There is no doubt electronic shifting has been one of the ground breaking innovations in the mountain bike industry over the past decade. I first had the pleasure of using this technology when it was brand new in 2012 on a road bike while racing in the USA. This was only available in Shimano Dura Ace 10 speed initially and included a large rather cumbersome externally mounted battery. Disregarding its less than stylish appearance the function of the shifting made me wanting more.
I am now lucky enough to use the flagship versions of Shimano’s Di2 on both my Norco Revolver mountain bike and road bike both in the current 11 speed offering. That is the XTR M9050 Di2 and Dura Ace 9150 Di2. Now being fully ‘electro’ there are a few things I have learnt about this new innovation in gear shifting technology over many, many miles of use..
- I am more likely to ride a higher cadence: Riding a higher cadence(90+) is one of the key indicators of cycling experience and know how. It allows you to put more power through the pedals without sapping your muscles of energy. With a gear shift being so simple amd quick on Di2, I find myself reaching for the correct gear even if there is only a few seconds to spare before I ramp up a hill or down a techy descent. Sometimes it’s just that millisecond of thought or doubt that can make the difference between mashing up a techy climb at 45rpm and spinning up with ease.
- Shifting when buckled is far more manageable: It may sound trivial, but the hassle required when absolutely buckled during the closing stages of a hard race or ride to push an often misaligned cable to select the correct gear ratio is real and can lead to copious amount of unnecessary frustration. Di2 is always a breeze, no matter how buckled you are the gear will always be selected seamlessly.
- Bye bye endless cable tension tweaking: Being an electronic system, Di2 allows you to truly ‘set and forget’. Upon installation adjustment may be required with the limit screws, B tension and some fine tuning of the derailleur alignment. After this you are on your way to shifting bliss for ever more until you change chainrings or cassette ratios. No more mid-ride tweaking of the barrel adjuster and dealing with cable stretch for hundreds of kilometres after a new cable is installed.
- Not all industry developments are marketing hype: I have been labelled somewhat of a luddite when it comes to new technology in the cycling world. Experiencing Di2 has made me appreciate that change can be good and lead to significant improvements in ride quality and enjoyment. Who would have thought 15 years ago that we would be riding around on bikes with electric gears and disc brakes! Crazy!
- Take care of your things: To the many people who have smashed a Di2 rear mech on a rock, somehow spliced open wires mid ride or misaligned their limits and ended up with a Di2 rear mech in the spokes! Riding this equipment has made me ever more aware of the importance of taking care of my things. Replacing these parts is NOT CHEAP and can be cumbersome to re-install. It can make you ever more respectful of the value of this technology and how to treat it when you consider what is involved to replace.
Hats off to Shimano for developing an industry revolution with Di2 as we now see the other players in the bicycle component world play catch up with their own equivalents. I must admit owning Di2 is one of those things… Once you go Di2… You never go back!