It’s been more than a year since Shimano introduced the Linkglide drivetrain. I remember asking Shimano about availability back then. It’s available to order as of now, they said. But I’m not sure many people has bought this drivetrain so far; this is the first time we’ve seen it. Watch the video review, or keep on reading below.
Shimano says the Linkglide is a more durable drivetrain that shifts consistently. The test bike is a 2022 Merida eOne-Sixty 975 that comes with the Shimano M8130. That’s the Linkglide XT 11-speed drivetrain with an 11-50t cassette. There is also a cheaper 10-speed Deore version, the M5130 with an 11-43t cassette.
Linkglide XT cassette
As opposed to the Shimano 12-speed cassettes, the Linkglide cassettes comes with 11 teeth on the smallest cog. Consequently, the cassette fits the regular HG style cassette bodies. And our test bike of course has a cassette body made of steel. That’s the way to go for ebikes!
We’ve heard the cassette was heavy, so we put it on our scale. It returned 784 g, that’s around 200 g more than the Shimano 12-speed cassettes. Sure, that’s a lot. But I guess this is how it has to be.
Linkglide XT chain
Naturally, we expected the chain was heavy too. But the scale said 264 g, that’s just 6 g more than the 12-speed Deore, SLX and XT chains, all cut to fit a Merida eOne-Sixty. Does that mean the chain isn’t super durable? Well, it remains to be seen. We only had time for a few rides on this bike, so we don’t know.
Holding the chain in our hands, it felt different to the 12-speed chains. It felt more loose and it had quite a bit of sideways flex. Previously, minimal chain flex has been an indication of quality and manufacturing precision. But it makes sense on this chain. The sideways flex will probably reduce the risk of snapping the chain when shifting under load.
Riding the Linkglide XT
Shifting under load isn’t a new thing. This works well on the 12-speed Shimano drivetrains too. But I find they have to be precisely tuned to shift with any smoothness. And I find myself adjusting the gear wire tension quite often.
I kept tuning the wire tension on the Linkglide XT too, but that’s to be expected on a brand-new bike. The hoses and plugs need some time to seat before the wire tension settles. I think this was getting better on the third ride. And I believe this Linkglide gear stays tuned for a longer time than the Shimano 12-speed versions. But we really need to ride it more to say for sure.
The Linkglide XT too must be perfectly tuned to shift well under load. Turning the wire tensioning barrel on the shifter just one click will reduce shifting performance noticeably. Then I’m more anxious to shift while pedaling standing up in Turbo mode. Sure, that’s not how we are used to ride derailleur gear systems. But it felt okay with a correctly tuned Linkglide XT. Whether the gear system will handle this kind of use over time remains to be seen.
The Shimano XT M8130 shifter feels a lot like the 12-speed Deore and SLX shifters. It allows for multiple shifts to lower gear ratios. When shifting to a higher gear, it will only shift one gear at the time. Just like the Deore and SLX.
We’re happy to see more durable derailleur gear systems on the market. Worst case, the longevity of a 12-speed chain can be just a few hundred kilometres. We expect the Linkglide chains will last much longer. XT M8130 Linkglide shifts well. We can largely decide ourselves when we want to shift, not just when the terrain allows it.