‘Once upon a time, cyclists from all around the world, from all corners of the road spectrum – from touring to racing, crits to commuting – shifted gears via a slight movement of a cable adding or decreasing resistance…’
Do you remember those parochial days? The days when mechanical groupsets ruled before electronic groupsets sent a jolt through the industry and adorned every form of bike…
Okay, we’re exaggerating their takeover somewhat, but where once electronic groupsets were the sole possession of the professionals, now they’re becoming commonplace for weekend warriors everywhere.
Why is partly because of the undoubted qualities they deliver, no matter what your level of riding or racing. We’ve covered the multitude of electronic benefits in more detail but, as a snapshot reminder, here’s why the likes of Shimano’s Ultegra and Dura-Ace Di2 groupsets are shifting our perception of cycling…
1) Precise and multi-shifting
The primary role of any groupset is sharp, consistent and precise shifting, and that’s exactly where electronic groupsets excel. The fact they rely on an electric current rather than a cable means you don’t get that inevitable slackening – or even fraying – that you do with a cable over time.
This reliability is even more noticeable upfront as a motor in the front derailleur ensures it can generate greater power than a mechanical version, which is needed upfront where out-the-saddle efforts can result in heavier loading. Just a tap of a button and you shift into the relevant gear.
The advantage of an electronic groupset like Shimano’s Di2 is also its ability to shift several gears at once. Clearly you’re rarely going to go crazy and jump from the 28 cassette to 11, but being able to shift two or three gears when cresting a hill or opening an attack on your mates is a useful tool to have in your locker.
2) Bespoke button placement
Another feather in the electronic cap is that you can place the shifters where you want – within reason, of course. Shimano Di2 is arguably the most versatile here, as it allows you to place up to three shifters aboard your pride and joy. This means that in addition to standard shifters, you can position ‘sprint’ shifters on the inside of your drops for swift gear changes when aero, and another set near the stem for climbing with hands on the tops.
3) Cutting-edge technology
How many of you own a top-end bike computer like the latest Garmin Edge? Well, with an electronic groupset like the Di2, you can sync them together and tap into a world of cycling advancements. For example, your Garmin dashboard will now convey a host of useful information like which gear you’re in and, even more usefully, how much battery life you have left. Rather neatly, if you’re using Di2, you can even switch between screens on your Garmin via the buttons on the top of the hoods.
And if that’s yet to convince you of the electronic benefits of Di2, there’s also a battery life that touches 2,000km and a reassuring shifting sound that you’ll never tire of.
2018 Di2 equipped road bikes
Seen in isolation, electronic groupsets are incredibly impressive; loaded onto the world’s greatest bikes, they’re simply untouchable – as you’ll see with this fabulous five…
Shimano’s second-tier, but still startlingly good, Ultegra Di2 groupset provides the beating heart of this frighteningly fast road bike. The frame’s constructed from BMC’s trademark ACE (Accelerated Composites Evolution) carbon that guarantees the most relevant characteristics of a race bike – weight, stiffness and compliance – merge in the most efficient way. BMC’s clever band of Swiss engineers have also designed the frame in such a way that it cleverly accommodates the Di2 junction box. Shimano Di2 hydraulic brakes provide reliable disc-brake stopping duties. A lightweight, comfortable and durable set of carbon clinchers from DT Swiss completes the package.
The Focus Izalco Race boasts a fully equipped Shimano Ultegra Di2 electronic groupset at a competitive price. It’s great value in anyone’s money, especially when you realise the frame it’s attached to is full carbon. The Izalco from German bike manufacturers Focus features internal cable routing for a neat, aerodynamic finish, and that’s married to a comfortable but dynamic geometry that’s equally at home when road racing, sportives or triathlon. Mavic’s Aksium Elite wheelset provides a proven balance of comfort and speed.
950g for a frame? We’ll repeat that: 950g for a frame. Yep, less than a 1kg bag of sugar for this beautiful frame is truly remarkable. Even more remarkable, is that this lightweight frame doesn’t come at the sacrifice of stiffness, as the asymmetrically designed frame and fork balance out pedal power and disc-brake loading perfectly to deliver WorldTour levels of stiffness. And then there’s the comfort factor, heightened by Cannondale’s unique SAVE micro-suspension system that tunes out road buzz and tunes you into road feel. Cannondale’s size-specific construction philosophy means tubes are proportional to the rider. The result? A perfect ride whatever your size. Like the Focus, Mavic Aksium cover wheel duties, albeit a disc version rather than traditional calipers.
Once again, Shimano’s Ultegra Di2 electronic groupset takes efficient care of shifting duties aboard Trek’s pioneered and patented OCLV carbon. OC stands for Optimal Compaction, which refers to the process of layering the carbon sheets that are then compacted into the ideal ratio of resin (which bonds the carbon) and carbon. LV stands for Low Void. These are the spaces that exits between the layers of carbon fibre. Reduce these spaces and, added to the Optimal Compaction, you enjoy greater strength and durability, all at a very low weight. Cue a ride that’s not only fast but also handles with dexterity. Ultegra hydraulic disc brakes guarantee safe stopping, while Trek’s component brand Bontrager sort the slick carbon wheels – the Aeolus Pro 3s.
Okay, this is one for the rider whose pockets are longer than Peter Sagan’s palmarés, but dig deep and you’ll enjoy the ride of your life. Shimano’s top-end Dura-Ace Di2 electronic groupset is untouchable – as is the frame, named after the legendary cobbled classic, which highlights its shock-absorbing DNA. Take Specialized’s ‘Future Shock’ technology – a piston in the headtube with 20mm of travel. Specialized developed this technology in partnership with McLaren Applied Technologies that, without delving into detail that’d tax all but a CERN scientist, improves smoothness, speed and comfort. Hand-built Roval CLX 32 wheels, complete with CeramicSpeed bearings and custom hubs, deliver a final flourish to a truly remarkable ride.
So there you have it – five very different but superb rides aboard electronic-equipped bikes. They’re just a tasty sample from Evans Cycles full menu of Shimano Di2 bikes. Tuck in…