Is electronic shifting every cyclist’s future?

With Shimano’s announcement of its new 105 R7100 groupset, all three of the Osaka cycling giant’s top-tier groupsets now have electronic shifting. That all of them also add a twelfth cog to the cassette is almost inconsequential, bordering on coincidence rather than relevance.

A little sentence at the end of of BikeRumor’s report, however, states that for mechanical shifting aficionados, or people on a budget, 11-speed 105 R7000 marches on…and there is no 12-speed mechanical option.

This got me thinking. With 105 now committing to Di2, does this mean the shift to electronic derailleurs is inevitable? While we like to think that it’s the companies who dictate our purchasing choices, we forget that we vote with our wallets and our monetary “voice” is a pretty sizable influence in what companies do. That said, today I lay out arguments for and against electronic shifting.


Anyone who’s broken a shift cable inside their control levers will appreciate this being a total non-issue with electric-shift groupsets. Perhaps the only maintenance they need is periodic charging of their batteries, which, in the case of Shimano Di2, may be needed only a few times a year.

Freedom from a shift cable also means an electric-shift groupset will never have its indexing go bad because of improper cable tension, since the derailleurs operate via servos and electric motors. If you do need to adjust the indexing, it’s often a pretty simple operation. On older electronic groupsets, you press a button to enter a “fine adjustment” mode, then use the shift buttons to move the relevant derailleur cage millimeters at a time. These days, you can do it via smartphone app.


Unlike with cable-shift control levers, where larger sweeps of the lever are needed to pull sufficient cable to shift to a larger cog, electronic groupsets basically have buttons controlling the shifting. Pros may complain that inadvertent shifts can happen while riding on the brutal cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, and winter cyclists may grumble about Di2’s shift buttons not being distinguishable enough from each other, but otherwise this is a net boon – and SRAM eTap’s “paddle shifter” shift ergonomics don’t suffer from these problems either.

Because shifting is now just a button operation, and there is no longer any physical shift cable and ratchet mechanism to account for, there is no reason why shifting has to be restricted to just the shift levers. Shimano led the way here, with climbing shifters intended to mount on the bar tops, and sprint shifters meant to be thumbed while in the drops. SRAM has followed suit with its Blips.

Interestingly, both Shimano 105 and SRAM Rival eTap AXS drop support for satellite shifters.


Many folks have heard of the hidden buttons on the hoods of Shimano’s Di2 shifters by now. These can be assigned a custom function; one frequent use is flipping through the data pages of a compatible cycling computer. Unfortunately this is yet another omission for 105 R7100 Di2.

There are other applications for this. Most electronic groupsets allow current selected gear data to be displayed on a cycling computer (although Shimano has infamously retracted this for Hammerhead Karoo units). SRAM goes whole hog on this concept though and records your time spent in each gear, which you can nerd out on with their AXS smartphone app.


Shimano 105 and SRAM Rival eTap AXS have definitely brought the price of admission down on electric groupsets. That said, they’re still not cheap. A full Shimano 105 R7100 Di2 groupset is $1900 (PhP104,400) – that sort of money can get you a pretty spiffy built bike all on its own, albeit with mechanical shifting.


Along with the price delta of the whole groupset is a price delta of the individual components themselves. The 12-speed Di2 groupsets, in particular, have integrated a lot of their circuitry into the rear derailleur, so if yours gets destroyed on a ride, prepare for a hefty hit on your wallet to replace it.


As appreciative as I am of modern cyclist gadgets and conveniences, the fact remains that a huge percentage of these require batteries. Electronic groupsets are no different. On a fully wireless drivetrain like SRAM eTap, you need a CR2032 coin-cell battery at each control lever, plus one eTap battery per derailleur. Most others require a beefier main battery, either externally mounted on the frame (as with older Di2) or hidden in the seatpost. If you take advantage of the “semi-wireless” option that 12-speed Di2 and FSA’s K-Force WE groupsets offer, you need additional coin-cell batteries at each control lever too.

Stories abound of cyclists having dead derailleurs on a long ride because they had forgotten to charge up their bikes’ shifting batteries. I can accept a cycling computer, sensors, lights, and a power meter requiring batteries, but needing one for the bicycle itself is still off-putting. Perhaps I’m an old fart that way.


This is one of electronic shifting’s biggest sticking points for me, specifically Shimano Di2 as it has been around long enough to be observable.

Longtime cyclists may remember that Di2 first saw the light of day in 2009 with the Dura-Ace 7970 10-speed groupset. At the time it was a game-changer, but try to look for new Dura-Ace 7970 or Ultegra 6770 parts these days (say, because your derailleur pivots have seized) and you will be flat out of luck. As one episode of the Cycling Tips Nerd Alert podcast mentioned, unlike with cable-shift drivetrains where you can still “force” incompatible components to work with some effort and perhaps extra parts, the same is not true with electronic-shift drivetrains.

First-generation Di2 is a particularly egregious example, as Dura-Ace 7970 and Ultegra 6770 are not compatible with the 11-speed stuff (Dura-Ace 9050/9150/9170, Ultegra 6850/R8050/R8070) mainly due to Shimano’s move to the “e-tube” architecture. Incompatible electronic drivetrain parts just will not talk to each other – which means once spares for your Di2 groupset run out, you will be forced to buy a new groupset.


SRAM’s headlong commitment into its wireless groupsets since 2015, and subsequent success, has obviously influenced Shimano’s decision to introduce Di2 to its three highest-tier drivetrains. There is definitely a technological arms race happening here. Unfortunately it is one that caters towards the upper end of the market, despite both companies’ efforts to push electronic shifting adoption to the masses. While many folks wished for 105 Di2, the unspoken accompanying request was that it be made affordable – and that, it certainly is not.

Where does this leave mechanical shifting?

Judging from the smooth operation of Shimano 11-speed, and comparatively lower lever effort per shift over older groupsets, one could argue that it’s about as good as it will ever get. Even Shimano’s fourth-tier groupset, Tiagra 4700, is just as good despite missing the eleventh cog and using heavier materials. Now that is a groupset ripe for a revamp, as save for a mid-life injection of hydraulic disc brakes, it has remained in its current form since 2016 – perhaps now with the eleventh cog it was always designed to work with?

Shimano Tiagra 4700 works just as well as 105 R7000, despite its 10-speed cassettes and lack of street cred. Will Tiagra become the new hotness for cash-strapped cyclists? Watch this space.

Unless you go with Campagnolo, the current direction seems to be that 12-speed drivetrains are the exclusive domain of electronic shifting. Folks have whispered that sticking with mechanical shifting may become Campagnolo’s unique selling proposition, its ticket to future continued relevance – especially considering that its EPS electronic groupsets don’t receive the same amount of continuous development that Shimano or SRAM pour in. Given the Italian company’s historically unfriendly pricing strategy, however, I have my doubts. They’ve learned from the Potenza groupset debacle of 2017, and they’ll have to court the OEM market a lot harder than they are currently doing with their 13-speed Ekar gravel groupset, which is a welcome success story for them so far.

Let’s not forget – apart from, say, Tiagra, all these developments are still largely at the pointy end of the bicycle market. Most bicycles still ship with good old shift cable and indexed shifting, and with good maintenance habits these are still perfectly serviceable drivetrains. Personally I will continue soldiering on with mechanical shifting as long as I am able to.

Long-term updates of the pandemic reviews, 2020 & 2021

Over the past pandemic-infested couple of years, I bought a number of items which I wanted to test and review, but was prevented from doing so properly due to lockdown, quarantine, and just general movement restrictions. Lately, things have improved and loosened a bit, and I’m now able to resume normal programming somewhat, so I figured now would be a good time to revisit these products.


I ordered this online from REI, hoping it would arrive in time for my plan to challenge the 200 km Subic-Masinloc-Subic audax in late March 2020. Not only did the audax ride not push through, this thing also got stuck in cargo forwarding limbo for months. It was a minor miracle it finally arrived at my door, to be honest.

With outdoor riding out of the question for most of 2020, I mainly used the Mag-Tank as a “bento box” feed bag while on longer rides on the indoor trainer. That was a legitimately half-baked testing situation, as I couldn’t find out how water-resistant the bag was in case you got caught in a sudden downpour. I also couldn’t test if that fancy magnetic-clasped top flap would catch rushing air from the front of your handlebars and open involuntarily.

After some saddle time outdoors, some of it in the rain, I can confirm that both items are non-concerns. The Mag-Tank is never gonna get any water ingress unless you deliberately ride around with the flap open, and the flap is secure enough to keep closed even at higher speeds and situations with greater incoming air velocity.

The only caveat with Revelate Design’s product is how the top tube strap’s rubbery material will leave marks on your top tube’s paint. The white “TCX” letters emblazoned on my top tube now have little brown dots corresponding to the pattern on the Mag-Tank’s top tube strap, and they are never gonna go away unless I have Hyro’s frame repainted. If you want this bag, but don’t feel like staining your frame’s paint job, do wrap your top tube with some clear frame protection.

I hardly ever ride without it, these days. Highly recommended, and well worth the price.


I had always planned on getting a second wheelset built up for Hyro, with a pair of Shimano’s discontinued-but-brand-new CX75 hubs burning a hole in my parts bin for years now. Lacing those into something rideable would require rims, spokes, and a great wheel builder from Tryon in Makati, which unfortuantely was inundated with bike maintenance jobs during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I spotted and eventually bought this wheelset second-hand for a very attractive price. Since then, this has become my go-to for outdoor riding. It came with axle parts for the Novatec hubs to convert between through-axle and quick-release fitment, which was the first thing I did. This switchable nature is a great bit of future-proofing should I get a newer frame in the coming years. It doesn’t hurt that H Plus Son’s The Hydra rims are tubeless-ready, too, although they predate the ETRTO/ISO tubeless standard by three or four years.

There isn’t a huge weight saving over Hyro’s stock Giant S-X2s, mainly because these wheels have 32 spokes instead of the 28 on the stock set. Even so, they’re a useful ~300 g lighter, and the Novatec freehub is quite a bit noisier than the Joytech unit Giant uses, without becoming annoying. They don’t feel too different to ride from the heavier S-X2s, but they do look quite a bit fancier and roll on cartridge bearings instead of the cup-and-cone arrangement. All credit to Gran Trail Cycles Makati’s wheel builders too as these have stayed true and kept their spoke tension well.

Some of the black anodizing and white letter decals have gotten dinged from hanging off my wall in storage, but overall this was a good buy. In the future, I might even be inclined to finally bite the bullet and go tubeless with these, just for funzies.

And yes, those CX75 hubs are still in storage.


After one too many problems with Shimano’s pedals working themselves out of good preload adjustment, I went with their French rival’s offering. While Look is an established player in road cycling clipless pedals, they’re not as successful on the mountain bike side, and they made their X-Track pedal lineup compatible with Shimano SPD cleats.

The one downside to the X-Tracks is the tension adjustment of the clipless mechanism. Unlike Shimano’s adjustment bolt, which stops your 3 mm hex key at defined detents, Look’s adjustment is harder to dial in correctly if you don’t pay close attention. I spent quite a lot of trial and error here. There are detents, but they’re so soft, they might as well not exist.

Otherwise, it’s been all very, very good, even with this cheapest model in the lineup. The rotating assembly uses a bushing and two cartridge bearings, meaning there is no preload adjustment to faff about. Despite less physical size, the actual pedal platform that meets the sole of your shoe is noticeably bigger than any Shimano SPD pedal I’ve tried, and the foot support on these feels the closest to a road bike pedal in my experience.

They just work well – and Look’s own bundled X-Track cleats aren’t too shabby, either. Highly recommended.


Along with the Wahoo KICKR SNAP smart trainer, this thing has been transformative. Not only is this one of the most affordable power meter options on the market, it’s also very well reviewed and offers great accuracy down to +/-1%. Setup and maintenance are equally easy and hassle-free, requiring only the occasional zero offset and battery swap, and 4iiii’s companion app couldn’t be simpler to use. Battery life has been quite good: since receiving the power meter at the end of March, I’ve burned through one CR2032 button cell and I’m now halfway through a second.

Of course, it isn’t perfect. It will only ever measure power generated by a rider’s left leg, so it’s never going to offer left leg/right leg power balance. As an entry-level power meter, though, especially in this Shimano 105 R7000 crank arm guise, it’s cheap enough for its shortcomings to not matter very much at all.

Speaking of which…


This was the final piece of the 11-speed drivetrain upgrade on Hyro, arriving a whole two and a half years after everything else.

In hindsight, I should have upgraded sooner. The R7000 crank does work better with the peculiarities of disc-braked road bikes, its chainline sitting a smidge more outboard compared to older Shimano cranks, and that means it partners with modern 11-speed front derailleurs better and gives crisper shifting. You can still drop chains if you’re not careful, but those mishaps are fewer and farther between.

Even though I consider this the best crankset Shimano makes (I have no love for the lighter, but more flawed two-piece bonded construction of Ultegra and Dura-Ace cranks), five months on, I am still at odds with how it looks. Admittedly, road cycling is a sport that glamorizes vanity as much as it glorifies suffering. Older cranks with five-arm crank spiders have a classic, much more timeless appearance to them. Shimano seems to have thrown all that out the window with 105 R7000 in favor of better rigidity and power transfer.

Somehow I’ve avoided unintended rubbing of my shoes on this thing, which is nice – it lets it avoid getting uglier than it already is.

End of an era: Shimano 105 FC-R7000 crankset

The past couple of years, Hyro has enjoyed the substantial technological leap of going 11-speed with hydraulic braking. Majority of said leap came courtesy of parts from Shimano’s 105 R7000 groupset, with exceptions due to identical parts (the 105 FD-5801 front derailleur) or frame design decisions (Post Mount hardpoints require the BR-RS785 brakes and accompanying ST-RS685 STI levers).

I left one upgrade on the table for a very long time, though. I soldiered on with 11-speed everything except for my FC-5750 crank, from the Shimano 105 5700 10-speed groupset. The main reason I had stuck with it for so long was that I had just replaced its worn-out chainrings, and among all the parts of a groupset the crank is usually considered the one with the least compatibility headaches.

Or so I thought.

“Least compatibility headaches” might have been true at the beginning, when the chainrings were still fresh. However, with time and kilometers ridden, I suffered more frequent inside chain drop, especially if I wasn’t mindful enough to shove the chain onto the relevant end of the cassette before shifting at the front. Shimano also said the 105 R7000 crank was designed to better accommodate road bikes with disc brakes, as its stance and chainline are both slightly different from older 105 crank models.

It took the arrival of my 4iiii Precision power meter, itself based on a 105 R7000 left crank arm, to realize that maybe I had been holding back for too long. I was not doing Hyro and my riding any favors by continuing with a compromise, and besides – the crank is by far the visible heart of the entire groupset.

So here we are with Shimano’s 105 FC-R7000 crank, but still in the same spec: 50/34T chainrings, 170 mm arms, and the old reliable 24 mm hollow steel spindle. This is about as plug-and-play as a bike part install gets, especially considering my Shimano BB91-41B bottom bracket bearings from 2015 are still spinning smoothly and without any noise. Who says press-fit bottom brackets all creak? Mine don’t, at all. Kudos to Giant for making a fantastically reliable BB86 bottom bracket shell.

Spinning smoothly since 2015. If your press-fit bottom bracket creaks, blame your frame manufacturer.

That left crank arm is staying in storage, though. I have no reason to run that when I already have the 4iiii power meter crank arm.

724 g all in. 4iiii’s power meter pod adds 9 g.

The underside of the big chainring has its shift ramps scalloped out – a design feature carried over from the previous generation 105 FC-5800 crank, perhaps done in the interest of saving weight. This is about as weight-weenie as I’d get with cranks, and the reason I did not bother with Ultegra or Dura-Ace cranks with their two-piece hollow crank arm construction. While that technique of bonding two pieces into a hollow crank arm is impressive for weight savings, it’s also invited a spate of frankly dangerous crank arm failures.

Nice design, but I dread working on it. Better have some spare shift cable just in case you mess up.

Replacing the crank means re-tuning the front derailleur to suit. This is my least favorite part of working on a modern 11-speed bike, by far. While I appreciate Shimano baking in onboard cable tension adjustment into the cam-action pinch bolt, the instructions the Japanese firm publishes are best followed when you don’t have a chain running through the front derailleur cage. Dialing in cable tension with the 2 mm grub screw and lining up the tension marks can be frustrating with the chain in the way, and doing this enough times can kink and fray your shift cable into an unusable, wasted state (hint: better to put the chain manually on the big ring first if you don’t have a master link). If there is an argument for going the master link route with your 11-speed chains, this would be the biggest IMHO.

(L) 105 FC-R7000, (R) 105 FC-5750

That said, Shimano wasn’t lying about the 105 R7000 crank’s revised stance. At full throw, prior to readjustment and tuning, the front derailleur cage didn’t move outboard enough to shift the chain to the big ring. Limits had to be reset, cage orientation repeated, and even the little support bolt bracing front derailleur against seat tube needed adjustment. Once done, the now-completed 105 R7000 drivetrain is much more tolerant of front shifts at non-ideal rear cog placements. I have yet to suffer a dropped chain – fingers crossed this holds true even after much riding.

With the crank swap goes the final vestige of 105 5700 on Hyro, which was my favorite iteration of Shimano’s workhorse groupset from an aesthetic perspective. While I appreciate the functional and ergonomic improvements in newer groupsets, I haven’t yet warmed up to the brasher, chunkier, more angular cosmetics of 105 R7000, and by extension Dura-Ace R9100 and Ultegra R8000.