Electronic Vs Mechanical MTB Shifting

Electronic Vs Mechanical MTB Shifting

– Right now our partner
Shimano is the only brand that has an electronic
mounted bike transmission available to buy. And by trickling down
that technology from the top level X tier to XT makes it more affordable and a better prospect for many riders. But how does it compare to
the good old mechanical gears? Let’s compare the two, see
which comes out on top. (rhythmic brass beat) So Shimano Di2 is a fully
electronic gear changing system. So off of my bar on the
shifter to push the cable I’ve got these set of
buttons, shall we call them. They’re on a wire to the display unit, wire goes in there into
my frame to a battery. It’s actually set in my seat post, and then to the front and the rear mech, they both have these little server motors that do the work of changing the gears. And this first became available in 2015 in the highest level componentry X tier. It’s now also available in XT which is slightly more affordable. So before we start
digging into the features of each system, I’ll talk about the
top line pros and cons, and I’ll start with installation. That’s where I think convention gears win. With Di2 you’ve got to
find somewhere to fit junction boxes and
batteries inside your frame. Maintenance, I think Di2
wins that one actually, ’cause once you’ve gotten
that stuff in there you don’t have to think
about replacing gear cables. It just works every time. Weight is negligible
between the two systems, but price in is a big one,
Di2 is more expensive. So let’s start this with
the Di2 and let’s talk about performance slightly to begin with. So you get perfect shifting
every time with the Di2. On the mechanical version,
eventually with wear and tear and weather conditions you’re gonna start to get friction in that cable, so water will get into the outer cables and eventually that’s
gonna slow down the shifts but also make that
shifter feel like it’s got more friction in it, so it’s harder to change gear. With the Di2, it’s consistent
changing every time. Now with the mechanical gears, you do have to keep
replacing that gear cable to keep it feeling fresh and
to keep them performing well. I would say the inner cable
four or five times a year, the outer once or twice. So it’s a little bit of time,
it’s a little bit of money each time you wanna do that, but you’ve gotta do it
if you want to keep that performing as well as possible. Of course the counter argument here with the electronic shifting
is that you have to remember to charge the system, and not very often. The battery should last about six months, but of course that does depend on how much you ride the bike. But even people with the
worst memories like myself Should be able to remember
to charge a system just twice a year. (cheerful piano music) So to the performance of each system, while with the Di2 you get
really efficient quick shifting, more about the speed of
the shifting in a second, you actually adjust that if you prefer. Also really nice features, you can just hold your thumb on the lever. So if you wanna go really
far up or down et cetera hold your thumb there and
the mech will fire away. You can limit the amount
of shifts if you prefer using the Shimano E-Tube App. You want very fast shifts
on your mechanical setup? Well you’re going to
need a very fast thumb. Now on mechanical gears
you can go up or down two or three gears in one longer push, but to go up or down the whole set you’re gonna take numerous
pushes to get there. Of course you’re not going
to do that very often, it might be a case of when
you’re stopping and starting and then need to change gear,
but, in those situations can take a little longer
with mechanical gears. Synchro Shift. Now for people who like to
run two or three chain rings on their bike, this gives
them the option to dump that left shifter if they so prefer, and I do to be honest. It gets rid of the shifter off the bar but also gets rid of
that cable and that mess. Makes your cockpit look super clean. Now this means that you
can shift all your gears just using your right thumb. Front and rear mechs, and
you can set that again using the E-Tube app, so you can set exactly
where it shifts between the front and rear and
also the different types of gearing map you want. So that Synchro Shift option
just using the one shifter for two chain rings and your rear mech has been used by a few
of the top Enduro pros like Nicolai, Greg
Callaghan, and Tracy Moseley. So it gives them the
option of that really nice small chain ring for winching themselves to the top of the hills. Then sticking up is the big
chain ring for the stages, however, one disadvantage
of that could be, if you mis-shift, the
chain’s gonna drop down onto that smaller chain ring, and that does give you a lot of slack, and the chain could come off. However, you can stop that
by actually getting up into the big chain ring and then
playing with your settings on the display, setting
it to manual, so then the gear shifter will only move the rear mech so there’s no danger of
that front mech moving. Now if you wanna run
two or three chain rings on a mechanical setup,
you’re gonna have to run a left shifter. That’s not a huge problem,
of course you get that little bit more mess with the cables, a little bit more weight. But for me the biggest
reason I don’t like that is I like my dropper
lever to be under there on the left-hand side, so
I’m gonna have to put that somewhere else if I’m
running a left-hand shifter. Now sometimes it’s the
smaller details that add up to a nice user experience, and I put this one in that category. So the front mech auto-trims. That means when you’re
shifting on the rear, so your chain on is moving up and down, sometimes on the mechanical version your chain will actually
start rubbing on that front mech cage, make a
little bit of a noise. Now on the Di2 version your
front mech will auto-trim, meaning that it moves minutely
when you shift on the rear to make sure that chain never
rubs, never get any noise. Small detail, but a very nice one. Auto-trim on a mechanical
front mech, no way. It’s more like manual trim, you’re gonna have to give
that lever a little push, what a chore. (cheerful piano music) So to the price in
which is a consideration for most of us of course, not all of us, some
people have deep pockets. And it’s available currently in XTR, which stands for XT Race, and the slightly lower group set XT. So the XT group set
costs about 1600 pounds for the Di2 version, whereas the mechanical
version costs about 700. So it’s double plus a
bit for the Di2 version. The premium XTR version comes
in at 1939 pounds for Di2, whereas mechanical comes in at 976. But, if you’re wanting
to upgrade to Di2 gears there is a cheaper and
easier way of doing it if you’ve got the chain
set and the cassette and chain already, then
you can buy a gear set. So that just comprises
of the mech, the battery, everything you need to go to Di2 gears. Another benefit of the Di2
system is it’s customizable using Shimano’s E-Tube app. All sorts of things can be set like I’ve talked a little bit already, you can actually choose
what gear ratio you want on that front mech to change. You can also choose how fast
you want the gear to shift, you got five different settings. Personally I like it on very
fast, however you can mis-shift if you hold that lever
a little bit too long, so in that case you might
want to slow it down a little bit. You can also choose exactly
what the lever does, so which button goes
up and which goes down, do you want the display to stay on for a certain amount of time, do you want it to beep? All sorts of things can be
set up using the E-Tube App. So display on the bars gives
you all the information you need to know, from the gear you’re in, the battery level, and
the shift mode you’re in. It also has ANT connectivity, so it can send the
information to a byte computer if you wish. Of course on mechanical gears
all you really need to know is what gear you’re in, so some shifters will have a
window that’ll tell you that. Alternatively you could take
a look down at your cassette, but do you really need to know? I guess occasionally it’s nice to know if you’ve got a gear left, but other than that, you
don’t really need to know. (cheerful piano music) So to the weight you’re actually adding a couple of components,
you’ve got the display unit and you’ve got a battery, which is a very light
battery I’ve got to say. You’ve also got a little
bit more weight on the mechs just down to these motors. However the shifters are much lighter ’cause all they are really
is electronic buttons. Mechanical shifters have all
sorts of complicated parts, springs in there. It’s actually a lot lighter
again if you’re running a 2 by system and you
decide to run Synchro Shift, ’cause you’ve only got one
shifter up on the bars. All in all it’s about
80 or 90 grammes heavier to run Di2. That does depend on length of cables and things that are coming off there. So it’s a pretty minimal weight increase. So when it comes to
actually indexing the gears, that’s where I think
the mechanical versions are slightly more user friendly. Using the adjuster you
can make differences to the cable tension and
therefore it actually adjusts where the mechs are in
that system to line them up with the sprockets. In the Di2 version actually
you need to hold onto this button on the bottom of the display which brings up the settings page, and then you use your shifter up or down to therefore move the mechs minutely again to line them up perfectly
with the sprockets. So slightly more difficult
than doing it with a cable, but you’ll soon learn how to do that. Only other disadvantages from Di2, well, you’ve got to find
somewhere to put your battery, although there are some
nice integrated options, you can put it in the head
tube using the special top cap or in this case I’ve got it
in my Pro Tharsis seat post which is designed for doing that. So it’s a fixed seat post
and the battery just goes in the bottom of that. You can stick them on the
side of your bottle cages, but externally it’s gonna not look as nice as it being hidden away somewhere. Of course like all the
premium cycling products it’s gonna be expensive. I’ve got the premium
XTR version on this bike which is very nice. But you can get it as well
in XT so the price point is coming down. So there is your weights and prices, it’ll be interesting to
see where Di2 goes next. Does it go to Saint,
the downhill group set? Or does it trickle down
even further to SLX? Let us know what you think
in the comments down below. So what wins out of mechanical
and electronic gears? Well, there’s many pros and
cons to each as I’ve discussed, but electronic is more expensive, just like many of those
luxuries like carbon wheels on a mountain bike,
they are more expensive. Are they gonna make you faster? Possibly not. Are you gonna enjoy your
ride a little bit more? Well, only you can decide that. If you’ve got any more questions about Di2 just leave them down below this video, ’cause I’ll be doing a
follow-up on GMBN Tech, I’ll try to answer all the
frequently asked questions, so yeah leave them down below. If you wanna see some more videos, click over there for another Di2 video, and click over there for how
to change your gear cable on a mechanical setup. Thumbs up if you like this
video and don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t done already.

100 thoughts on “Electronic Vs Mechanical MTB Shifting

  1. Why not just use electronic shifting for the few gearbox bikes out there? We could skip the grip shift, and the cost wouldn't be all that much different given that the gearbox bikes aren't cheap. Best of both? Still doesn't fix the inability to shift under load, but it would speed things up and make it smoother.

  2. Di2 is great but I didn’t realise how expensive it is. But I’m not a fan of derailleurs in general. I think a better solution will come along soon. It will be long overdue in my opinion.

  3. Lurv Di2 on the roadie, would put it on the gravel bike if I could afford it, keep crashing the MTB, so while it would be noice, it would probably be smashed, well the rear mech would be, and Iam slow as treacle ona English winter morning!

  4. I would definitely use Di2. Do they run 1x for it? Either way I think it's the future for mountain biking. I also think they will find a way to put a small solar panel on the stem or top tube so that you never have to recharge the battery.

  5. So if you run out of battery on the road/trail it’s supposed to shift you to an easy gear so you can still get home. However I’ve been out on a few road rides where a Di2 has failed (not mine, I run SRAM Force) and the rider has been forced to push 52×11 over 30 miles of hills to get home. Good strength training but not exactly ideal. Outside of a race situation with support, I remain to be convinced. At the very least carry a spare battery.

  6. SRAM GRIP SHIFT. Shimano pnwed. Can shift the whole block, 10, 11 – 12 gears in one movement. I had rapidfire last back in 1991, switched the to Grip Shift and never looked back, 27 years. I'd love Di2 on the road, but not on the MTB because of Grip Shift. I never used Grip shift for front mech though, rapidfire was better for that, as is di2, I presume . But 1x systems are my choice. Grip shift is lighter too.

  7. I think Di2 is fantastic but I only really perhaps see it as worthwhile if you want to run a 2x setup to take advantage of syncroshift – if running 1x I'm not sure it's worth it.

  8. Hi Neil, great video !! Just one question to ask i have yeti SB 5.5 turq with GX Eagle group set do you know if Sram are planning a similar electronic shifting system ?

  9. Nice vid guys. Just wondering what if you Bend the di2 derailer? Can you simple persuade it back like mechanical or will it ness it up?

  10. 4 new cables a year! I run full housing all the way by drilling out the cable guides. I get 3 years out of my cables. I lube them twice a year and mine go around my stem twice slopestyle style.

  11. Mechanical all the way for me… specially with 1×12 these days I don’t see a need for this gimmick… makes sense in road bikes… but not on Mtb

  12. I rode the XTR Di2 system for a little under two years. After three months, I found that the cassette had some bent teeth due to the force that the rear mech delivers (I later swapped the XTR cassette out for a SRAM XO1 and it changed the shift completely!). I also found that a fully charged battery would last me no longer than three to four weeks of riding. And after a year it would not charge, because it, for some reason, was broken. A month later my rear mech failed as well. When one part of the Di2 system fails, nothing works and it can, therefore, be very difficult to find the unit that causes the problem. Shimano would not replace it on the warranty and I had to buy a new mech at full price.
    My experience with Di2 has therefore been a bit mixed. When it works, it's fantastic, when it doesn't it's a hell!​

    Good video thoug, keep up the fantastic work guys!!!

  13. Good Job Can u tether display to tablet which may be attached to bike..Or tether display to computer glassas..James Bond..Lastly why not wireless or bluetooth signal..Whats with the wire Sorta silly to make electronic shifter with wires attached..Mini model battery operaed vechiles..drones etc have better technology..hmmm

  14. According to the German "Bike-Magazin" the battery lasts up to 1500 km. You say that you have to charge it 2 times a year.
    If you change your shifting cable 6 times a year (mechanical shifting) you definitely drive more than 3000 km.
    I have the feeling that ratio of your comparisons does not fit well!

  15. Di2 1×11 with a 10/42T XX1 cassette on my Stinner MTB. Zero issues over the entire time I’ve had it. Love the laser fast shifting especially with the direct mount (a necessity for Di2 IMO.) I don’t know why they debuted Di2 for road first, because it makes a lot more sense for MTB aside from the big bill if you manage to break anything.

    The only weak point is the XTR Di2 firebolt shifter. It sucks. A lot. I use an Alfine Di2 shifter for the lighter action, fewer moving parts and lower weight.

  16. Love my xtr di2, wouldn't go back to cable ever again, 100% worry free with super accurate fast shifts. If you don't have the money, save up.

  17. You should also talk about reliability. Mechanical shifters very rarely fail and when they do it's usually straightforward to fix. Digital shifters are generally reliable, but there have been some catastrophic fails, including among pro riders.

  18. Great video. I almost want electric shifting. However I feel it solves a non existent problem. But nice gadget, expensive gadget.

  19. I ride mechanical disk brakes….
    Once there will be no gear cables to buy due to new standards, I’ll start riding skateboard instead of “bike”.

  20. I'll stick with mechanical shifting for my bikes. Not saying that it isn't s great new product, but not in my budget nor will it increase my fun for it.

  21. Finally a better shifter. Over the years I have tried all of the new shifters as they came out but I always go back to my old XT thumbies because I don't like the multiple pushes to shift a wide range of gears or grip shifters.

  22. If you get a dropper seatpost and the di2 are you relegated to keeping the battery externally or is there some kind of hacked?

  23. There's a rock out there that has a love affair with my rear derailleur. It would have an absolute f^%k fest with that expensive electronic version and then I would be dead broke.

  24. Mechanical for me. What happens if you snag the electrics for the servo motors on rocks ect.. hmm nice idea but I can live with replacing a cable for ten quid

  25. I ran XTR Di2 for a season, it was solid and I had zero issues. Only real issue was the possibility of getting stuck somewhere with a dead battery. There have been a few times where my road Di2 battery has gone dead and I never knew until I showed up to ride….then couldn't ride.

  26. I think Di2 for mountain biking is most useful in super long races like the Trans-Pyrenees or Offroad Finnmark, where you have to ride hundreds of kilometres in grimy conditions. The auto-trim feature and syncro shift on a 2×11 would be very welcome in a 300 km race.

  27. love how youtube shows this is paid spam…..love it guys! ill stick to mechanic and not have to charge my bike for a ride….wonder about FL rain rides

  28. 3 star review from Bike radar.. https://www.bikeradar.com/mtb/gear/category/components/groupsets/groupset-mountain/product/shimano-xt-di2-m8050-review-50868/

  29. Great video. Now we might be able to know how many kilometers we have done on each gear and change only the used one and not entire cassette!

  30. I think that we are missing something pretty important, which is, what happens when it got it by rock, branch or similar.
    How "hard" are electronic systems to endure this situations compared to a mechanical one.
    By my personal experience, I pulled out many times my rear derailleur after hitting a rock and bent inside, up to what level this situation will be possible with a electronic one

  31. I think the only positive aspect of mechanical shifting is that it's less costly… I went from ultegra 6870 di2 to sram red 22 mechanical on my road bike. My di2 required no maintenance in 3 years (ignoring wear and tear parts) but I've already had to fuck around with the cables of my sram stuff within the first month.

  32. My rear derailleur takes a beating (bent hangers, smashing into rocks, creek crossings, etc.)

    Will the Di2 stand up to the same kind of abuse as my Sram X0?

  33. I get electronic shifting for pros or amateurs racing seriously. But otherwise…as a beginner figuring out how and when to shift properly is part of the fun for me. And I think part of learning the craft.

  34. There's no trimming on Shimano 11 speed mechanical front derailleurs. There's no setting for it and the chain never rubs.

  35. This thing has some cool features on it – it'd be interesting to demo it. 6 months actually seems long for a charge with all that shifting – could I get that battery in my phone? Despite this tech I like to keep my things analog – that's kind of the point of riding mtb – you have to work for everything and it's nice to still have something that requires skills… maybe I'll get into tech when I'm older and they've developed cruise control

  36. What I have noticed is the ability to keep greater momentum through transitions, especially going down to a steep climb. You can hamer down and quickly get in to climbing gears carrying much more momentum and staying in a lower gear. Definitely saw better times where theses changes exist on my trails. Also I find I shift a lot more than I used too and don’t have to think about it as much. Huge fan, wish I could afford it on all my bikes. Synchro is brilliant!!!! “Shift early, shift often.”

  37. What a blatant commercial, brimming with overstatement and exaggeration in hopes of pushing a completely unnecessary product. For shame, GMBN.

  38. Hello. Can you make a video comparing an old premium group VS a cheaper modern group? Like the old XTR vs the new SLX. Thanks

  39. I dont remember the last time ive seen a price inflated like that. Must be a 2000% profit margin on us peons while im sure the pros have a stack of em in the mail. What happened to hydraulic, do they have hydraulic shifters or did they just skip that lol.

  40. I have an injury to my right thumb that has bothered me for years, I was worried about it being a problem shifting later in life, but this could be the answer!

  41. So it costs more, weighs more, adds complexity and I can't run a dropper post with it? Or fix it myself You say? Where's my cheque book?

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