While the whole ebike segment seems to be developing at breakneck speed, most bikes still rely on conventional drivetrains. With their new electronic DEORE XT Di2 drivetrain with automatic mode, Shimano want to fill the technological gap for high-tech eMTBs and provide new functions for both beginners and experienced riders.

Needless to say, eBikes are harder on their components than analogue bikes because the motor exerts greater forces on the drivetrain. With eBikes, we tend to cover longer distances, and since the cranks and chainring are decoupled, you never know where the chain’s at. While poor shifting choices are part of the game, they can lead to premature wear and tear of drivetrain components. In 2021, Shimano already tried to address this issue with the LINKGLIDE drivetrain, which was designed specifically to withstand the higher torque of eBikes. One year later, the Japanese component giant takes it up a notch, unveiling the brand-new DEORE XT Di2, an electronic drivetrain that’s fully integrated into the motor system of the bike. We’ve already tested it to find out what it’s capable of.

What is the new Shimano DEORE XT Di2 2023 drivetrain all about?

The new Shimano DEORE XT Di2 drivetrain was developed specifically for eBikes and is only compatible with bikes featuring Shimano’s latest generation motors, the EP801 and EP6 – which is why we won’t be able to give you an official release date or price for the components. Since the drivetrain and motors have been developed as a whole, the new drivetrain components aren’t backwards compatible with the current Shimano EP8 motor system. The Deore XT Di2 drivetrain is available as a 12-speed HYPERGLIDE+ version or 11-speed LINKGLIDE variant, which both operate fully electronically using a servo driven motor in the rear derailleur. Both drivetrains are meant to deliver fast and reliable gear shifts despite the added torque of the electronic bike motor. Moreover, the new Deore XT Di2 range features the FREE SHIFT function, which was developed to improve control and balance with dynamic terrain changes, allowing you to shift gears without having to pedal; the drive unit advances the drivetrain at the chainring to facilitate the shift. With its smaller gear steps, the 12-speed HYPERGLIDE+ is aimed specifically at sporty riders while the 11-speed LINKGLIDE wants to appeal to electric mile-munchers, providing added durability with its robust components. The latter also allows you to activate an AUTO SHIFT function, which selects the right gear according to the riding situation.

On the outside, the Shimano EP801 motor looks exactly like the EP8 drive and to find the differences, you’ll have to look on the inside. The latest evolutionary stage of Shimano’s motor was developed around the new XT Di2 drivetrain.
Using the E-Tube Project app, you can create and configure up to two AUTO SHIFT profiles.

How does Shimano’s new drivetrain work? The new DEORE XT Di2 LINKGLIDE 2023 in review.

Both the hardware and integration of the drivetrain into the motor system are top notch. The Shimano DEORE XT Di2 communicates with the display and motor. The buttons of the new ergonomic shifter can be freely assigned and are interchangeable with the motor remote buttons. If you press the paddle shifter while pedalling, the rear derailleur shifts gears effortlessly and reliably. Moreover, the new DEORE XT Di2 borrows the MULTI SHIFT function from the existing Shimano Di2 shifter, which, depending on the setting, allows you to shift two, three or any number of gears at once by keeping the paddle shifter pressed.

Alongside the two classic shifter paddles, the new Shimano XT Di2 remote features a third button which allows you to change the shift mode. However, the button functions can be freely assigned and are interchangeable with the motor remote buttons too.

The new FREE SHIFT function of the Shimano DEORE XT Di2 LINKGLIDE 2023

By activating the FREE SHIFT function in the app, you can shift gears manually without pedalling. This feature is particularly interesting for ambitious trail riders on the hunt for Strava KOMs. For example, if you want to build up speed to clear a jump after a long, wide corner, you can shift to a heavier gear while still cornering. The system prompts the EP801 Drive Unit to advance the drivetrain at the chainring and the rear derailleur to shift gears. If you’re struggling through technical terrain, heading towards a steep climb, FREE SHIFT allows you to shift to a lighter gear with either a single or continuous click without losing your stable standing position. This way, you can focus on negotiating the obstacles, yet still be prepared for the climb, helping to avoid getting to the steep section in the wrong gear. Of course, FREE SHIFT doesn’t work when stationary, because the motor only spins the chainring when the rear wheel and cassette can rotate.

Shifting without losing your stable standing position: provided the bike is rolling, the FREE SHIFT function lets you shift gears without pedalling, allowing you to prepare for nasty ramps and kickers.
As long as the rear turns, you can shift gears without pedalling.

The new AUTO SHIFT function of the Shimano DEORE XT Di2 LINKGLIDE 2023 in review

And what if you just want to cruise along without having to shift gears yourself? That’s where the AUTO SHIFT function of the new Shimano DEORE XT Di2 LINKGLIDE enters the stage. This was designed with trekking and city bikers in mind and allows you to configure two fully automatic shifting modes alongside the default manual mode. Using the E-Tube Project app, select the riding scenario (MTB or asphalt) and desired cadence, choosing between 50 and 80 revolutions per minute. The motor provides the system with data on cruising speed, cadence and the pressure exerted on the pedals. This data is then processed by an algorithm that determines the riding situation and shifts into a suitable gear. If the riding speed and cadence decrease and the pressure on the pedal increases, the AUTO SHIFT algorithm assumes that you’re riding uphill and automatically shifts into a lower gear. On the other hand, if you’re rolling down a hill at high speed without pedalling, Shimano’s intelligent drivetrain shifts into a higher gear. If you approach a red traffic light slowly, the automatic mode will shift down into a predefined set-off gear.

When riding on fairly predictable terrain, you can let AUTO SHIFT do the work and focus on the landscape.
Fine-tuning the AUTO SHIFT function via the E-TUBE PROJECT app requires some patience. Even after going through all the options, we couldn’t find a setting that is perfectly suited to an aggressive riding style.

However, DEORE XT Di2 can’t predict the future. For example, if you decelerate to fully stationary just a few metres before a traffic light, AUTO SHIFT won’t drop from, let’s say, eleventh to third gear. In such cases, you’ll simply have to manually override the system, operating the shifter by hand to temporarily bypass the algorithm. That being said, trail riders won’t get along with the AUTO SHIFT, even despite the manual override. And while the shifting behaviour of the drivetrain can be fine-tuned between a lazy and overzealous mode via a submenu in the app, this can’t be adapted to suit the ever-changing dynamics of trail riding. If you want to climb a steep trail section with high cadence, the system could keep trying to drop into a harder gear. On the other hand, the system could also misinterpret short but powerful sprints out of the saddle, shifting into an easier gear and sending you flying over the bars. To avoid such situations, we recommend reducing the reactivity of the system rather drastically. However, this will cause the system to react to dynamic changes of the riding situation far too slowly, forcing you to intervene manually all the time and basically rendering the AUTO SHIFT function pointless.

When sprinting out of the saddle, you’re better off pausing AUTO SHIFT. If you fail to do so, the system could misinterpret the increased pressure on the pedals and shift into an easier gear, sending you flying over the handlebars.

The intelligent drivetrain: the hidden potential of the Shimano DEORE XT Di2 LINKGLIDE 2023

Does this mean that sporty eMTBers will never enjoy the perks of an automatic drivetrain? Not necessarily, because our test version is still in a relatively early development stage and several exciting innovations are still to come, especially in terms of software. For example, there’s a learning mode in the pipeline, in which the shifting algorithm can be trained to react to different riding situations. Let’s say, if you often override the system manually to shift into a lighter gear when negotiating a steep climb with higher cadence, the drivetrain could learn to recognise the pattern and shift into a lighter gear automatically – and there are even more shifting characteristics that could be achieved via software. For example, the drivetrain could optimise battery life by providing a cadence at which the motor provides the most efficient support. The drivetrain could also ensure a longer service life for the components, not only by minimising shifting mistakes but also by shifting into one gear down from your favourite sprocket in less critical riding situations, thus wearing out the cassette more evenly. For fitness-oriented riders, it could automatically shift into a gear that provides a higher training effect in any given situation. As a result, one hour on your eBike could replace a boring spinning class at the gym.

Our conclusions about the Shimano XT Di2 LINKGLIDE 2023

With the AUTO SHIFT function, the new Shimano XT Di2 LINKGLIDE 2023 brings an exciting innovation for city and touring eBikes. Sporty eMTBers, on the other hand, will benefit most from FREE SHIFT, the function that allows you to shift without pedalling. Although the software of the new shifting system isn’t yet fully developed, it has great potential and could give Shimano a strong and unique selling point for their motor.


  • Ergonomic shifter
  • Well networked with the motor system
  • Fast shifting without pedalling


  • Automatic shifting function doesn’t hit the sweet spot with sporty riders
  • Customisation via the app is too complex for riders without a solid technical background

For more info, visit shimano.com

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Words: Rudolf Fischer Photos: Peter Walker

About the author

Rudolf Fischer

In his previous life Rudolf was a dab hand at promoting innovation, putting his brain behind big-ticket patent assessments that easily ran into six-or-seven-plus figures. These days, the self-confessed data nerd’s role as editor at DOWNTOWN and E-MOUNTAINBIKE is no less exciting. Given his specialism in connectivity, Rudolf’s often placed on the front line of future mobility conversations, but he’s also big into testing new bikes–both on the daily as a committed commuter and intensively for our group tests. The business economist graduate is as versatile as a Swiss penknife, and that’s no hyperbole. Away from two wheels, his background in parkour means he’s a master of front, side and backflips, plus he speaks German, English, French, Russian and a touch of Esperanto. Japanese remains woefully unmastered, despite his best home-learning attempts. Good to know: Rudolf’s sharp tongue has made him a figure of fear in the office, where he’s got a reputation for flexing a dry wittiness à la Ricky Gervais... interestingly, he's usually the one laughing hardest.