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Introduction to Electric Shifting,

the Pros and Cons

Electric shifting is accomplished by small motors mounted on the derailers. When you press the shift lever, it connects a battery to the appropriate motor which moves the shifting cage, similar to a cable operated system. Shimano Di2, Sram e tap and Archer D1X are popular shifting systems on the market today. There are several advantages and a few disadvantages to electric shifting as listed below.

Advantages of Electric Shifting

Electric shifting is easier to use because the motor does the work. There is less force needed for operation and there is less lever travel required. The levers simply operate an electrical switch.

Shifting is more precise because it is not dependent on the amount of travel of the shift lever.

They don’t shift automtically but electric shifting offers reliable, crisp and quiet shifting for the rider.

There is no cable stretch to allow for thus simplifying maintenance.

The electric wires can more easily be routed within the bikes tubing and there are wireless systems that eliminate the wires altogether. (Similar to wireless bike computers.)

You can change several chain rings at a time by holding the lever in. Very handy when you forget to shift before a hill.

Some manufacturers have customized shifting modes that will allow you to modify the speed of shifting. One mode of operation eliminates excessive cross chaining by automatically preventing such a shift.

An “add on” allows you to connect your system to a smart phone which provides several more features, such as software updates and convenient monitoring of your settings.

Disadvantages of Electric Shifting

The biggest drawback of electric shifting is cost. Electric shifting is expensive at this time. Initial cost will run between $1500 and $ 2000 above the cost of the bike. Replacing a severely damaged rear derailleur will run about $700 dollars.

You must charge the battery occasionally or risk being stuck in one gear. Battery charging varies with the manufacturer and the frequency of your shifting. Two weeks to 2 months is normal.

Because electric shifting is relatively new, not all bike repair shops are equipped with the knowledge or spare parts to fix a problem. Carrying spare parts will reduce this concern when riding in rural or remote areas.

The shift levers on some models are smaller making it more difficult to shift when wearing heavy gloves.

While it is easy to use electric shifting, there is a slight learning curve associated with operation, maintenance and troubleshooting a problem.


There is a general trend towards electric shifting among people who can afford it. More manufacturers are entering the market so prices should be dropping. It is still a toss-up as to the feasibility of converting your existing bike to electric shifting. You might wait until you purchase your next bike to upgrade to electric shifting. For those of you who will not give up your down tube friction shifting, please disregard all this information.

Future articles will focus on a better understanding of the maintenance and repairs of electric shifting for your bike.

Here are a few good YouTube videos on the subject that you might enjoy.

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