Without question, we love the 980 series XTR. They have answered all our demands and gone above and beyond what was necessary to offer the general public their vision of the ultimate mtb component group. One small issue we sometimes have though, is the use of Trail and Race in the product descriptions. For example this particular crankset is billed the XTR Trail Crankset. Oddly enough, this 38/26T chainring size has made it the most popular XTR version of the crankset and a go-to for racers as well as trail riders. This gearing coupled with a 11-36t cassette is optimal for many types of terrain with plenty of gearing options.
The M980 crankset have Hollowtech II hollow and cold forged arms that receive the dual finish, anodized and polishing treatment. Perhaps what is most impressive with the M980 crankset is the shifting. The HG-X profiled teeth and tight Dyna-Sys gearing are designed to work specifically with the CN-M980 HG-X chain. Shimano has a achieved the quickest and most accurate shifting on a mountain crankset - shifts are light, quick and telepathic. The chain moves back and forth between the rings with ease. One other design feature which adds to the shifting prowess and durability is the 3D shaped outer ring. It is super stiff and virtually flex-free. Dumping the inner ring, decreased the Q-factor by 3mm per side.
Another phenomenon we have noticed with the XTR equipped bikes we have rolling around the shop is the fact that riders who see the 980 XTR for the first time, in person are attracted to the 980 crankset like a fly to a light. Its jewel-like finish is impressive and is the heart of the drivetrain.