Another acronym for us, but at least CUES has some known rationale behind it, compared to ‘Deore’ which has an obscure entymology. You can Google it; it’s not rude but wasn’t what I expected.
All that said, CUES has killed Deore. At least Deore up to 11-speed (Singletrack suggests it also affects 12-speed). You will still have Deore SLX and Deore XT but expect to see less of the word Deore itself I think.
In Shimano-world we now have a clear distinction. XTR, XT, SLX are 12-speed. Maybe base-level Deore, maybe not. CUES is 9, 10 and 11-speed – to which I would add the word ‘mechanical’ as I think it’s a safe bet that future 12 speed stuff will go digital.
That might be jumping the gun though; it all depends on the e-MTB market there. If the trend to lower powered e-MTB continues then digital 12-speed should be fine. If it goes the other way, beefier components will be called for and 11-speed CUES is the obvious answer.
In the world of MTB then, whether leg-powered or e-powered, what we see here is the first time I can recall a major manufacturer stepping back from ‘number of rear cogs’ as a differentiator in the sales race.
Instead we see two interesting trends, not unique to the bike world, but significant when you understand Shimano expects CUES to appear on 20% of all bikes sold worldwide. That’s a lot of bikes.
Shimano CUES brings ‘simplification’
Simplification is obvious as CUES kills not just Deore but Alivio, Acera and Altus groupsets as well as Claris, Sora and Tiagra on the road side. With 9, 10 and 11-speed options Shimano CUES has you covered for urban, commuting, trekking, road and trail.
Simplification because CUES makes life a hell of a lot easier for people new to riding if they only have to worry about one front ring. Added to which, Linkglide technology is claimed to be the smoothest shifting of any of their existing drivetrains.
And, crucially, simplification because e-bikes only need one front ring and that is where the market is. New riders, on e-bikes.
Shimano CUES offers ‘durability’
Durability is also a big element of CUES. I say that glibly, but no-one has tested this long term yet.
Durability is claimed to come from deeper tooth profiles, thicker cassette cogs, and Linkglide chains that mean the CUES drivetrain can take all the abuse new riders and/or e-bike riders can throw at it.
Shimano makes a further claim for its Linkglide technology: components that last up to 3 times longer.
Longer lasting drivetrains means happier customers kept away from bike servicing for longer, a crucial requirement if cycle numbers continue to grow considering so many bike shop service departments are increasingly specialised and increasingly expensive.
Durability also comes with eco-benefits or at least bragging rights. If stuff lasts longer it’s kinder to the bank balance and kinder to the planet. That’s my interpretation to be fair, but clearly we all benefit from stuff working for longer and durability – quality if you like, or value for money – is a growing sales driver in this inflationary world.
To sum up, CUES is significant for the bike world. With 11-speed, 1x chainrings, 10-50T cassettes, clutch-equipped and Shadow-profiled derailleurs it’s significant for low to mid-tier MTBs too.
The only metric not obviously mentioned is weight. I don’t expect this to be light, but we might find it is not too heavy. Ultimately I think CUES at heart is an e-bike drivetrain for everyday riding, with the versatility to keep many other riders in a wide range of conditions perfectly happy too.