Japanese company sees no demand from teams or consumers for a wireless groupset

With the impressive SRAM Red eTap groupset being used by two WorldTour teams in 2016, it might seem like wireless is the way forward. But according to Shimano that’s not the case, with the Japanese company seeing no demand for a wireless groupset at the top level.

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Speaking to Cycling Weekly, Takao Harada from Shimano’s component division, said that although the company is constantly speaking to its WorldTour teams as it works on future products, there has not been the demand for wireless shifting from anyone working and riding at the top level of the sport.

“We always ask what they [the mechanics and riders] want at races, but they always say that they are satisfied with the level of Di2. Basically, they haven’t asked us about it.”

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However, that’s not to say that Shimano is resting on its laurels, with Harada also confirming that testing has taken place with wireless shifting. The only thing holding it back apart from the lack of demand at the top level is the lack of general confidence in using wireless compared to Di2, which has been developed over a longer period.

“We’ve already tested wireless, but basically we need people to be confident in the system.”

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That said, a lack of public confidence in a system hasn’t held Shimano back in the past, with the release of Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 in 2008 greeted with suspicion among many in the cycling community. However since then, the system has proved both reliable and popular, so we could well see a wireless groupset from Shimano if SRAM Red eTap flys off the shelves.

  • Booboo88

    The pros don’t need wireless because they are supplied with di2 compatible bikes. And from the early reviews of eTap, shifting it is slightly slower than di2, so why change for the pros? However, there is a demand for wireless shifting from consumers. I think Shimano missed something here. If I have a 9 speed 10 year old bike and want to upgrade my groupset to electronic, I am not going the di2 route because it means having the fugly external cabling. I would rather go wireless. Hope Shimano comes up with something soon.

  • bdh

    +1 @max@disqus_L0RC682wNl:disqus

  • Andrew Bairsto

    Your customers must have terrible brakes.

  • Andrew Bairsto

    In network technology they are being beaten hands down by the Chinese I have worked in the industry all my live up to my retirement and it is becoming increasingly hard to find anything that is not Chinese.

  • Andrew Bairsto

    More fool you.

  • Tim Rowe

    “No demand” for wireless? These guys are delusional.

    Why would I upgrade a groupset from wired to electronic knowing that I need an all-new set of specifically suited cables, and in some cases a compatible frame? What is seriously the point of needing to route cables under the shift hoods and all the way down the frame, only to add time and cost?

    Wow. This explanation is a sad, thinly veiled cop-out.

  • Conscience_of_a_conservative

    Shimano may have succumbed to group think and fear of cannibalizing DI2 sales. Wireless has the appeal of promising to simply installation and lower costs for the OEM. For us riders, wires work fine, but there’s an unmistakable futuristic appeal that getting rid of the wires brings.. SRAM is behind in sales they have to take chances, if it doesn’t work they will get burned badly. Shimano will do fine whether it is first or second with wireless. They’ll be out with it, even if a year or two behind SRAM.

  • Wilson Jamshed

    What ever happened to the Tiso 12spd wireless groupset. Prototype demoed in 2012, but nothing since – Their website looks like it hasn’t been touched since 2014.

  • Wilson Jamshed

    To be fair Sram brought Quarq as a preexisting product that was already being sold so difficult to tell what input on vine electronics they had.

  • Wilson Jamshed

    There are a number of reasons for going wireless including convoluted internal cable/wiring layouts particularly on TT bikes (unfortunately srams system with its large blip box doesn’t really answer this for TT bikes). Also no need for DI2 specific frame – my Scott Plasma, Foil and Canyon Ultimate are all cable versions so to run Dl2 means external cable routing or a hack job neither of which appeal.

  • Roger

    I didn’t start the phone comparison. Also, “non-EOM” is irrelevant. Wireless means 4 batteries, no matter who made the parts or when they were installed. It looks neat but offers no other significant advantage.

  • H.E. Pennypacker

    They’re closer to that than the internal fixed chips hardware in a phone. And you started the phone comparison, not me. You also missed the point of the analogy, which was non-OEM equipment and the move toward wireless.

  • Roger

    Headsets and speakers move around and their distance from the device they are connected to can vary considerably

    Gears get attached to the bike once and thereafter they are completely static. They are nothing like a headset.

  • RWH

    So true….as if the Mechanics are going to say, “Well if you could go and develop an entirely wireless gearing system, that’d be pretty helpful”. They’re mechanics, not designers/engineers (no offence to any mechanics reading this, haha, mean that in the nicest way). Wireless is clearly the way forward with electronic groupsets.

  • Ananke

    Sounds like sour grapes for being beaten to market by SRAM. In the pro scene jamming is probably very much a real concern. No amount of security in the system will prevent that, and all it would require is a group of conspirators at the side of the road just before a steep ramp to potentially change the outcome of a race.

  • H.E. Pennypacker

    The internal phone hardware analogy is misplaced. The groupset on a bike is much more closely analogous to a headset for your phone (or a pair of speakers) since it’s an aftermarket, non-OEM set of pieces that you attach to the frame. (Though, obviously, that analogy is still imperfect since phones can still serve their core function without aftermarket add-ons.) But things like headsets and speakers have been moving toward wireless for years.

  • H.E. Pennypacker

    Sometimes advancement and progress aren’t necessarily about solving problems. Sometimes it’s about innovation, adaptation, and pushing the envelop on new horizons. And many of the “problems” new technologies solve are either inconveniences or problems people didn’t realize they had. And that’s okay. The iPhone didn’t necessarily solve a lot of “problems” either.

  • H.E. Pennypacker

    I am just such a man.

  • NitroFan

    You have somewhat misinterpreted my post! Nokia were also THE global leader in their field that being mobile phone technology however they misread their market and built their case for no change on aspects of mobile phone technology that their customers no longer saw as being a key reason for buying a mobile phone (Incidentally it was Voice Clarity)! thus a world and market leader disappeared very very quickly.

    What I was saying is that Shimano the inventor and some would argue the current leaders in electronic shifting, would ONLY dissappear if they were daft enough to bury their head in the sand on the subject of wireless shifting should the market feels it does want it. Otherwise I think Shimano are quite safe!

  • earth

    They invented electronic shifting. That’s hardly burying their head in the sand. I think eTap will be in demand and I’m sure Shimano will release their alternative.

  • Phew

    Hi Roger, although the gear mech and levers are part of the same bike they are remote from each other and in the case of electronic shifting need to be connected either by wires or wirelessly. The internal components of a mobile phone are hard wired as are most in a printer. What internal wires there are are out of the way where they can’t be snagged. I’m not saying that I’m a particular fan of electronic shifting, personally I prefer the simplicity of wires, but I do think that wireless is the only logical way forward and I don’t for one minute believe that Shimano are any less convinced than me. Time will tell…

  • Roger

    Except that this isn’t “tech that needs to be connected to something else”. It’s all part of the same bike, and the only benefit of wireless is that it looks slightly neater.

    Would you want the internal components of your phone (or computer or printer) to be connected wirelessly? Even if it meant your phone (or whatever) needed four batteries? Or how about the gearbox and gear lever of your car, if it meant an extra battery or two, which needed to be recharged every few weeks?

  • Roger

    Di2 and EPS are electric/electronic. In both systems, the derailleurs are shifted by electric motors. The control signals from the control levers to the derailleurs are transmitted by cable, as is the energy supply from the battery to the derailleurs and to the control levers. So these systems are not wireless.

  • MountainGoat44

    Could someone explain the difference between electronic shifting and wireless? I thought Shimano Di2 was wireless shifting, so the article’s title threw me off a bit?

  • Chris

    Phew, I agree 100% with your statement, Wireless is the way to go! I have Sram and Shimano, each on different bikes. Overall I prefer Shimano. I have been looking to purchase a new bike for sometime, but will wait until Shimano launch wireless and I have made up my mind, re: discs or callipers.

  • Phew

    Pros are traditionally very conservative in their choice of gear. They want to know that it won’t break, so Shimano don’t look to them to decide what to make and market. They DO want the pros to use their new products because that helps to give it credibility for the mass market that the manufacturers are aiming at. I personally suspect that Shimano are pulling out all the stops to develop wireless shifting to rival Sram. I don’t believe Shimano believe there’s no demand for wireless shifting – it doesn’t make sense. I personally like std STI shifting with cables but logic tells me that if shifting is going electronic then wireless is the way it’s going to go. Isn’t that the case with all the other tech we use now the needs to be connected to something else? Phones, computers, tablets, printers…

  • wenchiana

    Shimano are saying they listen to their customers who don’t want to go wireless right now. And if a Japanese company has tested something it pretty much says they are almost ready to start production and distribution if a need arises.
    And Nokia is not doomed. They were in deep water. Now they are out of consumer devices focusing on network equipment and ict.

  • MrHaematocrit

    Why it is wireless the way forward when going electronic shifting, issues are being discovered that you don’t have with a wired system such as battery drain while the bikes being transported on a roof rack.


    What problem does wireless solve past making it easier to build a bike, bear in mind that you still need to route brake cables or hoses.

  • Mechanix

    As someone who works in a bike shop we can see a trivial one off installation benefit for etap. And as pro hike builders that’s handy. But not worth the cost or risk of dodgy SRAM electronics a la quarq.
    And FWIW disc brake demand is being driven by consumers who experience real benefits. Not pros or pro team mechanics.

  • Richard Braginton

    but surely sram e tap style is the way forward when electronic changing was first mentioned i automatically thought it would be wireless. quite surprised when you still had to fiddle wires through the frame and pad out batteries to stop it rattling in the frame tubes even the actual changing seem totally logical. PS i speak as a campag user mechanical. If i was starting again tap or something tap style would be definitely the route to go

  • Mike Williams

    This reminds me of Suntour’s “we don’t see any demand for indexed shifting” stance that helped kill their best-in-class derailleur business (fwiw: I have a Suntour Superbe equipped bike in my collection and after 30+ years it is still a thing of beauty).

  • Harry Okin

    Yeah right, stacks of Pro riders and Mechanics begged Shimano for disc brakes.

  • NitroFan

    Only if they bury their head in the sand in the same way Nokia did!

  • Dan

    Agreed, pros didn’t ask for disc brakes yet the industry is pushing them.

  • “Shimano is doomed”?
    I think Shimano are going to continue to do just fine for the foreseeable future

  • I often wonder about this too.
    For me, the case of the Venge Vias and whether or not Cav and Sagan were initially riding it was quite interesting. It told me that no matter how much a company touts a new product publicly, a pro rider/team still has the final say on what they ride (within reason) when it’s a big race and the chips are down.

  • Mister Epic

    Shimano is simply saying they don’t want to compete but cycling as we know is highly competitive market. Shimano is doomed similar to the fate of NOKIA.

  • Max Smith

    And did the pros ask for Di2 electronic shifting? Of course not. This is Shimano scrambling to catch up and they are blowing smoke at us. I am sure they are testing wireless now and are probably dancing around how to copy several of the SRAM features without impinging on whatever design patents are involved.
    I hope Shimano does work it out and get a product out because it will keep overall prices down to us.

  • wenchiana

    It says there that Shimanos speaks to the pro team mechanics as well. So I guess they too are saying wireless is not needed. I wonder how much power Shimano, SRAM and FSA have. Can they shove new products to the teams and make teams use them in races for marketing purposes even if the teams would not always need/want to.
    I agree with you on the wireless for consumers’ bike builds. Changing parts would be easier. I wonder when we will see electronic brakes and if anyone is brave enough to trust braking to wires instead of cables/hoses.

  • MD

    Pros don’t need wireless because they don’t do their own bike maintenance and building and their frames will naturally be suitable for DI2 wiring. The rest of us who want to use electronic shifting would find it easier to install on a wider variety of frames than the current DI2 setup.

  • MrHaematocrit

    SRAM are legendary for releasing products with issues and using early adopters to test the product such as Hydro-R rim brakes, it’s going to take a brave man with deep pockets to go near e-tap in the first six months