It’s been nearly a year since Shimano introduced its totally revamped XTR range, the sixth generation of the top-end mountain groupo, and we’ve been riding it hard ever since. Whereas in the past XTR catered mostly to weight-conscious racers, with this iteration Shimano has recognized that the top-tier components appeal to a broad spectrum of users and they’re now offering it in both a featherweight Race spec and a sturdy-but-still light Trail group.
While derailleurs, shifters, and chain are common between the two groups, riders choose the cranks (two gearing options for Trail, and three for Race), brakes, wheels, and pedals that best meet their needs. This adds a layer of complexity to the purchasing process, but it also means that you can get exactly what you need based on your riding style. For instance, a racer who rides especially rough terrain could get the full Race package but sub the beefier Trail wheels for added durability, or a flatlander who prefers the Trail spec but needs a higher gear ratio could opt for one of the bigger double crank configurations of the Race group. Both groups are relatively light, with the core Race setup weighing in a few hundred grams lighter than the Trail group (though even the Race components aren't the lightest on the market).
For comparison sake, we ordered up both a Race and Trail group and rode them for the past half year, both back to back on the same bike (Trek Superfly 100) and side by side on task-appropriate bikes (Race on a Specialized Epic and Trail on a Yeti SB-66).