|K-Edge left electronic mtb shifter|
Remember to pick up your Electrons today! (Now in handy pill sized Lithium-Ion form for your convenience!)
Changes....they keep on a-comin', and one thing is certain, that won't change. The latest thing to bubble up is electronic shifting. Just a roadie thing, you say? Well, I think it will definitely come to mountain bikes someday. Probably sooner than later.
I'm speaking of production gruppos, by the way. If you want a mountain bike Di2 set up, you can get that already here. It is a graft of road production electronic shifting onto a mountain biking format.
My thoughts are not whether this is "good" or "bad", per se', but rather, just what does this say, if anything, about mountain biking? Is it really "mountain biking" if we cross the line to electronic shifting, or have we sold our souls to a "digital devil"? Where does it stop? Maybe you've heard about, or remember electronically controlled suspension forks, and certainly we all know about electrically assisted mountain bikes.
It seems to be the way of "progress" to make everything robotic and digitized. Certainly, it is a pillar of our Western world culture. Make something "new" and "better" in terms of what this means to our culture and you inevitably come to grips with zeroes and ones at some point. Digital, electronic, and servo-motored reality is encroaching upon all aspects of our way of life. Don't think so? Turn off the power to your house, and take away the batteries, then see how far you get. Suddenly the Amish don't look so foolish.
But I am not debating the good or bad concerning our post-post modern way of life, just pointing out that it seems inevitable that cycling will be overtaken by servo-motored, assisted shifting, electronically controlled shock damping, and heck, even navigation and training are already dominated by electronics.
Bringing it back to shifting: Does this signal the end for Bowden cable operated mountain bikes?
First off, I think that answer is no, it doesn't. Much needs to be figured out yet, and even then, the costs of such electronic shifting systems is enormous compared to "normal" shifting systems. I do think it will happen, but I don't think it will eliminate what we already are using.
The bigger question to me is the philosophical one about what is mountain biking? Does mountain biking become something less when we start to decrease the human power element, if electronic shifting even does that to any degree? (I would say that it does.) It seems like the more we rely on electronics to do work for us, the more we remove ourselves from something essential to bicycling.
Maybe that's just old, crusty, retro-grouch me, but I believe it. (Signing off now as I switch off the electric guitar and pick up my acoustic.....)