Friday, February 27, 2009

Battery-powered derailleur by Shimano

Article submitted by Marc Bekoff
A new gear system made its debut at the Tour of California 2009.

Cycling Enters the Electronic Age With a New Gear-Shifting System

" . . .Two earlier attempts at electronic gear changing by a French company, Mavic, often malfunctioned in rain. Another company, Campagnolo, has delayed bringing its version to market because of the economic downturn.

" . . .Shimano's version, known as the Dura-Ace Di2 7970, is being used by three professional teams competing in California: Columbia High Road, GarminSlipstream and Rabobank. About 10 riders will race with the system even though they have used it on only one or two training rides after receiving them late this week.

I think the Di2 system is revolutionary...even more dramatic than moving from friction to index shifting and close to what it meant when we went to Ergopower and STI levers. What I saw of the system last year was amazing and chainring shifting is like nothing you can imagine. I should have a set-up for my new bike right after I return from the ToC so you can try it. What the times article does not mention is the elimination of cable pulls for front and rear derailleurs...they are moved by tiny servomotors so no more worn and broken derailleur wires.

It looks like the complete group price is going to be around $4,000 retail vs $2,500 for the new Dura-Ace and $3,200 for Campy 11. For the weight weenies it will be slightly less than the current Dura-Ace group (7800) and probably 100 grams heavier than the new Dura-Ace (7900). The battery has a series of lights to indicate battery power progressing from green to red so anyone should easily be able to monitor the charge and never get caught out. Of course there can be a complete battery failure, but the time in testing by Shimano has shown impressive results. The improvements in battery technology since Mavic's Zap have been significant and the Japanese have been a bit more creative than the French.

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