Friday, November 28, 2008

Electronic Dura-Ace

I’m sure you’re read all the reviews about the new Electronic Dura-Ace.  I’m not going to repeat those reviews, but I was lucky enough the other week to get to take it for a test-drive.  Let me tell you I was damn impressed.  I had all the usual questions like "how long does the battery last", "what happens when the battery dies", "how do you adjust it", "how much more does it weigh", "what happens when it rains", etc.  I’m sure they have had all these questions a hundred times before and had a logical and satisfactory answer for each.  The true test was how it actually worked.  Amazing is all I can say!  The ergonomics of it were much improved over the old Dura-Ace, the shifting was spot on and quick, only 30g heavier than the traditional Dura-Ace and it was very modular from a maintenance point of view (and all cables were connectorized for easy replacement).

A couple cool features that they don’t advertise much.  First, the front derailleur automatically trims slightly while the rear derailleur is shifted so that you’ll never get any chain rub.  Second, there are some quick easy adjustments you can make if you put another rear wheel on and you need to fine tune the rear derailleur to that cassette.

From their answers regarding battery power, it seems that they’ve thought this through.  They claim that the battery will last approx 1000hr of heavy use, but more than likely 3000km of regular use.  You’ll be able to notice that the battery is running low by a slower response of the front derailleur.  There is also an LED indicator showing approx 500kms left of battery life.  If by chance the batter does get very low on power, the front derailleur functionality is the first thing that it drops.   People seem to be worried about the battery dying all at once leaving them in their 53×11.  This isn’t any more likely than it is now on your traditional cabled system.

Everyone I spoke with who tried the new groupset was extremely impressed with how it rode.  My only concern is the price - ~$4000.  Mind you, this is the typical outrageous Aussie price they were quoting, but it will be expensive nonetheless.  I don’t imagine that busting a shifter/brake or a rear derailleur will be a cheap replacement exercise either.  Most bike shop mechanics aren’t really going to know what to do to do if it is malfunctioning because of electrical problems.  The obvious fix will be to replace. That could get ugly.
I would also suggest to Shimano to have a second release come out in about a year or two.  Doesn’t have to be major overhaul. This would be more of a marketing strategy for them.  Cyclists are not early adoptors of new techology (those would be the triathaletes).  Cyclists are always cautious and skeptical about first releases.  SRAM Force is a good example.  Releasing RED a year later was very intentional from a product management perspective.

I hope this works out for Shimano and that SRAM and Campy follow suit.  It’s time for some real innovation in this space instead of just throwing more carbon into the mix.

Sorry - not much of a Cycling Tip in there, but I just had to talk about it!