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Discussion Starter · #81 · (Edited)
As I said... "If it made financial sense to cater to the small minority of luddites.. they would. But it doesn't. So they won't." Both SRAM and Shimano note that people just aren't buying mechanical.
Electronic dominance
No one can deny that mechanical shifting has a sizeable advantage over electronic shifting in terms of serviceability and often weight (particularly at anything other than flagship price points). However, in conversations with countless product managers from various bicycle brands in recent months about consumer preferences, the answer is always the same: when given the option, so few people are actually buying the cable-actuated stuff that it’s impossible to justify keeping it around from a financial point of view.

One only has to look at SRAM’s recent product development to see evidence of this trend in real time.
It’s been a very different story for SRAM’s mechanical road groupsets. Despite plenty of love and loyalty from hardcore enthusiasts, it’s basically a case of the highly vocal minority.
The current generation of SRAM’s Red 22 mechanical groupset hasn’t been updated since its last revamp in 2013.

From an engineering standpoint, it wouldn’t take much for SRAM to update its mechanical road groupsets to the 12-speed format....
In all likelihood, SRAM has the resources to do this, and you’d better believe that if the demand (and profit margins) was there, the company would make it happen. However, SRAM has clearly decided the juice isn’t worth the squeeze, and its OEM partners apparently feel the same way (though that hasn’t kept third-party tinkerer Ratio Technology from doing it on a retrofit basis).

As promised, Di2’s shift performance is uncannily faster and more precise, it’s more consistent over time than mechanical setups, and many riders just prefer the lighter feel of short-stroke buttons instead of bigger levers with more throw.

I anticipate that — unlike with Ultegra — Shimano will continue to offer 105 in a mechanical version, which will assuredly also make the jump to 12-speed. If only to keep OEM product managers happy, I would guess that the new 105 mechanical would hold pretty firm on the end cost, or maybe just increase slightly. Nevertheless, it seems likely that — at least as far as Shimano is concerned — 105 will now be the brand’s top mechanical offering.
Interesting that you quote James Huang.

Here’s the same exact guy in a different article:

So why do I still prefer mechanical drivetrains on my own bikes, then?

There are a lot of reasons why electronic drivetrains are superior. Unlike braided steel cables and plastic-lined housing that constantly stretch, squish, and abrade, wires aren’t subject to wear over time. Aside from periodic battery charging, electronic drivetrains are practically maintenance-free. They also don’t care if it’s cold or wet or muddy, there are heaps of customization options, they’re more consistent, and so on.

But electronic drivetrains have always left me a little cold. When I push a button on an electronic shifter, it does exactly what I tell it to do, but at the same time, it also doesn’t tell me anything in return.

I’m hardly averse to advancing technology: I’m a big believer in disc brakes, I usually prefer carbon-fiber frames, and I almost never ride without a GPS computer.

But when it comes to bicycle transmissions, it’s just that I prefer the feel of physically doing something with my hands.

When I push on a standard Shimano Dura-Ace lever, I can feel the derailleur moving at the other end. When I release the ratchet on a SRAM DoubleTap lever, I’m rewarded with a loud “click.” When I slam the thumb lever on a Campagnolo Ergopower lever, I know exactly how many gears I’ve selected by how far my finger has moved.

Electronic systems may work better, but it doesn’t speak to me.

There’s also the undeniable appeal in the simplicity of a mechanical drivetrain: a lever moves a cable at one end, and another component at the other end of the cable moves in kind.

I can see and hear what’s going on, and problems are easily diagnosed (and fixed); the same can’t be said of electrons traveling at light speed through a copper wire.

Yes, I know that mechanical drivetrains require periodic maintenance to keep everything in tip-top shape. Yes, I know my prized stash of Gore Ride-On sealed derailleur cable-and-housing sets will eventually run out.

And yes, I know that in many ways I’m nursing a dinosaur and turning a blind eye to the future.

But I spent 14 years as a bike shop mechanic and still do all my own work. I enjoy doing bike maintenance, not needing a computer inside my garage, and that stash of Gore Ride-On cables is big enough to last me a lifetime.

For me, it’s like an automatic transmission versus a manual one in modern automobiles. While the former has advanced to the point where the latter is essentially obsolete, there’s a level of user engagement that comes with one, but not the other, that still justifies its existence in the eyes of the faithful.

Don’t get me wrong; I love electronic drivetrains, I really do. I have the utmost of admiration for what they’ve become, for their technological superiority, for their merciless pursuit of engineering perfection. From a purely functional standpoint, they are, without doubt, better.

But for the type of riding that I typically like to do, getting from Point A to Point B as quickly and efficiently as possible isn’t as important as how much I’m enjoying the space in between — and as far as cycling goes, my interaction with my machine is a big part of that.


 

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This is getting as good as the rim brake/disc brake debate.
 

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Uh huh. And we all know how that turned out.
All the same arguments. Nobody wants disc. Rim brakes are fine. We're gonna boycott. They're gonna lose money doing this.

And nowadays.. virtually every new bike is disc (even TT ) . And business is as good as ever.
I have no question the industry will continue to force change… My question is simply practical. Neither change fixes or improves anything.


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We're riding bicycles, not motorcycles, and it seems that with this drive for faster, easier and more convenient that is getting lost. These are human powered machines, and it seems, to me, that the human element is being surpassed by the perceived need of the technical advancement of all aspects of the cycling experience.

It's like we're losing sight of the simple joy of riding a bicycle.
 

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I have no question the industry will continue to force change… My question is simply practical. Neither change fixes or improves anything.
This is true and I am in no hurry to jump on e-shifting. Just the opposite. But like anything else, older technology will become more and more limited in availabilty.

I'm sure Henry Ford and the Wright Brothers were dissed by many aa well.
 

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We're riding bicycles, not motorcycles, and it seems that with this drive for faster, easier and more convenient that is getting lost. These are human powered machines, and it seems, to me, that the human element is being surpassed by the perceived need of the technical advancement of all aspects of the cycling experience.

It's like we're losing sight of the simple joy of riding a bicycle.
Yeah, when I get on my electronic shifting bike I suddenly become some sort of joyless cyborg.
 

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Discussion Starter · #88 · (Edited)
Yeah, when I get on my electronic shifting bike I suddenly become some sort of joyless cyborg.
You mean, like a Terminator? 🤖
 

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We're riding bicycles, not motorcycles, and it seems that with this drive for faster, easier and more convenient that is getting lost. These are human powered machines, and it seems, to me, that the human element is being surpassed by the perceived need of the technical advancement of all aspects of the cycling experience.

It's like we're losing sight of the simple joy of riding a bicycle.
That’s capitalism at work. After Shimano designs solid performing groupsets do you think they’ll tell their engineers to just chill or get new jobs? No way, design to make what you previously designed obsolete. It’s all about a constant revenue stream. If the average cyclist doesn’t wear out their components except for chains and an occasional cassette, how will they survive? You’re seeing a similar reaction in other areas as things such as software are becoming subscription based.
 

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I was taken by surprise that now is the gate between mechanical and electric on the upper end and like others, surprised that Ultegra was part of the cut. At the same time I get it, I work in an industry that is heavily into both the competitive and recreational vehicle markets. I'm looking forward to owning a bike with electric shifting. It's going to be fun. My mechanical bikes will keep being fun (especially the touring bike). Bikes are just fun.
 

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That’s capitalism at work. After Shimano designs solid performing groupsets do you think they’ll tell their engineers to just chill or get new jobs? No way, design to make what you previously designed obsolete. It’s all about a constant revenue stream. If the average cyclist doesn’t wear out their components except for chains and an occasional cassette, how will they survive? You’re seeing a similar reaction in other areas as things such as software are becoming subscription based.
Exactly. Design for the sake of design. New products simply to feed the beast. Sure, replacing cables is a chore as opposed to eliminating them, but the tech will be replaced and consumers will be at the mercy of the software developers. Cables are cables. In the e-shifting model you are 100% at the mercy of the manufacturer. Cab,es aren’t cables and WE will tell you when to spend on an upgrade and WE will tell you when, where, how and how much $ this is going to cost. The tech isn’t bad, the model is. They own you. That’s cool. Any iPhone user can relate.

But it’s a bicycle! A barrel adjuster will fix so many little niggles with cab,es. Sure, we don’t have maintenance niggles with e-shifting.... Yeah right. That scenario doesn’t exist. Computerized shifting and hydraulic braking are the future, no doubt. Not because they are better or improve anything, but because the parts cycle will ensure it. This crap isn’t indexed shifting. That was BOOM! Wow! Shitty downtube shifting has been fixed!!! This is the opposite... Upgrade because we are making you, and once you do, we own your upgrade cycle.

That’s the problem with innovation that doesn’t advance or solve any problems....


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Discussion Starter · #92 · (Edited)
Well, my take on it...

First off, I'm not willing to call all the ppl who still prefer mechanical 'luddites'.

A 'luddite' is someone who hates all new technology no matter what. While there are maybe a few ppl in the "6-speed friction was so great, why'd we ever change!" crowd (aka 'git off mah lawn'), most just see e-shifting and mechanical as options on a menu, and decide between them on the merits.

As in:

Compnonents Makers: Pssst! Hey buddy.

Consumer: Yeah? What?

CM: Got a new product for ya. Will significantly improve front shifting. Won't do much for rear shifting since it's so good already, but still, a little maybe. Will also let you shift better under power.

Consumer: Cool. How much more expensive?

CM: Oh, like $1000. And it needs batteries. And it’s a bit heavier.

Consumer: Uhh, I dunno. If I was like racing or rich or something, maybe...

CM: What?! You a luddite or somethin’, man? Get with the program! Don't you want to use the same stuff the PROS use?

Consumer: I don't really care what the pros use. My stuff already works very well, and I have a budget.

CM: You are dead to me. And my marketing team says you're a dork that we can't spend any more time or effort on anyways.

So, yeah..... 😕

I also don't really buy into the notion that EVERYTHING that comes from the components makers or bike manufacturers is automatically PROGRESS! or INNOVATION!!

I mean, sometimes it is, but sometimes it's just marketing driving a trend for the sake of having a talking point and making $$.

Can you remember the early '90s, when bike makers starting spec'ing their bikes with super-narrow tires? Not just the 49cm 'little guy' bikes, the whole LINE of sizes, spec'd with 700x20, 700x19, even 700x18 tires. Remember that?

Yeah, it was pinch-flat-palooza. Augh.

Was the STUPIDEST 'performance trend' EVER, but it got rammed down our throats for a couple of years, 'til everyone could see that super-narrow tires sucked, and the industry woke up and went back to 700x23 (and 25). And nowadays, thanks to the 'gravel' movement, plenty of ppl want tires much bigger than that.

Point is, it's not always about 'innovation'. A lot of times it's more like, "Gee, how can we drive more and more technology into our products so we can raise prices and demand and get higher margins and bigger profits?".

And then of course, there's just 'being different to be different', aka providing marketing talking points. Both things lead to 'solutions in search of a problem', or at least 'solutions that solve MINOR problems, for lots of money."

And bike-makers are right there in cahoots with the component makers on this, because more expensive (but accepted by the consumer) component groups allow bike makers to raise their prices/margins/profits too. Notice how expensive road bikes have become in recent years? Even before covid? Heck, even going back to the Lance days.

Point is, few ppl really want to sell you something that's relatively cheap, durable, reliable, and simple. Not if they can endlessly ram more technology in there and jack up the price... even if the benefit-to-cost ratio suffers as a result, and even if the spirit of the bicycle as a 'practical, simple, elegant machine' gets lost.

And thus 'progress' in bikes/components is the same as it is in so many other consumer-driven product fields... two steps forward, one step back, one step sideways, and a breakdance layout spin just for the hell of it.

Now, if you personally LOVE e-shifting, hydraulic disc 'breaks', and ever more more MOAR tech, great. Go to it. It's your money, not mine. But considering how relatively easy it would to sell mechanical groups alongside the 'bleeding edge, cost no object' ones, Shimano's (and so far, SRAM's) stance on 12-speed mechanical seems pretty obnoxious and $$$-myopic.

Yes, their product managers can say, "But mech doesn't sell", but that seems pretty self-serving, aka of course they'll say that. They have to. And it may even be true at the high end.

But I know hardly anyone who wanted mechanical Ultegra to go away completely, and get replaced by a much more expensive e-shifting-only version. And I suppose I'll know fewer ppl still who'll want the same thing to happen to 105, and eventually, Tiagra, Sora, etc. etc.

Given the aggressive tactics and attempted assaults on my wallet, you know what? Maybe those cranky luddites actually had it right all along.

Now, where'd I put my 6-speed friction shifters?... 🚴‍♂️
 

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Yeah, when I get on my electronic shifting bike I suddenly become some sort of joyless cyborg.
It is the year 2025. All bikes are now with electronic shifting. Corona is still with us. Variant zeta has just come out. It is highly contagious and lethal. The world is apocalyptical, there is no fuel left, it is mad max.

The horde is coming, but you, a longtime RBR forum member and cycling champion (nee, snob, 'what you mean you ride your bike in gym shorts?!') can easily ride the 80 miles to your second house in the country where you have your organic garden and chickens.

So you grease up your nether parts, tape up your nips, put on your bibs, fill up your water bottles with filtered water and dump in your electrolytes. You hop on your all CF bike with disc brakes and 12 speed wireless shifting. You hurry as the horde is closing. Pulling hard on your 50/12 combo you see a hill ahead that leads to your house. The horde is getting ever closer, you hit the shifters to drop into the lower chainring as the hill gets steeper and ....... nothing. Your battery is dead. You say to yourself that you could just use your finger and move it, but then your chain will rub for the rest of the ride, but no bike aficionado would ever let that happen, it is a fate worse than death itself, so you let yourself get swallowed up by the horde as you think of all those brilliant product managers at Shimano....
 

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In my 50 years of riding, it seems like "the next big thing" only has about a 50% chance of succeeding. Remember oval chainrings?
 

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In my 50 years of riding, it seems like "the next big thing" only has about a 50% chance of succeeding. Remember oval chainrings?
Stop. The next BIG thing is Pitbulll Pedals.


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I would be PERFECTLY happy if Shimano releases a 105 12-speed groupset. I honestly don't give a crap about buying any theoretical high priced 12-speed mechanical groupset.
 

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Discussion Starter · #99 ·
I would be PERFECTLY happy if Shimano releases a 105 12-speed groupset. I honestly don't give a crap about buying any theoretical high priced 12-speed mechanical groupset.
What if the only 105 12-speed released is a relatively high-priced 105 Di2?

Or is that the product you’re hoping for?
 

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What if the only 105 12-speed released is a relatively high-priced 105 Di2?
Spoke to an owner of an LBS here in Brooklyn a week ago – he expects 105 12-speed mechanical to be released in the coming months. He sounded confident and matter-of-fact as he told me.

I'd be pretty surprised if Shimano simply walks away from market dominance of mechanical groups that are spec'd on mid-level stock bikes (~$3K price point). It would leave a huge gap in the market that SRAM would be able to exploit (faster than Campy, as they have more manufacturing and marketing muscle).
 
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