SRAM has not jumped into the electronic-shifting game because SRAM believes the bicycle is a pure, leg and lung-powered expression of utter simplicity and grace. And using a battery to power an essential part of the experience just isn’t right. Or necessary. Especially because the real performance benefits of electronic shifting really don’t exist. A rider still has to think about shifting and press on something. The only difference with electronic is you press a button instead of a shift-lever. It takes the same energy and thought. Furthermore, electronic shifting is so specialized and boutique that if you break it, you can’t always get service or replacement. Instead of adding benefit, all it really adds is a layer between you and the bicycle. An insulated, muffling, experience-robbing layer of “Rolls-Royce automatic cushiness” – when the essence of cycling has always been about the “Culture of Mechanical” – AKA the raw, tactile connection of the human animal to a beautiful, efficient, analog machine. So in short, SRAM believes its energy can be better spent in refining and moving forward simplicity and purity. Which is mechanical shifting. And SRAM believes the public’s energy – and money – is better spent in mechanical as well. Leaving room in the budget for true performance upgrades such as frame choices, wheels, tires, etc.
For what it’s worth I reckon if Sram had stuck to their guns a really interesting electronic v analogue thing could have opened up in the bike world. I mean, rhetoric aside, I reckon that statement is bang on.
Some interesting comments from Stan Day about why they changed their minds too…
"Speaking of development, electronic shifting has come a long way since the days of Mavic’s Mektronic group, with battery operated road-going drivetrains from both Campagnolo and Shimano, and it surely only being a matter of time until an electronic off-road group is available. Do you feel any pressure to respond with your own electronic group, be it on- or off-road, or is it simply a project that will come good when the time is right?
[FONT=georgia]Frankly, I was an electronic skeptic. I didn’t think cyclists would want to add batteries, wires, electric motors, and controllers to replace the power of their index finger. I was wrong on road bikes, and cyclists have demonstrated that a meaningful portion want electronic shifting. Our job isn’t to change their minds, but to deliver a simple, lightweight high performance system, and those developments will materialize when the time is right."[/FONT]
However we’re talking about SRAM here.
First you have the actual mechanical build quality.
Then we have the electronic layer to get right.
And thirdly we have a wireless challenge- can you imagine the permutations of problems you might have with 4 battery failure points, and interference issues.
If they nail this, I’ll be very very impressed, and eat that hat (again).