The robotic “bzzzt” of an electronic derailleur will instantly make any bike feel like it’s from the future. In the age of smartphones, it is fitting that bikes made from space-age materials also have electronic shifting. But there are still plenty of mechanical-shifting holdouts in the cycling world. Right now, I’m one of them. But I’ve been wondering if it’s time to finally make the leap.
Over the last 10 years, electronic groups have become more mainstream. Shimano’s Dura-Ace Di2, the first commercially viable electronic drivetrain, came out in 2009 and ignited the electronic revolution. SRAM followed with Red eTap in 2015 and set itself apart by going fully wireless.
Now, Shimano’s Di2 groups have been refined and made ultra-light over the last three generations, and SRAM’s latest AXS groups are packed with exciting new tech, unique gearing options, and 12 speeds. More and more high-end road, gravel, and mountain bikes are coming equipped with electronic drivetrains. Also, plenty of older mechanical bikes can be upgraded to electronic.
So if you’re buying a new bike or upgrading your old one, how do you choose between a mechanical or electronic group? You can read about all the fancy tech these systems use, but how do you know if you will actually need any of their features or functionality? To learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of going electronic, I spoke to a pair of experts, one from Shimano and one from SRAM.
I called up Nick Legan, Road Brand Manager for Shimano North America, and JP McCarthy, SRAM Road Product Manager. Despite representing rival brands, they actually agree on a lot and both have strong opinions on why going electronic is worth it. They took the time to explain the benefits of Di2 and eTap AXS groups and gave advice on how to decide if an electronic drivetrain is right for you.