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This question is intended to be a canonical question, meant to be referenced when appropriate.

In 2021, Shimano launched two LinkGlide Deore and XT Drivetrains (shifter/derailleurs/cassettes, numbers M5130 for the 10-speed cassette and M8130 for the 11-speed cassette). These derailleurs were the first to introduce "Linkglide", that is a new design principle and a new tooth profile meant to be more durable and more tolerant to shift under load. The line was presented as a new line, designed for e-bikes: e-bikes have more torque and are more used as utility bikes, so it makes sense to offer a product line that is matches these expectations.

In 2022, Shimano introduced the CUES system, also based on LinkGlide, that is presented as the successor of the Altus, Acera, Alivio and some Deore components, as well as the whole trekking range. It is expected that drop bars brifters (integrated brakes and shifters as seen on race bikes) will be proposed in the future as well, in order to replace the Claris, Sora and Tiagra ranges.

CUES is offered in 9-, 10- and 11-speed, and in single and double chainrings.

Starting from a blank page, Shimano chooses to break some design principles that are often presented as "universal truths". This question is meant to enumerate the differences.

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This answer is based on the documentation published here, from which the picture is taken.

LinkGlide/CUES

LinkGlide is technically a new tooth profile and sets the principles described below. There are currently two product lines using LinkGlide: CUES and the Deore lines (Deore M5130 + Deore XT M8130/M8150). CUES and the Deore (XT) components with LinkGlide are interchangeable, provided the key metrics (max sprocket size and number of speed) match.

Chain compatibility

Except in 12-speed systems, where SRAM has introduced the Flattop chains and Shimano the Hyperglide+, compatibility between chains, chainrings and cassettes is based on the principle: the physical dimensions of the chains vary depending on the number of speeds, and cassettes and chainrings are designed around these physical dimensions. With LinkGlide, only 11-speed chains are used, even for 9- and 10-speed systems. It's a standard 11-speed chain, and can be used interchangeably with non-LinkGlide systems.

Cassette design (sprockets pitch and position)

LinkGlide cassettes, being based on the same chains, have all the same spacing for sprockets. The absolute position of the smallest sprocket remains the same (compared to the center of the bike), so it can be inferred that an 9-speed cassette is literally an 11-speed cassette with the two largest sprockets removed. Provided that the number of tooth match, an 11-speed cassette can then be used on a 9-speed system, but the derailleur won't be able to reach the largest sprockets.

enter image description here Source: Shimano

11T and 13T sprockets are the same for all cassettes (available in 2 colours). Given these are often worn first when used on e-bikes (as e-bike riders tend to have lower cadences), they can then be replaced separately, and it's good to know that one spare part can work with all cassettes.

Cable pull/pull ratio

Cable pulls and ratios are different from non-LinkGlide systems, so LinkGlide/CUES derailleurs need to be used with LinkGlide/CUES shifters. Shimano doesn't formally indicates whether the 9-, 10- and 11-speed components use the same pull-ratios and cable pulls, but given the sprocket pitchs are constant and some derailleurs work for 10- and 11-speed (U6000), it's likely.

Crank design

CUES uses known Hollowtech II cranks (upper ranges) and squared taper types (lower ranges) and a new design (called 2-Piece, for mid-range) as well. With Hollowtech II cranksets, the axle is attached to the right arm, that also has the chainrings. The new "2-Piece" design uses the same axle dimensions (24mm), but the axle is attached to the left arm. Preload bearing is then done on the right side. Shimano recommends to use newer bottom brackets (MT501/MT801), that are designed to accommodate with axles inserted from both sides.

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  • +1 Very good summary. I assume Shimano's main intent of introducing CUES was to get rid of some historic incompatibilities, mainly about cassette spacing and chain width? Will there be any groupsets below Cues U4000 9-speed or is that the designated new entry-level?
    – DoNuT
    Oct 25, 2023 at 6:57
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    Durability was also an issue, especially on e-bikes. On my e-commuter (12-speed Shimano), I replaced the smallest sprockets of the cassette at the same time as the chain. Otherwise, there are already U3000 components, but hard to say if they will extend the range to replace Tourney. From what I could read here, drop bars are next in line. If they could homogenize pull ratios/cable pull, that would be nice (the 2x U8000 would be fantastic on gravel bikes - 48/32 front, 11/45 rear).
    – Renaud
    Oct 25, 2023 at 7:07
  • Yeah, Tourney is a big pain point with the dated chain design and its poor durability.
    – DoNuT
    Oct 25, 2023 at 7:15
  • I would like to see a paragraph on the cable pull of CUES shifters and cable pull ratios of CUES rear mechs. I could not find anything definitive so far. I am curious how are they compatible with non-CUES.
    – g.kertesz
    Oct 25, 2023 at 10:04
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    @g.kertesz the issue here is that there's no measurements, so it's hard to say more than what the compatibility sheets are officially mentioning (I added a paragraph on that). Given this question is meant to be canonical, sources should be more authoritative than a reddit post.
    – Renaud
    Oct 25, 2023 at 10:59

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