Tuesday, March 30, 2010


This was pretty much my reaction after my first ride on Shimano's Di2 after it was installed on the Lapierre X-Lite HM. Neil Cernitz of Cernitz Bikes worked on it for awhile getting it all dialed in. He did a great job despite the fact it was not going on one of his frames. Not to worry, he is currently building a replacement frame for the one that was totalled when it got crushed on the back of my car on the way to a race last December.

Routing the wiring proved to be a bit tricky. In fact, it still needs some refinement so that the cables stay where they should with making it aestically annoying.

On the web there are a number of write-ups about Shimano's Di2 system. I am not going to get into all the details here. But in case you didn't know--it is an electronic shifting system. And it shifts flawlessly. At least so far. You push a button and its little servos move the chain to where it needs to be. It is simply amazing. It doesn't seem to care what sort of torque is coming from the chain. It just goes to the right spot.

Previously, on the Lapierre and on my previous cross bike I used Campy Record and Campy Chorus. Campagnolo makes a component group that while engineered for the road, does really, really well in the harsh conditions of cyclocross. But just like all my other drivetrain set ups in the past few years, shifting at some point or points goes to hell. At least a couple of races a year I stop shifting unless I absolutely have to once I find a gear that the chain will stay in without ghost shifting. Mud and grime work their way into the cable housing and the cables just don't move well from there on. After such a race I have to replace cables and housing and then after a week or so I have to do this again when the much builds up. It's a pain.

I have told a number of people about this switch from Campy to Di2. Most of them, at least initially, think I am nuts. Their first impression is that it is going to get wrecked or ruined. The little motors in the derailleurs will get contaminated or I will crash and ruin one of those little buggers. Well, possibly.

But here is my reasoning why Di2 makes sense.

1) No more cables running to the derailleurs. You still have brake cables obviously, but brakes aren't that big of a deal in cyclocross right?

2) The shifts are precise. During a cross race I have often not quite moved a shifter enough to catch the next cog in the cassette or I go too far and shift an extra cog. With only having to push a button this won't be a problem. Instead, my problem is remembering which button does what. For some reason today I kept forgeting which button upshifted and which downshifted. It was really wierd. I have spent too much time with Campy stuff lately, I guess. I didn't ride it for long so I doubt this will be an issue after a bit more time on the bike.

3) In the event of a crash the rear derailleur will move as far inward it can to save the servos. Once you get back up you simple push the shift buttons a couple of times and the derailleur will re-adjust itself. At least that is what I am told. I haven't tried this aspect out yet.

4) The front derailleur shifts and trims so well that for the first time ever I will race cyclocross with two chainrings. I had been only race with one ring in the front and 10 cogs in the back. In the past, shifting the front derailleur during a mud race becames ugly quick. But with Di2 there is an auto trim feature that basicly allows a rider to be stupid. I can go big ring in the front to big ring in the back or from small to small and the front derailleur will trim so that there won't be any chain rub going on. It doesn't even complain. Awesome.

5) And the final reason I wanted to do it was because I am a rolling stone that gathers no moss. I have a hard time staying with any particular setup for long. I am always searching for something else that is better. Sometimes it works out and sometimes not. But each year my overall cross setup have gotten markedly better. I expect nothing less this year. I just thought that this was the way to cure my biggest race issue other than being slow. As for that, I have my work cut out for me this year.

Now I just have to get my butt in shape.

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