07-31-2008, 09:10 PM #1
Shimano's new Wireless Shifters/Derailleurs - looking cool
Man, this stuff is gonna be spensive! Looks pretty cool though. Its already lighter than cable systems. Imagine when they've had a couple more years to get the weight down. Paddle shifters for your bike anyone?
Link to article in Wired:
Shimano Shuns Cables for Full Electronic Shifting
By Eric Hagerman 7/31/08
Stefan Schumacher of Germany speeds down Ombarde Pass using Shimano's Di2 electronic shifting system during the 2008 Tour De France.
Photo: Christophe Ena-AP
Japanese parts manufacturer Shimano is launching an electronic shifting system for high-end road bikes that it claims will vastly improve performance and reduce maintenance. By replacing the conventional levers that pull wound-steel cables through protective housings with solid-state switches and rubber-coated wires, there's no chance for road gunk to clog things up and interfere with shifting, or, for that matter, your post-ride beer.
The principle of an electronically controlled drive train is to execute perfect shifts every time, thus "reducing mental overhead," in the words of Shimano marketing manager Devin Walton. This is a resource cyclists find in short supply during epic rides.
Thursday's announcement that the system, called Di2, will hit shops in January 2009 settles a question first raised in 2005 when prototypes began cropping up on the bikes of select Shimano-sponsored racers in the pro peloton. The system's development has been photographed, chronicled and Angsted over ever since.
But if the existence of electronic shifting comes as no surprise, its weigh-in certainly should. During a recent telephone interview, an industry insider who spoke on condition of anonymity stopped cold amid a why-do-we-need-this diatribe, upon learning that Di2 weighs less than Shimano's current generation of parts. According to the company, Di2 will be 67 grams lighter than the current Dura-Ace 7800 and only 68 grams heavier than Dura-Ace 7900, the snazzy forthcoming 2009 suite of parts. "I'll be going to hell," said the source, who then fell silent -- no doubt converting grams to ounces to fractions of a pound to the limitless advantages of such weight savings. That's at least an extra Clif Bar.
Di2's front derailleur automatically adjusts itself so the chain doesn't rub as you shift.
Shimano plans to offer the electronic setup as an upgrade option within the 7900 group -- which is preselling for $2,600 -- so parts such as the two-tone cranks and brakes will be the same. (No word yet on the additional cost for electric; it could be double.) Di2 consists of two brake-and-shift levers, two derailleurs whose springs have been replaced by servo-motors, a 7.4-volt lithium-ion battery pack, and the wiring harness that connects everything.
The derailleurs, whose job is to move the chain from gear to gear as you shift, talk to each other and automatically adjust so the chain doesn't rub. They also calibrate themselves, so you don't have to play with cable tension to maintain shift quality as cables stretch and the chain and cogs wear. And although the control buttons have been placed in the traditional location behind the brake levers -- so as not to confuse anyone or overly tax that mental overhead -- they could be integrated with the ends of time-trial bars, the top of the handlebars or just about anywhere a rider might find convenient.
Still, the advantage that people who've experienced the system talk about is how little effort it takes to change gears. A quick nudge to one of the shift switches signals a motorized worm gear in the derailleur to instantly move the precise amount it needs to. Fractions of a second later, the chain snaps into position.
Chris d'Aluisio, director of advanced research and development for Specialized, likens the difference between mechanical and electric shifting to the difference between driving a race car with a manual transmission and one with F-1 style paddle shifters. "You can stay on the gas and flip through the gears with no hesitation," said d'Aluisio. "It's seamless power."
Frankie Andreu, who raced in nine Tours de France, described the shifting as "immediate and very smooth and accurate.... It's super nice."
Even my curmudgeonly unidentified source said, "The shifting is mind-blowing: I mean, you just touch the button, and it shifts."
The shift buttons are located in the traditional place -- behind the brake levers -- but they could go anywhere without affecting the performance of the system.
But let's not lose perspective. Shimano isn't the first company to attempt electronic shifting. Mavic introduced Zap in 1994 and then a wireless version called Mektronic in 2000, neither of which survived. Zap's wires proved to be less than waterproof, and Mektronic was finicky to set up properly. Shimano, notorious for its rigorous testing gauntlet, is betting that its engineers have solved the electricity problem -- and so is Campagnolo, a competitor that is on a similar development path but has yet to announce when it will release its system.
The crux of the engineering challenge is making the battery light yet long-lasting, so Shimano's engineers turned to the hardest-working part in any shifting system: the front derailleur. It's also the most temperamental, with a nasty habit of dropping or jamming the chain if the rider doesn't modulate his tempo properly while shifting. (Mavic didn't even go there -- only the rear was electric.) To be fair, the front derailleur has the notably tough job of moving a chain under heavy load between two gears of dramatically different sizes, moving at different speeds. The Di2 crew knew going in that it would require three or four times the juice of the rear derailleur.
So, when Shimano started out in 2003, the initial strategy was to throw a bunch of power at the problem, and take advantage of the servo-motor's massive torque. But this came at too high a cost, according to former Olympian Wayne Stetina, a Shimano vice president whose primary job is to test equipment and provide feedback to the engineers in Japan. "As I recall, in 2004 we had a much larger battery that went dead on me several times during long rides," said Stetina, who has logged 19,000 miles on various iterations of Di2. "It couldn't last more than three or four hours between charges, and the battery pack and control system weighed nearly a pound."
Shimano claims that the 7.4-volt lithium-ion battery will go 1,000 kilometers between charges.
That wasn't going to fly in a sport where grams can translate directly into seconds. The trick would be to conserve power, not squander it. Shimano's engineers redesigned the geometry of the front-derailleur to amplify the force, so they could get the necessary output with far less input. The greater leverage of the new derailleur allowed for a much smaller battery and ultimately shaved half a pound off the system. Stetina claims the battery consistently lasts 2,000 miles between charges (which takes 90 minutes). Officially, Shimano says the battery will last for 1,000 kilometers (621 miles).
The front derailleur doesn't actually move with more force or more speed, as you might assume. It does receive the signal to shift faster than you can send one by cranking on your lever and fighting against friction, spring tension and a lesser mechanical advantage. More important, it should do the same exact thing, every time, without needing to be coaxed or cursed. Powered as it is by an electric motor, the front derailleur simply moves a calibrated distance when it's told. "It just jams the chain into the big ring, no matter how much load is on it," d'Aluisio said. "You don't lose any momentum, and your legs never stall."
Road-bike aficionados are much like trout: simultaneously enthralled and mortified by anything shiny and new that enters their environment. And so it's not surprising that the first two questions people tend to ask about Di2 are: 1) What if the battery dies? and 2) What if it gets wet?
Stetina believes he's personally answered the first. And besides, he said, there is a battery meter on the Flight Deck computer (which includes heart rate, altimeter, inclinometer, calorie counter and the ability to download all these details to your PC after the ride). His unscientific-though-admirable strategy for testing the waterproofness of the system has been to blast the components with the high-pressure hose at a coin-op car wash.
Presumably Shimano's engineers in Japan have more-traditional testing methods. The company prides itself on systems engineering, and has been working on this set of components for more than five years. How will it work? You can find out for yourself when Di2 goes on sale in January. Call us when you've put 12,000 miles on it.**
I'm a cougar, not a MILF! I have to protect my rep! - bklyn
In any case, if you're ever really in this situation make sure you at least bargain in a couple of fluffers.
07-31-2008, 10:04 PM #2
wow that is really cool!! to bad it cost more than my car...
07-31-2008, 10:58 PM #3
That stuffs sweet. I can't wait to see what SRAM comes up with in response.
07-31-2008, 11:09 PM #4
08-01-2008, 09:51 AM #5
Seems kind of pointless without wireless brakes IMO. The photo clearly shows cables come off of the guys handlebars. No cables would be pretty slick.
08-01-2008, 10:01 AM #6
08-01-2008, 10:02 AM #7Hucked to flat once
- Join Date
- Oct 2005
My old roommate had some very early versions of these back in '03ish. He said when they worked they were awesome but when the battery died, you were stuck in a gear. He also said sometimes the battery would go dead within a few miles of a charge. Those were never released to the general public though. I'm sure in the last five years battery tech has gotten better and Shimano has worked out the bugs.
08-01-2008, 10:23 AM #8
08-01-2008, 10:28 AM #9
08-01-2008, 10:48 AM #10
Why is this a good idea? Anyone?
08-01-2008, 10:55 AM #11Not a skibum
- Join Date
- Aug 2002
B/c it's going to be VERY profitable for Shimano... oh you meant for the public... yeah no idea.
08-01-2008, 10:56 AM #12
Good thing they didn't use such gear 30 years ago. I still run a couple of Peugeots from the 70's and I probably couldn't with electronics on them."Typically euro, french in particular, in my opinion. It's the same skiing or climbing there. They are completely unfazed by their own assholeness. Like it's normal." - srsosbso
08-01-2008, 10:58 AM #13
This will never, however, be a good idea for mtn bikes.
08-01-2008, 11:26 AM #14
Sorry, but I don't understand the points you're making, at least as to why it's a good idea. If we want to get rid of mechanical action on a bicycle, it's not a bicycle any more.
Electronic shifting was tried a long time ago, I guess some Maggots aren't old enough to remember it. As it was then, it remains -- a bad idea. Complicating bicycles with solenoids etc. is dippy, like Shimano's AirLines was a dipshitty thing for shifting.
08-01-2008, 11:33 AM #15
mechanical tuning isnt the real benefit imo, and just a nice side effect
the real benefit i think will be ergonomics and how you actuate the der
doing this will remove the mechanical link at the lever, so its now no longer necessary to have as much throw or the same placement on the lever. im sure there are a few other cool things they can do with controls to have the der overshoot slightly and then center on the cog to get super fast shifts in both directions. they could probably even have a position sensor on the freehub to know when the best time is to actually make the shift to reduce wear and improve pickup speed on the cogs. Really just do a search on all the benefits of electronic shifting in f1 and it could be pretty much all the same (give or take)
having said that, while it sounds pretty cool, im not sure it will ever really catch on except at the highest levels of the sport
or ill believe it when i see it.
and yea, batteries have come a LONG way in 5-6 years
08-01-2008, 11:43 AM #16
08-01-2008, 12:01 PM #17
Why not just have someone else ride the bike for you? Hell, why not just race remote-controlled bikes?
08-01-2008, 12:02 PM #18
08-01-2008, 12:09 PM #19"The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists."
08-01-2008, 12:09 PM #20Hucked to flat once
- Join Date
- Oct 2005
I'm waiting for electric legs with more torque. I can see benefit in that.
08-01-2008, 12:18 PM #21
From Shimano's perspective, there's also the potential for a huge image benefits above and beyond the basic "it's neat" items. They could guarantee every shift is a hit and eliminate any inconsistencies in bike construction or maintenance. No more "well it was crappy for me" for the unenlightened customer/internet blowhard because some tech forgot to tighten the upper limit screw. Luxury and high-zoot wise, this is pretty damn cool.
As for pechel's other comments, that will also be interesting, as there may be ways to compact or otherwise redesign the entire drivetrain if you don't have to worry about how your cables are going to pull. Hell, it could even be a gateway to a compact CVT-type thing.
08-01-2008, 12:23 PM #22
however i think it would be pretty easy to install a motor with an eccentric hub or something that would be attached inline with the brake cable on a road bike. Why might we want to do this?
Combined with gps and wheel speed, we can sense wheel slip, and then have ABS. That could be pretty cool and still be totally single fault tolerant.
and really crud
its understandable that purists like you or me might be against something like this for the regular McDenverite or McUtard (i hope you liked the use of my "Mc" ), but isnt that far out there for you to see the potential gains this has?
Shit, who knows, maybe instead of a button, paddle, or lever, shifting will be done with ONE thumb wheel or jog dial. Would be easy to get into whatever gear you wanted right away super fast. Combine that with a PID control, and it could even sense or be "smart" enough to know if you just meant to shift a couple gears, or the whole lot. Theres cool potential here.
Last edited by pechelman; 08-01-2008 at 12:25 PM.
08-01-2008, 12:36 PM #23Registered User
- Join Date
- Mar 2008
- northern BC
I wonder if you could rig the power meters the top riders use to recharge the battery ?
Electronic shifting at this point ,with todays technology, might actualy work well
I remember everyone saying index shifting would never catch on
08-01-2008, 12:37 PM #24
But hey, I like your cartoon character, he's pretty funny. What kind of vermouth does he prefer?
PS: Apparently you're not aware that there is a pretty extensive remote control model car racing circuit in the USA. Why learn to drive a car, when you can operate one by remote? You can convince yourself that you're the radio-control equivalent of Ayrton Senna.
Road races aren't won based on who has the most precise shifting.
Composite wheel covers?
I think you see my point. So electronic shifting isn't necessarily good just because disc brakes or indexed shifting have shown themselves to be good.
Last edited by uncle crud; 08-01-2008 at 12:45 PM.
08-01-2008, 12:55 PM #25
Time will tell if this is useful, as it won't be used if it doesn't work (much like the other technologies above). However, as bicycles are extremely variable quality-wise depending on who put them together, I can see why a component maker would like to take that out of the equation. Not to mention that technology is far enough along to make this doable.
What would be really neat for a road bike would be one of these hooked up to a cadence meter that adjusted the gear for your target cadence. However, it does merit some discussion of how hands-on you should have to be as a rider, as we don't want to encourage zone-out on a road bike with cars around.
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