New electronic shift system for road bikes coming in 2009

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Wired‘s Eric Hagerman reports on Shimano’s planned launch of an electronic gear-shifting system for expensive bicycles:

By replacing the conventional levers that pull wound-steel cables through protective housings with solid-state switches and rubber-coated wires, there’s no chance for road gunk to clog things up and interfere with shifting, or, for that matter, your post-ride beer.

The principle of an electronically controlled drive train is to execute perfect shifts every time, thus “reducing mental overhead,” in the words of Shimano marketing manager Devin Watson. This is a resource cyclists find in short supply during epic rides.

The system, called Di2, will be available in January, marking the end of a years-long development process. Says one anonymous source: “The shifting is mind-blowing: I mean, you just touch the button, and it shifts.”

Photo: Wired

Shimano Shuns Cables for Full Electronic Shifting [Wired]

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26 Responses to New electronic shift system for road bikes coming in 2009

  1. sluggo says:

    charge it off the bike wheels.

    I expect my check any time now.

  2. jonom says:

    Oops I missed a 7 in my post on the weights.

    7800 is 2577 grams and the 7900 is 2052.

  3. RedShirt77 says:

    “The ‘juice’ is a real problem though.”

    Yeah, a generator is the obvious solution. battery just for the first ten feet of riding.

    My concern is how many times can I leave it in the rain before I have shorts.

  4. fin says:

    Actually, Mavic had two systems. Zap (wired), then Mektronic (wireless), both of which worked pretty well but failed to catch on with consumers. Chris Boardman won the prologue of the Tour de France in 1994 on a Zap-equipped bike.

    Campagnolo has been testing an electronic system since at least 2003, and Nico Eeckhout won the Dwars door Vlaanderen in 2005 on a prototype system.

  5. Erik V. Olson says:

    The killer feature here is for time triallers and triathelets. Both use areobars for the flats, and bullhorns for climbs and sprints.

    Problem — cable shift systems only have one lever per derailer. So, if your lever’s on the areo bars, and you jump onto a climb, you can’t shift without dropping into the aero position, shifting, then pulling back.

    Electronic shift is just buttons — you can have your shifters at both the ends of the aero bars and on the brake levers *and* at the ends of the drops. Heck, if you’re really old school, you can have them on the downtube bosses where the shift levers used to be.

    Mulitple brake levers work, because you don’t have to hold the cable in a certain position (You pull to brake, release to stop braking. Doesn’t matter where you pull the cable.) Index shifters need to move the cable to a certain position and hold it there, thus, to have multiple shifters, you’d need an interlink of some sort. Mechanically, that’s a nighmare, but without the shift cable, you just need two buttons — “shift up” and “shift down” — and a wire connecting them to the servo.

    This has been done before — the Mavic “Zap” system. However, much like Sun Tour’s original index shifting, it didn’t work well. Shimano won because their index shifting works, day in and day out. I suspect that their electronic shifters will do the same.

    If you have the money — and the need for the killer feature.

    Me? I’m good with brifters.

  6. matthewroedder says:

    I’ll believe it when I see it. I have never had road gunk clog up any part of any derailleur except the parts that actually interact with the chain which are also a part of this device. I do imagine that the shifting is remarkably smooth, but this versus a dura-ace or record may be the difference in the brand of talc on a baby’s bottom.

    why not a wireless (cable-less) devise? wires on bikes notoriously break.

    wouldn’t you need to at least adjust the limit screws?

    I’ve wondered for a long time when this would happen. We’ll, see how it works…

  7. Jack says:

    Is this for Mall Ninjas on bikes? In complete agreement with #7, HARRKEV; a high concept with no practical use.

    I’d rather see some new concepts in helmet designs because I’m pretty amazed how many people ride bikes without them nowadays.

  8. RedShirt77 says:

    Thes don’t catch on because who wants to blow the money on something that is going to get stolen.

    How about one of 2 features.

    1 it has some gps lowjack thing so you can get your bike back.

    2. If your bike is stolen and the offender doesn’t know your code, the shifter locks the back wheel.

    3. Non security, if I am paying this much for a shifter why can’t i have a reverse.

  9. Anonymous says:

    As a former serious racer, I can tell you that it has tremendous value. Instantaneous, accurate shifting provides a real advantage especially on technical courses. The ability to shift quickly without a lot of movement allows you to shift while cornering, etc… Additionally, the shifts are so quick that you can shift under much higher load without needing to let off the gas. I even used the Mavic system in the past. It worked very well (when it worked), but often failed at unexpected times.

  10. jimjambandit says:

    Fail to see the point for a roadie. . .what gunk? for a Mountain bike maybe, but it’d have to be very durable. . .and it’s kinda negated by this
    http://www.magicmechanics.com/ , not powered but a closed system system for the front. Many more advantages than a powered derailleur. And adding battery power to a bike seems intrinsically wrong. . I even resent adding lights sometimes, but then I’m probably weird

  11. prunk says:

    Extra bonus points if they can rig up a small controller with the gear to some torque sensors and rpm measurements to make an automatic bike. that’ll get rid of all the pesky thumb-switching

  12. Anonymous says:

    hell, sun tour tryed this way back in the late 80’s and early 90’s and nobody bit.. I’m sure this is a better system but the batt life is not that great.

  13. mikaellanger says:

    They can. Eg. http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2001/08/45788

    ” Shimano’s Digital Integrated Intelligence (DI2) system automatically shifts down the gears when going uphill and up the gears when going downhill.

    It also adjusts the stiffness of the front and rear suspension –- making the bike more rigid in the lower, slower gears and bouncier in the higher, faster gears. “

  14. rageahol says:

    more planned obsolescehce by shimano. i guess theyre trying to compete with campy, but didnt want to just add an extra rear cog every 5 years or so. only so far you can take that. with wireless, you can change the protocols, batteries, all sorts of shit.

    me, i ride a bike with friction downtube shifters. brifters suck.

  15. spinach says:

    I really need a set of these to help me deal with my ‘mental overhead’. I try and I try but I just can’t seem to reach the podium because I always find that I lack the mental headroom to win. Will these still work if I’m bangin’ EPO?

  16. Anonymous says:

    Another bullshiite gadget designed to make consumers think that they have to have a $5000 ride made from space shuttle parts and dress like a jackass to enjoy cycling.

  17. Marshall says:

    How much does the system weigh? And what happens when it runs out of juice when I’m screaming down some brutal switchback?

  18. Rob Beschizza says:

    1. No idea
    2. Serious injury or death! Maybe.

  19. gabrielm says:

    @Rob
    1) Didn’t you RTFA before you posted?

    Di2 weighs less than Shimano’s current generation of parts. According to the company, Di2 will be 67 grams lighter than the current Dura-Ace 7800 and only 68 grams heavier than Dura-Ace 7900

    2)That would be funny, but more likely you would just be suck in the current gear.

    The ‘juice’ is a real problem though. Sure this eliminates failure from “gunk”, but it introduces a whole new problem – power.

  20. Anonymous says:

    @Marshall:

    According to the article, “Shimano says the battery will last for 1,000 kilometers (621 miles).” It has a 7.4V lithium-ion cell.

    Of course, the whole “reducing mental overhead,” “you just touch a button, and it shifts” thing has been enjoyed for years by anyone riding a bike with an internally-geared hub.

  21. Rob Beschizza says:

    I don’t know how much they weigh because the measurements given in the story are relative.

  22. gabrielm says:

    Touché.

    But really, to someone who is going to drop big buck on this – all they will really care about is: “is this lighter then my current shifter?”

  23. Harrkev says:

    So, is this a solution in search of a problem. I am not a racer, or even a serious biker. I see no real need for this (at least for me). Is this thing useful to serious riders?

  24. jonom says:

    According to our mighty Google overlords
    http://preview.tinyurl.com/5m3z73

    The 7800 weighs 257 grams and the 7900 weighs 2052 grams.

  25. gabrielm says:

    well that doesn’t add up (even if it was 2570)…

  26. moebrook says:

    mavic failed with a system like this around fifteen years ago

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