NCAA - DUAL CHAMPIONS!
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: From Sarasota, FL sitting in front of a computer spewing random thoughts!
Bikes: Intense Uzzi SL, Masi Speciale, Trek 3700 Nashbar Single Speed, Old Cilo Road frame
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First of all, why XTR? I'm running it on my bike, and it's very nice, but it came on my bike. If I were buying components, XT is about as high as I go. Why? It works just as well and is 1/3 the price (for some components), and just a slight bit heavier (but also more durable!).
Secondly, are you upgrading your shifters as well? If not, more reason to stick with XT. The difference in precision between an XT and XTR is insignificant if you're not using XT or XTR shifters. There is a slight precision difference between XT and XTR shifters, but ever so slight. Honestly, 90% of us can't tell the difference in a blindfolded test (don't try this!).
Also, I would love to find some old stock of 8-speed XT or XTR components cheap and run them on my bike. The tighter ratios are NOT a big deal for me. I'm not into racing. The 9-speed is more fragile and more prone to breaking chains or getting crap junked up into the cassette. The 8-speed stuff was very durable and always worked well.
If you do decide to upgrade to 9-speed, you'll need new shifters, a new cassette, and a new chain. Your front derailleur will work as well as your chainrings, but not as precise as 9-speed specific stuff. More reason to NOT spend the money on an XTR rear derailleur.
My suggestion would be to buy an XT rear derailleur 9-speed (will work with your 8-speed for now) and save your money so you can upgrade your shifters/cassette/chain to 9-speed. Then if you've got money left over, get some 9-speed chainrings and then the 9-speed front derailleur. In that order.
As far as short cage, medium cage and long cage. The need for each depends on the cassette ratio. If you are running a tight ratio (like on a road bike) then a short cage is the one you need. If you are running a cassette ratio with a MEGA gear (34) then you need the long cage. It's all dependant on your biggest gear on your cassette.
"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, "WOW, What a Ride!" - unknown
"Your Bike Sucks" - Sky Yaeger