Freeman Cebu Sports

I am for Electronic Shifting!

ALLEZ - JV Araneta - The Freeman

Since the late 80’s, when I started my love affair with the bicycle, I have been using a mechanical gear.

The first bike I had was a 10-speed, meaning it had 5-cogs at the back and two chainrings at the front. (5x2=10s). It was followed by 12s, a 14s and eventually a 16s. For those serious climbers, they had three chainrings so if you do the math, they’d have more gear ratios than they’ll ever need in their entire life!

There wasn’t really much change until the 16s (we actually call them as 8 speeds) when Shimano introduced index shifting- just move the sifter and when it clicks, you’re on the right gear! Not to be left behind, I tried all the gear ratios bike manufacturers have and believe me, it only made me believe that I rode faster, and my bike looked better. Speaking of sartorial elegance in cycling, even if you are using Catellis or Rapha’s and you are fat, you won’t look fast. The skinny ones look fast!

Last year, I wanted to get a new bike, and I wanted the aero frames with electronic shifters. I wanted SRAM over Shimano and Campagnolo for the reason that their system was wireless. Yes, no wires. The latter still had wires and being the careless person that I am, I don't think they would last long with me.

Electronic shifting isn’t new. The first attempt was made in 1990 by Japanese company SUNTOUR, it was called, “Browning Electronic AccuShift Transmission (SunTour BEAST)”.  According to Wikipedia, it was a “triple crankset system for mountain bikes in which one quarter of the circle is hinged along a radius. During shifting, this segment is pushed sideways by a relay  operated mechanism like a railroad switch and picks up the chain that is currently running on the next cog.”

Two years later, the French company MAVIC developed ZAP and this eventually was used by Chris Boardman during the 1992 Tour de France as a prototype, but it wasn’t sold commercially. . But it wasn’t a commercial success. In 1999, they tried again with MEKTRONIK  but it was discontinued due to reliability issues.

In the 2000, Shimano and Campy tried out versions of electronic gears and released the same product around the same time 10 years later. While both were very expensive, Shimano’s version turned out to be better and a success financially versus Campagnolo. When I asked an option from a friend why, he said, “will you buy Italian gadgets over Japanese made ones?” That was a clincher for me.

Yet, I didn’t want to buy a drivetrain with wires. Then in 2015, SRAM, a player who was always behind the shadow of Campy and Shimano introduced the first wireless system. The product just seemed to work and if there were any issues, it really was not that big to turn off potential buyers.

    And so, when I was ready for the new bike, I decided to get it decked with a 12-s SRAM drivetrain. I know it's a bit expensive but at my age, I want them. And so, I’m never going back to the mechanic system. SRAM is too convenient, too worrisome-free, too perfect to stop using. With the same principles trickling down to the lower models, I'm sure that in the next 10 years, mechanical drivetrains will be a thing for the retro hunters.

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