Is Shimano Di2 for you? More info on features and prices!
We recently carried out a Di2 install for a customer, and it’s been the subject of much discussion both here and between our customers. Lots of people have been asking us to explain the benefits of Di2 as well as the price. So we thought we’d put together a post listing as much info as possible to help you decide if Di2 is for you.
What is Di2?
For those of you that are unfamiliar with the term, Di2 is the name of the technology for Shimano’s electronic drivetrain shifting system. Di2 originally started as 10 speed, but modern Di2 groupsets are 11 speed. Di2 groupsets are currently available in Ultegra and Dura Ace.
Di2 uses electronic cables to connect a number of key components together, including shifters, front mech, rear mech, a purpose built battery and a junction box. Additional shifters, such as TT bar ends and climbing shifters, can be introduced to the drivetrain easily to customise the accessibility of the drivetrain in various riding positions.
Di2 is now designed to support both rim brake and hydraulic disc brakes.
Although it’s becoming increasingly more commonplace these days, electronic shifting is not a new concept. The Mavic Mektronic Zap groupset was launched in 1992 - although the concept was ahead of the technical capability at the time and as a result didn’t really take off at the time.
Groupset Vs Upgrade Kit
People are often unsure whether they need an upgrade kit or a full groupset.
Upgrade kits - are designed to upgrade an existing compatible Shimano mechanical drivetrain to electronic shifting. Upgrade kits typically only contain the core essentials - STI shifters, battery, mechs, cables, junction box.
Full groupsets - include absolutely everything you need, including brake calipers, bottom bracket, chain, cassette, and chainset, as well as everything contained in an upgrade kit. This is an ideal option if your current drivetrain is worn and/or your chainset is not Shimano (or if it is a Shimano chainset if it is not compatible with the newer front mech designs).
Depending on your frameset, you may also need to consider investing in a particular bottom bracket and a band on adaptor (Di2 mechs are available in braze on configuration only.)
If you’re not sure whether you need an upgrade kit or a full groupset or any additional components to facilitate a Di2 install on your bike simply pop in to our workshop with your bike and we can have a look and advise based on your unique setup!
Don’t forget, Di2 can be set up on 1x systems too! You’ll need some after market parts but it’s certainly an option - one that Owen has been considering for some time!
Why Go Di2?
That’s the question that people ask most often - why should I go Di2? Sure, electronic shifting sure looks fancy, and the sound the mechs make during a gear shift is incredibly satisfying. It’s obviously a nice thing to have, but is that all there is to it?
Access to Synchro-Shifting - Perhaps one of the biggest benefits, especially with the newer Di2 groupsets, is the introduction of the Synchro Shift. More on this in a moment!
Improved and Customisable Shifting Speed - There is obviously a performance aspect to the shifting. Shifting from one gear to the next on an electronic drivetrain is far smoother and far quicker than a mechanical drivetrain, even when under load. However, the speed at which gear changes occur can be increased further using the Shimano E-Tube app.
Easy to Run Additional Shifters - If you’re a climber or a racer, the prospect of running multiple shifters in various locations around your handlebars would certainly be appealing, with the benefit being that you can make smooth gear changes without having to move your hands from your usual climbing or sprinting position.
No Noisy Chain Rub - There’s nothing quite as annoying as hearing a chain rub against a front mech, whether this is down to cross-chaining or a poorly setup front mech. With Di2, the front mech makes small adjustments to ensure chain rub never occurs. And with Synchro-Shifting you can avoid cross-chaining altogether!
Fit and Forget - The groupset requires almost zero maintenance - in so much as you don’t need to worry about cables bedding in and stretching. Once the groupset or upgrade kit is fitted you can forget all about it - or fettle to your hearts content with the E-Tube app - the choice is yours!
What is Synchro-Shifting?
Synchro shifting is a Shimano system that automatically changes gearing on the bike based on how the rider is using it. Synchro-shifting is available in two modes, semi-synchro or full synchro.
Semi-Synchro - automatically shifts your rear mech based on when you change the position of your front mech. For example, if you are in the inner chainring and shift the front mech to the outer chain ring, the rear mech automatically shifts at the same time, moving the chain 2 cogs to smooth out the transition of moving from inner ring to outer.
Full Synchro - changes your front mech based on the position of your rear mech - and renders your front mech shifter useless as you are no longer in control of the front mech. Instead the groupset decides when you need to move from inner to outer ring and back again.
For example, if you are in the outer chain ring and your heading towards a climb, you’ll slowly move the rear mech towards the bigger cogs on your cassette. However, once you get so far into those rear gear shifts, the front mech will automatically change down into the inner ring and simultaneously make adjustments on the rear mech, smoothly getting you and your drivetrain ready for the climb ahead. This process is reversed when you begin to accelerate again, with the front mech moving the chain on to the outer ring as you start to work towards the smaller cogs on the cassette.
This intuitive system is designed to ensure riders avoid cross chaining - which puts unnecessary (and undesirable) strain on the chain due to running the chain in the extreme gears. This feature is fully customisable along with other shifting preferences via the E-tube application.
How Much Will it Cost?
Well, like a good carbon wheelset, Di2 is not cheap! But it is becoming more affordable - and it’s one of those investments that delivers a number of noticeable benefits.
The introduction of the Ultegra Di2 groupsets and upgrade kits have certainly helped to swing some of those riders that were on the fence.
We recently supplied and fitted a complete Ultegra R8050 Di2 groupset to a customer for around £1400. This price included mechanical components (such as chainset, cassette, BB, chain, etc) as well as the electrical elements. This price also included stripping off the original groupset parts from the bike, boxing up and labelling the old parts, supplying and fitting the correct parts for the bike, providing a demo to the customer of the different shifting modes, showing the customer how to check battery charge and answering any questions asked. In the event that any parts fail we will deal with the warranty process on behalf of the customer.
For a little extra than you would pay online, you’ll get a great service from start to finish, support throughout the lifetime of your groupset and peace of mind that all of the parts are correct for your bike and correctly installed by a professional.
Of course, if you only need an Ultegra Di2 upgrade kit (electrical components only) then this price would be considerably reduced! Dura Ace Di2 groupsets and upgrade kits are more expensive.
If you’re considering a Di2 install on your bike come and speak to us. Pop in with your bike so we can discuss your exact requirements and options, and give you a price based on your specific needs.
What are the Drawbacks?
Cost of Replacement Parts - While the technology has become more affordable, the individual components are still pretty pricey when compared to their mechanical counterparts. While you should rarely ever have to buy individual components it is well worth considering. For example, at the time of writing, the Ultegra R8000 short cage rear derailleur retails at £84.99, whereas the R8050 Di2 Ultegra rear mech retails at £244.99 - a difference of £160! Obviously online prices for both mechs are far cheaper than the RRP - but you’re still looking at a difference of around £90 between the two components on online pricing. The battery will eventually need to replaced too - bear that in mind!
Checking The Battery - One thing you do have to be mindful of is monitoring the charge in the battery. It’s incredibly easy to check the battery levels pre ride, but running out of juice on a ride could make for a frustrating ride out. Lot so f people panic and think that they’ll suddenly be stuck in one gear with no warning, but that is not the case. As the battery runs out of power, the front mech turns off first to conserve battery life, allowing the rear mech to continue on for as long as possible.
Never in Full Control - Synchro-Shifting isn’t for everyone, as some people prefer to have full control over both mechs as they would with a mechanical setup. However, even in Manual mode you do not get all gears as some are limited. If you are in the smallest chainring, you cannot use the two smallest cogs on the cassette; the rear mech will simply refuse to shift in to them. This is to avoid chain slap as a result of cross chaining.
Home Maintenance - For those who like to fettle at home it’s important to know that with Di2 it’s not always as easy to identify and remedy issues with the drivetrain at home. You can make adjustments to the rear mech, but should a component stop working altogether, or only work intermittently, you will need to take your bike to a local bike shop and have them do a diagnostic to determine what the error is (but that’s much like having a modern car!)