Electronic shifting is one of those things that seems to divide opinion a little, particularly among mountain bikers.
An electronic shifting system changes gears on a bicycle, enabling bikers to shift with electronic switches instead of traditional control layers and mechanical cables. Electronic shifting came into the mountain bike community a few years ago and is now common in modern bikes.
Unlike mechanical shifting, no shift cable or housing runs beneath the interior part of the bike. When a rider tugs a button on the shifter, an electronic buzzer tells the derailleur to move the chain.
Rather than depending on a shifting cable, most riders prefer the electronic shifting method because it gives an exact and accurate shifting every time you change gears; it leaves no room for human inaccuracy. It also gives riders the freedom to customize what their leaves can do and allows them to modify more settings.
Electronic drivetrains do without cables, providing you the assurance that once you set up your gears, they are set up for good without worrying about cable stretching that causes shifting to deteriorate. You avoid wiring and maintenance and clean the handlebars of levers and covers. The additional advantage is that it is possible to place the shifters in different places, as their wireless communication.
Because of the smoothness of the electronics, shock on drive trains components can be reduced. Shifting performance is also more exact, precise, and quicker. Using a battery for capacity and tiny dynamos in the derailleurs to move the chain up and down the gears, the electronic shifting system allows fine-tuning and adjustment and can be programmed wirelessly to suit your riding style. To set up the system, you just have to pair the shifter control and the derailleur and set the derailleur threshold screws.
Electronic drivetrains also have some sophisticated features. On SRAM's system(which you would know more about as you read this article), for instance, the derailleur will protect against rock strikes with its excess clutch, allowing it to shift more freely upon impact. Riders can also trace metrics like how much time is spent in a specific cog.
Although these systems have long battery life, you should never forget to charge them. Many bikers tell stories of having to ride home without the ability to change direction because they failed to charge their battery.
Depending on your electronic bike choice, you may have different types of shifters. Electric bicycles with top handlebars usually have their shifters as the same levers used to apply brakes. For such a shifter, you push the lever to the side until you hear a clicking sound.
Mountain and hybrid bikes with flat bars require you to shift their gears using set paddles operated with the thumb.
The left and right-hand levers move the chain up and down the chainring and cassette, respectively, to control the front gears or derailleurs. The big lever moves the chain into the larger chainrings, so you have to use your right hand to shift into the larger rings for easier pedaling. The small lever shifter moves the chain into smaller chainrings; this means that you have to use your left hand for effortless pedaling.
History of electronic gear shifting
Mavic introduced the first electronic gear shifter at the 1992 Tour de France. They called this mechanism ‘Zap.’ The system didn't record any technical or commercial success, but it did work as evidence of concept. It showed that an electronic shift system was possible.
Some years later, Mavic, Shimano, Sachs, and Campagnolo all tested electronic shifting. Shimano was successful in 2009 when they introduced the Di2 (Digital Integrated Intelligence) system. During that year, the system was adopted by various professional cycling teams in the Tour of California and Tour de France. Giant also released an off-the-shelf bike equipped with Di2. The Di2 became the first commercially obtainable and successful electronic groupset on the market.
Today, electronic groupsets have become the criterion at the sport's top level. Campagnolo released its first electronic groupset EPS In 2011. Sram released its wireless RED eTap electronic groupset in 2016. Most sophisticated road bikes also come equipped with electronic shifting.
While the traditional gear shifting method uses mechanical control levers that pull and release Bowden cables and spring-loaded derailleurs, Di2(Dura-ace 7970) is controlled by electronic switches in the integrated shift levers or at the end of duration trial bars.
The switches send signals through a wiring strap to a battery pack placed near the bottom bracket. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery supplies power to the derailleur motors, which move the derailleurs through worm gears. A 7.4-volt battery can last up to 1,000 kilometers when it's fully charged. In addition, there's an LED system component that indicates when the power is low, and a recharge is required.
The rear derailleur's shift times are similar to the mechanical systems and a brake system that protects it in case of a crash. The front derailleur, however, switches gears faster than a mechanical shifter. On regular bikes, the front derailleur is complicated because the chain can be under tension and has to make a sizeable vertical jump in between chainrings.
These problems are offset by the electronic system's controlled movements. In addition, the Di2 can also trim the front derailleur to eliminate chain rub and calibrate itself to adjust for wear and tear.
In wireless systems, the rear and front derailleurs employ direct-mount batteries and the SRAM-developed wireless protocols to communicate with the shifters. Tiny shifter buttons known as Blips are connected to the aero shift module or shift levers and attached along the bike’s handlebars to complete the system. Each bike has a maximum amount of four Blips to use.
To shift the rear derailleur outboard, you have to use the right lever, while the left lever does the opposite- shifting the rear derailleur inboard. Finally, you can press both levers simultaneously to shift the front derailleur.
Electric Mountain bikes are powered by the following:
The Di2 system consists of a series of technologically refined components engineered to give you a smooth, fast, and almost frictionless drivetrain.
To tackle the premature wear and power-robbing friction of a misaligned drivetrain (this mainly occurs in mechanical bikes). Di2 automatically senses the chain's position while in gear and trims the front derailleur into the optimal position.
Shimano Di2 first debuted in their flagship road groupset, and DuraDura-Aced has since introduced it in a few more groupsets. Di2 offers amazingly precise shifts and remarkable battery life, all with the same ergonomics and shifting method you’ve come to trust from Shimano and flawless dependability.
Shimano’s Di2 uses wire to connect the shifters to the derailleurs, passing through a junction box that connects to the battery. If compatible, the battery can be stored within the headtube or the frame.
Syncro Shift is also an incredible technology offered by Shimano. It automatically changes the front derailleur by using the right shifter to control the real and front derailleurs. Another unique feature of Di2 over the mechanical drivetrain is the option to add extra shifting buttons onto your handlebars.
SRAM Corporation announced its wireless shifting system, eTap, on the 15th of August. The system had been thoroughly developed and secretly experimented with over several years, from its introductory layout to a stage win in the 2015 Tour de France.
SRM joined the electronic shifting industry with a distinct standpoint. The system ditched the wired connection between the derailleur and the shifter for better efficiency. A wireless method was preferred to effect this, employing a unique system called AIREA. This system was created to have small gaps or latency between selecting a shift and the derailleur shifting and high reliability, ensuring you never want for performance.
SRAM brings in their system from their mechanical RED groupset. The eTap system is made to imitate sequential shifters on race cars. Rather than requiring two arms beneath the brake lever to shift like the Campagnolo and Shimano, it uses one arm.
If you want to shift to higher gears, the right-hand shifter will do the trick, while the left-hand shifter does the same for lower gears.
To shift the front derailleur, you must shift right and left simultaneously. Additional shifting buttons are also provided.
SRAM’s RED eTap system provides a 1,000km range using two convertible batteries found on each derailleur. This makes SRAM eTap very easy to install and doesn’t require special features for wires.
The Campagnolo EPS system is comparable to Shimano’s in the way that the wires go from the shifters through a junction box and then onto a battery before going to the derailleurs. The battery can either be fixed to the frame, near the bottom bracket or bottom cage, or internally in the seat tube. Campagnolo EPS is entirely waterproof. As a result, its shift delivery is smooth and fast, with its powerful, long-lasting battery giving over 1,200 miles with just one charge.
Campagnolo’s Electronic Power Shift, or EPS, is their electronic groupset system. It uses Campagnolo’s ergonomic drop shifters, with a single paddle lever near the brake lever and the second shift lever near your thumb on the side of the hoods.
It's a component of the Record EPS, Chorus EPS, and Super Record EPS. To effect the shifts, it uses Shimano Di2-type wires to do this.
Tips on how to maintain your electronic shifter bike
While using your electronic bike, you should be mindful of sharp tools that could damage electrical wiring and take care even with everyday tasks like re-wrapping the handlebar tape.
For example, if the E-Tube wiring is under friction along the handlebar when the tape flattens, it can pull on the strap just enough to shoot the E-Tube connector out.
Leave just a bit of stretch under the bars and double-check the rein connections to ensure they’re nuzzled.
Also, do not pull on the wires themselves. You won’t have to worry about spare wires if you're using SRAM, but if you’re using other remote “Blips” shifters, be careful when cutting handlebar tape so you don’t move the wires from the Blips to the shift lever connection.
While washing your bike, you have to avoid pressure washing generally. Still, if you've taken your muddy motorcycle to the car wash for cleaning, you should be careful about skipping the bottom bracket, handlebars, and derailleurs.
People who benefit from electronic bikes are;
Cycling enthusiasts will enjoy electronic shifting because these systems comprise some of the sport's newest and most advanced technology. Current electronic shifting systems feel incredibly improved. They are a pleasure to use.
Of course, the cost is a significant aspect for many people. If money isn’t an issue for you and you want electronic shifting, then why not
For instance, Sram’s eTap system reduces the number of shifting controls from 4 to 2. This system makes learning and remembering how to shift much easier, as it is very intuitive.
People living with disability
People living with disabilities will also benefit from using electronic shifting. The buttons are easier to actuate than mechanical shifters. The shifters can also be set in a way that makes them easier to reach.
Electronic drivetrains for mountain bikes are highly efficient in eliminating cable wear or corrosion. As a result, shift quality is not compromised, and you can enjoy your mountain bike with little maintenance.
Electronic shifting is a great alternative if you can afford it. Electronic shifting is the best option for you if you like neatly organized gear and aren’t interested in having cables lying all around in your motorbike dungeon.
Looking back at how bike gear shifting systems have evolved, you'll be surprised at how much pleasure and contentment it brings to all bikers out there. Not only did it change the state of the bike industry, but it also contributed to the growth and advancement of the transportation space.
Happy cycling to every biker out there!