Monday, June 25, 2012

Electrified Dirt

Will it be long before dirt goes electric? (Image: Kirk Lee)
We're all familiar now with electronic shifting road bikes. I don't suppose, (as bike nerds, geeks, and freaks), that we barely bat an eyelash at the thought of electronic road bike shifting these days. Push a button, hear a whirring servo motor, and get a perfect shift every time.

Yet, when it comes down to dirt riders, we just don't see the electronic shifting crossing over to mountain bikes. I find this strange.

Oh sure, you have the custom guys doing the deed with Di2 modded set ups for mountain bikes, like this black Kirk Lee number shown here, but by now, you'd figure a major manufacturer would have put something together as a range topping show piece. You'd think that by now, the supposed "shifts fine every time" electronic shifting would be the darling of XC racers everywhere that count on trouble free front shifts. Shifting under power, which the road versions do quite nicely, seems like it would be coveted by the mountain biker. (Well, the well heeled mountain biker, or sponsored rider, at least.)

I figure it has to be coming, (the electronic dirt group that is), and the next XTR will be it. I wonder if a prototype will be raced at the Olympics? Seems like the perfect stage to show something like this off.

Also, curiously, Shimano and Fox have already co-opted the Di2 battery to run an electronic suspension system. Interesting to see that ahead of electronic shifting. Maybe they are easing us into this gently!

Maybe someday we'll all be riding electronically shifted mountain bikes with electronically controlled suspension systems with GPS/Power/Heart Rate controlled shift points. You know- just ride and the bike does everything else for you but pedal and steer. Hmmm.......

Maybe we will, but I hope we don't have to, if you know what I mean.


Irishtsunami said...

Great, another cord to clutter and tangle. This coupled with the constant worry of battery life. "Will I have enough juice?" for every ride.

I struggle enough with tire and shock pressure or chain lube. I like simple, last year was my jump into hydraulics and that has been around for a long time.

Fortunately for me it will be a long time before (if ever) that I can afford the insane cost of the initial purchase or the inevitable crash and rear mech replacement.

Velocodger said...

Yes, Ted I do know what you mean...I'm not a trust fund baby, I didn't go to dental, law, or medical school, so all the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ stuff will pass me by. I hope I can still afford a bike in this "bling bling" world in which we live.

Guitar Ted said...

@Irishtsunami: I think that cord clutter will actually be reduced instead of increased. There is the distinct possibility that no wires will be external until just before derailleurs on the electric set ups. Of course, the frame has to be designed for this to make it happen.

Battery life will be an issue for epic riding, but I don't see those folks as the target group. I think it will be XC racers and Marathon class/24 hr racers that will be most interested in this. Current battery life should be sufficient for those pursuits, and I suspect it will improve given technological advancements in battery tech.

@Doug: Yes- it all comes down to the money. But I figure that it will sell plenty of units. Just look at all the 6-10K rigs already being sold.

GNAT said...

My Fargo Ti I am building this week has nice 9 speed drive line and bar end shifters. I believe electronic has a place, just not on the bikes I ride most. It is interesting though that we have electronic for road and not for mtb. In time I'm sure, but interesting none the less.