It might be great, but have you been warned about some of its pitfalls?

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Now de rigeur in the pro peloton and more and more common amongst the weekend warriors and once a fortnight plodders, electronic gearing is definitely here to stay.

The most common is Shimano’s Di2, available in both Dura Ace and Ultregra options. There is also Campagnolo’s EPS and SRAM’s revolutionary wireless offering.

Whatever people choose, things might not pan out as they expected and here are the six occurrences they might find themselves facing.

1. The bike might arrive with a flat battery

Just waiting to head off on a ride…. Photo: Jack Elton-Walters

Just waiting to head off on a ride…. Photo: Jack Elton-Walters

When your shiny new machine finally arrives all you want to do is throw your leg over it and get riding.

With pedals, lights and bottle cages attached you’re good to go. Or are you.

Try and shift down as you roll down the road outside your house and you might find that nothing’s happening.

The bike has arrived uncharged, so it’s back indoors to sit around in your lycra for an hour of so whilst you get some juice into the derailleurs. Fingers crossed it doesn’t start raining in that time.

2. Cold weather can shorten the battery life

Did you put enough layers on? (Photo: Andrew McCandlish)

Gears still working? Photo: Andrew McCandlish

Few of us will be using our Di2-equipped best bike through the colder weather (if we’ve got one, that is), but those who do might need to stay within reach of a plug socket or a train station.

>>> Common sense rules for modern road riding

As is the case with many battery operated devices, some riders have reported a much lower shift count is possible before the next charge when riding in colder climes, particularly at altitude.

3. It doesn’t switch back to mechanical when the battery dies

An obvious thought to most reading this but it’s not as simple as that. If the battery dies mid-ride you’re a bit stuck given that it won’t just start shifting mechanically when the battery needs a rest.

It would be a good back-up option if it did though…

4. The buttons are close together, you might press the wrong one

Shimano Ultegra Di2 6870 groupset

The mechanical versions of Shimano Dura Ace and Shimano Ultegra feature the brand’s STI shifters. On the right lever, controlling the rear mech, push the whole brake lever ensemble to enact a downshift and the smaller behind lever for an upshift. Clear and simple.

On the electronic Di2 versions of these shifters you will find the brake lever remains static throughout transmission. There is now a thin button that does the downshifting and the same lever as mechanical for upshifting.

These are much closer together than their cabled cousins and so you might find yourself pushing the wrong one. Do that on a 20% climb and you’ll know about it.

This problem is worse still when wearing gloves when your chubby fingered-ness can cause all sorts of problems.

5. The cable can jump out

As Thibaut Pinot found on stage three of this year’s Tour de France when his GC bid ended on the cobbles of the north, rougher roads can play havoc with the connections on electronic gears.

We may never know exactly what happened to the young Frenchman’s bike, or indeed what was going through his head when he had a bit of a strop about it, but it looks as though the cable jumped out of his rear mech ending his ability to change gear at the back. Pretty essential in all non-track races.

6. It’s so much better than mechanical you’ll never want to go back

Ride this, then think if you really want to go back to your Shimano Sora. Photo: Daniel Gould

Ride this, then think if you really want to go back to your Shimano Sora. Photo: Daniel Gould

Anyone who’s never used electronic gears, either Shimano’s range of Di2 or the excellent Campagnolo EPS, may not see the appeal or indeed the necessity.

As with most pro level tech items on a bike, such as deep section wheels or frames that are worth more than the average deposit on a house, electronic gears are essentially made for pros and only really need to be used by pros.

Most of us will get higher gains from more time in the saddle and less time at the buffet, so you might ask if electronic groupsets are strictly necessary.

However, any concerns about having a bike that far outstrips your own ability to ride it fast enough will be easily forgotten about after just a few gear shifts of an electronic groupset.

Perfect shifting, self-regulating front mech to avoid chain rub, low weight and a highly asthetically pleasing set-up, what’s not to love?

If you’re not going to buy a bike with Di2 (you’re not alone) then do yourself a favour and don’t ride one with it on. That way you won’t know what you’re missing.

  • Headster

    The only “pitfall” of what’s listed as such is #3 – even then you get ample warning to shift to a reasonable gear ratio if you pay attention. I’m a recreational (distance) rider and I disagree that Di2 only “need” to be used by pros, because:

    – the derailleurs don’t need frequent adjustment; it’s rare for these to go out of adjustment.
    – it’s tough (not impossible) to drop your chain
    – Di2 can be programmed to shift 2-3 gears cassette gears (maybe more) at once
    – it will trim automatically – cross-chaining doesn’t happen
    – with an additional gizmo most (all?) new Garmins can read Di2 battery life, gear ratio, and gears you are on (only the first is really important)
    – retrofits on older bikes (without cable routing) look ugly

    There’s probably more, but not having to go in once every 2-3 months to get my derailleur adjusted is my biggie. (I am not mechanically “handy”.)

  • Douglas Schwab

    Pitfalls yes, but as a rank low mileage novice, my ambition is to change gear more often. It is easy to leave the gear in and push harder, but this doesn’t build stamina. I was with downtube levers until last year and remember well moving two levers whenever I wanted to maximise output. Mechanical levers have not encouraged changing. So I now hope DI2 will get me making small gains constantly no matter the ride length or terrain.

  • Nathan Budd

    I’d say in that scenario, you’re actually choosing function over form.

  • risandi pradipto

    once again, interesting thought

  • risandi pradipto

    very interesting thought, gbacoder

  • Anchovy Garbanzo

    My frame isn’t made for Di2, so I solved that dilemma by not shifting as much.

  • Michael

    Well, for me it is really simple, I cant se one single point where mechanical is better or even as good as electric. When you have your mechanical gears perfectly set up they run smooth and fine, but you still have to adjust from time to time.

    The constant smooth and always correct gearing with electric is just superior, especially the FD, never a dropped chain, always quiet and crisp.

    I also use “sprint buttons” wich of course is impossible with mechanical, I also like to have my buttoms in a differnt set-up than mechanical, Di2 lets me program them as i want.(lighter greaing on the left and heavier on the right, front and rear, much more logic in my book then std),and connected to my Edge 1000 it gives me some useful information, nothing you cant live without but when used to it is great.

    I reallty tried not to upgrade my “nr3” bike, but everytime i rode it i missed the benefits from my other bikes Di2 and I had to dig in my pockets and make the upgrade on this one as well 🙂

    By now I have done about 15000km with my Di2´s without any issues at all, so yes, I stand by my point saying no chance I go back to mechanical gearing again, I just cant se any reason why i should.
    And the only reason I can see for anyone not to go electric is of course the diffence in price.
    But as most things in life, people se things different and as long as one is happy with what they have it´s fine by me.
    BR
    Michael

  • gbacoder

    I cannot understand that statement, because when i’m riding, I’m just not noticing the gears. My mechanical gears are good enough that I just don’t notice them. I’m just riding. How can that be so bad to result in you saying “no chance I ever go back to mechanical again.”

    Even when riding with others who get elec shifting, they don’t suddenly seem any faster than they were before. It’s all mainly down to fitness, as it was before.

    My gears change as and when I want them to, I just don’t notice them.

  • gbacoder

    reminds me of steel vs. ali or carbon bikes. steel gives a finer ride that some love, whereas ali is less alive but faster.

  • gbacoder

    do you not think the bikes you can get for 2k might have compromised on other components in order to get elec gears in at such a price? most elec geared bikes seem to be higher priced.

  • gbacoder

    mechanical gears are great though. i’ve done 3000 miles on my mtb, without changing even the inner cable. no adjustments needed. gear changing is fine, I don’t notice it. I may change the cables soon, no big deal though. I used all the way continuous outer and a quality inner.

  • gbacoder

    middle-aged, middle-class, who like to think they have the finer things.

    reality is there’s not so much of a difference, when you get used to it.. the brain notices changes and improvements at first, but then it all becomes the same. it’s just their brains being conscious of differences for a while. and for a while this makes them enjoy it. but then it all slips back into the subconscious.

    of course, if they went back to try a mechanical bike, their brains would notice the differences again, this time it would seem horrible to them and they would wonder how they “used to live with it”.

    but if they actually persisted with the mechanical gears, they would after a while, get used to them. they would not notice the ever so slightly slower shifts and would just experience riding their bikes again..

    sadly few will accept that this is what really happens , as having invested so much in the fancy gearing, and said all kinds of good things about it, they will not want to believe that once used to it, it makes little difference to their cycling experience. they would rather go on in the illusion that they are having a much finer gear experience than their fellow riders, relishing in the benefits of being a middle class rider with taste.

    I say, let them believe their illusion, if it makes them feel better.

  • gbacoder

    Tom, I agree once most people have tried they never go back. But not for the reasons you think. here is a point i made above :-

    point 6 is misleading. in that a person always notices changes .

    then they get used to it, so it really seems to make little difference.

    it is the same when swapping back to a mechanical geared bike. at first your brain highlights all the differences. you notice the poot changes and don’t feel good about it.

    but something interesting happens after a while, your brain stops noticing the differences, and it all soon becomes normal. you change gear when you need to and it happens as you need it to. bike rides become much the same again.

    if only more reviewers were aware of and honest about this effect, it could save people a lot of money!

    so for that reason, I saw in reality, as you live with them, electronic brakes make little difference, especially in how you feel about them. only initially do you feel something, but sadly, it does not last.

  • gbacoder

    point 6 is misleading. in that a person always notices changes .

    then they get used to it, so it really seems to make little difference.

    it is the same when swapping back to a mechanical geared bike. at first your brain highlights all the differences. you notice the poot changes and don’t feel good about it.

    but something interesting happens after a while, your brain stops noticing the differences, and it all soon becomes normal. you change gear when you need to and it happens as you need it to. bike rides become much the same again.

    if only more reviewers were aware of and honest about this effect, it could save people a lot of money!

    so for that reason, I saw in reality, as you live with them, electronic brakes make little difference, especially in how you feel about them. only initially do you feel something, but sadly, it does not last.

  • Di2 has been completely reliable on my commuter bike (much more so than its cable-operated predecessor) but my concern with an internal routed frame would be cable faults – bottom bracket out job to fix those. Easy enough but time-consuming and not a roadside fix. My external wiring install is plain ugly but sometimes you have to choose form over function 🙁

  • I like SRAM’s approach with wireless, particularly for frames without internal routing. External Di2 routing is never pretty and you can charge the batteries without bringing the whole bike indoors

  • Just get the right tool – only a couple of quid. Essential part of your toolkit if you have a Di2 bike – easy to dislodge an STI cable in a crash which will leave you stuck in gear without. The cables are very tight (to stop them wiggling out over rough terrain and keep water out) and you won’t get them in by hand. Both ends of the cable are the same, just pop the connector in the tool, line up, and push firmly until you hear a click. The cable ties mentioned in the above post are standard fit – stop the cables rattling around inside the frame which rapidly gets annoying on a silent bike

  • Michael

    You are absolutly right, I bought one bike with Di2 and ended up up-grading my other two roadbikes. There is no chance I ever go back to mechanical again.

  • J1

    You’ll need to buy it twice if you can’t go back to mechanical though, your winter bike will need the upgrade. I’m scared to sample it until I can afford at least two Di2 equipped bikes!

  • Tifosi Nelson

    Mechanical my deal. I love the feeling of shifting gears on my pinarellos. EPS strictly for pros, where every nano seconds counts.
    Just an opinion….

  • asok

    After 3 years of riding in all seasons including winters in Vermont, I must say that the first five points made here are largely exaggerated. The battery lasts “FOREVER”. Once a month in winter and once a quarter in summer is all you need. Snow, dirt etc are no issues, I have hosed the bike 50 times and never had an issue. Also after first few days I have never pressed the wrong button, its a completely lame point. Di2 is plain incredible and is here to stay.

  • dannybuoy

    Blimey, sounds like a nerve racking experience. I hear clicking the connector in is hard but this sounds like a make or break situation(pun intended). I’ve got over 8 weeks until delivery to build up my courage!

  • Berth Ljunggren

    Expensive combination 🙂

  • Ruti Guzman Candido

    Ok guys I understand some of the things they try to explain here, but come on the editor is definitely exaggerating. I’ve been riding with Di2 since the 1st year it was available. Haven’t had any problems with the battery of shifting during the cold winter. And yes he’s right.. once you go electronic you’ll never want to go back.

  • ian franklin

    Perhaps: But there’s no way I’d ever ride Shimano. Campag for me!

  • Jeffrey Friedl

    “Necessary”…. “sufficient”…. Ian, these are not concepts that come into play when middle-aged men discuss their toys. 🙂

  • Jeffrey Friedl

    I took a spin with my Ultegra Di2 yesterday after reading this, paying attention to the close-together buttons. I realized that one button sticks out to the side (as Kevino above found out the hard way), so that if you just mash the entire general area with your glove, you’ll get that button.

    The other button extends quite a bit closer to the rider than the other one, so using just a finger in that area should have little chance of button confusion.

    I’ve never used my Di2 with gloves, so perhaps these observations are rubbish. I’ll give it a test later today. 😉

  • Jeffrey Friedl

    Just to give a bit more detail, the Di2 battery is in the seatpost, which must be connected to a wire emerging from the seatpost hole in the frame, before inserting the seatpost into the frame….

    It takes a fair bit of force to get the wire to click into the connector on the seatpost, and Shimano recognizes that if you try to do it by hand, you may end up overbending the wire as you try to shove it from behind onto the connector, so they include a little tool that holds the male connector (on the end of the wire), and then you use that to shove into the female connector on the battery.

    Anyway, the wire emerging from the frame had a thick ziptie attached to it just below the connector. I’m guessing that Rose added this, and my best guess for why is to perhaps inhibit the wire from falling back into the hole during shipping? I’m not sure, but since the ziptie was attached to the wire and nothing else, it seemed out of place. There’s no way the wire could fit into the insertion tool with the ziptie in place, so I (very carefully!) cut it from the wire.

    But even then, the wire would not fit into the insertion tool because its rubber shell was way too thick. My guess is that Rose installed the wire backwards, leaving the tool-appropriate end attached somewhere inside the frame.

    So, I attached the wire gently by hand to get it into place, then used something to shove the connector from behind to force it into the connector in the seatpost. It takes a bit of force before it fully clicks in.

  • Shaun

    The review is just a load of rubbish!!
    1. Flat battery when new, not a major issue – don’t most rechargeable products come with instructions charge fully before 1st use?
    2. Yes batteries dont last as long in cold weather, but from reading the issue it sounds like you need to take a charger with you on a ride! And at what altitude makes a noticable difference to a battery? I charge my bike up around every 1000 miles.
    3. Not difficult to check the battery charge -check every week or so (assuming you are on the bike every day) then you will have plenty of warning when the battery is getting low. No reason to run it down flat.
    4. About the only point I agree with, buttons are close together which makes them tricky to use with thick winter gloves.
    5. Rubbish!
    6. “electronic gears are essentially made for pros and only really need to be used by pros” You can buy bikes for around 2k with di2 on, is that made for a pro?

    I look forward to the review “Six things no one ever told you about Shimano mechanical gears!”

  • Mick Ayres

    Shaun is right as you fit the connectors you push and you feel one click then keep pushing and you feel a second click.Once that has happened they will not move infact the connector then takes some getting off

  • Tom

    I think I’ll wait until it’s as cheap to replace an electronic front or rear mech as the cable pulled equivalent.

  • Kenneth Sanders

    The biggest pitfall is the price$$$$$ and the second is that the development of newer systems is very slow. I will have to assume this is how the bicycle industry wants it. Much like the UCI

  • dannybuoy

    oh, that doesn’t sound good. Isolated incident hopefully. Not sure I have the skills to do anything over basic set up. Cheers for the heads up

  • Shaun

    There is no chance a cable would just unplug over rough ground – if it did happen then it can’t have been fitted properly. We’ve got di2 on MTB now, don’t you think we would be having loads of issues with cables unplugging offroad!

  • Tom Jeffs

    There’s nothing particularly complicated about Di2, in fact I’d say it’s much, much simpler than cabled gears. The Ultegra system runs on only two conductors. Trust me, once you try it, you’ll never go back.

  • ian franklin

    I can see the appeal to some people, but for me it is totally unnecessary. I like the beauty of my shifters (Campag) which is sufficient for daily riding and 300m per week with the boys. It’s OK for pro teams with their mechanical resources to hand, but for the average Joe?

  • blkdog

    I bought a Di bike (Kestrel) just to try it out. Very impressive and the battery charge lasts far longer than my friends with the Campag EPS tell me there’s does. Since the purchase I suffered a stroke and it has become very difficult to use the front changer on any other regular bike with cables. So for me it looks like the electric changer is a God-Send. Now I want an electronic triple 🙂

  • Jeffrey Friedl

    Dannybuoy, just an FYI on a Di2 from Rose, you may need to YouTube “Shimano TL-EW02 tool” in order to assemble things. The instructions were a bit difficult for me to follow, combined with what I think was a wire installed backwards by Rose made it impossible to install without external research and some fudging around.

  • Fabitus Racing

    also disc brakes included in this tech pack to cover all the new

  • LaszloZoltan

    I think the biggest pitfall is the pace of technological innovation. Wireless bluetooth, and small li batteries are next, which will make it hard to get a good value on selling your used Di2 offsetting your investment.

  • lee

    Enjoy 😉 – would prefer e-tap but thats 11sp. ;( – nice lever shape tho…..

  • dannybuoy

    Just recently ordered a Rose with Di2. I’m aware of the pitfalls and am seriously looking forward to seeing what it can do. I’m far from pro but I’m a tech obsessive and an impulsive one at that. I imagine I’m going to be converted. Thanks for the pointers.

  • Rouleur99

    Are you actually serious? Batteries don’t work so well in the cold. Who knew? It will charge enough for a few rides in 5 minutes. An electronic system doesn’t work in manual. Well, I never.