The second edition of Rebecca Rusch’s Private Idaho 100-mile gravel grinder began on a crisp 40 degree morning at the very end of August. Normally I despise the cold, but on this day the slight gnawing from the cold gave me a little confidence…confidence that my electronic shifting system might work when I needed it most. Unfortunately, confidence based on fact and that which is based on superstition can be easily confused.
Though I recently designed a gravel grinder/CX frame that Davidson Bicycles fabricated out of titanium, I chose to take advantage of Specialized’s “‘Test the Best” program to demo one of their premium production bikes. Though I have been assembling custom Davidsons with Di2, I have relatively little riding time on it. This is partially because I usually can only fit the smallest size frames, but Specialized brought two Crux with Di2/hydraulic disc in the 46cm size. How could I resist? ….especially since I could avoid the hassle of airline travel with my (non-S&S) gravel bike.
Unfortunately, my red Crux had some sort of digital gremlin in the left lever. I didn’t notice the problem when I first picked up the bike on Friday because I arrived just at the end of the pick-up session and needed to find my room for the night (which is kinda a funny story on its own). The left shifter had seemingly no effect on the front derailleur. When I went back the next day’s pick up session, Dane the mechanic and I couldn’t find anything definitively wrong with the system, but now the front derailleur seemed to shift if I spastically pushed the buttons again and again. I began to wonder if there was some sort of sequence that I had inadvertently discovered…something like a video game special move involving button combinations and rhythms. Curses! If only had spent more of my youth playing Street Fighter for Nintendo!
With Shimano’s diagnostic tool, all the shifters and derailleurs were showing with no problems, but even after we updated the firmware (which is roughly equivalent to rebooting your PC), there was no change. So I figured I’d chance it, thinking that I’d really only need to shift the front a few times if I was lucky. We had already tried all reasonable fixes; if this were a shop situation, there would be nothing left but sending the derailleur and/or lever back to Shimano, but I wanted to do the grinder on Sunday morning. That night as I rode about town searching for my pre-race Chinese dinner, the front shifter became inexplicably obedient. I could only guess that it was temperature related, as the night in Sun Valley was nippy. Perhaps the Private Idaho grinder would be cold enough that I could have faith in my front derailleur…
In the end, the front derailleur locked out in the big ring, but I had a pedal/cleat failure that had already convinced me to abandon the full 100mile route in favour of the 50mile version.