Shimano Shuns Cables for Full Electronic Shifting

Japanese parts manufacturer Shimano is launching an electronic shifting system for high-end road bikes that it claims will vastly improve performance and reduce maintenance. By replacing the conventional levers that pull wound-steel cables through protective housings with solid-state switches and rubber-coated wires, there’s no chance for road gunk to clog things up and interfere with shifting, or, for that matter, your post-ride beer.

The principle of an electronically controlled drive train is to execute perfect shifts every time, thus “reducing mental overhead,” in the words of Shimano marketing manager Devin Walton. This is a resource cyclists find in short supply during epic rides.

Thursday’s announcement that the system, called Di2, will hit shops in January 2009 settles a question first raised in 2005 when prototypes began cropping up on the bikes of select Shimano-sponsored racers in the pro peloton. The system’s development has been photographed, chronicled and Angsted over ever since.

When it makes the pages of Wired, you know it’s going to be huge amongst all the techies on bikes in Silicon Valley … pretty much guaranteeing that at least from a sales perspective, the new group is going to be a success.

Is this the “more cowbell” of the cycling world?