Shimano MTB Groupsets Hierarchy – An overview of all Shimano Mountain Bike Groupsets

Cyclists in the market for a new mountainbike need to pick a suitable groupset to go with it. The large selection of Shimano mountain bike groupsets tends to make the choice more difficult. How well do the Shimano groupsets perform and what sets them apart? This blog lists all Shimano groupsets, from Altus and Alicio to Deore and XTR.

A beginner might not yet precisely know what parts belong to a groupset. Luckily, it’s not that complicated. A complete groupset consists of everything to do with shifting, braking and the drivetrain. Basically, all moving parts on your MTB.

Which parts belong to the groupset

Firstly, we have the shifters as well as your front and rear derailleur. Followed by the crankset including chainrings, your cassette and the chain are a standard part of the groupset. Lastly, we cannot forget the brakes.

Welke onderdelen horen bij een mtb groepset
All parts belonging to a mtb groupset need to be able to take a hit.

Which groupset do I need for my mountain bike?

As a beginner mountain bike enthusiast it can be difficult to pick the right groupset for your mtb. Luckily, groupset manufacturers are pretty consistent in naming their own groupsets. Below you’ll find an overview of all Shimano mountain bike groupsets, from the starter group Shimano Tourney up to and including the groupsets the professionals use, such as the Shimano XTR.

If you are just starting out, you will not need a top of the line groupset right from the get go. Shimano ensures that the newer technologies that start of in the high-end groupsets slowly trickle down to their less expensive counterparts. This has made it possible to be using great quality Shimano mountain bike groupsets without paying through the nose for it.

As can be seen in the table below, a number of groupsets are recommended for the sporty cyclist. This means that these groups are mainly suitable for sportive rides on paved paths. Do you want to go off-road on your first mountain bike? Then choose a beginners groupset.

Shimano MTB Groupset Overview Order

Shimano MTB GroupsetLogoTierPriceWeightDurability
Shimano TourneyShimano Tourney logoSporty cyclist
Shimano AltusShimano Altus logoSporty cyclist
Shimano AceraSporty cyclist
Shimano AlivioShimano Alivio logoBeginner
Shimano DeoreShimano Deore logoBeginner/Experienced
Shimano SLXShimano SLX LogoAdvanced/Expert
Shimano Deore XTShimano Deore XTExpert/Prof
Shimano XTRShimano XTR logoExpert/Prof

It is therefore not true that a cheaper Shimano groupset is of inherently lesser quality. For many mountain bikers, a Shimano Deore or a Shimano SLX is perfect group for what they need.

The difference lies mainly in the materials used for the different parts and the weight of the groupset as a whole. The more expensive your group kit, the more durable and lightweight the material will be.

Shimano Tourney group

The Shimano Tourney is the cheapest of all groups. The groupset is most commonly found on a sportive bike and is less suitable for off-road use. The Tourney is available in a 1×7, 1×6, 3×7 and 3×6 variant.

Shimano Tourney Crankstel
The Shimano Tourney group is the entry-level model.

Shimano Altus group

The Shimano Altus is mainly mounted on sportive bikes as well. If you only occasionally want to go off road with your bike, this is a good groupset for you. The Shimano Altus group is available in a 3×9 and 2×9 version.

Shimano Altus Achterderailleur
The Shimano Altus groupset can mainly be found on sportive bikes.

Shimano Acera group

The Shimano Acera group is suitable for the recreational cyclist and for the first experiences with off-road riding. According to Shimano themselves, the crankset has an aggressive appearance and the Shimano Acera allows you to shift gears quickly and easily. The parts are strong, made of stainless steel and easy to maintain. This Simano mountain bike groupset is equipped with 18 (2×9) or 27 (3×9) gears.

Shimano Acera Achterderailleur
The Shimano Acera group is also suited to sportive bikes.

Shimano Alivio group

The Shimano Alivio group is best suited to novice mountain bikers. This mtb groupset is easier to maintain and has been developed further than the cheaper versions. This groupset also has 18 (2×9) or 27 (3×9) gears.

Shimano Alivio Crankstel
The Shimano Alivio is a great groupset for the novice mtb-er.

Shimano Deore group

The Shimano Deore is made for the sporty and novice riders. Many MTB riders will recommend this Shimano groupset to beginners who regularly want to take a brisk ride through the forest. The parts are durable and reliable and the price-performance ratio of this group is therefore very good.

Shimano Deore Achterderailleur
The Shimano Deore groupset is often recommended to avid beginner mountain bikers.

If you want to change gears even faster while mountain biking, you can opt for a more expensive groupset. With the Deore group you have 20 (2×10) or 30 (3×10) gears at your disposal.

Shimano SLX group

With the Shimano SLX group you can easily cross any terrain with your mountain bike. The SLX is very similar to Shimano’s better groupsets, like the XT. The big difference, however, is that the SLX weighs more through the use of steel parts. The groupset’s finish is also less appealing than those of the more expensive versions.

Shimano SLX Shifter
DThe Shimano SLX is of good quality while being affordable as well.

This mtb groupset is the best choice if you are looking for great value for money. Shifting is done with 12 (1×12) or 24 (2×12) gears.

Shimano Deore XT group

The Shimano Deore XT group is also called XT and is one of the most popular groupsets for your mountain bike. The mtb groupset is perfect for competitive riders or for the sporty mtb-er with a big budget. The set actually performs as well as the XTR, but is a lot more affordable.

The difference between this set and the Shimano XTR groupset is the material used. The parts of the XT are made of a mix of aluminium and stainless steel. The weight of this groupset is therefore somewhat higher than that of the XTR. With the Shimano XT group you have 12 (1×12) or 24 (2×12) gears at your disposal.

Shimano Deore XT Crankstel
The Shimano Deore XT is one of the most popular groupsets for the mtb.

Shimano XTR group

Do you want the best of the best? Then go for the Shimano XTR groupset just like the professionals and other fanatical mtb-ers. The set is very lightweight and is made of the highest quality materials. It’s a mix of carbon fiber, titanium and high quality alloys.

According to Shimano themselves, the XTR was developed with the heaviest mountain race in mind, for unique performances and for the ultimate experience. With the XTR you can shift very fast, lightly and precise. The mtb groupset consists of 12 (1×12) or 24 (2×12) gears. The Shimano XTR group is not cheap. The mtb group costs almost twice as much as the Deore XT.

Shimano XTR Shifter
If you have the Shimano XTR groupset you are using the best of the best.
Eva van den Berg

Eva van den Berg

Since starting work at Mantel, I’ve been reading and writing about bikes on a daily basis. This added to the fact that I am testing new products, has caused me to get excited to expand my own bike collection. I wonder what the inside of my garage will look like in a few years. Luckily I have a big garage at home!

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8 thoughts on “Shimano MTB Groupsets Hierarchy – An overview of all Shimano Mountain Bike Groupsets”

  1. Hello Ms. Van den Berg, thank you for sharing this important infos to all bikers specially those in starter level. It’s been very and quite informative to learn what group set to pick at every level, it helps a lot. Saving money, and safety.

    1. Hello Ferdinand, thank you for your answer, we do our best to inform and support our customers in every way. Good to hear that it’s helpful! :) Best regards, Tyrone

  2. I have a groupset, that doesn’t seem to be listed exactly, and I need a link-minded replacement. (Pun intended) I don’t want to go up or down on the list of cranksets/groupsets, because I like what I have, it is a Shimano Deore LX and I can’t seem to find much info on it anywhere. Could someone help?

    1. Hi Nikolas, wish you have had some replies because i too have your same question! Unfortunately no one replied.

  3. What about those of us who need replacement parts for our older mtb like 3×8? I have an 05′ Specialized Hard Rock Sport with Acera 3×8 that I’m attached to and needs new drive train.

    1. Hi Ray, the bicycle industry is changing fast. It is more and more a struggle to find 8 speed and triple related components.
      But there are stores they still have those parts in stock. It will ask some good research but I am sure you will find the parts you want.

      Antoine I Mantel

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