are made to accommodate electric shifting parts more elegantly, and vice versa. However, for the time being, since this technology is still relatively new for MTB's, it can still have some rough edges, aesthetically speaking, here and there in some applications.

    The controls in the cockpit were next up to complete the installation. The Stache 9 also has internal cable routing for the rear shifting cable through the down tube. However, as with the swing arm, the holes in the down tube and the removable 'bezel' mounted at the lower hole are not big enough for the wire ends to pass through. So, I ran the wire that connects the battery to the display unit (1200 mm in length) along with the rear brake hose and the dropper post housing on top of the down tube in a neat bundle. Not quite as elegant as internal routing would have been, but not terrible either.

    As the wire leaves the top of the down tube, I just zip tied it to the rear (right side) brake hose as it comes around the front of the head tube. Once it passes by the front of the stem, it then routes over to the display unit (SC-MT800) and connects to it on the bottom of the unit.

    I do a lot of night riding, and use two lights on my handlebar, with one mounted on each side of the handlebar right up against the stem. So, the display unit is an inch or so away from the stem, but still on the thick section of the bar. from there, another wire runs over to the Firebolt shifter unit (SW-M8050-R).

    I originally got a six inch wire to connect the display unit to the shifter, but the way it exits the shifter, it makes a 180° bend and doubles back onto the shifter to get it back to the handlebar with the cable being vulnerable to being snagged. It then runs along the handlebar over to the display unit. The six inch (150 mm) wire would run in a straight line over to the display unit, but in order to run it cleanly, it needed a wire twice that length (300 mm). I used electrical tape in two places to attach the wire to the bar as it runs from the display to the shifter. As per the instructions, I filled the third connector hole on the display unit with a provided dummy plug to keep moisture and dirt out of that connection point.

    At this point, the system is ready to fire up and perform the final adjustments. One press of the mode button will light the display unit (briefly) and let you know the system is functioning. I turned the pedals and activated the shift button to shift down the cog all the way to the smallest cog and the limit screws appeared to be OK at both ends of the range. I then (as per the instructions) shifted to the fifth cog, pressed the mode button for two seconds, which entered 'adjustment mode', which was indicated on the display unit by it showing an "R". Then I turned the pedals and pressed the downshift paddle a couple times until I could just hear the chain hitting the fourth cog, and then hit the upshift paddle five times to get it back to the correct index point (still) on the fifth cog. This is how the instructions say to do it. It was quick, and it was easy to do.

    A quick late night test ride in the street confirmed that it was working well, but the real test ride would take place the following day. The 'length' of the shift paddles can be adjusted, and I adjusted them to be at their longest so the digits on my XXL hands reached them comfortably with my hands in their normal position on the grips.
     
  2. Daddy Dirtbag

    Daddy Dirtbag Member

    Location:
    Castaic
    Name:
    Jeff Johansen
    Current Bike:
    2016 Trek Stache 9 29+
    Part II

    The Test Ride

    My expectation was that, to some extent, shifting is shifting. I have been riding MTB for 20+ years and have developed what I think is a decent touch with shifters. I know it isn't always just a matter of pushing a lever (or twisting a grip shifter). There is a subtle art to shifting smoothly, and it helps your drivetrain last when you consistently use good shift technique. A good example of this is to shift slightly past the index point on a rear downshift and then let off on the lever. With electronic shifting, this is not possible. In that sense, there is no finnesse. When the shifter sends the signal to the derailleur, the derailleur moves to that position at a given speed and that is that. You can still have some finesse with regard to pressure on the pedals, but timing is about all the finesse you can impart by way of the shifter with electronic shifting.

    The good news here if that the XT Di2 system shifts quickly and cleanly. On the workstand, and during my brief test ride after the installation, I didn't really get the sense of just how quickly and precisely the shifts would be. Once on the trail though, it didn't take long to feel just how quick and precise this system actually is. As with cable shifting, using some finesse with regard to pedal pressure helps to insure smoother shifting.

    Each time you shift, the display briefly lights up to tell you which gear is currently selected and also shows a battery level indicator. It stays on for a few seconds, and then goes blank. IIRC, this is programmable so that you can control how long the display is illuminated after a shift.

    The tactile feel of the shifter paddles has a similar feel to a cable shifter as it is activated. I imagine this is so that the action feels familiar to riders. You can go through the gears, one click at a time, or you can hold down the paddle and it will continue to shift on that direction as long as you are pushing on it. When it gets to either end of the range, you'll hear a faint "beep' to let you know it isn't going to go any further in that direction.

    Out on the trail, I found myself shifting more often, possibly because it was a new thing and I wanted to try it. But, it was just so easy and smooth that I felt more compelled to keep my cadence more uniform as I was pedaling through the rolling terrain. Sometimes in technical situations, I would (in the past) not take a chance of blowing a shift and just gut it out in the gear I was in. It is easier with Di2 to just whack the paddle and know I won't blow the shift so long as I get the pedal pressure correct, so I was more inclined to shift in those places than normal.

    The shifter is programmed to have the lower level do the downshifting, and the upper handle upshifting. For some reason, I found myself hitting the opposite paddles on several occasions. If this continues, I will attempt to program the shifter to to accommodate my instincts Maybe. I'll get used to them being they way they are. I will give it a few rides at least to see how that shakes out. I may also play with the lever/paddle length adjustments to fine that as well.

    Summary

    I wasn't expecting to find that XT Di2 would actually improve my riding experience as opposed to merely applying modern technology to something that has become pretty refined since cable actuated derailleurs have been around for many, many decades and are still pretty decent. But I did come away from today's ride feeling that my riding experience did improve in a couple of ways. Di2 requires less finesse and that resulted in shifting more often which kept my cadence more consistent. It also had me shifting more in some technical situations and other situations when I might otherwise have just left it in the gear I was in so that I didn't miss a shift.

    Not sure that I recommend that everyone should run out and buy these, and I think cable actuated shifting will continue to be around for the foreseeable future. They are certainly not going to make me appear on a podium somewhere. But they did improve my riding experience more than I thought they would. If you are looking at upgrading your drivetrain, and you would appreciate the refinements Di2 can provide, then this technology is certainly worth considering, especially since it has trickled down to XT level.
     
  3. noLungs

    noLungs Member

    Location:
    West Covina
    Name:
    Robert
    Current Bike:
    About to flip a coin
    Great write up. I hope to hear maybe a 1 month review once you get a couple rides down. XT is always good stuff, and based on your review the DI2 seems to be no exception.
     
  4. Mikie

    Mikie Admin/iMTB Hooligan

    Location:
    North East Canada? , California
    Name:
    Mikie Watson
    Current Bike:
    Ibis DV9, Santa Cruz Hightower
    @Daddy Dirtbag , Thanks for the detailed report!
    What about rapid terrain change shifting?
    Many of the trails I ride have a sharp descent then instantly change to a small ring grinder. In those situations, I'm going from taller gears from the fast descent and then, raising my saddle to position for climb mode, dropping from big ring to small ring, and possibly grabbing 3 or 4 rear cogs for the instant grind climb.
    How do you think the Di2 will perform in a situation like that? (Granted it is a 1X there is no drop in chainring which makes it even more critical for a rapid cog change).
     
  5. mtnbikej

    mtnbikej J-Zilla

    Location:
    Orange
    Name:
    J
    Current Bike:
    SC Chameleon SS, SC Hightower

    Rant:
    I'm sorry, but this sounds like it is ass backwards. The designers should be ashamed. You have a display that can really only go one place: on your bars. You have to run the cable from the display to your right shifter. Common sense would have dictated that the cable come out of the right side of the display.

    Ok....now that I got that out of the way. So you went 1x....did you have to program that, or is it a default? Or is the software looking for the FD? Does it self adjust if let's say you accidently bend the hanger a little bit?

    When you say the ends of the cables have large connectors....I am picturing the fat connectors from a Niterider light/battery.

    I have only toyed with Di2 on a road bike when it first came out....and it was really nice.

    Got any pics?

    Would like to hear the long term durability.

    Maybe one day they will come out with a singlespeed version of Di2.
     
  6. Mikie

    Mikie Admin/iMTB Hooligan

    Location:
    North East Canada? , California
    Name:
    Mikie Watson
    Current Bike:
    Ibis DV9, Santa Cruz Hightower
    Geez Louise!
    Like I wouldn't catch that in a hot second...:rolleyes:
     
  7. mtnbikej

    mtnbikej J-Zilla

    Location:
    Orange
    Name:
    J
    Current Bike:
    SC Chameleon SS, SC Hightower
    Gotta keep you on your toes. :cautious: :Barefoot: :Roflmao
     
  8. RS VR6

    RS VR6 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Valencia/Simi
    Name:
    Lee
    Current Bike:
    Banshee Shartfire/Chiner 29r
    Can it be run without the display? I'm really thinking about doing this. I also want to run the battery that fits in the seat tube.
     
  9. knucklebuster

    knucklebuster Well-Known Member

    Location:
    34.2295° N, 117.2257° W
    Name:
    Dave
    Current Bike:
    Guerrilla Gravity Megatrail
    I would like to hear how well the 2x11 works with just one shifter. Seems like there were some reviews that said it was pretty seemless as the computer would decide when to shift the front der and it shifted fast. Besides that, not sure I'd want to pay the $ for the electric version.
     
  10. Daddy Dirtbag

    Daddy Dirtbag Member

    Location:
    Castaic
    Name:
    Jeff Johansen
    Current Bike:
    2016 Trek Stache 9 29+
    I got a second ride in this evening. Could not squander a chance at some hero dirt, right?

    I have my dropper control on the left side so I can simultaneously shift gears and drop the saddle. Downshifting quickly is not a problem. Holding the downshift paddle on continuously will keep the derailleur moving as quickly as the chain can make it up the cogs. It is actually a series of single shifts (bzzt, bzzt, bzzt, bzzt), but it feels like one continuous shift.

    After tonight's ride, I am finding that the change of pedal pressure need to shift smoothly is significantly less than with cable shifting. If I had to pick one word to describe the shifting, I think I would call it. . . . . "fluid". Reminds me of a finely tuned Campy road group.

    Maybe I didn't describe it well. It is easily routed to the handlebar, and then across from the display to the shifter. Overall, I am pleased with the 'cleanliness' of the installation.

    As soon as I connected it, the system detected that it was 1x11 and flashed that on the screen IIRC. I am guessing that the system detected the lack of a FD, and that the derailleur was 11 speeds.

    Honestly, I was thinking I would have to spend some significant time hooked up to my laptop, but all I really did was to connect it all together on the workbench, connect to the laptop, start the E-Tube software, update the firmware, and that was that. the rest of the adjustments I did do not require being tethered to a computer.

    The limit screws were spot on, and to dial in the indexing, you shift to 5th gear, hold the mode button for a couple seconds to put it into adjustment mode, turn the pedals while hitting the downshift paddle until you hear the chain tickle the 4th cog, hit the upshift paddle 5 times, hold the mode button down to take it out of adjustment mode, and it was done. Took longer to type the process than to actually do it.

    . It doesn't self adjust, but you can re-calibrate the indexing on the trail the same way I described above. Would not take more than a minute to do it.

    The connectors are about as big around as the outside of a 4 mm housing ferrule.

    Yes, I do. . . . .

    I plan to keep this thread apprised of any issues, and will likely do some follow ups.

    Indeed!

    Di2 Battery Holder Mod_Rev001.jpg

    I'll likely mod the battery cage by cutting off the bottom part of the mount so it no longer would interfere with the cable guide on the non-drive side and flip it over so it's smooth on top (see photo below also).

    IMG_7448a.jpg

    The way it is currently mounted. Works fine, but aesthetically less than wonderful.

    IMG_7449a.jpg

    Display and shifter on the handlebar.

    IMG_7451a.jpg

    Underside of the display.

    IMG_7456a.jpg

    Underside of the display from another angle.
     
  11. Daddy Dirtbag

    Daddy Dirtbag Member

    Location:
    Castaic
    Name:
    Jeff Johansen
    Current Bike:
    2016 Trek Stache 9 29+
    I think you could just run a "junction" instead of the display. Downside would be that you would always have to program it from a computer/ipad. The dealer manual shows a schematic that does not use the display.

    Since I have 1x11, I won't be finding out about controlling both derailleurs from one shifter, but IIRC it is possible. The display has three different 'modes' possible. One manual mode, and two custom modes should you opt to use them. I think if I had a 2x or 3x system, I would utilize at least one of the custom modes to be able to have it shift in the order in the order of gear inch yield regardless of which chainring it was in, and then having it operate manually when I want to make it do what I want it do when I want to do it :~)
     
    Danmtchl, RS VR6 and herzalot like this.
  12. AKAKTM

    AKAKTM Well-Known Member

    Location:
    SCV
    Name:
    Tony A
    Di2 with 2x and the one-side shifter (auto front) is very slick if you ride 2x. The system eliminates all duplicate ranges and knows which combination creates your desired range best. Di2 for 2x MTB with the auto front feature is an excellent use of the technology. I've had Di2 on my road bike for almost a year now and I'm as impressed as the day I started. Super smooth and fast shifting and contrary to what you might expect, it rarely needs charging--about once per quarter!
     
  13. Danmtchl

    Danmtchl iMTB Rockstah

    Location:
    Bakersfield
    Name:
    Dan
    Current Bike:
    2020 Trek Fuel EX 9.7
    I would like to see if SRAM will come out with a MTB version of their Etap. 1x11 or 12. No wires to screw with and set up would be a fraction of the time of the Shimano.
     
    Daddy Dirtbag, RS VR6 and littlewave like this.
  14. Daddy Dirtbag

    Daddy Dirtbag Member

    Location:
    Castaic
    Name:
    Jeff Johansen
    Current Bike:
    2016 Trek Stache 9 29+

    Setup time was pretty minimal, especially going 1x11. That said, the idea of electronic Eagle is intriguing.
     
    Danmtchl likes this.
  15. Tom the Bomb

    Tom the Bomb iMTB Rockstah

    Location:
    Alta Loma, Ca.
    Name:
    Thomas Cosgrove
    Current Bike:
    Niner rip 9
    I rode a new Ellsworth Rogue 60 last month with the xtr di2. Fast shifting and auto der adjust. Never dropped or missed a shift but yes a lot of shifting going on. @Mikie the one complaint I have is just what you described. You have to plan ahead. There are a couple spots where I went through a g out and immediately into a stiff climb. It shift fast but not as fast as 2x dump from 34 to 22. The issue i had was the paddle shifters were backwards to normal shifters. the big paddle was for taller gears and smaller for lower gears. I believe it can be switched though. The other issue is the wire for the rr der. came out of the chain stay and routed right around the outside of the frame at the through axle. No protection at all! If you lay it over and sever the wire you are toast! No manual shifting back up. This bike had the battery in the down tube. Very clean . I was told the battery would last 6 months . So no issue there. The bike I rode was 27 lbs carbon everything. I imagine the di2 system added about 3/4 of a pound in battery weight.
    On another note, the bike rocked. I climbed up rocky techy stuff that i never thought i was going to make. It was as if the rear tire would roll into the square edge of the rocks and pull it self up and over! It was equipped with 32 front ring and 46-11 rear cassette. I thought I was going to have an issue with the taller front ring since I am running a 28 oval with a 46-9 e15 cassette but not the case with the 60s suspension. As for the descents, buuuuutter! Nothing like 4 bar plushness . Not sure how they did it but I have never climbed like that on any other bike and I have had a few.
     



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