The brand new Shimano CUES range of products seeks to consolidate almost all of their current "sub 12 speed" group sets into one, unified product range of directly cross-compatible components in an effort to simplify not just the supply chain, but the number of components bike stores need to keep in stock.
This has to be the biggest scrappage and replacement of any product line in Shimano's very long history of brake and gear components and so its no wonder its such a divisive talking point in the industry right now.
On the surface this seems like a great idea but it got us thinking... who does this actually best serve?
Welcome to the most comprehensive rundown of the new Shimano CUES system you'll find on the internet right now!
The motive behind the Shimano CUES product range.
It's no secret that drivetrain compatibility even for those who have served their time on the tools in the bicycle trade can be confusing.
Varying shifter pull ratios across the vast range of different group sets, hub spacings and speeds means that finding components to match can often be a bit of a headache - that's before you consider the number of hybrid options to achieve custom ratio choices.
It makes sense then, that consolidating their huge range of 9, 10 and 11 speed options (effectively everything they currently produce below their Deore 11 speed system) into one entirely cross-compatible but dramatically slimmed down range of components makes perfect sense from the factory, all the way down to the end user.
Shimano CUES is also the first product range designed specifically with the higher torque application of electric bikes in mind.
The new Shimano Cues product range.
There are 4 new tiers of products in the Shimano Cues range, each aimed at a specific segment of the bicycle market. All of these are likely to make their way onto eBikes in the not too distant future.
Shimano CUES U4000 (9 Speed)
The Shimano Cues U4000 line incorporates their new unified entry level 9 speed range which effectively kills off Alivio, Acera and Altus.
Left and right brake levers are pretty standard, however the range includes two right hand and one left hand shifter in the form of SL-U4000-9R, SL-U4010-9R and SL-U4000-9L parts.
There are three rear derailleurs in this tier, offering a short, mid and long cage setup with the RD-U4000, RD-U4010 and RD-U3020.
Two rear cassettes are available and both offer Shimano's own new LinkGlide technology. The CS-LG400-9 and CS-LG300-9 will both be available in 11-36, 11-41 and 11-46t ratios with the second likely to be slightly heavier, and therefore cheaper.
A pretty bonkers five new crank sets will be coming (and you thought they were trying to unify things here!) in the form of four different 2x set ups and just one in 1x.
The FC-U4000-2 and FC-U4000-2B offer a twin ring set-up. Both have a 178mm Q-Factor and a 48.8 and 51.8mm chain line length respectively, with a 36-22 or 40-26 tooth count.
The FC-U4010-2 and FC-U4010-2B also offer the same two chain line options, but with a 36-22, 40-26 and 46-30 toothed chainring option.
Finally the FC-U4000-1 is the single ring option with a 178mm Q-Factor and comes in 30,32,40 and 40T flavours. All are compatible with the 9, 10 and 11 speed systems from the whole CUES range. More on how that's possible later.
There are 4 new bottom brackets. BB-UR400 is a threaded 68mm option, BB-UN300 and UN101 are square taper style and finally BB-MT501 is a second 68/73mm shell width threaded option. The first and last here are both designed for Hollowtech II cranks.
To match the new rear derailleurs, there are also four new 2x 10/9 speed and one 2x 9 speed fronts.
3 of these are "side swing" (FD-U4000-D for 2x 10/9 direct mount, FD-U4000-E for E-type without BB bracket mount 2x 10/9 speed and FD-U4000-M for clamp band mount 2x 10/9 speed).
The final 2 are "top swing" (FD-U4000-L clamp band mount 2x 10/9 speed and FD-U4010-L for clamp band mount 1x 9 speed)
To complete this already mind boggling U4000 range, there are also 8 new hubs, all designed to take centre-lock brake rotor SM-RT30 which comes as a 203, 180 or 160mm option.
Three are for the front - HB-QC400 is a 100mm QR fitment, HB-TC500-15 is a 100x15mm "E-THRU" axle and HB-TC500-15-B is the same but for a 110mm width fork.
There are five new versions of their rear set ups. Two are from their 3.0w Hub Dynamo range - The DH-3D37-QR uses a QR fitment, and DH-3D37-NT is a bolt in option.
Three new HG spline freehubs come in 135mm QR on the FH-QC400-HM, a 142x12mm E-THRU axle option on the FH-TC500-HM and 148x12mm on the FH-TC500-HM-B.
Not bad for "entry level" equipment to eradicate at least three other complete group sets!
Shimano CUES U6000 (10 Speed)
The Shimano CUES U6000 is broken into two groups. Both a 10 speed and 11 speed range are available. There is much less choice, but, that's not to say it wont have something for everyone. The very purpose of this exercise by Shimano is to cover more bases, with less components.
As with the U4000 line, the MT501 and MT402 brakes are carried over from previous model ranges.
There are just two shifter options. The SL-U6000-10R for 10 speed rear derailleurs, and the SL-U-6000-L for a 2x 11/10 where a twin front chain ring is implemented. Both are clamp band/bar mounted. No I-SPEC II option here.
There are also only two rear derailleurs. The RD-U6000 can be used for both 10 and 11 speed setups, while the RD-U6020-10 is 10 speed only. The former will be great on bikes shipped as 10 speed with a later option to upgrade to 11 speed by changing the cassette and fitting a U6000 11 speed series shifter. If you're replacing the cassette during servicing anyway, there isn't a cheaper way to gain an extra gear than by just changing the shifter!
Two all new cassette options are offered. The CS-LG400-10 comes in brand new 11-39, 11-43 and 11-48t options. The CS-LG300-10 should be cheaper, but only offered as a 11-39 and 11-48t option.
Three chain rings are offered. FC-U6000-2 and FC-U6000-2B have a Q-Factor of 180mm and in 48.8 and 51.8 chain line options. The first is available with 36-22 or 46-30t options, with the 2B variant only being offered as 33-22t. The last as you would expect is a 1x option with 180mm Q-Factor. The FC-UC6000-1 is available as a 30 or 32t for a 52mm chain line or 40 and 42t for 50mm chain lines.
All of these are compatible with the 9, 10 and 11 speed systems in the new Shimano CUES product ecosystem.
Two bottom brackets are available. The BB-MT500-PA is an 89.5/92mm press -fit and the BB-MT501 is a 68/73mm threaded version.
To match the new rear derailleurs, there are also four new front derailleurs.
Three out of four of these are "side swing" - FD-U6000-D for 2x 11/10 speed direct mount, FD-U6000-E for E-type without BB bracket mount 2x 11/10speed and FD-U6000-M for clamp band mount 2x 11/10 speed).
The final one is "top swing" - FD-U6010-L clamp band mount 2x 11/10 speed.
The brake rotor for the U6000 series is SM-RT54. Another centre lock option to make it cross compatible with all options, its available in either 180 or 160mm sizes.
The rest of the model range in terms of front and rear hubs are identical part numbers to the U4000 range.
Shimano CUES U6000 (11 Speed)
The 11 speed version of the new Shimano CUES U6000 borrows most of the same components of the first two, but with a couple of key differences.
The brakes are the same you'll find in the previous 10- speed CUES U6000 range.
There is one new shifter, the SL-U-6000-11R. This is a dedicated 11 speed shifter but they are still including the SL-U6000-L in this model line for those who want to run a 2x setup with matching front derailleur.
As with the shifters, there is one new rear derailleur. The RD-U6000-11 is a decidated 11 speed component, but the RD-6000 11/10 option also falls under the 11 speed U6000 banner.
Because this the dedicated 11 speed version of the Shimano CUES group set, there is a different cassette. The CL-LG400-11 offers two very wide ratio options of 11-45 and 11-50t.
Four of the multi-gear options from the 9/10 speed chain rings cross over here too. Only one new option appears in the 11 speed CUES U6000 group and that's the FC-U6010-2. This is a 180mm Q-Factor for a 48.8mm chain line and only a single 46-32 tooth option.
Again, all of the rest of the components are carryovers from the previous two CUES ranges, including the bottom brackets, rotors and the front and rear hubs.
Shimano CUES U8000 (11 Speed)
At the very top end, we start to see components which closely resemble SLX/XT level components in the Shimano CUES U8000 range.
New brakes are offered in the form of the BL-U8000 "3 finger" I-SPEC II clamp band. These look suspiciously like a rebranded SLX lever!
All of the shifters are new and 11 speed dedicated. The SL-U8000-11-R is the rear derailleur clamp band option. The SL-U8000-11LR is the same but an I-SPEC II variant. The The SL-U8000-L is a clamp band left lever for a 2x 11 speed setup, and the SL-U8000-IL is the I-SPEC II variant of the same.
There are two new derailleurs and these two look suspiciously recognisable. Its probably that these are just SLX/XT based items with a standardised pull ratio (more on that later too). The RD-8000 is rated for a max 1st gear of 50T, while the RD-8020 can handle up to 48t. Both are compatible with 11t final gears.
Just a single new cassette is offered for the CUES U8000 range. The CS-LG700-11 comes in 11-45 and 11-50t options.
The crank sets for the CUES U8000 range are also brand new. The FC-U8000-1 is a 1x 11/10/9 speed compatible choice with a 180mm Q-Factor for a 50mm chain line and comes in either 40 or 42 tooth count. The FC-U8000-2 is for those who want to run a 22 speed set up and is also a 180mm Q-Factor for 48.8mm chain line with just a single 46-32t ratio option.
The BB-MT801 threaded bottom bracket will be recognisable to most as having been around for quite some time, but the single FD-U8010-L front derailleur for 2x 11/10 speed solutions is brand new.
Brake callipers again are going to be instantly recognisable to mountain bikers. The 2 piston BR-U8000 and 4 piston BR-U8020 have previously worn Deore branding and the RT-MT800 rotors under the U8000 series line are moving over from the Ice Tech FREEZA range in 203, 180, 160 and 140mm sizes.
As well as the brakes, all of the hub options are already commonly available. The HB-RS470 is a 100x12mm E-THRU axle front hub and the HB-QC400 is a 100mm QR option.
The DH-UR705-3D is their normal Nexus 3.0W centre lock rotor compatible dynamo rear hub but for the majority of bikers, the FH-RS470 11/10 speed thru-axle option along with the FH-UR600 11/10 speed 135mm QR option will be nothing new.
Shimano CUES Di2 for E-Bikes
As well as making all the the new Shimano CUES range directly compatible with ordinary bikes, there is also a brand new Di2 offering under the CUES banner.
Looking very similar to the new Shimano 105 Di2 rear derailleur, the new Cues Di2 setup offers a ton of new features specifically aimed at the e-bike user and more so to those who want the simplest riding experience possible, or those riding in ultra-urban environments.
Their incredibly clever "Auto shift with manual override" uses cadence and torque sensors in the motor to do all of the gear shifting for you, effortlessly switching gears both while pedalling and not pedalling. There is also a separate bar control for manual gear changes.
Available on Shimano EP801 and EP600 motors initially, this revolutionary new gearing system takes its tiny power feed directly from the e-bike battery, which means that unlike other Shimano Di2 systems and all offerings from SRAM, there is no need to separately charge a battery to power it.
LINKGLIDE for Shimano CUES
This is where the really clever technology makes all of this work together. By unifying the whole range, the 9, 10 and 11 speed systems now all use the same CN-LG500 chain for everything but the U8000 range, where you can (but dont have to) use the CN-HG701-11 super narrow-wide instead. The second option here will be the go-to for mountain bikers.
Shimano LINKGLIDE sets brand new standards in smooth and reliable shift indexing and the whole Shimano CUES product range is built on LINKGLIDE technology.
Drivetrain durability is always a hot topic and the new Shimano LINKGLIDE components are 3x more durable than their other products. For E-Bikeshop specifically, this is great news. Engineered with high-torque e-bikes in mind, our customer can expect much greater distances between servicing and repairs.
As well as being touted at 3x more durable, its also 3x smoother. LINKGLIDE, with its optimised gear gate design provides smoother shifting while pedalling and with much less drivetrain shock.
Currently LINKGLIDE components are available for Shimano CUES, 11 speed Deore XT and for EP8 and EP6 motor systems.
Does the Shimano CUES "USP" of drivetrain unification actually make a difference?
It's not very often that a manufacturer the size of Shimano, with such a huge portion of market share, chooses to essentially bin off multiple product lines which have been a staple and subject to years of development and evolution, so there has to be a good reason.
The idea of being able to dramatically slim down the number of components that retailers need to stock to service the biggest majority of riders is a welcome one, but we likely wont see the effects of this change in workshops for many, many years.
We still have customers bringing back bike for service that we sold them more than 10 years ago, and so its probable that this particular aspect of value wont be fully felt by bike shops and their workshops/technicians for as much as a decade.
Immediately, we think this is actually a bigger selling point at their own and manufacturer level. By simplifying their own production and opening up a huge range of cross compatibility for bike manufacturers, they should be able to work together in reducing the current long leads times of component availability by offering greater "on the fly" product range flexibility through this new cross-compatibility.
Why launch Shimano CUES now?
There isn't really a bad time to have launched this new range, but we can see one major up side to why right now makes perfect sense.
The bike industry is still recovering from the affects on Covid on its supply chain and many manufacturers, from the biggest to the smallest, are still struggling to get the parts they need fast enough and delays in production are ongoing. Lead time are still long.
Having a unified drivetrain solution where parts from everything from touring/hybrid and leisure bikes, mountain bikes and other are directly cross compatible means that there is significantly greater flexibility in manufacturing.
Can't get the rear cassette you specified when designing the new bike? No problem. There will be plenty of other options. If a manufacturer designed a bike to be 10 speed and use the RD-U6020-10 (10 speed only) rear derailleur but only the RD-6000 (10 or 11 speed) rear derailleur is available, it can be swapped out and it wont hold up production in same way it has historically. It'll also mean an easy 11 speed upgrade for the consumer in the future.
Shimano CUES in the future.
What does the future hold for Shimano CUES?
We think the real key is in the unification of shifter pull ratios across the new Shimano CUES range and this alludes to something quite exciting, and something which consumers have wanted for decades.
If all of the shifter pull ratios are designed to be the same and Shimano later (and its been rumoured already) scrap Claris and Tiagra from their road bike categories and bring those into the CUES fold too, it'll mean that flat bar and drop bar gear shift options will be immediately, directly compatible.
This would theoretically make a 1x (11-speed) or 2x (22 speed) 11-50t setup on a road bike entirely possible. No messing around, no fuss, just natively compatible components working in "designed-in" harmony.
Shimano CUES summed up
We think that this is an incredibly bold move by Shimano, but one that make sense at the top level of the chain immediately, and will start to make greater sense as the years roll by for the retailer and customer. If this really does offer much greater flexibility of drivetrain choice for the consumer while simplifying the range for dealers to have to hold in stock, this radical change should open up multiple doors of possibility for every type of rider.
If you don't want to wait the likely 12 months before we start to see these components arriving on new model year bikes, you can take a look at the current Electric Bikes now.