Shimano's new electric bicycle derailleur feted on professional circuit

Ian Austen for the New York Times:
Shimano’s version, known as the Dura-Ace Di2 7970, is being used by three professional teams competing in California: Columbia High Road, Garmin Slipstream and Rabobank. About 10 riders will race with the system even though they have used it on only one or two training rides after receiving them late this week. Bob Stapleton, the owner and general manager of Columbia, said many of his riders had doubts about using bicycles that could literally run out of power. The Di2 system has no manual override if its battery goes dead. That event can be an irritation or a disaster, depending on the terrain and what gear ratio the bike is stuck in. Shimano estimates the battery will last for about 1,000 miles per charge.
In the Times' story, the above graphic interactively shows how the new system is rigged into a bike.
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15 Responses to Shimano's new electric bicycle derailleur feted on professional circuit

  1. OllieJ says:

    If only some sort of panel existed to capture solar energy……

  2. Marshall says:

    I don’t need one of these, but I totally want one of these.

    That solar option could totally work on a touring bike (panels on panniers?) where weight isn’t really your #1 issue. But I don’t really see the need for a Dura Ace set on a touring bike for the casual tourer. But if Shimano needs me to test it out…

  3. adamrice says:

    Let us not forget that Mavic took two passes at an electronic shifting system (Zap & Mechtronic) over ten years ago. It was ingenious, and required very little battery power to use, as it mostly worked by scavenging a tiny amount of mechanical energy from the chain.

  4. Halloween Jack says:

    I’m kind of surprised that this is considered to be such a big leap forward, given how easy it is to shift with regular mechanical shifters. Then again, pro cycle racing really is a different world. I don’t expect these things to make it down to regular cycling any time soon.

  5. sauce says:

    At #2 & 3
    Solar panels would be impractical for cycling. However, something like a generator hub (a product which has existed for over 75 years) would work quite well on a touring bike or applications in which weight is not the leading factor.

  6. The Life Of Bryan says:

    I can see using something like this with an internally geared hub, but I just don’t get what problem it’s really solving. You’ve still got the whole damn drivetrain hanging out in the open air collecting all the muck and crap, and you’ve still got controls that you operate yourself in the same manner as always.

  7. nixiebunny says:

    Huh. Maybe I should get one of these for my fixie, to add to all the other electronic junk I have stuck on it. Oh, wait, it has only one gear. Darn.

  8. rak0ribz says:

    I always thought there would be some advantage to computerizing your drivetrain – you could optimize shifts for the smallest difference in gear ratio, synchronize front & back derailleur movement, synchronize rear derailleur movement to the “low” teeth on the rear sprocket, or any number of other transmissiony things with a few cheap sensors. Looks like they’re doing a good bit of this already; I’m hoping that this will eventually make its way down to their lower-end road groups, but I’m not holding my breath.

  9. Alpinwolf says:

    They’re trying pretty hard to steal bike mechanics’ thunder. Tuning in that front derailleur so it doesn’t rub is an arcane art.

  10. RedShirt77 says:

    “Solar panels would be impractical for cycling.”

    I would think a panel could be sewn into a riders jersey. you only need a small square to keep a small battery charged. Similarly you could have a small generator (a couple of ounces) that worked with the brakes so that the rider never had to pedal against the resistance.

  11. Grenoire says:

    Practicalities aside, this raises a big ‘why’ flag.
    Obviously Shimano needs something new to sell, as adding an 10th gear makes almost as little sense as an 11th, but I wonder why they don’t move to a continuously variable system.
    Even if ti was just the front, a contender to the SRAM black box would be welcome, as the front derailleur and gears is deffo the first component to get rid of on a modern bike.

  12. dculberson says:

    For a pro team, it really seems like they would just replace the battery with every race. No big deal compared to the rest of their budget, I’m sure.

  13. adralien says:

    I don’t see the advantage here… maybe the electronic wire is lighter than the mechanical wire and you save a bit there, but otherwise silly. Wireless would have been sexier.

    I’m a big fan of the older 7 speed stuff… you can get entire 3 ring crank sets new for $30, and a new cogset for $20, and the chain is burlier than 8/9 speed stuff. For city biking or touring 7 speed is bomber.

    The big issue is low end bike manufacturers selling crank/cogsets/derailleur combos that were not ever designed to work together. Most of the reason people find tuning bikes hard is because they don’t stand a chance with the super cheap stuff.

  14. spazzm says:

    That’s cool. Every time my front derailleur scrapes against the chain and I have to manually tweak the gear lever I think “why hasn’t anyone fixed this in the decades since it was invented?”

    Can’t wait for this to be available on low-low-end Asian imports.

  15. strider_mt2k says:

    They could always hack a bigger battery on the thing if they’re that worried about it, sheesh.

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