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School me on electronic shifters

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School me on electronic shifters

Old 11-09-23, 02:42 PM
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As someone who worked in biked shops for 12 years, I've ridden just about everything, except for Campy electronic. My last road bike had Ultegra 11 sp mechanical, and it shifted flawless. That being said, my next road and mountain bike will have SRAM wireless on them. Less maintenance, simple setup, and can almost be installed on any bike. With the new Shimano Di2, you still have a battery wired to a front and rear derailleur, so installation is a little bit more challenging.
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Old 11-11-23, 09:35 PM
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I have Sram AXS 2X and it's really great. Especially the installation and the shifing design. Haven't used Shimano, but I imagine the actual shifting performance is similar. My wife especially loves the AXS, while I just like it a lot. Is it better than manual? yeah, maybe, but it's not like it's a night and day performance upgrade. I got it for our bikes just because - in our late 60s, it was either try it now, or never. No regrets, however...

Is it worth the cost difference? No. I easily afforded it, but if I couldn't, I wouldn't sacrifice anything for it. I'd get top end mechanical for fewer $ a;nd lighter weight.

I wouldn't have it for my one and only bike. Sure it's reliable and doesn't require much if any maintenance. But if something goes bad, parts generally aren't readily available and they're expensive. That would be fine at home especially if you had another bike to ride for however long it took to get parts. But, we do multi-month RV trips far away from home and used to take our electronic "best" bikes with us. But last year, I bought the least expensive Salsa gravel bikes from REI to keep on the RV (BTW, the perform perfectly and are fun to ride). Why? Because where we travel, we couldn't possibly get replacement parts, even batteries and chargers, easily or quickly. Whereas, with a fully mechanical bike - shifting and brakes - you could get adequate replacement and maintenance parts almost anywhere we travel. Everything from chains and cables, to inexpensive shifting or brake parts.

So if you have only one bike or do bike-critical long trips away from home, you might want to stick with high end mechanical. Since we have multiple bikes at home, it's great having one be electronic, and I'm glad we have them. Again, haven't had any problems and they've both worked perfectly with no post-installation (myself) adjustments needed. So pretty much carefree except for my concern about repair and replacement.

Last edited by Camilo; 11-11-23 at 09:42 PM.
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Old 11-12-23, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by aliasfox
I've never gotten the romanticism of a clutch, least of all in-town or in traffic..
Totally, but the experience of driving round a track, or (at lower, sensible speeds) twisty country roads is much more physically engaging and satisfying with a manual & clutch.

You wonít be faster though.

And I say this as someone whoís only driven EVs with no gearboxes at all for 9 years
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Old 11-13-23, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by cweb99
Iím getting a new bike soon and debating on electronic or mechanical shifters. Staying with Shimano brand. Iíve read some articles but would like to hear from ppl here. I ride for fun and exercise not competition
I think in 2023 it's worth it unless you are on some hard budget or simply want a pure travel bike. One, going electronic whether it be Shimano or SRAM really cleans up the bike. The bigger pluses of electronic are quicker more reliable shifting that doesn't need constant adjustments. The ability to shift multiple gears instantly is a huge plus. Shimano Di2 in particular is very good at shifting even under load. Unless you are looking at Shimano 105 12 speed mechanical, the really only way to go 12 speed on higher end groupsets is Di2, AXS, or Super Record. The ability to use satellite shifters or even SRAM AXS Pods for flat bars. The apps associated with Di2 and AXS make monitoring your stats or adjusting your bike super easy. For SRAM AXS parts are super easy to install since there are no wires. With both systems you don't have to worry about fraying or damaged cables.

For me Shimano Di2 is great if you are already a Shimano person, want the best battery life, and the best overall shifting and braking. SRAM AXS is great if you want lower price points, more gearing range, the ability to mix and match road/gravel/MTB, want hot swappable batteries, and want the ease of installation.
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Old 11-13-23, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Camilo
I have Sram AXS 2X and it's really great. Especially the installation and the shifing design. Haven't used Shimano, but I imagine the actual shifting performance is similar. My wife especially loves the AXS, while I just like it a lot. Is it better than manual? yeah, maybe, but it's not like it's a night and day performance upgrade. I got it for our bikes just because - in our late 60s, it was either try it now, or never. No regrets, however...

Is it worth the cost difference? No. I easily afforded it, but if I couldn't, I wouldn't sacrifice anything for it. I'd get top end mechanical for fewer $ a;nd lighter weight.

I wouldn't have it for my one and only bike. Sure it's reliable and doesn't require much if any maintenance. But if something goes bad, parts generally aren't readily available and they're expensive. That would be fine at home especially if you had another bike to ride for however long it took to get parts. But, we do multi-month RV trips far away from home and used to take our electronic "best" bikes with us. But last year, I bought the least expensive Salsa gravel bikes from REI to keep on the RV (BTW, the perform perfectly and are fun to ride). Why? Because where we travel, we couldn't possibly get replacement parts, even batteries and chargers, easily or quickly. Whereas, with a fully mechanical bike - shifting and brakes - you could get adequate replacement and maintenance parts almost anywhere we travel. Everything from chains and cables, to inexpensive shifting or brake parts.

So if you have only one bike or do bike-critical long trips away from home, you might want to stick with high end mechanical. Since we have multiple bikes at home, it's great having one be electronic, and I'm glad we have them. Again, haven't had any problems and they've both worked perfectly with no post-installation (myself) adjustments needed. So pretty much carefree except for my concern about repair and replacement.
The cost of entry level SRAM AXS in Apex and Rival makes electronic shifting a no brainer unless you are team Shimano. In comparison Shimano 105 12 Speed Mechanical groupset is $700 while Rival AXS can easily be found on sale for $900 or or less. $200 for most people to jump up to electronic shifting isn't a big deal. You can even make the argument that last gen Force AXS D1 which is now going sub $1200 is worth it over Shimano 105 12 Speed Mechanical
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Old 11-14-23, 05:21 AM
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Sram wireless is simply the best out there. Shimano sticks with wired front and rear derailleur and I really don't understand why when a full wireless system is so much better and I might say superior. The only flaw with Sram wireless is the brakes. I don't like having to use Dot fluid plus their brake system is a PIA to bleed. The Shimano brakes are superior in every respect and for that reason my choice is Shimano Di2.

However if it were possible to mix the two the best electronic drive train would be Sram shifting and Shimano disc brakes. If Sram were rim brake compatible, well that would simply be at the top of the electronic heap!
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Old 11-14-23, 08:15 AM
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You can still buy sram red shifters that work with rim brakes or cable operated disc calipers. I had the force mechanical levers, but they have been discontinued. The latest bleeding edge calipers on force and red are easy to bleed. I don't have any complaints about DOT 5.1 fluid either. I have the bleed kit that sram sells. It works just fine.
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Old 11-14-23, 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by TiHabanero
Sram wireless is simply the best out there. Shimano sticks with wired front and rear derailleur and I really don't understand why when a full wireless system is so much better and I might say superior.
SRAM appear to be more savvy with electronics/comms/software than Shimano. Fully wireless should be standard in the 2020s. It's one of the main advantages over cable shifting.
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Old 11-14-23, 12:37 PM
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AFAIK Shimano intentionally went with semi wireless because of battery size - the larger battery allows more powerful (ie faster-shifting) motors while maintaining reasonable battery life. There's a limit to how much battery you can hang onto a derailleur. Is the difference in shifting speed significant? Don't know, although I doubt if any SRAM user lost a race because their shifting was 0.1 sec slower than that of their Di2-using competitor. Still, I don't think Shimano's decision to go semi-wireless is because they couldn't hack full wireless. Bluetooth connectivity isn't rocket science - hell, if the Italians can do it...... (have driven enough Fiats to have realistic expectations of Italian electronics prowess )

Last edited by 13ollocks; 11-14-23 at 12:41 PM.
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Old 11-14-23, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Camilo
. But if something goes bad, parts generally aren't readily available and they're expensive..
Story of something going bad. I have an AXS system on my FS, its a good system. Plus an XT 1X system on my HT and an Ultegra system on a road bike, that one for better then 6 years with zero issues. The XT system recently started having issues after 4 years of moderate use. The battery wasn't holding a charge and I assumed bad battery, as they are the most likely issues and after 4 years it's likely done, so I replaced the battery (this is all documented on the Di2 Parasitic Drain post here). Replaced the battery, updated the system via the E-Tube software, fast drain continued. Took to a local shop, their diagnostic software identified a bad shifter. It would shift but if plugged would killed the battery in about 2-3 days. They quoted me a price of $160, which wasn't terrible, some online shops had the Di2 XT shifter at $185. Then I checked Cambia, they had it at $111, with a one time 20% off discount, so now $91. Ordered. So lesson learned is yes parts fail, sometimes they are expensive, but always shop around, you may find it at considerable discount.
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Old 11-14-23, 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by 13ollocks
AFAIK Shimano intentionally went with semi wireless because of battery size - the larger battery allows more powerful (ie faster-shifting) motors while maintaining reasonable battery life. There's a limit to how much battery you can hang onto a derailleur. Is the difference in shifting speed significant? Don't know, although I doubt if any SRAM user lost a race because their shifting was 0.1 sec slower than that of their Di2-using competitor. Still, I don't think Shimano's decision to go semi-wireless is because they couldn't hack full wireless. Bluetooth connectivity isn't rocket science - hell, if the Italians can do it...... (have driven enough Fiats to have realistic expectations of Italian electronics prowess )
SRAM doesnít use Bluetooth for shifting. They developed their own proprietary, secure, fast, low power network. They only use Bluetooth for connection to the phone App for setup and firmware updates. This suggests that Bluetooth didnít cut it for the shift comms.
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Old 11-14-23, 03:38 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
SRAM doesnít use Bluetooth for shifting. They developed their own proprietary, secure, fast, low power network. They only use Bluetooth for connection to the phone App for setup and firmware updates. This suggests that Bluetooth didnít cut it for the shift comms.
This is correct. I believe its a 128 bit program that always choses a different code each time it's used so there's not accidental pairing with the same bike next to yours. SRAM made install and use just about dummy proof.
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Old 11-14-23, 03:49 PM
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I use well tuned SRAM systems, both electronic and mechanical. There is no real difference in shifting quality: almost 100% crisp shifting with both. Electronic requires less finger power to shift and 2 synchronized ways for front and rear (not huge advantages), at the expense of keeping an eye on charging the batteries of the derailleurs and changing the batteries of the shifter.
Both are very good, but there is a question mark for mechanical shifting: for how long will SRAM / Shimano will sell spare parts?
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Old 11-14-23, 06:17 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
SRAM doesnít use Bluetooth for shifting. They developed their own proprietary, secure, fast, low power network. They only use Bluetooth for connection to the phone App for setup and firmware updates. This suggests that Bluetooth didnít cut it for the shift comms.
campagnolo wireless shifting is Bluetooth-based, according to campagnolo. SRAM may not use BT, but it certainly appears to be adequate for the purpose.
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Old 11-15-23, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by 13ollocks
campagnolo wireless shifting is Bluetooth-based, according to campagnolo. SRAM may not use BT, but it certainly appears to be adequate for the purpose.
That's a good point. Maybe BT is fine, but SRAM must have had a good reason to develop their own network. Electronics is not really my field, but I don't like the Shimano wired solution. It seems unnecessary and makes installation/maintenance much harder work. I fully expect Shimano to go wireless sooner or later. I think it is almost inevitable.
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Old 11-15-23, 08:06 AM
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I love my Ultegra 12sp Di2. My Canyon Endurace came with it installed/setup and they must have gotten it right at the factory because it shifts beautifully, I've never touched it. After about 1000 miles it's still shifting flawlessly. I guess you can call me a Di2 fanboy.
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Old 11-15-23, 08:11 AM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
That's a good point. Maybe BT is fine, but SRAM must have had a good reason to develop their own network. Electronics is not really my field, but I don't like the Shimano wired solution. It seems unnecessary and makes installation/maintenance much harder work. I fully expect Shimano to go wireless sooner or later. I think it is almost inevitable.
Having a single very large (ish) battery for 2 shifters is a good alternative to 2 smaller batteries that would need charging more frequently. With the Shimano system, once installed (and sometimes thatís done on a new bike), you donít ever deal with the internal wiring). Yes a SRAM system is easier to install if you are doing the work, but Iíve installed 2 Di2 systems and itís never difficult. Shimano got smart making the road shifters wireless, but in use, both systems work well and are pretty much maintaince free.
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Old 11-15-23, 08:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Steve B.
Having a single very large (ish) battery for 2 shifters is a good alternative to 2 smaller batteries that would need charging more frequently. With the Shimano system, once installed (and sometimes thatís done on a new bike), you donít ever deal with the internal wiring). Yes a SRAM system is easier to install if you are doing the work, but Iíve installed 2 Di2 systems and itís never difficult. Shimano got smart making the road shifters wireless, but in use, both systems work well and are pretty much maintaince free.
I actually prefer having 2 swappable batteries for redundancy and off-bike charging. Battery life is plenty long enough for me not to care really. It's not a deal breaker for me, but I do prefer SRAM for electronics.
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Old 11-15-23, 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
That's a good point. Maybe BT is fine, but SRAM must have had a good reason to develop their own network. Electronics is not really my field, but I don't like the Shimano wired solution. It seems unnecessary and makes installation/maintenance much harder work. I fully expect Shimano to go wireless sooner or later. I think it is almost inevitable.
I agree - now that Campag has also opted for full wireless, I don't see Shimano sticking with semiwired for long. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Campag user, so I was holding off on any decisions re going electronic until I saw what they came out with: Wireless - good - I have a classic Ti frame that I didn't want to start drilling into. Different FD and RD batteries - not good, but AFAIK SRAM had a patent on identical swappable batteries, so Campag had no choice. But again Campag have (so far) limited this to their $$$$ Super Record group, the preserve of well-heeled gentleman cyclists and one(!) pro team. Until they come out with a reasonably-priced (ie Chorus-level) electronic groupset, I'm sticking with mechanical. The other imponderable is whether any new electronic group sets will be rim-brake compatible. If the new disc-only 105 Di2 is indicative of the future, I may be running out of options if I want to keep riding my current frame (2000 Litespeed)
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Old 11-15-23, 04:18 PM
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I switched from rim brake to disc brake over 3 years ago. No regrets. The biggest improvement is being able to have 28-35mm tubeless tires on wider 25mm IW hookless rims that need far less pressure. It makes a big improvement in the ride. Right now I'm using 28mm front and 30mm rear with 55 psi in both, on 3 bikes.

I used Campy for 25 years, but switched to SRAM AXS in 2020. It shifts every bit as well and it's far less trouble compared to internally routed cables.
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Old 11-15-23, 10:24 PM
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This is not a common opinion, but I actually quite like Shimano's half wireless setup. It's only at the shifters where I see wireless mattering at all and the wired bits are going to be all internal in most frames anyways. That said, I'm plotting my next build and actually planning to run fully wired 12sp Di2. Since there's no more A-junction to worry about, all it takes is 2 extra wires and they'll only have to be routed once. That seems like a good tradeoff to me for never having to worry about coin cell batteries and having the same exceptionally long battery life as 11sp setups do.
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Old 11-16-23, 01:37 AM
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Originally Posted by lasauge
This is not a common opinion, but I actually quite like Shimano's half wireless setup. It's only at the shifters where I see wireless mattering at all and the wired bits are going to be all internal in most frames anyways. That said, I'm plotting my next build and actually planning to run fully wired 12sp Di2. Since there's no more A-junction to worry about, all it takes is 2 extra wires and they'll only have to be routed once. That seems like a good tradeoff to me for never having to worry about coin cell batteries and having the same exceptionally long battery life as 11sp setups do.
I'm in the process of converting a bike to Shimano GRX Di2 that's fully wired. I'm waiting on a few bits and pieces before I actually do the wiring. Maybe I'll be frustrated and cussing up a storm once I do it. Though I doubt it. No question a fully wireless system is easier to physically install. But, it's a one time thing. Is it really harder than replacing shift housing on a mechanical setup? Of course, I'm sure some bikes are harder than others.

I certainly like the Ultegra Di2 I have on my road bike. While it has wireless shifters, I like that I don't need to keep two separate derailleur batteries charged up. I'm not saying that makes it better than a fully wireless system. Just that it is a positive in the wired system's favor.

In the end, I'm going to chose the product I want to ride and use regularly, and don't put much weight on whether it takes a few hours more to install it.
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Old 11-16-23, 07:59 AM
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Having two batteries is nothing to complain about if you have two chargers. A full charge only takes an hour. I always carry a spare, so I'll never be without power. On a hilly 46 mile ride with over 3500 feet of climbing, I made 12 FD shifts and 450 RD shifts. My usual summer week is three 52 mile rides. I recharge every week, just to be safe.
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Old 11-16-23, 10:12 AM
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Originally Posted by eduskator
One is better than the other. One is more expensive than the other.

People trying to convince you that mechanical is better would probably also tell that a Porsche with a manual transmission is faster and better than a PDK one.
A manual vs a PDK box in a Porsche (or SMG, DSG or what ever branding of DCT transmissions in other vehicles) is nothing like electronic shifting verses mechanical on a bike. There is no automatic shifting, just simple electronic buttons, (stepper) motors doing the work actuating the derailleurs. Many seem to think that electronic shifting is faster, better than mechanical have never used Campy Ultrashift. Dump 5 cogs down, 3 up as fast as the gear train is turning. That said, Campy is like a having a sequential dog box.

No one comments much about the downsides of electronic shifting. When things break, which happens. The down time for simple things that would not happen on a mechanical system. Then there is high cost of systems (and spares, cables, etc), compatibility, proprietary parts and firmware, no component level repairability (no right to repair), battery shelf life, etc... $$$$ Which leads to what made this all possible, cyclists willful acceptance of the planned obsolescence model, and the consumerism mindset. Got to get a new bike as it will make me faster! The marketing man said so!

So now we have throw away electronics and bikes, frames with proprietary parts. One of my bikes have C-Record from 1993. Still shifts like day one. The best part is that till this day, I can tune it and get every part (NOS/used) to maintain or rebuild it. Get an electronic groupset today, out of warrantied parts are just binned. Go buy it again, rinse and repeat.
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Old 11-16-23, 10:21 AM
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Originally Posted by eriku16

Which leads to what made this all possible, cyclists willful acceptance of the planned obsolescence model, and the consumerism mindset. Got to get a new bike as it will make me faster! The marketing man said so!
How do you feel about disc brakes, wider tubeless tyres and CF frames?
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