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Electronic Shifting - What's the Point?

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Electronic Shifting - What's the Point?

Old 10-19-20, 09:34 PM
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Electronic Shifting - What's the Point?

Earlier this year BC (Before COVID) I purchased a bike with SRAM Force eTap AXS.

So far I haven't been very impressed with electronic shifting or at least with SRAM's electronic shifting. I haven't tried EPS or Di2 so I can't really compare apples to apples. However I do have a couple of other bikes with Shimano Ultegra, 105, Campy Record 12 and Chorus 12--all mechanical. I don't think the SRAM eTap shifts any more consistently or reliably than any other groupset I have. As a matter of fact I sometimes think the mechanical groupsets might shift better. The one thing I do think is pretty cool, but not all necessary, is the wireless connectivity.

Am I missing something? What are others' thoughts on electronic shifting?
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Old 10-19-20, 09:41 PM
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Fabian Cancellara didn’t like electronic shifting, either. I like Di2 because once setup, it shifts the same way without the need of adjustment. I also like that the front derailleur trims itself. It also takes very little effort to shift.
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Old 10-19-20, 09:43 PM
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Originally Posted by colnago62 View Post
I also like that the front derailleur trims itself. It also takes very little effort to shift.
Oh yeah! I forgot about that. I do like that feature.
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Old 10-19-20, 10:55 PM
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I have SRAM Red eTap on one of my bikes and I love it. Does it shift smoother? Not really. Maybe? I dunno. But it’s a no hassle system once you get it set up properly. My mechanical Ultegra bike shifts fine, but I love the ease of shifting way more with eTap.
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Old 10-20-20, 01:06 AM
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Originally Posted by mrblue View Post
Oh yeah! I forgot about that. I do like that feature.
SRAM mechanical derailleurs labeled "Yaw" don't need trimming when properly set-up.

IMHO, electronic shifting is something the industry invented to keep selling bikes when it ran out of ideas. I know my opinion won't be popular, but it's what I think. Mechanical shifters, when properly set-up work well and shouldn't require frequent adjustments.

I also think that the beauty of a bike lies in its simplicity. If something breaks you can see what's happening and you can probably improvise a temporary fix wherever you are. Everything works mechanically without any external power source. That's not the case with electronic shifting. If it goes wrong 70km from home, you're probably screwed. I have lots of electronics at home, and they all eventually go wrong.

As much as I like electronic "gadgets" I don't want them on my bike except for non-critical functions (a GPS, for example).
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Old 10-20-20, 04:21 AM
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Old 10-20-20, 04:37 AM
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I remember the first BBS forum thread (on a 300 baud modem & a RGB monitor) regarding the uselessness of Shimano Indexed Shifting. I was firmly in the camp of "It's worthless and will never catch on". Turns out I was wrong. Those French pedals that use triangular plastic cleats seemed to have done pretty well for that ski binding company too. I guess what I'm saying is, those groundswell efforts, decades ago, weren't successful in stopping cycling innovation. In my opinion, anyone with the desire to repeat the same experiment should work on something that has a real chance of making a difference.
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Old 10-20-20, 04:50 AM
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Originally Posted by nomadmax View Post
I remember the first BBS forum thread (on a 300 baud modem & a RGB monitor) regarding the uselessness of Shimano Indexed Shifting. I was firmly in the camp of "It's worthless and will never catch on". Turns out I was wrong. Those French pedals that use triangular plastic cleats seemed to have done pretty well for that ski binding company too. I guess what I'm saying is, those groundswell efforts, decades ago, weren't successful in stopping cycling innovation. In my opinion, anyone with the desire to repeat the same experiment should work on something that has a real chance of making a difference.
Indexed shifting, specially when applied to brifters, is a huge improvement.

Electronic shifting is a solution looking for a problem. It's only advantage is that it allows you to shift from multiple locations (shifters, aero bars, etc...). But it comes with drawbacks too: it's like a black box when it fails, complexity, need to charge and keep track of batteries...
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Old 10-20-20, 05:56 AM
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Well, I think it solves a problem. When your fingers are so cold and devoid of strength wouldn’t electronic shifting be easier? I was assuming so the other morning when it was cold and I had a had time shifting. I was also thinking about better gloves.
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Old 10-20-20, 06:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Amt0571 View Post
Electronic shifting is a solution looking for a problem. It's only advantage is that it allows you to shift from multiple locations (shifters, aero bars, etc...). But it comes with drawbacks too: it's like a black box when it fails, complexity, need to charge and keep track of batteries...
90% of cycling improvements fall under this category. Why have Dura Ace when 105 works just as well? Why have a 750gm frame when a 900gm frame works as well? Why have 12 speed when 10 speed works so well? And so on.

Is electronic shifting essential? No. Will I go back to mechanical? Not on your life. My TT bike was set up in 2014. I havent touched the shifters since then. And I find front shifting to be orders of magnitude better/easier on electronic shifting. YMMV and that's cool, and we are all glad you got the above off your chest
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Old 10-20-20, 06:54 AM
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Originally Posted by colnago62 View Post
I like Di2 because once setup, it shifts the same way without the need of adjustment. I also like that the front derailleur trims itself. It also takes very little effort to shift.
These were my reasons for upgrading.
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Old 10-20-20, 07:01 AM
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I think it's more like having an automatic in car - vs. a stick... but not air conditioning vs. not.

My Ultegra mech is like butter and needs no adjustment. I'll agree, the auto trim on front derailleur would be nice. Oh, and if I ever get to the point where shifting a mechanical derailleur is "hard"... it's time to sell the bikes ;-)

Full discloser: I love disc brakes, carbon and don't think "steel is real"
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Old 10-20-20, 07:03 AM
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My take: I don't want one more set of batteries to worry about.
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Old 10-20-20, 07:15 AM
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I'm waiting for bikes that have embedded solar panels in the top tube to power/charge the shifting.
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Old 10-20-20, 07:19 AM
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I upgraded from Sram Force to Etap last winter and I would not go back. Yes, the Force worked perfectly fine but I just love the feel of the Etap. To me, whatever makes you want to ride more is worth it.
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Old 10-20-20, 07:49 AM
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I've got Di2 on a bike, and it's fine. Doesn't really shift any faster or more precisely than a well-maintained mechanical groupset, but it does stay in adjustment more reliably. And with the dongle for wireless connectivity, there are some pretty useful features with integrated cycle computers and such.

Battery life is not an issue for me: even with lots of shifting (I'm in a very hilly area), it runs maybe 100 miles per 10% of charge.
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Old 10-20-20, 08:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Amt0571 View Post
I also think that the beauty of a bike lies in its simplicity. If something breaks you can see what's happening and you can probably improvise a temporary fix wherever you are. Everything works mechanically without any external power source. .
In the past year or two, I have twice had to ride home single-speed after a rear derailleur cable broke inside the shifter. A mechanical system is no guarantee of perfect reliability.
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Old 10-20-20, 09:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
In the past year or two, I have twice had to ride home single-speed after a rear derailleur cable broke inside the shifter. A mechanical system is no guarantee of perfect reliability.
If you carried a spare, as I usually do, you could have replaced that on the road. You can't do that when a Di2 goes haywire.

BTW, if your cables are breaking twice a year, you have something wrong with your bike.
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Old 10-20-20, 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Amt0571 View Post
If you carried a spare, as I usually do, you could have replaced that on the road. You can't do that when a Di2 goes haywire.

BTW, if your cables are breaking twice a year, you have something wrong with your bike.
When they break inside the shifter, it's usually not a quick fix. You have to fish out bits of broken wire, which can be fiddly and time-consuming.

And I have several bikes equipped with Shimano mechanical groupsets. The newer ones, with shift cables under the bar tape, are somewhat notorious for this problem.

Di2 is not 100% reliable, all the time. Agreed. My point is that the same is true of a mechanical drivetrain, too.
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Old 10-20-20, 09:18 AM
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Originally Posted by guadzilla View Post
90% of cycling improvements fall under this category. Why have Dura Ace when 105 works just as well? Why have a 750gm frame when a 900gm frame works as well? Why have 12 speed when 10 speed works so well? And so on.

Is electronic shifting essential? No. Will I go back to mechanical? Not on your life. My TT bike was set up in 2014. I havent touched the shifters since then. And I find front shifting to be orders of magnitude better/easier on electronic shifting. YMMV and that's cool, and we are all glad you got the above off your chest
1. I would only buy Dura Ace if a bike I liked happened to be at the correct price point when I needed it. That's not a selling point for me though. I wouldn't buy Dura Ace because Dura Ace. I would definitely NOT buy electronic, like I wouldn't buy a carbon MTB.
2. I also wouldn't buy a 750g frame over a 900g frame because it's 150g lighter. I take more than this into consideration when buying a bike.
3. I wouldn't buy anything that's not 12sp if we're talking 1x on a MTB (because I like decent gear spacing). On a double road bike? I'm ok with 10sp. In fact, I rode a 3x8 road bike until recently with exactly zero issues.
4. The mountain bike I sold last may was set up like... in 2015, when I replaced the cables after 5 years. I didn't touch the shifters in all that time. Maybe you buy cheap cables, who knows.
5. I don't have any issue with mechanical front shifting. I press a lever and it shifts. It's not rocket science.

In any case, I know my opinions are unpopular. I don't care.

Last edited by Amt0571; 10-20-20 at 09:26 AM.
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Old 10-20-20, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
When they break inside the shifter, it's usually not a quick fix. You have to fish out bits of broken wire, which can be fiddly and time-consuming.

And I have several bikes equipped with Shimano mechanical groupsets. The newer ones, with shift cables under the bar tape, are somewhat notorious for this problem.

Di2 is not 100% reliable, all the time. Agreed. My point is that the same is true of a mechanical drivetrain, too.
Yes, Shimano shifters are notorious for this problem. That's crappy engineering. If I had them I'd inspect and replace the cables regularly. In any case, twice in a year seems to me like something is very wrong.

That, and the lack of FD trim are some of the reasons why I bought a bike with SRAM a year and a half ago. Don't get me started on SRAM hydraulics though...
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Old 10-20-20, 09:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Amt0571 View Post
Yes, Shimano shifters are notorious for this problem. That's crappy engineering. If I had them I'd inspect and replace the cables regularly. In any case, twice in a year seems to me like something is very wrong.

That, and the lack of FD trim are some of the reasons why I bought a bike with SRAM a year and a half ago. Don't get me started on SRAM hydraulics though...
Agreed on the engineering. The last time it happened, the cable had only 1500 miles on it.

Life is full of tradeoffs. Shimano hydro disc brakes are awesome.
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Old 10-20-20, 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by mrblue View Post
Earlier this year BC (Before COVID) I purchased a bike with SRAM Force eTap AXS.

So far I haven't been very impressed with electronic shifting or at least with SRAM's electronic shifting. I haven't tried EPS or Di2 so I can't really compare apples to apples. However I do have a couple of other bikes with Shimano Ultegra, 105, Campy Record 12 and Chorus 12--all mechanical. I don't think the SRAM eTap shifts any more consistently or reliably than any other groupset I have. As a matter of fact I sometimes think the mechanical groupsets might shift better. The one thing I do think is pretty cool, but not all necessary, is the wireless connectivity.

Am I missing something? What are others' thoughts on electronic shifting?
No maintenance needed, auto-trim FD, quicker and smoother shifting. The list could go on and on!
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Old 10-20-20, 09:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
Agreed on the engineering. The last time it happened, the cable had only 1500 miles on it.

Life is full of tradeoffs. Shimano hydro disc brakes are awesome.
Oh... you didn't understand me about SRAM hydraulics. SRAM brakes are awesome too. I don't miss Shimano when braking, I can do wheelies from the tops with my weak hands.

I only think it should be possible to replace the pads without something inside the brake going wrong. And bleeding the brake after that shouldn't require a degree.

Shimano brakes have their part too... they're easy on maintenance, but hope nothing fails or you'll discover the fantastic world of non-existant spare parts.
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Old 10-20-20, 09:35 AM
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Originally Posted by eduskator View Post
No maintenance needed, auto-trim FD, quicker and smoother shifting. The list could go on and on!
I agree with the first two points, but I disagree with the quicker and smoother shifting argument. I don't think my SRAM Force eTap shifts any quicker or smoother than my Campy or Shimano mechanical groups. In fact, I think the Ultegra R8000 might shift quicker and smoother than the SRAM eTap.
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