It has been 6 months since I have been riding on the Shimano electronic group set and it has been a great 6 months! When I first got the bike I was excited by the novelty of having electronic shifting and 11 speeds, what I found was a refined shifting system that makes it hard to think about going back to mechanical.
While it is not the top of the line Dura Ace, the Ultegra DI2 is quality group set that is more than most of us weekend warriors need. The first thing I had to get used to was the slightly narrower brake hoods, compared to the SRAM RED hoods on my 2013 EVO. The hoods have good ergonomics and the brake levers have just the right length to fit the hand. Having two buttons to shift the gears was easy to fine tune to my riding style, although there are times when I would inadvertently shift up when I intended to shift down because I was hitting the edge of the wrong button. When this happens it is super easy to correct since it is just a flick of the finger and the derailleur will send the chain singing along to the right gear. Shifting the front derailleur is just as fast, and much smoother than a mechanical version. Go is the worry about making sure the trim is right as the front derailleur will auto trim with a very electronic sounding hiss.
I tried to confuse the shifting by making hard shifts under load while climbing and simultaneously shifting front and rear, but the system took it all in stride and shifted just as smooth as if it were in a repair stand. Braking is solid as you would expect from the reliable Shimano Ultegra group and I have never experienced an inadvertent shift while braking. Even while climbing to the top of Mount Lemmon shifting was super easy and a short reach with little effort. I can certainly see though why adding in climbing shifters, additional buttons on the top of the bars would be a climbers dream.
Battery life is something people have asked about. What if you get stuck with no power? Well, in the 6 months I have had the bike and put over 2000 miles on it, I have charged the battery twice and that was just out of precaution. I have not run it down so low as to get a warning light on my control box. I don’t know how much was left but I would say it was more than 50% still in the charge each time.
Who is ideal for electronic shifting? Well, anyone who wants the easiest shifting system out there for one, but there are those who would definitely benefit from it. People with small hands or fingers who find shifting under some circumstances a challenge would really enjoy it. Also anyone who might have arthritis, carpel tunnel or any other afflictions that restrict dexterity or strength in the hands would really benefit. So yes, besides being super slick and cool, there are reasons why electronic shifting would be perfect for some people.
The down sides, well if you can call it that are few. First for all the weight conscious folks, it does add about 6/10ths of a pound over the standard Ultegra group. On this bike the battery is located on the down tube below the water bottle cage. Now it is possible to get a battery that goes inside the seat post which eliminates the slightly clunky look. You do have more wires running around the handlebars for the control box, but that is minimal.
On top of all the benefits discussed, with this system and a computer you can adjust how fast your shifts are, how many gears you want to run up and down with each shift, and if you are so inclined, flip flop your shifters so the right does the front and vise verse. Each year the systems gets better and better, and luckily it is starting to inch down in price as well. I admit it will be hard to go back to mechanical shifting when my time on this bike is done, but who knows what the future holds. There is always something new and exciting to play with!!
Until next time,