Shimano has announced the their next installment of Di2 technology. This time they are reaching all the way down to their internally geared Alfine line of hubs. This will set the lowest bar for electronic shifting pricing in the industry. Typically the 8 or 11 speed internal mechanical Alfine hubs have been found on commuter bikes and town bikes costing much less than an Ultegra Di2 set up alone.
The system will use the E-Tube wiring featured on Ultegra Di2 that was such an improvement on the system launched with Dura Ace Di2 in 2009. Alfine will also get a handle bar mounted read-out with battery level and gear indicators. Of interesting note is for the first time, in addition to flat bar shifters, Alfine will come with levers for traditional drop bars. The new dual control drop bar levers will also be compatible with Shimanos mechanical disc brakes as well as traditional calipers.
The cables can all be routed internally and thanks to the new E-Tube system battery power can be handled from new locations, such as the seat post with the all new SM-BTR2 post mounted power source. Look for this to be a big upgrade for Ultegra Di2 as well, as the E-Tube system is compatible with that group.
While this may not seem like big news for road riders the possibilities here are endless. With drive train aerodynamics being a concern for the first time (look at the aero features of new SRAM Red) an Alfine system would eliminate much of that drag entirely. With new drop bar levers the system could happily find a home on real road bikes. Include the optional mechanical disc braking and Shimano has addressed another hot topic in the road industry. What we have here is perhaps a sneak peak to a future with entirely enclosed drive trains, electronic shifting and disc brakes.
Look for more soon as the system is officially displayed at the North American Hand Made Bike Show this Friday. The system will be available this Fall. Pricing has not yet been released.
*pictured 2011 Mechanical 11 Speed Alfine