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First look | Hands-on with Shimano Cues U8000
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First look | Hands-on with Shimano Cues U8000

Shimano Cues U8000 is the top-end group of drivetrain components in the brand’s all-new range.

Shimano Cues consolidates the brand’s Alivio, Acera, Altus and select Deore groupset components into one inter-compatible family that covers everything from 9- through to 11-speed.

Though the brand has committed to continuing support for its outgoing groupsets for the next seven years, Cues is pegged to soon be the dominant groupset family on entry-level hybrids and mountain bikes.

Shimano has also all but confirmed drop-bar road/gravel bike components will soon come to Cues (fingers crossed – we want a mullet!).

iceBike* North – the in-house trade show for Shimano’s UK distributor, Madison – presented the first opportunity for us to lay eyes on Cues.

The groupset was fitted to a Ridgeback Element, which is precisely the sort of mid-range hybrid Cues will be commonly specced on.

The 1x setup pictured also speaks to a broader theme of Cues.

Shimano says Cues was developed specifically for brands who wanted to spec an affordable 1x Shimano drivetrain without resorting to third-party brands for certain components.

This has long been a notable omission from Shimano’s range.

The previous entry point for a wide-range 1x Shimano groupset was Deore.

While relatively affordable, Deore is considerably more expensive than the 9- and 10-speed groupsets Cues replaces.

Blink and you’ll miss it

Like Deore, the pulley plate is made from pressed steel.
Jack Luke / Our Media

Cues U8000 is being treated by Shimano as a direct replacement for its lesser-known (but very good) Deore XT T8000 ‘trekking’ groupset.

The finish matches the premium feel of the outgoing groupset, but looks more like Shimano’s 12-speed Deore kit.

In fact, the rear derailleur looks almost indistinguishable from the Deore RD-M6100 rear derailleur.

Cues by name… Deore by nature?
Jack Luke / Our Media

They share a very similar pressed-steel pulley plate. The cable routing, limit screw location and main pivot on the B-knuckle are all virtually identical too.

At a glance, only the moderately different shapes of the parallelogram plates and lighter colours differentiate the two.

Unlike the Deore T8000 rear derailleur it replaces, the Cues U8000 rear derailleur also features a clutch.

Business as usual for cranksets

The crankset is based on familiar Shimano tech.
Jack Luke / Our Media

The Cues U8000 crankset is available in either 40 or 42t 1x options, or in a 46/32t double setup. Both options are available with or without a matching chainguard.

Unlike some other Cues cranksets, the U8000 cranksets use a standard 24mm HollowTech II axle.

The cranksets also use Shimano’s long-standing HollowTech construction.

The chainrings are fixed from the back of the spider.
Jack Luke / Our Media

This sees two forged shells bonded together to create a lightweight and stiff crankset. The same technique is used on virtually all of its premium road, gravel and mountain bike groupsets.

U6000 and U4000 cranksets use a new two-piece design (that’s similar to a SRAM DUB crankset) or good ol’ square taper.

On cheaper Cues cranksets, the chainrings are riveted in place but, for Cues U8000 and U6000, they’re replaceable via bolts that thread directly into the spider of the crankset.

Both the 1x and 2x U8000 cranksets use Shimano’s standard 110mm PCD asymmetrical chainring bolt pattern.

Shifters for anyone

So many shifters…
Jack Luke / Our Media

There are more Cues shifter options than would be reasonable to outline here.

However, in brief, there are options for either clamp-on or I-Spec shifters across every groupset tier.

If you don’t know an I-Spec from a Matchmaker (who can blame you?), check out our full guide to Shimano I-Spec standards for more information.

Pictured is the Shimano Cues SL-U8000-11IR shifter. We expect this will be specced commonly on 11-speed Cues bikes that use Shimano brakes.

What about Cues U6000 and U4000?

U6000 is expected to be specced widely on entry-level mountain bikes.

Speaking to BikeRadar ahead of the launch of Cues, a Shimano USA spokesperson suggested U8000 will be seen mostly on electric trekking and touring bikes.

While it was nice to fondle U8000, we’re most excited for Cues U6000.

Looking ahead, we expect bucket-loads of U6000-equipped entry-level mountain bikes, where it will go toe-to-toe with SRAM’s NX and SX groupsets.

It’s unclear when we’ll see bikes equipped with either hit the market, but we promise to bring you a full overview as soon as we’ve got our hands on either.