Tripping the DA Electric


by Byron on Mar 27, 2008 at 6:27 AM

b_149.jpg Any mention of electric and drivetrains reminds me of the time I rode home from Seward Park with Joe Barrato. Joe’s a local racer, been around forever, and his Mavic Mektronic failed one night in the rain at Seward Park (the Seattle Thursday night crit). He was stuck in the 53 x 17, or maybe 19, all the way home and cursed it the entire time – every permutation of the various curse words was heard, including some entirely new ones. Out of sympathy, I climbed in the big ring with him and the Mavic Mektronic was never seen or heard from again. It became a don’t ask/don’t tell subject and he may have smashed it with a rock, buried it, or sold it on Ebay.

The ghosts of Mektronic past may not come to visit Shimano, there’s no doubt they’ve got the engineering staff, but skepticism remains until any shifting system survives a Seattle rainy season. And that’s not even considering the noise it makes when you’re riding with your brohams, the newsgroup supposition that electric shifting is a myth, or that it’s arrival may result in a factory-burning uprising from the commuter masses.

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Is shifting that hard? 

Seems like a product for cyclists who use the term “junk miles”.

To Mavic’s credit, I always dug the Mektronic name, as that’s more accurate to what it is—electric-assisted mechanical shifting. It’s not like [Tesla]( had some amazing wireless electric concept for moving a chain on gears and Shimano dug that out of the patent office.

I’d much rather see a “racing” Nexus, an internal hub that was light enough to race—or an entirely enclosed drivetrain for commuters.

As Joe tells the story, it was the 54-12 (remember - Joe ONLY rolls a 54) and it shorted out, and dropped to the biggest cog.

Even more amazing that he rode all the way home in the 54-12!

In the early Nineties there was the Zap electronic shifting system and then later Mektronic.  Both of them were failures as products, and both were from Mavic.

I love Mavic wheels, but come on….in the realm of electronics there are names like Toshiba, HItachi, Sony…not a whole lot of Gallic names.  And the Airbus A380 was delayed because of wiring issues.

And electronics in cycling are changing so fast.  Today, having an SRM crank on your bike turns it into an incredibly precise rolling sports laboratory.  Look at the advances in lighting systems. 

I’m not gonna bet the farm that eDA will be the greatest thing since internet porn, but I do expect it to be effective. I’m sure there will still be individual failures, as it is a complex system, but Shimano has a whole lot of engineering power.  There’s not a whole lot that Shimano gets totally wrong.

Having tried shaft drives, I def want to test this and as I said above, don’t doubt Shimano’s engineering—biopace aside. And, even if this is good marketing, like an electric car from GM, we’ll never see, great. Innovation and competition is the best thing for this industry. Can it survive a day like yesterday in Seattle? That’s the test, at least for Bike Hugger.

I have a first gen mavic der.  If the battery dies or a wire breaks, it just doesn’t shift. Period. It doesn’t “drop in to the 12”.  And a gentle push with the thumb and you can put it in any gear for that ride home.

The design is cool.  It uses the force of the chain moving to turn the upper jockey wheel which is mounted to a shaft with a double helix groove.  When you shift, a small solinoid engages into the helix that causes the body of the der to move to the next detent.  1 solinoid for up shifting in 1 groove, a second solinoid for downshifting using the other grove.

The design does not use battery power to try to move or hold the der in any gear so it won’t “drop”.  It could get wet and the downshift button could get shorted out causing it shift to 1 end or the other. Remove the battery or unplug the der and manually shift it into a suitable gear for the ride home.  Mavics instance on using multiple sets of buttons increases that shorting possiblity.

As one Shimano employee I used to work with said “If you can think of it, we’ve developed it”, meaning that the Big S has the capacity to explore every imaginable technology, including electric. If I recall correctly, they’ve been researching electric since the early 80s.

Just heard from an *Industry Insider* that said, I’ve “ridden electric DA and

* f’ing incredible
* bang buttons and go
* dropping the chain is a thing of the past, you climb in the small ring, blast it onto the big ring, and bam.”

The insider continued, “comparing it to Mektronic is a disservice.”



even if this product works perfectly, i see zero advantage for 99% of cyclists.  and of the 1%, i bet the main advantage for 99% is the fact that it costs more than regular DA.