Wired is reporting that Japanese parts manufacturer Shimano is launching an electronic shifting system for high-end road bikes that it claims will vastly improve performance and reduce maintenance. Thursday's announcement that the system, called Di2, will hit shops in January 2009. According to the company, Di2 will be 67 grams lighter than the current Dura-Ace 7800 and only 68 grams heavier than Dura-Ace 7900, the snazzy forthcoming 2009 suite of parts. The advantage that people who've experienced the system talk about is how little effort it takes to change gears. A quick nudge to one of the shift switches signals a motorized worm gear in the derailleur to instantly move the precise amount it needs to. Fractions of a second later, the chain snaps into position.
Chris d'Aluisio, director of advanced research and development for Specialized, likens the difference between mechanical and electric shifting to the difference between driving a race car with a manual transmission and one with F-1 style paddle shifters. "You can stay on the gas and flip through the gears with no hesitation," said d'Aluisio. "It's seamless power."
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