"Ask a Tech" – Electronic Shifting/Shimano Di2

Q:  Dear Fit Werx,

Recently I’ve gotten back into road riding after a ten year hiatus. While my bicycle was the top of the line at the time, it seems a lot has changed in cycling during the time I was gone. While I like to think I kept up with the times, one thing I really don’t understand is electronic shifting. I’m trying to build a new and updated road bike and I don’t know the first thing about electronic shifters. Who makes them? What advantages/disadvantages do they have? Is electronic shifting something I should invest in or is it a passing fad?


Q: Hi,

I have a question about electronic shifting. How real is it? Will cables go the way friction shifting did in the past?

A:  Hi Ryo and Steve,

Electronic shifting is currently available exclusively from Shimano. The Di2 group, as it’s dubbed, has proven itself in the ranks of the professional racing world, both road and cyclocross, for at least two years.  The system is impressive and Shimano charges for it accordingly.

Di2 operates downshifts and upshifts from the two “push buttons” found on the brake lever and adjacent shift paddle on each shifter. Shimano has also introduced remote shifters for the top sections of the handlebar for climbs and, just recently, a remote shifter for the drops to aid in sprints.  With Di2 you can expect the smoothest, most powerful shifting under significant pedaling load possible – your shifting just “zip-zips” into gear effortlessly. No lever throw is needed to shift, just a simple push of a button delivers efficient and smooth shifts. There is also an automatic trim feature that eliminates chain rub in “cross-chaining” combinations. Coupled with the new Dura-ace crankset and its ultra-stiff bulging  hollow chain rings, which effectively ramp the chain during upshifts, there is no other group which can likely offer up better front shifting.

Shimano is the first manufacturing to prove itself in the realm of electronic shifting however, Campagnolo and Sram are hot on their heels with prototypes in the works and on the bikes of many Pro Tour teams.

Consider having a professional mechanic install the system as Di2 isn’t necessarily do-it-yourself. Thanks for the inquiry and go fast.

***Steve, in addition, I don’t believe cable actuated shifting is going anywhere. Left TT shifters are still either micro-indexed or friction style. Whether or not manufacturers will be able to offer economic versions of electronic shifting is yet to be seen. As of now, Di2 looks out searchingly from top of the mountain.  Shimano plans to offer an electronic Ultegra version soon too at a lower price range and we’ll find out if Campagnolo and SRAM can compete when they introduce their systems…

-Kyle, Service Technician Fit Werx 2

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