A smooth shift in mountain bike drivetrain technology


Designed specifically to hold up under the abuse doled out by ebikes, Shimano’s Linkglide was made to be stronger and smoother than its predecessor, the Hyperglide. The main technological advancements in the Linkglide system have been made in the HG-mounted 11-speed cassette. Shimano is claiming it to be three times more durable and three times smoother than Hyperglide.

Tech features:

Shimano has given the CS-LG600-11 cassette a new tooth profile to help hold the chain on more effectively, as well as improve shift quality. Shimano has also revamped the shifting-gate profile designed for smoother two-way shifting. The result of the new gate profile is reduced shift shock caused by high chain tension and smoother pedaling due to a lack of feedback in the shifting process. It’s meant to shift well under load without the fear of skipping teeth or jumping unnecessarily. Along with the new tooth and gate profiles, each cog is significantly thicker to help with cassette stiffness under load and help it last longer. This means the cassette is quite heavy.

Aside from the cassette, they’ve not changed a whole lot. The RD-M8130-SGS Deore XT Linkglide 11-speed derailleur is hardly any different from its counterparts and features all the things we’d expect from an XT derailleur, like Shadow RD+ technology, which is the adjustable chain stabilizer clutch system. Shimano has also developed a new CN-LG500 chain for this technology, but it’s not too drastically different from their other 11-speed chains and is even compatible with Shimano’s 10-/11-speed Hyperglide. The SL-M8130 11-speed shifter is also no different from Shimano’s other 11-speed shifters. Unlike the 12-speed XT shifters, the SL-M8130 XT shifter doesn’t have a multi-shift option for upshifting.

Shimano has developed this technology and branched it out in a wide offering of components. The RD-M8150-11 Deore XT Di2 self-shifting ebike derailleur uses Linkglide technology, as does a lot of the new CUES component lineup. This is certainly the next wave of technology Shimano is developing.

The cassette is heavy but for good reason; the thicker cogs and more defined ramps allow smoother shifting in both directions under load.

Field test results:

Installing the Linkglide system is no different than setting up any other modern Shimano drivetrain. It utilizes the HG spline driver to mount the cassette, which has always been easy to work with, though it does mean sacrificing a 10-tooth cog for an 11-tooth. Tuning the limit and B-tension screws was as easy as on the Shimano 12-speed system, so if you already have experience setting up Shimano products, you’ll find this setup very easy.

Immediately upon testing the system, we noticed the lack of a multiple-release upshift option found on the 12-speed Shimano shifters. We mention this because that’s a feature the wrecking crew members really enjoy and use to its fullest extent, so not having it was a slight disappointment. We understand the reason for this exclusion is the fact that this drivetrain is more specifically designed for ebikes, which makes multiple shifts risky due to the high torque numbers.

On the trail, the system is excellent. If we were to compare it to the SRAM Transmission, we’d say it’s quite similar in a few ways: Shifting is precise, smooth, silent and excellent under high torque. It also tends to take slightly longer going through the gears than we’re used to with Hyperglide or previous-gen Eagle drivetrains. Having ridden both the SRAM Transmission and XT Linkglide 11-speed drivetrains back to back, we can say the SRAM Transmission is smoother and more efficient, but not by a whole lot. We did miss the 10-tooth cog a bit, though. On the other hand, we hae twisted a SRAM Transmission chain link while Linkglide has been absolutely trouble free so we will give Shimano a win in the durability category.

Our favorite trait of the XT Linkglide drivetrain is the smooth and silent passing of the chain when changing gears. Even under heavy torque, it was much smoother and more precise than previous generations; some of our testers felt it shifted better under power than when idly spinning. We never felt a jump or heard a pop as the chain struggled onto the next gear. We were impressed overall by the shifting performance and felt we could maintain a smoother cadence even when shifting.

Drivetrains have evolved to be incredibly reliable and lightweight, but Shimano’s new Linkglide looks to push into new territory in terms of durability, smoother shifting and strength.

There are also no noticeable gaps in cadence between gears as we might have expected with this 11-speed system. We really only have one “bad” thing to say about this system, and that’s the cassette is quite heavy. It certainly looks and feels as robust as Shimano claims, so we hope this translates into a near-immortal cassette, but it’s not going to help your bike shave grams at any point. Time will tell if durability is really three times better, but early indications seem to suggest it might be true.

Overall, this drivetrain is excellent and is likely to last a very long time if taken care of. As with any drivetrain, the chain is the weakest link when considering long-term wear, so it’s always important to check your chain to keep that cassette fresh for as long as possible. We can see Deore XT Linkglide 11-speed working well on ebikes and mid-level builds, especially if durability is your primary concern.


• Smooth, silent shifting
• Easy to set up
• Shifts well under power


• No multi-shift upshift
• Cassette is heavy
• Slower shifting than Hyperglide


Price/weight: Cassette: $98, 624 grams; rear derailleur: $122 302 grams; shifter with cable: $67, 133 grams; uncut chain: $23
288 grams


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