Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Di2: Tested

If you've been following my blog then you would know that as far as road bikes go I'm a Campy enthusiast. I really like the look and feel of it, plus I prefer thumb levers to any other shifting set up out there. I've got Shimano on my commuter which sports an XTR / Dura Ace / FSA Compact carbon crank mash-up. It's basically a 9 speed rear cassette with long cage xtr rear derailleur, xtr rapid fire shifters, with a Dura Ace chain and front derailleur. It works great. It's totally excessive and when I showed it to the Shimano rep, he informed me that it shouldn't even technically work. So for bikes with multiple gears that's what I'm ridding.
Now for the electric shifting. Based on my experience with the test bike, electric shifting not only works, but it works great. It's the best shifting drive train you can ride right now. It's totally fast and effortless. This is most noticeable with shifting the front chainring from small to big. Just hit the button and its up their instantly. Plus the system automatically trims it's self. So you'll never get chain rub. In my fairly short amount of time on the test bike, I asked the bike to deliver on all sorts of difficult shifts and it never missed one. One other major thing I noticed was the ridding a bike with Di2 felt very natural, if that makes any sense. The shifts are initiated by pressing buttons located on the paddle inside of the brake lever. One big difference over standard Dura Ace is neither of the levers (brake or shifting lever) moves at all from side to side. Instead of pushing on the shifter lever and swinging the lever to shift. Shifts are initiated by a slight tap of the buttons located on the inner paddle. This was probably the strangest feeling part of the whole thing. I found myself wising I could swing the lever over a few clicks and throw a few gears. Instead you just hold down a button.

Drawbacks:

I can say with confidence that Di2 works very well, but what are it's downsides? First off there's the battery, it's still fairly bulky needs to be charged and adds additional weight. Bikes are the ultimate green mode of transportation, but adding a battery to that mix, nocks them down a couple of notches. Chances are when you plug that baby up into the wall, your charging your bike on coal power. Dirty, dirty shit for sure. I guess it's not much or maybe you've even got solar panels on your house. But even so, its a battery, it's got to be continually charged, over time it will wear out, and need to be replaced. Battery waste is some of our most toxic and there isn't really a good way to dispose of it. Aslo the servos that provide mechanical function will wear out and eventual need to be replaced. Perhaps bike shops could soon need to hire, "IT guys". And then there's he whole potential of loosing its charge while out on the road. Shimano claims the power level estimates are very conservative, and keep you very safe from having a dead battery by providing more than ample notice for when it's time to recharge. When the battery does die, its actually a rather slow and prolonged process.


The front shifting goes first, as it use most energy to initiate. You will then likely have another hour or two of rear shifting. Before you have to make the ultimate choice and settle on one gear. Like it or not, when the battery finally dies. Shimano says this for most users this will never happen. But if my life experiences with consumer electronics has taught me anything, its that, Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and often at the most inopportune times.

The wheels your seeing on this bike are WH-7850 CL Dura-Ace. They combine a carbon fiber midsection with an aluminum braking surface. They look somewhat like ksryums, but are of course very different. They very light, and have great acceleration, they feel solid, provide excellent breaking, & to top it all of they're not available in the US. Due to a licensing dispute with Zipp who retains the exclusive rights to sell the carbon / albumin wheel technology in the US. If you really want, them you can probably buy them from England.







6 comments:

libertyonbikes! said...

just have to say great review. i've read a couple on the new shimano and i keep thinking of mavic's old system. and NO ONE EVER
mentions the batery issue. think i'll stick with my campy 9. i love dumping & jumping gears - quick.
i don't know why the rep said your set up shouldn't work - it's a basic 'cross set up, and a long cage lets you run a larger cassette if needed. anyways, good points and i don't know how you got to spend so much time with that bike....

bikesgonewild said...

...if...& this is a BIG IF i ever race in the tour de france, then i might be inclined to run campagnolo's electronic (yes, i know it's still experimental) shifting system...

...until such time, i'll most gladly stick w/ the old tried & true...levers n' cables, baby...
...as the aussies say "no worries, mate"...

erik k said...

bikesgonewild... under those circumstances I whole heartily agree, in fact the whole time I was writing this I was secretly thinking about what campy must be doing with electric 11sp right now. Once you've crossed the threshold of irrationally expensive bike parts why not just go all the way.

bikesgonewild said...

...you know, while in one sense, electronic shifting is a natural progression w/ certain "gains", you've mentioned various technological & ecological downsides which should concern the non-sponsored racing cyclist or enthusiast...but prob'ly won't...

...personally, while i applaud equipment improvements (yo, i'm only up to campagnolo record 10) i find the "gadgetry" of electronics to be detracting from a purity i've always enjoyed in the simple mechanics of the bicycle...

...i'm cool w/ bein' sorta old school...

Ben said...

awsome review on the new e-shifting...

how did the S3 ride?

erik k said...

you know what the bike worked realy good. Nice and stiff stable handling, did what is was supposed to do. I was mostly focused on the wheels and the Shifting while I was ridding. The frame did what it was supposed to and I didn't really give it to much thought.