E-Bike Shifters: Are They Worth Buying?
Bikes have come a long way and every year new technologies hit the market to make cycling easier, safer and more fun than ever, from single-speed penny farthings to fully electric bikes with automatic shifting and braking. ABS.
One innovation that has become popular is the electronic shifter, a technology that has positioned itself at the high end of the drivetrain market and which many tech-savvy cyclists consider a must-have. But are electronic controllers worth the investment?
What is electronic gear shifting?
Electronic shifters combine several technologies to improve the performance of your bike. In some cases, they eliminate the need for cables connecting your bike’s shifters to the front and rear derailleurs. In your cockpit, programmable buttons replace gear levers, and the front and rear derailleurs are equipped with servos powered by an onboard battery that allows them to shift gears electronically.
In order for these devices to communicate, wireless controllers can use two wireless protocols for connectivity: the widely popular Bluetooth and the second generation advanced and adaptive networking technology (also known as ANT+).
Used by fitness companies such as Nike, Adidas and Fitbit, ANT+ was designed specifically for fitness gadgets such as the Apple Watch Ultra and Garmin MARQ, heart rate monitors, power meters and cadence sensors because it requires less power than Bluetooth.
Performance Benefits of Electronic Throttles
Many people who use electronic controllers tout the performance benefits as the main reason for the switch. For example, the possibility of going up or down becomes much easier because no mechanical force is required to move the shifter or pull a cable to operate the derailleur.
Because they are electronic, they are also programmable. Electronic shifters can be set up so you can shift two or even three gears at once with just a push of the shift button.
Another performance benefit of electronic shifters is their ability to provide more consistent shifting. There are no more variables to worry about like stretched cables or contaminated cable jackets, which can hamper the performance of a mechanical setup.
Electronic shifters let you see what gear you’re in when paired with a bike computer, and shift data is accessible online so you can see how long you’re in each gear. The information provided by electronic shifters can be useful to you, as it can help you choose the ideal gear ratio for your bike and give you an indication of how your fitness level is changing over time.
Reliability and maintenance of the electronic gear lever
Because electronic controllers have different mechanical components built into them, you might be inclined to think there’s more that can go wrong. And while in some cases that might be true (for example, if you forget to charge the batteries), because there are no cables to replace, electronic controllers can be more reliable and require less maintenance. than traditional mechanical shifters.
Cost of electronic controllers
While they offer benefits, electronic shifters are unquestionably more expensive than mechanical ones, and you’ll only find high-end bikes equipped with electronic shifters on the showroom floor. If you’re buying an electronic shifter as an upgrade, you’ll need to factor in the cost of extras such as a charging station, handlebar mount, and in some cases, battery and wiring.
Replacing an electronic shifter will also cost significantly more than a mechanical shifter, so if you’re a mountain biker prone to bumping into rocks or stumps and want to keep costs down over time, you may want to -be avoid electronic shifters until they become cheaper.
That said, it may be worth considering that by using electronic throttles you will no longer need to replace your cables and housing as they wear out, typically once or twice a year depending on how often you which you ride a bike.
Batteries and charging of the electronic bicycle shifter
Like many people considering switching to electronic controllers for the first time, you may be worried about running out of battery during a ride. This is a reasonable concern since for it to work it needs to be charged.
The Shimano Di2 system uses a single battery and a charge lasts several hundred kilometres, although the exact distance can vary depending on how often you ride, how often you change gears and the temperature. The other major manufacturer, SRAM, claims its eTap system can last over 1,000 miles of typical riding.
All electronic shifting systems on the market have a battery life indicator, with flashing or solid LEDs to signal when the battery is low or very low. That way, you’ll know when to recharge your battery long before it’s completely drained.
Popular electronic shifter options
Two of the most popular electronic shifting groupsets, made by two of the biggest manufacturers of bicycle components, are the Shimano Di2 and SRAM AXS systems. The main difference between them is that Shimano shifters use E-Tube wires to connect components, and everything is powered by a single battery. On the other hand, the SRAM AXS system uses a wireless signal to connect shifters and derailleurs, meaning each part requires its own battery.
The advantage of having a single battery is that your system will be easier to maintain and keep charged, while the advantage of being completely wireless will be that your electronic controllers will be easier to install, especially if you are kind of handyman.
The Shimano setup will definitely need to be installed by a professional as the battery is mounted inside the frame tube. This also means that not all bikes will be compatible. The SRAM setup can be installed on any bike, regardless of vintage, without the need to drill into the frame.
Is electronic shifting right for you?
More and more bicycles are equipped with electronic shifters. While the fastest road cyclists have fully embraced the technology, if you’re an average rider, a budget-conscious rider, or a mountain biker who’s more likely to need your derailleur replaced at some point, you’ll want maybe stick to the mechanics. controllers or consider buying used.