To fully understand SHIMANO LINKGLIDE technology and what it can do for you, it helps to first ask yourself what mountain bike drivetrain features and functions you value most. If your answer centers around low weight and lightning-fast shifting, then SHIMANO’s best-in-class HYPERGLIDE+ is the right choice. HYPERGLIDE+ drivetrains dominate the start lines of the world's fastest races, where competitors are in a constant quest for marginal gains and measure success in grams shaved and seconds saved.
But if instead you prioritize durability, shifting smoothness, and overall drivetrain toughness above all else, then LINKGLIDE is likely your optimal choice. Boasting a 300% increase in wear resistance and shifting precision compared to the standard HYPERGLIDE systems it replaced, LINKGLIDE drivetrains are best for mountain bikers seeking easy-to-maintain components that work flawlessly season after season.
“LINKGLIDE represents a shift in our thinking,” explains Nick Murdick, SHIMANO North America Mountain Bike Product Manager. "During development, we ripped up our traditional script that focused on taking technology from our top-end, race-focused groupsets and trickling it down to the mid-tier. Instead, LINKGLIDE was born from a different set of priorities designed to serve different user groups with different needs. It’s the drivetrain that you put on your bike and forget about.”
At the heart of LINKGLIDE is a redesigned cassette that utilizes unique shift ramp architecture and taller cog teeth that have a thicker base and are stronger toward the tips. This additional surface area better distributes pedaling forces, while the shallower chamfer on the driven side of each tooth gives the chain a solid contact point to pull against without slipping over the top of the tooth. That means no more chain skipping—even under extreme pedaling load. The LINKGLIDE design also keeps the chain from jumping forward a tooth when shifting under full power, and the large chamfer on the reverse side prevents chain suck even when riding conditions deteriorate.
And even if the chain does manage to skip or slide out of the shift gate early, there is less likelihood of permanently damaging the cassette thanks to the revamped shift gate that carefully guides the chain up and down the cassette. By keeping the chain securely in the shift gate, LINKGLIDE reduces shifting shock and prevents rough shifts that can damage cog teeth.
“With LINKGLIDE, we didn’t want to rely on new technology in the chain, so all the advancements are in the cassette,” says Murdick. “That way, you can use any 11-speed chain, which is great for manufacturers and end users.”
More important, says Murdick, is that the LINKGLIDE shift gate does not release the chain all at once, instead moving just one chain link to the next cog and then beginning to drive it until the previous cog simply rotates away and disengages. This smoother shifting is more comfortable and stress-free for newer riders, who no longer have to learn how to ease off the pressure on the pedals during a shift since the system is designed to shift smoothly under load. Just shift in whatever way feels intuitive to you.
This also means increased drivetrain durability for high-torque e-bikes and daily riders who sometimes ride in the same gear for months at a time. These riding conditions put extra strain on the drivetrain and can cause excess wear and performance loss. Not with LINKGLIDE, though. Rougher shifting on worn drivetrains is practically eliminated even as the drivetrain endures triple the mileage compared to previous systems.
This makes the system a great match for anyone who prioritizes durability, says Murdick. Even at maximum torque output from the drive unit of an e-bike or full power from the rider in the smallest cogs, the chain stays in the gate, and shifting remains smooth without causing damage. This design improvement is apparent whether moving up or down the cassette but is especially pronounced on outward shifts into a smaller cog where pedaling shock is typically more noticeable.
Here, LINKGLIDE's optimized shifting gate design creates a smoother handoff between cogs to avoid the jumps that can impact shifting and pedaling smoothness. During testing, SHIMANO documented a 67% reduction in the deflection forces that previously resulted in that unwanted jerky shifting feel.
Add it all up and it’s abundantly clear—LINKGLIDE-equipped drivetrains are the perfect choice for any rider seeking unmatched durability and superior shifting smoothness.