Electronic gear shifting, Di2 et al.
FreddieVonRost Posts: 261
in Road general
Will someone please explain to me why these systems are meant to be so marvelous? All l ever seem to read is that electronic is the way forward on the one hand, but on the other hand, if your battery has problems or runs down you are stuck with one gear. Surely a backward step if reliability is a concern.
Answers on a post card please. Thanking you muchly.
Answers on a post card please. Thanking you muchly.
Not a Giro Hero!
What are its benefits?
What was so wrong with Simplex retrofriction down tube levers?
It is pretty much fit and forget and is very reliable for most people. Batteries last ages and you get plenty of warning when you need a charge. If it does go flat then you can get home on whatever gear it defaults to. You can program various types of shift up and down depending on your preference and use. The front mech trims itself.
I would argue that the extra expense for these small advantages don't justify the large price increase over it's mechanical cousins but a, I'm confident tinkering with my set up and maintenance and b, I have the time and enjoy it. As someone who's owned Campagnolo Athena and Record groupsets I can say that the shifting is quicker than Shimano di2 and has the ability to go up or down the block a bunch at a time in lightening speed. For me it has been fit and forget apart from turning the barrel adjuster a quarter turn about once every 2 years and changing the gear cables once in 6 years (of admittedly largely dry rides on salt free roads). It is tactile and has a satisfyingly positive thunk when you change gear and is aesthetically beautiful. The ergonomics are also spot on for me. In short electronic shifting holds no appeal for me for the same reasons I'm not desperate to get a flappy paddle gear shift on my car. Good luck to those who own it and enjoy it but it's not for me and certainly not at the current price points.
It's superb, easy shifts that are perfect every time. Plus being able to index on the fly is amazing and auto trim means you very rarely get front mech rub
Everything is just effortless, however because of that I think you lose a bit of the fun with changing gear.
Battery lasts ages and even then it take 10secs to check the night before you ride.
Can electronic systems and top grade disc brakes get serviced at home or is is a case of getting a specialist to do it?
Price is the biggest sticking point for me. £875 currently for the upgrade kit at Merlin which even taking into account what I can flog my existing groupset for is still too much of a luxury for me.
Di2 makes a hell of a lot more sense to me than discs.
It really does work well. Gears will change at the exact same speed as a well set up mechanical groupset (ignore the marketing censored - we all know that the shifting speed is dictated by the chain rotating against the cogs) but it always changes. No more half shifts or down shifts delayed by gummed up cables.
The discs are discs. I find the Shimano road ones less problematic than SRAM and since i bleed on average four a week, I've got some insight.
There is nothing that an interested home mechanic cant maintain. infact, i'd go so far as to say that youre better off doing this sort of stuff yourself than going to a large chain bike shop, spending tons of money and having a saturday boy "fixing" your bike. Apart from anything else youll save a ton of time and your bike will always be available.
Plus it's satisfying and fun to learn new things.
I havent got the money to buy Di2 but if I did I would, it's very nice. But so is DA mechanical and its a fraction of the price.
I don't see how such issues are any worse than having a cable snap and having to fix the rear mech in a high gear.
I had Etap on a gravel bike for a while but sold it up, have used Di2 on holiday bikes and very much enjoy it, will be investing in it next year once my normal work flow has returned post Covid.
I’ve done almost 5000kms of mostly London riding this year and I’ve done just 1 charge (June). The one before that was Oct last year.
This is going to make me sound like a right [email protected]
but I have an Evoque diesel that is puffed at about 4.5k rpm and there's not a lot of point going past 3.5k. So realistically about 2k rev range. And it makes the same bag of spanners noise throughout. Using the flappy paddles you have no clue when you need to shift and you need to do it often.
Perfectly smooth and refined doing slowly in the background by itself.
I also a have a BMW 440i petrol that red lines at about 6.5k rpm and goes from great to glorious across the useable 5k rev range. So just like a manual you just know when to shift, and you can shift to go from languid to hell yeah just like a manual. And if you want you can switch to grandad mode. Best of both.
Perhaps I just don't like diesels.
1. It is simplicity itself to set up - I built both my bikes myself. It’s a can-bus type system, so you just plug each cable into any port and the system recognises the components, so you can’t accidentally plug it in the ‘wrong’ port.
2. You download the free e-tube software, plug in your new system via usb on your laptop and then open the software. This allows you to set the system up however you like. You can do this wirelessly, but I have heard of people having problems trying to do that. I just use my laptop.
First thing is to run the software so all the components are recognised in e-tube. Then you can check for firmware updates and bring each component up to date, which takes a few minutes. Now you tell the software what chainrings and cassette cog range you have.
Then you can configure your shift buttons (they are certainly not flappy paddles, more like levers that only click rather than move much at all). You have two behind each brake lever, plus one hidden press button on top, underneath each hood.
Traditional setup would be like a manual setup - right switches go up and down the rear shifting, left lever switches do front chainrings. However, you can set them up however you want, including auto and semi auto, where the front shifting can be automated as you shift through the rear gears. You can set the buttons up like SRAM and have left downshift and right up shift the rear derailleur. Lots of combos that you can try to find what suits you best.
You can set the speed of shifting from slow to really fast, however you want it. If you want you can set the ‘hidden buttons’ to shift front or rear if you want (you would press them with your thumb when holding the hoods). However, the best thing I have found to do with the hidden buttons is to set them up to scroll left and right through your Garmin head unit pages. Yes, that’s right, hands free scrolling through Garmin (and I assume other head unit) pages. That is brilliant.
You need a Bluetooth sender unit plugged in somewhere in your system to achieve that and you can then also set up di2 displays on your Garmin, such as rear gear position, which I find handy on my ‘home’ page - saves looking down to check if you have any more gears to avoid cross chaining etc. It can also show trim positions for on the fly adjustments (which are rarely needed).
But, the best thing about having a Bluetooth sender in your system is that you can display di2 battery charge in a % of full display. Anyone who is worried about running out of battery charge needn’t be as there is no excuse with this. When it gets down to 30% I plug it in and recharge. Experience has taught me that if you let it get to 25% it goes down from there quite quickly. As others have said it will disable front shifting (putting you in the little ring) and preserve the little remaining charge for rear shifting. Unless you are a long way from home and shift the rear a lot, it should get you home.
3. Shimano provide dealer manuals online for every component of every groupset. They are easy to understand and to follow, with pictures. Even someone with little mechanical know how should be able to set it all up if they can just follow instructions.
4. Maintenance is simple. Plug in your charger to a USB port for power and the other end to your junction box (under stem or handlebar end usually), a light will illuminate showing it is charging and a few hours later, hey presto, 100% again. It depends how much you shift, but I generally get 1500-2000 miles out of a full charge.
The only other maintenance is updating the firmware for any components for which one is available. I generally check before charging.
Unless you crash, or say bang your rear derailleur you are unlikely to have to re-set it up. It’s that good that shifting is precise and simply doesn’t go out. Servo stepper motors are incredibly precise. Once you have set it up and fine tuned the indexing (I think you have 16 tiny adjustments each way to precisely tune the rear derailleur indexing), it’s fit and forget.
In 5 years on one bike I have only had to re-index it once - bent the hanger, replaced it and fine tuned it to get shifting perfect again. You can do this whilst riding by pushing the button on your junction box to get into index mode, then use your shift up/ down levers to move the derailleur index position in or out in 1/16 of a ‘shift’ increments to trim out any ‘tinkering’ chain rub etc. And that’s it. I’ve never had to do any other maintenance above what I would do on a mechanical setup, such as jockey wheel clean/ replace when worn etc.
5. Shifting is simplicity itself. A ‘mouse click’ on one or other of the paddles is all it takes to get an instant, precise, never miss shift. If you hold the shift button down you can swing across the complete cassette in one shift.
But, the really impressive shifting is the front mech. It just drives the chain instantly from small to big chainring. No having to push a lever a long way in a swift, solid motion to get a good shift. No scraping of chain against the big chainring waiting for it to lift, which you can get if you don’t make a perfect, positive lever push with mechanical. It just does it every time, without hesitation. It is mightily impressive when you first witness it. And I have NEVER had to re-adjust or fine tune a di2 front mech once set up. Absolutely spot on. Shifting from big down to small is of course much easier with mechanical, and di2 drops the chain perfectly every time onto the small ring, much like mechanical.
The final point about shifting is it can be done with one finger from any handlebar position (you can fit satellite shifter buttons to change gears from the tops of the bars, and/or sprint shift buttons on the indie of the drops).
It can also be done whilst braking, going downhill for example, approaching a junction - with hydro disc brakes, holding the hoods I can get full braking force with a couple of fingers and shift through as many gears as I want with my third finger whilst in full control. With truly flappy paddle manual levers like my 105, having to swing the lever through a big arc makes it hard to control braking precisely (still hydro disc) whilst say shifting the rear up by several cogs ready for my stop and subsequent pull away at a junction.
6. Other things I have not mentioned that di2 can do is limit shifting. For example, it can stop you from being able to select gear combinations that would result in cross chaining, e.g. stop 1st cog (and 2nd if you want) being selected if you are in the big ring, and vice versa if you are in the small chainring. You can also set it up to give you the next ratio when shifting front chainrings, for example if you are riding along on the small chainring, in say 6th gear and shift the front mech up onto the big chainring, the rear derailleur can be set to automatically move to the next ratio on the rear cog, which is probably the 4th cog - so you don’t go from spinning to grinding with a simple front only shift. Some like it, I personally just have it set to full manual as going from a fast downhill into a steep uphill I found that dropping from the big chainring to the little, it would drop me down two cogs on the back to the next lower ratio, when I wanted to drop right down to bottom gear for say a 15%+ incline! This meant I then had to shift down manually anyhow, but by two more cogs to get to bottom gear.
And that’s about it. To me the shifting is superb, much better and more consistently good and controllable whilst braking, than I ever had with manual cabled shifters, even good quality ones. I certainly wouldn’t go back. I have the latest 105 on my winter bike and it is great but not a patch on di2.
But you don't need to sign off posts, because you have an avatar.
But not everything new is bad, you know. Just like STI's turned out to be a bit better than downtube shifters, and in turn better than reaching back to pull a lever on the seat stay, electronic shifting really is better.
But the app is not compulsory or even remotely necessary. So you would still be able to use that old Nokia with the big buttons that you like.
PP's detailed explanation - thank you PP - made a lot of sense but l suspect that an all dancing and singing super bike would just be wasted on me. Although that red and blue Merida on another thread.....
As for the Nokia, they do last and l charged up an old work phone. Yup, still worked. Built like a tank and totally reliable.