Following the cue from Cues, Shimano's new Essa groupset brings big benefits to its 8-speed lineup designed for budget MTBs

Shimano Essa 1x drivetrain
(Image credit: Shimano)

Shimano has unveiled a brand new line of 8-speed drivetrain components called Essa. In the same way that Shimano modernized its 10 and 11-speed with Cues, Essa brings contemporary 1x drivetrain features to Shimano's most affordable drivetrain levels aimed at budget mountain bikes.

The brand has filtered down some key tech from its best MTB groupsets to bring the simplicity of a 1x drivetrain to entry-level 8-speed bikes while still being compatible with existing Acera, Altus, and Tourney TX systems.

Essa comprises of three new components – RD-U2000 rear derailleur, FC-U2000-1 crankset, and CS-HG400-8 cassette.

The Essa RD-U2000 rear derailleur gets a sleek new makeover, giving it a similar look to the Cues range. It features Shimano's Shadow technology which gives the derailleur a lower profile to avoid impacts and is spring tensioned to help reduce chain drop.

The FC-U2000-1 crankset also gains a sleek new aesthetic and comes with 40t or 32t 1x chainring sizes. The 32t chainring features Shimano's dynamic chain engagement tooth profile which uses an alternating narrow-wide tooth profile to stop the chain from falling off on rough terrain.

Shimano Essa 1x drivetrain cassette and derailleur

Essa gives Shimano's 8-speed drivetrains a sleek Cues aesthetic and a wide range cassette (Image credit: Shimano)

The last piece of Essa's 1x drivetrain is the CS-HG400-8 cassette. The 11-45T (11-13-15-18-22-27-35-45T) cassette has a 400 percent gear range giving riders a large range of gears for tackling steep climbs. The cassette also benefits from Shimano's Hyperglide which gives smoother and faster shifting under higher loads.

To change gears, Essa will use Shimano's existing Acera, Altus, and Tourney TX 8-speed shifters.

The move to a simplified 1x configuration is a big step up for Shimano's lowest-tier component lines. A single front chainring and wide-range cassette have several significant benefits for entry-level riders as they are easier to use and maintain. 

Shimano has not provided any details on availability or pricing for Essa yet, but we'll report on that as soon as we know. To find out more, head over to bike.shimano.com.

Shimano S-Reach shifter ergonomics

The new shifter will better suit smaller hands (Image credit: Shimano)

As well as launching Essa, Shimano has also added a short-reach gear shifter and brake lever option known as S-Reach to its Cues 11/10/9-speed line-up, offering considerably better ergonomics to riders with small hands. 

The S-Reach trigger gear shifter foregoes the index finger upshift to bring the shifting paddles closer to the grip. The downshift thumb paddle has been moved 12mm closer to the grip while the upshift is 10mm closer. The lever throw has also been reduced by 11 percent, reducing the distance the paddle needs to be pushed to actuate a gear shift.

The Cues S-Reach brake levers have also been modified to accommodate small hands. Shimano has changed the lever position, bringing it 20 percent closer to the handlebar so it's easier to reach for more confident braking.

Graham Cottingham
Senior reviews writer, Bike Perfect

Graham is all about riding bikes off-road. With almost 20 years of riding experience, he has dabbled in downhill, enduro, and gravel racing. Not afraid of a challenge, Graham has embraced bikepacking over the last few years and likes nothing more than strapping some bags to his bike and covering big miles to explore Scotland's wildernesses. When he isn’t shredding the gnar in the Tweed Valley, sleeping in bushes, or tinkering with bikes, he is writing tech reviews for Bike Perfect.

Rides: Cotic SolarisMax, Stooge MK4, 24 Bicycles Le Toy 3, Surly Steamroller

Height: 177cm

Weight: 71kg