Electronic vs mechanical shifters

Tidy control unit and cable routing for the Di2 system

Tidy control unit and cable routing for the Di2 system

I have ridden a few bikes of late that have the electronic Shimano Ultegra Di2 system fitted and a few people have commented wanting to know more about electronic vs mechanical shifters.

The shifting on the electronic Di2 system is so smooth and it has some nice features but does it really justify the extra 1000 dollars on the buy price?

Short answer is it depends

I am not convinced that I would automatically opt for a bike that has an electronic system as it adds roughly $1000 to the price over a model with a mechanical system. This extra cash goes a long way toward a sweet set of wheels or coaching for example.

Di2 front derailleur

Di2 front derailleur

But if you want the quick run down

It depends on the type of riding you do and how you like to ride. The electronic shifting will be an absolute godsend for you if you have small hands – thus struggling with the lever shifting or if you suffer from ailments such as arthritis.

If you do lots of climbing, then the bar mounted shifters are useful and the automatic trim is a nice way to limit the wear on the chain if you like to ride cross chained, eg Large chain ring on the front and largest cog on the rear.

The other bonus is that over the life of the system the Di2 should require less maintenance. There are no cables that will stretch and cause shifting errors. This is of course provided you don’t take a spill and have to buy replacement parts. Do remember to keep the batteries charged though.

If you would like a more in depth view the following blogs have some good insight:


The electronic system is buttery smooth in its shifting and will usually never need adjustment once it is dialed in. The systems will get cheaper over the coming years as they become more commonplace.

Right now if you can afford the difference I’d say invest.

If not, your standard mechanical equipped system will serve you well. It may need a little more regular maintenance over its life to keep it running smooth.

Is having, or not having, an electronic shifting system going be the thing that holds your riding back? Not likely. Just like a set of carbon wheels, we all want them but sometimes the budget may not stretch that far. And correspondingly you don’t need the fanciest wheels or the most expensive bike to win races. Buy, and enjoy riding, what you can afford.

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Author: Christopher Baylis

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