Thursday, January 26, 2012

Battery-Powered Shifting: A True Story

Campy Only sponsor Larry Theobald of CycleItalia sent in this report (originally titled "A biased and atypical but TRUE story") after a recent ride with a group that included someone using ShimaNO's new D12 electronic gruppo. 

Read on after this report for a few more thoughts from Campy Only and Larry ...

"Yours truly went for a ride today with the guys who show up at a local bar at 2 pm most days. After the usual 'Tuesday Afternoon World Championships' got started I found myself left with two guys, Giuseppe riding a carbon Daccordi with pre-UltraTorque carbon Campagnolo gruppo and Martino, aboard a new-looking BMC machine equipped with Shimano Dura Ace DI2. We were soon joined by Luigi riding a Pinarello Dogma with a recent Record carbon groupset. These fellows were uninterested in making a race of it and were happy just to enjoy the ride, letting me tag along aboard one of our steel rental Torelli bikes equipped with the last version of 9-speed Mirage components. 

We rolled along for a couple of hours with me trying to understand snippets of the Sicilian dialect with little luck, while observing my first Shimano electronic groupset in action. Eventually we reached the town of Canicattini, our highest elevation and turned for home, almost totally downhill. As we gained a bit of speed I noticed Martino going slowly but pedaling quite fast. As I rolled up behind it seemed his ultra-expensive, ultra-sophisticated front derailleur would not obey his command to move the chain up onto the big ring. The other bikes never missed a beat though perhaps their riders did once or twice, but we had to wait for Martino who could only whirl away on his small chainring and tiny cog in back. 

Ironic how the most expensive and sophisticated components among our small group were the ones that failed, especially the very first time I'd seen one of these groups in action."

Campy Only's take is that this story highlights not only the reliability of Campagnolo's components (which CycleItalia uses exclusively), but the folly of relying on batteries to shift your chain. Even if nothing was wrong with Martino's ShimaNO system, a dead or dying battery would have had the same effect ... and this will affect bikes with Campagnolo's EPS system as well.  Welcome to the age of charging up your cell phone, your iPod ... and your bike ... every night.

We asked Larry about this, and he agreed, and pointed to an opinion he wrote on another blog last year (scroll down to September 2) that highlights yet another issue with electronic shifting.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section.



  1. I think there's too much assumed here, given the very little information. Let's face it: Larry doesn't know why the man's Di2 wouldn't shift. Moreover, in the time that it's been out in the wild, Di2 has shown itself to be exceedingly reliable.

    Distorting the facts doesn't make your case. There will be no need to charge EPS every night, just as there is no need to charge Di2 or Ui2 every night. In fact, you can go weeks without charging the batteries in any of the 4 systems that will be on the market. The story certainly does NOT highlight the reliability of Campy components at all. That's nowhere in the related tale.

    Alas, I imagine there were similar complaints and statements from the wagon wheel crowd when pneumatic tires came out. "Now we're going to have to inflate tires every night!" There could very well have been a writer back then who commented on the folly of relying on air to support a tire's shape and the load of a car.

    I love my Campy components, but I'm not so blinded by Campy lust that I don't see issues with Campy. Likewise, I'm not so intoxicated with Campy love that I don't recognize the excellence inherent in Shimano systems.

  2. Robin - the title of my little essay wasn't included. It was "A Biased and atypical, but TRUE story." I'm no fan of battery-operated bicycles even if Campagnolo sells them. Simplicity and serviceability is what I like about bicycles. Electronic components threaten both.

  3. ...way too much assumption here in the item.
    ...and way too much negativity for the new electronic shift systems.
    ...a mechanical shift system can have issues too, like a broken gear cable for instance.
    Respect the mechanical system, perhaps embrace the new system enough to explore its functionality. They work VERY well, and I say that after riding both the Shimano and the new Campagnolo EPS.