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What do you think about electronic MTB components?

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5/31/2014 7:17 PM
Edited Date/Time: 5/31/2014 7:23 PM

We've seen electronic assist in suspension for a little while now (remember the Noleen Smart Shock) and one of our latest test experiences with the new technology was positive. Now Shimano has let the cat out of the bag about their XTR Di2 electronic shifting components. I had the chance to ride the prototypes pictured below at the Di2 press launch and was impressed with how quickly, precisely and effortlessly the shifting happened. The ability to program the shifting to automatically engage the front derailleur was really interesting too. Let's not even think about all the data you could probably ultimately capture from these systems. The cost is pretty outrageous for most of us, but is this the dawn of a new age for MTB?

What do you think about electronic shifting and suspension options that are working their way into mountain biking?

Prototype XTR Di2 rear derailleur below
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Pics from the Lapierre in our test linked above
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5/31/2014 11:54 PM

anything that requires batteries for it to function properly, Im out, unless it charges with the rotation of the wheels, then maybe

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6/1/2014 12:20 AM

yeah me too

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6/1/2014 12:58 AM

for the masses, this is just another reach into your wallet. I mean, who exactly does the additional split second of gear changing really help if you are not a professional cyclist? It's actually an additional complication that literally requires more energy. Can't wait for the marketeering to begin and gullibility to be exploited. But if you got the dosh, spend as you wish.

However, things get properly interesting when considering the professional cyclist: This is where split seconds actually and only matter. I see the current state of the electronic drivetrain technology as the basis for massive rider+machine performance optimisations. With the hardware in the here&now, the next step is integration on a software level, man+machine performance data linked to riding terrain to maximise individual performances with much of the optimisations handled by the drivetrain processing unit. Current HR, training data, GPS data, terrain data from electronic suspension: all feeding into gear selection for the optimal expenditure of human effort.
All the cyclist has to do is crank and look good (thanks clothing sponsors!) while doing it, while obeying the commands emanating from the control system acting as on-board coach.

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6/1/2014 5:09 AM

Robots=batteries
humans=muscles

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6/1/2014 8:54 AM

I often say, it's insanity that you can (in theory) put a chain from a bike 100 years ago, onto a bike today. Enough with gizmos and gadgets and lets get rid of the CHAIN!

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6/1/2014 10:52 AM
Edited Date/Time: 6/1/2014 10:53 AM

This is awesome. I can't wait.

Cyclists are a strange bunch—they cherish 19th-century bike technology, love old school stuff, idolize handbuilt, worship V-brakes, yet arrive at the trailhead in 2015 BMWs wearing polyester clothing (and not cotton overalls while riding a Conestoga wagon).

They pick and choose where they want technology to bring about progress.

This is the new normal. Get used to it. Otherwise, lose the hypocrisy or get a steam-powered penny farthing.


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6/1/2014 11:18 AM

I'll say what I said over on Ridemonkey

can you imagine if they took the money they used to develop this, and put it into a solid gearbox design? this is just further bandaging a design that was dated and less ideal from the day it was made. how about an electronic shifting, servo actuated gearbox? this is stupid. give me a dw link downhill bike and trail bike with a gearbox, and give it to me now!

it is no secret a gearbox is a superior design. let's face it, shimano and sram make big bucks off of people destroying/wearing out their derailleur and needing to buy new ones frequently. not to mention cassettes, chain rings, chains, chain guides, all that shit. a gearbox doesn't have near the amount of consumables, and doesn't wear near as quickly, so in the long run companies will lose money. this is not real innovation, its still a derailleur.

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6/1/2014 11:44 AM

Analog or die

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6/1/2014 2:21 PM

Stiksandstones wrote:

I often say, it's insanity that you can (in theory) put a chain from a bike 100 years ago, onto a bike today. Enough with ...more

belt stuff or direct drive/driveshaft kind of things? what are you thinking?

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6/1/2014 2:29 PM

Will the shifting actually be any quicker? The road DI2 is slower to shift over 3-4 gears than a conventional cable setup.

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6/1/2014 2:52 PM

diatribe69 wrote:

This is awesome. I can't wait.

Cyclists are a strange bunch—they cherish 19th-century bike technology, love old school ...more

A pretty good summary really! "bike brands only just develop technology to take our money, ooh, a new car on finance? with bluetooth and heated seats you say?"

Besides, Shimano already have a gearbox, two in fact!

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6/1/2014 6:26 PM

rusty wrote:

Will the shifting actually be any quicker? The road DI2 is slower to shift over 3-4 gears than a conventional cable setup.

it was really fast/snappy when i tried the prototypes. the biggest difference i noticed is that you don't have to "feather" the shifter to get it crisp, ya know? not all shifts require that, but w/ normal shifting, i definitely know those zones in my shifting that require a little finesse on my end.

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6/2/2014 1:05 AM

I'm all for new technology, development etc but bicycling is human powered machine!

Using batteries and electronics is not human powered, to me, there is very fine line between this and using an electric motor to power the bike.

I read forums where riders have been outraged at the concept of motor assisted motor for the up hills on DH bike, yet everyone seem happy enough electricify everything else.

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6/2/2014 8:11 AM

I don't know to what point electronic components can handle abuse in mountain bike. What if I hit hard an electronic rear derailleur? What happens if battery is out and I am in the middle of nowhere?.

IMO, I will stay with mechanic parts because if something happens to them, something can be improvised (I temporarly fixed a brake with standard cook oil)

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6/2/2014 3:23 PM

on a fundamental level, what exactly is wrong with chains and derailleurs?
efficiency is key on anything powered by humans (cause even the strongest ones are pretty weak compared to the duty cycle of a electric motor or combustion engine), and i just don't see gearboxes reaching the same level of efficiency as a conventional chain/derailleur setup. replacing the chain with a belt drive would be sick, but I think it comes with its own set of drawbacks for MTB usage, namely resistance to the elements and ease of trail side repair.
even with a gearbox, you still have to transmit the power to the hub somehow, and if you kiss the chain goodbye there (for a driveshaft of some kind), you can pretty much kiss multi-link designs and all their benefits good bye too.

if you were to go out on a limb, lets say go with a ring and pinion + CV driveshaft style transmission system, i'd expect to see a big jump in the weight of your rotating assembly, as well as parasitic power loss (CV's develop huge amounts of friction when they move to any slight amount of angle) dependent on where you're at in the travel. ring and pinion designs are inherently weak/flexy by design and want to deflect as soon as they receive torque, look at how much material is needed to contain the R&P on a modern car...then you'd have to find a way to encase and lubricate it, since R&P's work in a much tighter tolerance range than a typical chain setup and would not last 1 ride open to the typical elements of even a dry MTB ride. plus you still haven't solved the problem of how to physically fit it between your wheel, legs and stays...

a modern bicycle has about as much in common with the early "safety" as that 2015 BMW has with a tiller steered electric jalopy from the 1900s.

all that jibberish aside, I think its cool, just like Di2 is cool on road bikes; and also something I would never waste the money on just to have the bragging rights.

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6/2/2014 3:46 PM

I just wan't to see a gearbox like effigear or pinion, packaged a little smaller, and a little lighter. i don't think a drive shaft is the answer to transmitting the power, i am not even a fan of belt drive. i don't think there is any problem with a quality gearbox and a chain used to transmit the power, street bikes and motocross bikes use a chain, so what is really wrong with them? the problem is the transmission itself exposed to the elements, and the inherit wear problem from the design. I hope pinion get a few mainstream brands to pair it up with, as of now, if you want a gearbox bike you have to get some obscure brand with a suspension design that may be hit or miss. the only one I would consider right now is a nicolai with pinion or effigear.

i mean who doesn't like this?

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6/2/2014 3:49 PM

man, that's clean!

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6/3/2014 12:00 PM

definitely clean, and definitely the ideal from a design perspective. Pinion knows where to head with it, the trick is how do you get something like that to go mainstream? I mean, we can't even get a "standardized" BB or head set anymore...a gear box more or less needs to be integral to the frame otherwise its going to add a lot of unnecessary weight and complexity. i can't imagine Giant, Trek and Specialized would all be happy having to run identical designs...which may or may not hash well with linkage designs they have spent millions on over the years.

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6/5/2014 8:18 PM

Now I want a gear box.

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