Shimano has announced its brand-new approach to the mid-tier component line-up, unifying the 9-, 10- and 11-speed drivetrains under a new product family called CUES. CUES consolidates the four mid-tier mountain bike groupsets - Altus, Acera, Alivio and Deore - into one product family of interchangeable components, including derailleurs, cassettes and chains.
Totally revamping how we’ve come to know the Shimano drivetrain hierarchy, Shimano says that CUES will “offer smoother shifting, more durable components, and standardises compatibility across a wide range of categories” in the lifestyle component lineup. The wide cross-compatibility of the CUES components should mean that repairs and upgrades are easier, as shops are not limited by the number of gears on the bike when it comes to replacing or updating components.
CUES, (which stands for "creating unique experiences"), is not a totally new concept from Shimano, as we've already seen it launched on the e-bike-specific electronic groupsets last year. Now, the CUES family is consolidating the mechanical mid-tier groupsets, meaning that whereas you previously had a rather clear hierarchy and limited cross-compatibility for example, between an Altus and Acera groupset, the CUES concept makes the mixing and matching of components across speeds much less of a faff.
Those who are currently running existing 9-, 10- or 11-speed drivetrains on their mountain bar bike don't need to panic, though, as Shimano has said the current drivetrain options will stay in the brand's offerings for at least the next seven years while they're being phased out. We can take this launch as the introduction of the CUES concept that will expand and consolidate more groupsets over the years.
The CUES components are not widely available on the UK market yet, but it's likely that most of the mid-range bikes that you're going to see enter the markets later in 2023 will be equipped with a Shimano CUES groupset instead of the outgoing 9, 10 or 11-speed models.
The CUES product family
2023 Shimano CUES_U8000_Cleancockpit_Front-47412b-original-1676637602.jpg, by Shimano
The CUES lineup consists of three levels of components: U4000, U6000 and U8000. The U4000 range is 9-speed, U6000 is available in both 10- and 11-speed and the U8000 comes with 11-speed components. All of these are cross-compatible - at least to a certain extent.
The CUES family will have only hydraulic disc brake options, and the chainsets are limited to 1x or 2x setups - but the wide range cassettes with 50-tooth top cogs will accommodate for the lack of a third ring.
You will find all of the CUES groupsets designed to use an 11-speed chain - meaning all of the cassettes have the same spacing between the sprockets and can be run with any existing 11-speed chain - including the e-bike specific E8000 chain that was part of the e-bike CUES launch last year.
The cassettes all feature Shimano’s Linkglide technology - something the brand initially introduced as an alternative to its more premium Hyperglide tech. Whereas Hyperglide is all about lightweight and performance, Linkglide is about durability and in the case of CUES, compatibility and accessible price points.
The Linkglide cassettes have a specifically designed, taller and thicker tooth shape that provides additional surface area and mitigates the chain from skipping, especially under heavier loads experienced on e-bikes. The design distributes pedalling forces more evenly to prevent premature wear due to shifts from less experienced cyclists, so in other words, the Linkglide system is very forgiving for gear crunchers.
The CUES Linkglide cassettes fit on a standard HG freehub body and the two smallest sprockets - the 11 and 13-tooth ones - are the exact same across the range so that they can be replaced separately from the rest of the cassette.
Shimano says the lifespan of the Linkglide cassettes is three times longer than that of the alternatives, making them the most durable in the brand's offerings. This obviously makes the Linkglide range more budget-friendly, as well, as you don't have to change the components so often.
469451-SHIMANO-CUES-ASSETS11-3ac31d-original-1676637673.jpg, by Suvi Loponen
All of the CUES shifters and derailleurs use a specific Linkglide pull ratio, meaning that the shifters can be used across different speed groupsets. The CUES rear derailleurs also feature 13-tooth jockey wheels across the range, again making the system more cross-compatible across the 9,10 and 11-speed CUES components.
The CUES bottom brackets are available in both threaded and press-fit styles and can accommodate the crank spindle to be assembled from either side. This is because some of the CUES cranksets have the spindle fixed to the left arm.
At the time of writing, we don't have any pricing information at all for the CUES system or any of the components in the new line-up. For more details on the new CUES drivetrains, check out Shimano's website.
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