Home
Electronic shifting is A Good Thing but it still has its downsides…

We're big fans of electronic shifting here at road.cc and we don't know of many people who've used it regularly wanting to switch back to mechanical shifting, but it's not without its downsides. Here are some of the little annoyances that we've experienced and heard about over the past few years.

Don't forget to budget for extras

If you're buying a complete bike you'll obviously get all the electronic parts you need, but if you're buying electronic groupset separately make sure that you budget for everything that you need on top of the obvious components.

SRAM eTap charger (1)

As well as the shifters and derailleurs, with SRAM eTap you'll need only a Charger Power Pack that retails at £63 (and an eTap Firmware Update Dongle, but only if SRAM ever makes firmware updates).

There's more to buy if you go for Shimano Di2 or Campagnolo EPS. On top of the shifters, derailleurs and charger, you'll need a battery and wiring.

Read our Shimano Dura-Ace R9150 Di2 review 

Shimano EW-RS910 handlebar end.jpg

In the case of Shimano, you'll need a Junction A box or E-tube Di2 handlebar mount Junction A charging point and a bottom bracket junction for internal wire routing. You'll also need an E-Tube wireless unit if you want to customise the function of your Di2 system. With Campagnolo, you'll need a DTI EPS V3 Interface.

Satellite shifting from SRAM or Shimano is going to cost you extra too.

If you buy a groupset as a package, check that it includes everything you need.

The cost of replacement parts is high

It's no great revelation that electronic shift systems are more expensive than mechanical equivalents but don't forget that as well as the initial outlay you need to consider the cost of replacement parts.

Shimano Ultegra Di2 rear derailleur.jpg

Say you come off and wreck a Shimano Ultegra Di2 rear derailleur, for example: a new one is going to cost you £244.99 at full retail price, compared with £84.99 for a cable-operated model — nearly three times as much — and you can't save money by downgrading to Shimano 105 like you could with mechanical because there's no Di2 version available.

SRAM Red eTap front derailleur (1)

A SRAM Red eTap front derailleur is £332 whereas a mechanical Red Yaw braze-on front derailleur is £102.

Check out 10 SRAM Red eTap road bikes

Granted, Ultegra Di2 shifters are slightly cheaper than the mechanical ones (£289.98 versus 319.99), but that's unusual.

You might run out of battery charge... but it's unlikely

Running out of battery power is a possibility if you have electronic shifting although, to be honest, you'll have only yourself to blame! Like falling off at the traffic lights the first time you use clipless pedals, it's the sort of thing you'll do once and then make sure you never repeat. 

A Shimano Di2 system runs on a single battery and each charge lasts several hundred miles (the exact distance depends on how often you shift and the temperature). You can check the charge status via the Junction A (which is either a box or a bar-end option).

Campagnolo EPS battery.jpg

Campagnolo EPS has a similar colour-coded system and the indicator lamp will light up red every five minutes when the battery charge falls below 6%.

Campagnolo-eps-interface-unit-V3-groupset 2.jpg

Each of the derailleurs of a SRAM Red eTap system has its own rechargeable battery that lasts for over 1,000km (625 miles) of typical riding. A green indicator light on each component turns on after each shift. Once the battery charge is below 25%, that light turns red and below 15% the light starts to flash red. 

Is SRAM Red eTap 12-speed coming soon?

The CR2032 batteries in the shifters will need changing on average about once every two years, and there's a similar LED system to tell you how much juice is remaining.

Constant pressure on the button can eventually drain the battery of an electronic shift system. We've heard of this happening during air travel, the rider finding that the battery they'd topped up before leaving home was completely empty by the time they came to build the bike up before the start of their training camp. You can avoid this by unplugging the wires or removing the battery/batteries.

Technical issues can be difficult to diagnose/repair

If you have a shifting problem with a mechanical system, the issue is usually pretty obvious. You can tell instantly if the cable has snapped, if it's too loose, or whatever, and put it right.

Shimano BT-DN110 battery (1)

It can be more difficult with an electronic system. road.cc technical editor Dave Arthur had a Di2 battery fail while out on the road, for example (it stopped working entirely; it hadn't just run out of charge). It took a while to get to the root of the issue and he was left with an unrideable bike until he'd sourced a new battery. That could be a big problem if you're in the back of beyond.

Read Head to head: Shimano Dura-Ace R9150 Di2 v SRAM Red eTap

We would say, though, that in our experience problems like this are rare and Shimano does have very good diagnostics tools.  

Shimano Di2 shifts can be tricky in winter gloves

Some people find it difficult to distinguish between the upshift and downshift buttons of a Shimano Di2 road system while wearing thick winter gloves. This is something that we hear quite a lot although other users report no issues whatsoever.

With Di2, the upshift and the downshift buttons sit just behind the brake lever, one beside the other. It's possible to hit the wrong one in big gloves, or to hit both together.Shimano Dura-Ace R9150 Di2 - shifter 3.jpg

That said, Di2 is customisable. You could reconfigure the system and make the button that's hidden at the top of each hood perform upshifts, for example, to sidestep any problem.

On the flip side, when we discussed this in the road.cc office, one member of the team said he finds it simpler to operate a Di2 shifter than a mechanical shifter with frozen hands. A tap on the button is slightly easier than sweeping a lever when your fingers are dead.Shimano Dura-Ace R9150 Di2 - shifter.jpgDue to the different ways in which shifts are performed, this isn't an issue with either Campagnolo EPS or SRAM Red eTap.

It's easy to become complacent

Chances are that you won't need to adjust an electronic shift system often so it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you never need to touch it at all. 

With a mechanical system you'll almost certainly need to adjust the gear cable tension after the first few rides, and probably occasionally after that, but that's not an issue with electronic shifting.

You still need to keep an eye on the various components of an electronic system, check the indexing and make any adjustments necessary, especially if your bike takes a knock or you break it down and reassemble it for travel.

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.

18 comments

Avatar
HawkinsPeter [2988 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

As an alternative to the standard Di2 junction boxes (i.e. the handlebar end or under the stem box), you can use the SC-MT800 (or SC-M9050/1): https://bike.shimano.com/en-EU/product/component/deorext-m8050-di2/SC-MT...

It adds Bluetooth/Ant+, but I really like the display so that you can easily see what gear you're currently in and whether you're in semi/full synchro mode and also a battery level indicator.

Avatar
Mungecrundle [1264 posts] 1 month ago
2 likes

Now in my 3rd year of Di2 ownership and it is running as sweet as the day it left the bike shop. Never missed a gear, absolutely hassle free, once ran out of power because I failed to check. Only irritating aspect is remembering where I put the charging cable for safe keeping.

It is an uneccessary luxury, but I can atest to the ease of use with cold tired hands, and the hydraulic disc brakes are one finger operation from the hoods. The only changes I have made to the standard setup was to put a closer ratio cassette on so I have more choice of gears in my preferred cadence range.

Avatar
jobro [6 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes


Only irritating aspect is remembering where I put the charging cable for safe keeping

Been there

Avatar
Dingaling [45 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Also into my third year but with EPS. Haven't regretted it for a second. Effortless and trouble free gear changing especially when braking. I'm thinking of replacing my touring bike and I hope I can get it fitted with triple electronic shifting.

Avatar
pablo [211 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

The main benefit for me is the lack of maintainance If you do all your own mechanics and don't have that much time it's fantastic. I have had to replace a front derailleur but that was my fault and other than oiling and cleaning it's set and forget.
I went disc on my new bike and had to dump di2 because of the additional cost but I'm regretting it now constant adjustments to keep it running smooth

Avatar
Sub4 [73 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

You also win on battery life. In 3 years with EPS, I charged only every  2000 miles, & it wasn’t screaming to be charged even then. I’m currently running Di2 & you need to be much more vigilant as to the charge level. I get about 800 miles before I lose the front mech, which is my reminder!

Dingaling wrote:

Also into my third year but with EPS. Haven't regretted it for a second. Effortless and trouble free gear changing especially when braking. I'm thinking of replacing my touring bike and I hope I can get it fitted with triple electronic shifting.

Avatar
Miller [188 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
Dingaling wrote:

Also into my third year but with EPS. Haven't regretted it for a second. Effortless and trouble free gear changing especially when braking. I'm thinking of replacing my touring bike and I hope I can get it fitted with triple electronic shifting.

There isn't a triple option for EPS. In fact I don't think there's a triple option for any e-shifting system.

 

Avatar
maviczap [293 posts] 1 month ago
1 like
Miller wrote:
Dingaling wrote:

Also into my third year but with EPS. Haven't regretted it for a second. Effortless and trouble free gear changing especially when braking. I'm thinking of replacing my touring bike and I hope I can get it fitted with triple electronic shifting.

There isn't a triple option for EPS. In fact I don't think there's a triple option for any e-shifting system.

 

There is, but it's expensive. You can run an Shimano XTR front and rear mech,with road shifters.

There is an XTR/XT triple Di2 front mech, but you have to use the XTR/XT rear mech.

I've 2 bikes with Di2, it's faultless and you dontd need to buy brand new, most of my hardware is 2nd hand, and has been perfect.

The only issues I've witnessed is with two owners of SRAM etape systems who didn't charge their batteries, so were stuck with limited years in the Pyrenees, but they could swap the front and rear mech batteries round, so low gears for the climbs and then big gears for the descents. Didn't seem ideal.

I would like wireless Di2, then it'd be perfect

Avatar
CXR94Di2 [2428 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
maviczap wrote:
Miller wrote:
Dingaling wrote:

Also into my third year but with EPS. Haven't regretted it for a second. Effortless and trouble free gear changing especially when braking. I'm thinking of replacing my touring bike and I hope I can get it fitted with triple electronic shifting.

There isn't a triple option for EPS. In fact I don't think there's a triple option for any e-shifting system.

 

There is, but it's expensive. You can run an Shimano XTR front and rear mech,with road shifters.

There is an XTR/XT triple Di2 front mech, but you have to use the XTR/XT rear mech.

 

 

T'Da!

Avatar
Dingaling [45 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
maviczap wrote:
Miller wrote:
Dingaling wrote:

Also into my third year but with EPS. Haven't regretted it for a second. Effortless and trouble free gear changing especially when braking. I'm thinking of replacing my touring bike and I hope I can get it fitted with triple electronic shifting.

There isn't a triple option for EPS. In fact I don't think there's a triple option for any e-shifting system.

 

There is, but it's expensive. You can run an Shimano XTR front and rear mech,with road shifters.

There is an XTR/XT triple Di2 front mech, but you have to use the XTR/XT rear mech.

I've 2 bikes with Di2, it's faultless and you dontd need to buy brand new, most of my hardware is 2nd hand, and has been perfect.

The only issues I've witnessed is with two owners of SRAM etape systems who didn't charge their batteries, so were stuck with limited years in the Pyrenees, but they could swap the front and rear mech batteries round, so low gears for the climbs and then big gears for the descents. Didn't seem ideal.

I would like wireless Di2, then it'd be perfect

I hope there is a solution. I don't have a problem with the expense but I have not found the info. on the Shimano web site that says it will work. I have seen the XTR Di2 derailleurs but I couldn't find the information that said Di2 road shifters would work a triple and the info seems to restrict the front derailleur to 40T. What size is your largest chainring?

 

Avatar
CXR94Di2 [2428 posts] 1 month ago
1 like
Dingaling wrote:
maviczap wrote:
Miller wrote:
Dingaling wrote:

Also into my third year but with EPS. Haven't regretted it for a second. Effortless and trouble free gear changing especially when braking. I'm thinking of replacing my touring bike and I hope I can get it fitted with triple electronic shifting.

There isn't a triple option for EPS. In fact I don't think there's a triple option for any e-shifting system.

 

There is, but it's expensive. You can run an Shimano XTR front and rear mech,with road shifters.

There is an XTR/XT triple Di2 front mech, but you have to use the XTR/XT rear mech.

I've 2 bikes with Di2, it's faultless and you dontd need to buy brand new, most of my hardware is 2nd hand, and has been perfect.

The only issues I've witnessed is with two owners of SRAM etape systems who didn't charge their batteries, so were stuck with limited years in the Pyrenees, but they could swap the front and rear mech batteries round, so low gears for the climbs and then big gears for the descents. Didn't seem ideal.

I would like wireless Di2, then it'd be perfect

I hope there is a solution. I don't have a problem with the expense but I have not found the info. on the Shimano web site that says it will work. I have seen the XTR Di2 derailleurs but I couldn't find the information that said Di2 road shifters would work a triple and the info seems to restrict the front derailleur to 40T. What size is your largest chainring?

 

 

My triple crank is Deore XT 48/36/26 . Works beautifully, I have Synchro-shift enabled which keeps cross chaining to a minimum.  The setup you see, i use for mountains with a 11-40 cass.   

I can spin up 25+% gradients and hit over 50mph on descents with the gearing. 

 I took my bike to Tenerife recently and there were lots of compliments about how I could hold 90rpm up steep multi hour climbs.  At the end of a long week my legs felt very good and not wrecked like some others 

Avatar
Dingaling [45 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

CXR94Di2,

thanks for the info. I don't think I will be going far up 25% and/or pedalling 90rpm for hours but, when I have eventually ground my way to the top, I want to be able to go hell for leather back down hence my "need" for the wide range that a triple setup provides. My current tourer has xtr 3x9 - 44/32/22 and 11-32 in an aluminium frame. I have a carbon frame road bike and had a steel one years ago. I have got it into my head that I should try a titanium frame before it is too late (bucket list) but, as discussed, I need the triple set up and J.Laverack, for example, don't have a triple solution in their offering.

 

Avatar
Pilot Pete [100 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

“The stuff they never tell you about electronic shifting”. Really? Or is it just me who thinks the writer was scrabbling to find something make a story about an issue that isn’t really an issue?

Anyone contemplating electronic shifting would probably do the basics in terms of reading about the options available (if they didn’t at the price points of electronic shifting they are either rich or gormless).

This research would reveal that Sram’s system is wireless, Di2 and EPS are not. They would presumably therefore realise that they would need wires for the non wireless systems. Oh, and a battery. Unless they thought the battery was disposable they would probably realise that they would, at some point need a battery charger. If they thought it was disposable they would wonder how long the charge would last and how much would replacement batteries be.

The most basic research would reveal how to wire it all up and thus the need for a couple of junction boxes and the various options available. If they were buying a bike with it fitted they may no nothing of these junction boxes, but that wouldn’t be an issue as they are already fitted.

Nobody in their right mind assumes that batteries last forever, so they would assume that the battery(ies) would drain during use and at some point they risk getting a flat battery on a ride. Wouldn’t this be one of the first things you looked into if contemplating getting electronic shifting? How long do batteries last, how do I tell what charge they have remaining, how far can I get if charge is running low and how long do they take to charge up? Oh, and what happens if I have a flat battery (is there a backup/ reserve?)

”Technical issues can be difficult to diagnose”. Really? It’s not a complex electronic schematic with hundreds of components. With Di2 you run the app and it communicates with your system showing a simple schematic. You can make adjustments to settings simply and diagnose problems. If you have a faulty component you just need to swap it out - individual components aren’t really user repairable, so just like a modern car you swop the component. May be expensive, but not really difficult. How many cyclists have had shifting issues with cable operated components which are annoying as hell, just won’t cure and ultimately end up in swapping components such as cable inners, outers and eventually shifters due to something like a worn spool in the shifter itself? I know I have.

The winter glove issue has been addressed by Shimano by increasing the paddle/ shifter button sizes, plus of course having the fully customisable options through e-Tube. So again, not really an issue eh? 

So the dealer didn’t tell you cost of replacement parts was high? That info is at the consumer’s fingertips. If it is a deal breaker then perhaps the consumer really can’t afford electronic shifting and should avoid it. There is a hierarchy amongst groupsets - the top end ones cost more to buy and thus more to get replacement parts for. Shock horror.

And “it’s easy to become complacent”? What, due to excellent reliability? So now excellent reliability is being used as an argument against electronic shifting? Good grief I’ve heard it all now... I don’t need to constantly fettle and tinker with mechanical shifting because I fear becoming complacent... what I do like is having to spend less time fettling and tinkering with my electronic groupset and having absolutely nailed, spot on, trouble free shifting so I can fettle and tinker on new builds, oh and just ride my bikes.

 

Avatar
Tony Farrelly [2983 posts] 1 month ago
7 likes

Seems to me Pete you already know it all so this article probably isn't for you. 

Avatar
HowardR [250 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

 “The stuff they never tell you about electronic shifting”.... Don't bother attaching the wires to your genitals.

Disapointed of Gusset Skraping.

Avatar
Nick T [1221 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Wow, so research is the secret to learning things... better take notes 

Avatar
maviczap [293 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
Dingaling wrote:
maviczap wrote:
Miller wrote:
Dingaling wrote:

Also into my third year but with EPS. Haven't regretted it for a second. Effortless and trouble free gear changing especially when braking. I'm thinking of replacing my touring bike and I hope I can get it fitted with triple electronic shifting.

There isn't a triple option for EPS. In fact I don't think there's a triple option for any e-shifting system.

 

There is, but it's expensive. You can run an Shimano XTR front and rear mech,with road shifters.

There is an XTR/XT triple Di2 front mech, but you have to use the XTR/XT rear mech.

I've 2 bikes with Di2, it's faultless and you dontd need to buy brand new, most of my hardware is 2nd hand, and has been perfect.

The only issues I've witnessed is with two owners of SRAM etape systems who didn't charge their batteries, so were stuck with limited years in the Pyrenees, but they could swap the front and rear mech batteries round, so low gears for the climbs and then big gears for the descents. Didn't seem ideal.

I would like wireless Di2, then it'd be perfect

I hope there is a solution. I don't have a problem with the expense but I have not found the info. on the Shimano web site that says it will work. I have seen the XTR Di2 derailleurs but I couldn't find the information that said Di2 road shifters would work a triple and the info seems to restrict the front derailleur to 40T. What size is your largest chainring?

 

As CXR94Di2 has demonstrated and I can confirm that road shifters do work with the XT mechs, but as I said you must use front and rear. I took my advice from CXR94Di2

One thing to note is it's probably easier to have it on a frame without a fixed front mech braze on, the XT mech has a specific band on mount, so would suite you if you went to a titanium frame

 

Avatar
CXR94Di2 [2428 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
maviczap wrote:
Dingaling wrote:
maviczap wrote:
Miller wrote:
Dingaling wrote:

Also into my third year but with EPS. Haven't regretted it for a second. Effortless and trouble free gear changing especially when braking. I'm thinking of replacing my touring bike and I hope I can get it fitted with triple electronic shifting.

There isn't a triple option for EPS. In fact I don't think there's a triple option for any e-shifting system.

 

There is, but it's expensive. You can run an Shimano XTR front and rear mech,with road shifters.

There is an XTR/XT triple Di2 front mech, but you have to use the XTR/XT rear mech.

I've 2 bikes with Di2, it's faultless and you dontd need to buy brand new, most of my hardware is 2nd hand, and has been perfect.

The only issues I've witnessed is with two owners of SRAM etape systems who didn't charge their batteries, so were stuck with limited years in the Pyrenees, but they could swap the front and rear mech batteries round, so low gears for the climbs and then big gears for the descents. Didn't seem ideal.

I would like wireless Di2, then it'd be perfect

I hope there is a solution. I don't have a problem with the expense but I have not found the info. on the Shimano web site that says it will work. I have seen the XTR Di2 derailleurs but I couldn't find the information that said Di2 road shifters would work a triple and the info seems to restrict the front derailleur to 40T. What size is your largest chainring?

 

As CXR94Di2 has demonstrated and I can confirm that road shifters do work with the XT mechs, but as I said you must use front and rear. I took my advice from CXR94Di2

One thing to note is it's probably easier to have it on a frame without a fixed front mech braze on, the XT mech has a specific band on mount, so would suite you if you went to a titanium frame

 

 

The bold text is quite important, because you need the adjustment freedom a band mount derailleur offers.  Its not difficult to setup and once correctly aligned provides precise and reliable front mech changes time and time again.  Ive not adjusted the position once since I initially dialled in the position.