More bike related stuff

Someone asked me recently if I prefer electronic or mechanical parts on a bike.

Each has its pluses and minuses. Electronic is great, until it’s not. That usually means a battery, and those either need to be charged, or purchased. Not terribly bad to do. Most are fairly easy to charge. Not all batteries are easy to replace, be they inside the bike, or in the shifters. The single biggest minus, for me, with electronic is the cost. They’re expensive. I’ve had to quote prices for replacement parts that approached the entire cost of some lower level mechanical groupsets.

Mechanical, the biggest plus is the simplicity. It works, when something doesn’t it’s usually easy to figure out why. If parts need to be replaced, they’re usually, even for the most expensive of mechanicals, relatively inexpensive. I also like the tactile response of the mechanical groupsets as it changes gears. The biggest drawback is weight. No mechanical groupset will ever be as light as an electronic groupset.

Now all that said, I have both mechanical and electronic built up bikes. I like both, and it sometimes takes a few minutes to remember which I’m riding so I shift properly. In the end I’ll go for the simplicity of the mechanical. I know folks who’ll never go back to mech. I know some who’ll never go electronic. Both are good, especially now with so many gear ratios to choose from.

We can break each of these down by the different manufacturers too. Each has their own pluses and minuses. It’s amazing how much tech has changed in the last 30+ years in just the shifting experience on a bike.

Ok, before I take us down that rabbit hole, I’ll leave with a link to an article that made me think of that 1st questioni.

I switched to electronic shifting and have loved it. I love having a perfect shift ever single time and under weight too. I bought it as my version of a ‘mid life crisis’ purchase a few years back. Wasn’t really a crisis, I just though, “I want something new and cool for my bike.”

That being said, when you talk about drawbacks… last year I didn’t realize how long it had been since I had charged the battery (usually have to only do it once a season) and headed to St George for a biking trip. Battery died and there was no bike shop in town who had my charger so I was out of luck, which was a major bummer. That of course never happens with mechanical shifting.

For whatever reason, probably partially due to the fear of having electronic fail and not being able to repair it I’ve stuck with mechanical shifting on my MTB. Seems far more likely to be stranded somewhere you can’t get help on a MTB versus road, although it seems like I get much further out of civilization on my road bike.

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You know what they say about bike parts. Light, reliable, or cheap. . . pick 2.

I put a premium on reliability. So I’ll probably never go electronic.

That’s easy - cheap and reliable. Why would light matter at all if I’m not racing?

I absolutely love the Ultegra DI2s on my bike. The battery charge lasts about 800 miles and it’s easy to check to see if you are even getting close with the LEDs on the control unit.

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I’m a huge fan of Campy EPS. I love the ergonomics of campy and the nice clean clicks. Plus it works amazingly well. I charge the battery about once a year. But I get it, it is something else that can fail and mechanical still works very well. A friend of mine has a hydraulic set-up as well. He likes it but admits it is more of a fanboy system.

If this system ever becomes universally functional it could be really interesting to try:

really cool idea, now if it actually works.

That one from Ceramic Speed looks interesting. It is a very old idea. I saw a pic of one from over a hundred years ago. Parts are better now, so it has a chance to be realized now or near future. Cost? Probably very high to start.

Things have come a very long way from the Mavic Zap system from 20 or 30 years ago. Battery life, and electronic reliability have improved enormously also.

Like I said, I have both. I like both. I prefer mechanical. Perhaps I’m enough of a retro-grouch to prefer the mechanical stuff.

Someone else mentioned that weight, unless your racing isn’t an issue. I have a customer that all he does are charity rides and Strava segments. He treats them like races. He lives and dies by the local Strava records. So, he spends money with me to get the “best” stuff. I’ve replaced all of his wheel and bottom bracket bearings with ceramic or hybrid bearings. I’ve finally gotten him to purchase reliable, but not most expensive headsets. He sweats so much, he corrodes the headsets. So, using “midlevel” headsets is best. About half his bikes, he has 7 or 8 of them, I lost track are electronic. I’ve had to replace: derailleurs front and rear, shifters for various reasons. He tries to cut the weight off his bike. He has, and it’s cost him a small fortune. Now, if he’d lose 100, 150 pounds himself, he’d ride and feel better. Yes, he’s a large man.

Point of all that, the bike is just a tool, whether you have mechanical or electronic stuff. The biggest upgrade you can do to ride is lose the weight from your body. You can only take so much off the bike before it becomes dangerous, or pointless and overly expensive. I’ll continue to take his money for all of these, he helps me stay in business. But he’s wasting a ton of money. Even if you’re racing, most of the tech changes won’t do you good until you’re an elite racer. Most people can’t tell the difference between standard and ceramic bearings, they just see the World Tour riders using this stuff and so they should too.


cost will be high, I also imagine it will only work on bikes designed to use it. Probably not a lot of retro-fit ideas.

Agree with the weight comments. Body weight is by far the biggest limit, but people love talking about how upgrading their group set shaved 15gms off the bike weight.

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This is the truth!

Every time I hear someone mention changing cycling equipment to reduce the equipment weight, I remind myself that I am perpetually 5 lbs. overweight (at best), and that if I really want to fly up hills, all I need to do is lose the excess.

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Losing body weight comes at a cost as well. A price most recreational riders like myself are hesitant or to poor (in self control) to pay.

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You’re right, losing body weight does come at a cost. I’m in the same boat as you. I like my food, and drink. I also like my riding. I don’t race anymore, so I don’t worry, as much, about my body weight.

Yeah, if your only racing is with your buddies to the county line sign strike that balance.

Pretty cool:


That is pretty impressive. Doubt I had even come close to 1/4 of the streets.

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