As a brand ambassador I have to accept that the brands I like to use upgrade their equipment and expect that I will showcase their latest creations. It is part of being in the business after all.
In 2016 Shimano has made significant changes to their XTR range including the introduction of XTR Di2 (M9050) as well as improvements in their Race (M9000) and Trail (M9020) components.
Simultaneously Stages Cycling have made significant improvements in their power meter, both in the casing (smaller & with a more weather proof battery cover), software (more accurate and kinder on the battery) and hardware (developing the capability to place a power meter on a carbon crank). I like carbon a lot, probably more than the average mountain biker (actually probably more than the average roadie!) but as a larger rider I find that carbon is a material that I do not really want used on my crankset. This is why I went to XTR in the first place and why I will continue with XTR for the foreseeable future.
Also there are certain things I like about the Shimano crank system: external bearings on threaded bottom brackets; a simple and almost fool proof bearing pre-load system; a clear and easy to use spindle cinch system; and light, strong, metal crank arms.
In addition to all the above, I decided to try an absoluteBLACK Oval chainring. They have decided to go decidedly stealth with their latest creations, which display no logos or technical information on the chain rings.
So out with the old:
And in with the new:
Is this a revolution in pedalling efficiency? No but they are little lighter and allegedly a little stiffer than the previous generation XTR M985. More importantly for me, the smaller BCD will allow me to run a 30T Oval for the 2016 Mavic Trans-Provence which might prove to be important on days five or six when faced with yet another long, steep climb!