Ultegra Di2 – Exciting Announcement or Pointless Expense?

© 2011 SHIMANO INC

It hasn’t been the best kept secret, with rumors swirling for close to two years. The long wait came to an end today, as Shimano just announced the availability of Ultegra Di2, bringing electronic shifting to the mid-range of their race-worthy component line.

I, like I imagine many of you, have long bought Ultegra components – priced significantly below, with sharing the same features and reliability as the top-end Dura Ace, they were an attractive solution for the cyclist on a budget. Now that Di2 is available in the Ultegra line, supposedly for the same price as the Dura Ace mechanical group (somewhere around $1600US), will you be switching? Or are you of the opinion that electronic shifting is a pointless frivolity for us mortals? Let us know in the comments below!

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16 Responses to Ultegra Di2 – Exciting Announcement or Pointless Expense?

  1. Jeremy says:

    In the interest of disclosure, I'll take this opportunity to admit that I'm still riding 9s, having upgraded to Dura Ace as everyone was making the jump to 10. Perhaps this will be my opportunity to upgrade to someone's cable-actuated discards!

  2. Souleur says:

    Mechanical…all the way for me
    my payout each weekend is far too shy for these goodies, but perhaps in the future….way out in the future

  3. Julius says:

    Jeremy, is that $1600 the price for the complete groupset, or the upgrade beyond needing to already have the mechanical Ultegra?

    • Jeremy says:

      Unfortunately, everything is really vague at the moment. MSRP for a 7900 group is about $2,600, which translates to about $1600 on the street. MSRP on Ultegra 6700 is about $1600, which is about $900. I'd guess, when actually available via the normal internet channels, a full group will go for somewhere just under $2000. Might be more, might be less.

      Either way, I'll still be on the mechanical, shaking my grumpy old man cane at anyone who rides on my lawn.

  4. Henry says:

    i think it sounds awesome – maybe elctronic gears are in the realms of possible affordability now.

    although there are a lot of questions around this release:
    1. what is the difference between ultegra Di2 and DA Di2? just weight? or will satellite shifters and "sprint" shifters be available with ultegra
    2. will it be cross-compatible – eg. DA levers and ultegra derailleurs ? for eg. cheap(er) crash replacement
    3. if you buy ulegra di2 and DA cranks and brakes what is the difference?
    4. what about the electronic TT gear (this is IMO one of the best places to have electronic gears so you can shift from the extensions and the brake levers)? – one would assume that there will not be ultegra versions but can you buy ultegra mechs to go with them

    all that said I much as I would love to try electronic gears I am still on 7800 (race bike) / 6600 (training bike) as I am loathe to replace something before it is worn out.

    • Jeremy says:

      You bring up some excellent questions. I don't know that we know all of the answers yet, but the answer to #2 is, from what I understand, a sound "no". The wiring for Ultegra is different. A little disappointing, if you ask me. Perhaps they'll change the DA wiring in the next rev to match?

  5. Q says:

    That's still a lot of money to pay for a heavier version of the drivetrain that forced Andy Schleck to finish the Tour de Suisse prologue on his regular road bike.

    • Whit says:

      I still say DA 7800 is the best road group ever made. But I've just been given a chance to ride SRAM Red. Maybe my opinion will change?

      W.

      • Q says:

        Maybe it is. I'm quite happy with the 105 group on my road bike, and I admit I haven't tried SRAM, but I'd like to. I brought up Andy Schleck because my first reaction watching him get his chain jammed on his TT bike was that it didn't speak highly of whatever drive train he had, and went to look up who the component sponsor was. I admit I don't know the whole story about what happened, but it looked to me like something got jammed that could have unjammed more easily with a mechanical shifter. I know that people who've tried Di2 rave about it, but things like this (if attributable to the shifter) really shouldn't be happening. Maybe it's just Andy Schleck having lots of bad luck. We know he's prone to drivetrain problems at bad moments.

      • Souleur says:

        I agree Whit, 7800 was the best in my opinion too, but give the SRAM a chance, I run the new Force grouppo and love it! very good value.

    • grolby says:

      Di2 is apparently very sensitive to chainring matching – the problem with Andy's bike was that the 46T ring he had wasn't the RIGHT 46T ring for the big ring. Shimano has made specific pairs of rings since at least 7800; I don't know how much more sensitive Di2 is. From what I hear, you're no more prone to dropping a chain on Di2 than anything else, and it does happen. But Schleck needs to stop doing it!

      Personally, I think electronic shifting is great and probably the future at the high end. No, it's not affordable for everyone (but neither is carbon fiber), but it doesn't so outdistance mechanical shifting that anyone using it is at a significant disadvantage. It's pretty cool that Shimano managed to solve that problem, and I think we're going to start seeing more and more bikes equipped with electronic shifting.

  6. Doug P says:

    This electric stuff will give me one more reason to cackle when I pass the local "Mr Gadget" on the Death Ride climbs like he had a 50lb sack of cement on his back. Complexity does not necessarily equal supremacy. To me "Occam's Razor" is the watchword in bicycle equipment…the simplest solution is usually the best. Not that I'm ready to go back to 5 speed freewheels, however.

  7. fish says:

    i'm all for the advancement. i know it's not NECESSARY to be electronic, but it wasn't NECESSARY to switch to carbon or to invent the compact double or to make a roubaix-style frame that still performs.

    i would love to have the electronic ultegra group – no more chainrub, nice clean shifts even under load if needs be (THAT's something andy schleck should like :) and less fidgeting with adjustments.

    i'll be very interested to see what bike companies jump on this…….

    dear cervelo,

    an R3 with ultegra di2 will quite possibly get you some of my money.

    yours, fish

  8. cthulhu says:

    I have never ridden an electric shifter equipped bike, so all is surely speculation, but what would the advantages and disadvantages be?

    Ok, the advantages I can imagine…
    First the act of shifting should be a lot easier, since one has to use virtually no power. And multiple switches. I can imagine that being highly practical on a TT bike and in a sprint, that is why I love my Campa thumb levers.
    Also, no adjustments to be made because of use. No mechanical stress that wears out the cables and similar. That sounds really handy.
    Cleaning might be easer too.

    Now the disadvantages…
    Energy source, if the battery is empty you're screwed.
    Price, not only buying costs more also spare parts i guess.

    All the other stuff, like reaction time, precision of the switching, defects a.s.o. can be also applied to mechanical ones, they can vary a lot in these aspects too, those are design and production features, not conceptual ones. Maybe the smoothness of the shifting can be made better with an electronic shifter but then again some riders dislike it when the shifting is too smooth.

    So, I think there are more advantages than disadvantages and it is the logical next step in the progress of shifting and I believe not too far away most or all top teams will have electric groupsets, but does the average amateur racer or weekend warrior need one? I highly doubt so because of the additional cost and, even if one could take a spare battery along as one always has at least one spare tube, the battery "problem" unless the subjective shifting quality is that much better than the one of the mechanical ones. But that time will tell…

  9. Wrench says:

    Electric shifting is the way to go. Everyone worried about the battery dying, its simple to check the battery level. Also shimano has a fail-safe that at 15% you lose shifting in the front ring but retain rear shifting. Since the battery only take 1.5hrs to charge and lasts 1000-1500 miles depending on how much you use the front derailleur, you'd have to be pretty neglectful to your very nice bicycle.

  10. g says:

    Get the upgrade kit price down to below a grand and I will probably bite. I never thought I would still be around when they finally got it right ! :)
    zap boom, metronic crash

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