Are you considering making the change to electronic shifting? We talk to Julian Thrasher, Head of Training at Shimano UK, to find out the advantages and whether you’re likely to be stranded with a flat battery.
Ultegra and Dura-Ace both offer Di2 options. What are the pros of electronic shifting?
One of the frustrations of a mechanical shifting group is that the cables it uses will stretch and bed in, this means re-adjustment of the system as the cables settle down. There is also an inherent level of friction to an inner cable running in an outer cable and this of course will get worse with the introduction of corrosion, affecting the shift performance. Because Di2 uses electric wires it is unaffected by either of these meaning that once the system is set up there will be no degradation of shift performance.
On the mechanical shifting groups a mechanism has to pull the cable inside the shifter, this contains ratchets and spools to shift between gears. There will require a certain amount of hand force to move the lever. Di2 is unaffected by this as you are simply pressing an electric switch. It feels amazing to shift between gears! This also means that there are a lot less moving parts inside the shifter, which reduces weight.
There are many more options for configuring the shift switches, Through the etube project app you can set the switches exactly how you want them, for example you switch the rear derailleur operation from the left hand shifter to the right hand one. There is also the option to run satellite shifters, so you can have a shift button on the tops or in the sprint position on the drops.
TT bikes is where multiple shift switches really come into their own, so you can have switches on the extensions and switches on the base bar. So when you are getting the bike up to speed out of a roundabout you can shift in full control.
Di2 has a feature called full and semi-synchronized shift modes. In Full Synchro the front derailleur shifts automatically depending on where the rear derailleur is. This means you don’t have to think about when to shift the front derailleur, the system will do it for you! This gives a very intuitive feel to the shifting and means you can concentrate on going as fast as possible. This is particularly useful for the extension switches on a TT bike. In Semi-Synchro the rear derailleur will make a ‘compensation shift’ when you shift up or down with the front derailleur. This means that you never feel like the gear you are in is too easy or too hard when you shift the front derailleur up or down. It keeps your pedalling rhythm in the sweet spot.
Another great feature of Di2 is that it can communicate with the cycle computer on your bike. Di2 communicates wirelessly through a D-fly unit and you will be able to see things like battery level and what gear you are in displayed on your cycle computer. You can also configure the shift buttons to move between screens on your cycle computer. Very useful and means you don’t have to take a hand off the bars to move between screens.
Some riders worry about the battery running out while on a ride and being stuck in one gear, is this an issue?
No - it isn’t an issue. Like with anything electronic – if you don’t check the charge level before going for a ride there’s a likelihood that it will run out of battery. Di2 batteries have an amazing run time but it’s the riders responsibility to make sure it is charged regularly. We recommend putting the bike on charge after every other ride to make sure that the battery is always fully charged. The charger is a smart charger and will not over charge the system, it will turn off when the battery has reached full charge. Charging regularly will not affect the life of the battery.