We’ll admit it: We were underwhelmed by Shimano’s latest Dura-Ace. It had a new look, increased gear range and shaved four (yes, four!) whole grams. But we were looking at it from an antiquated mindset. New products need to be lighter, stiffer and shinier…and make us faster. Where were our easy bullet points for a product review? We missed the point, but with the launch of the new E-Tube Project app for smart phones and a longterm test ride we get it now.
New Shimano electronic groups are all about flexibility, and the new E-Tube Project delivers on that promise. Instead of an engineer deciding what is the best way for you to shift, you get to decide for yourself. When we first rode SRAM eTap, with its paddle shifting, we thought this was the way forward. But that was more of the old mindset. Electronic shifting and wireless connectivity is about personalization. Shimano Di2, for all its wires, is actually getting wireless right. Using Bluetooth, the E-Tube Project app and a small inline wireless module, riders are not married to anyone else’s idea of what’s the right way to shift.
Like the traditional Di2 shift inputs? Leave it alone. Want paddle shifting? You can do that. Want to slow it down or speed it up? Go for it. Even sequential shifting is possible. It’s called Synchro Shift, which selects the next biggest or smallest gear in your ratio, shifting the front derailleur automatically. Some of these options had been available for riders plugging into a PC for a few seasons, but with Bluetooth connectivity and the E-Tube Project those options are now way more accessible and convenient. Campagnolo offers much of the same customization with its MyCampy app and the latest EPS groups. Being a slave to some product manager’s shifting protocol is so 2017….
This new era of Shimano cockpit features integration that is next level as well. The hidden buttons under the lever’s hoods—once used to control the old Flight Deck computers — can be mated to accessories from Garmin, Bontrager and other brands. Multiple head units, new lights and the Garmin Varia rearview radar can be programmed to respond to input from the lever buttons. Scrolling through head unit screens from the comfort of your levers is a subtle, yet profound game changer. It allowed us to put fewer metrics on each screen, making them easier to read and the entire experience more intuitive.
Shimano’s latest Di2 groups were indeed revolutionary; it just took a shift in mindset—and a new app—to understand it. Now, if we could just get rid of the rest of those wires…. bike.shimano.com