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Electronic Shifting On a Downhill Bike

Electronic Shifting On a Downhill Bike

Billy Thackray Billy Thackray

The guys at Madison have fitted the Shimano Di2 electronic shifting system to the Saracen Myst downhill bike. You might have seen the Di2 bodged on to some xc bikes previously but this is the first time the DH prototype shifter has been used.
Obviously a load of testing needs to be done on the durability the device for downhill use, but could this be the future of gear changing?







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  1. willysnow

    is it any lighter? If not, I doubt it. Doesnt seem to really offer any advantages over cables.

  2. mr_p

    wouldn’t want to hit the mech on a rock and damage it. its about £450 to replace

  3. Morgan

    However if it could be incorporated into a gearbox style transmission, or something like the Honda “mech in a box” it could be the future. Totally sealed electronic shifting sounds like a dream come true

  4. Hancock

    Interesting that they mount the battery on the swingarm and not the downtube, wonder why. That shifter’s dead neat though.

    I like the idea of an electric gearbox, perhaps mated to a sealed chain (like the Millyard bike) or shaft drive. Have the freewheel in the gearbox like the G-Box and then the hub needs nothing beyond bearings.
    Then maybe mountain bikes could cover thousands of miles between drivetrain maintanence instead of a few hundred, or tens in the winter.

    Or maybe that’s a bit optimistic…

  5. Jeremy

    Way to kill the unsprung mass! Nice shifter however.

  6. alec

    What’s the point?

  7. Matt

    cool consept utterly pointless tho. would be cool if the made is so you can chnge gear withough pedaling.

  8. Farmer

    I always wondered if you could have an ‘automatic’ gearbox on a bike. Where the gear would just be relative to your speed…

  9. Pat

    Whats going to be next? Changing your gears through Telepathy or Braking with a iPod?
    Rubish I say!

  10. billy

    Electronic braking would do wonders for my armpump.

  11. ed

    dont knock it- may not work, but getton for thinking outside the box!

  12. LYTHY

    Hancock, good ideas but a shaft drive would create so much drag it wud be like pedaling through jam or sumthing like that. tasty but not very efficient.

  13. Aurelio

    props for thinking out of the box and experimenting with new ideas.

  14. Ben

    FAO ?MATT if it was a mech in a box with a front freewheel you could have shifitng with out pedalling as long as your rolling which would be nice

  15. Rafi

    i think spooky are working an an electronic shifting G-BOXX bike
    would be a pain to get up for your race run and get a flat battery or have no way of charging it in the middle of nowhere.

  16. ronin

    what about hooking up old gripshift to that r2d2 and that way you could pretend ur braappin. you know, this is how that whole crazy motorcycle fad thing got started…haha

  17. ddmonkey

    Electronic shifting or not that is a nice looking bike….

  18. Saguenay

    What !?!
    3 kg of linkage to drive a monopivot?

  19. Messy

    Seen this before researching. You guys should check out the old ‘Shimano Airlines’ system too. Completely pointless, shifted using a massive compressed air cylinder! Apparently to sort out arm pump for DH…

  20. Leon

    Are there any benefits over cable actuated gears ? Also is it not it about time they ditched mechs anyway , big flappy multi pivoted bags of hinges that they are ! surely they could make a gear box like a motor bike one but 1/10 of the size as we don’t even put out half a horse power

  21. matt

    ya i say think inside the box… GBOXX ….with a belt drive. bring us some durable UST tires, less coloured components and arrangements of headset bearings!

  22. Pat

    I’ve heard the word “armpump” a min. of 3 times now….why not invent a broomstick to shift the change….a) you wouldn’t need and shifters = saves weight b) it’s ecological and c) fantastic for 4x races, so you can stick it in the front spoke of your opponent.

    Maybe it could be called shimano boomstickbar and come in different lenghts and sizes, to fit everyones need.

  23. tony adams

    em the shifter aint gonna work cos the buttons are too close together

    the mech is waaayyy too expensive to break (read: to expensive to use for DH)

    this thing tuns itself and works UNBELIEVABLY WELL on a road bike, but its too expensive to run the risk of breaking

  24. GDawg

    C’mon Sram and Santa Cruz make a gear box bike!!!!!!!!! They are the reason it hasn’t moved on yetttttt!

  25. Mr C Unt

    This is an awsome idea. Why hasn’t anyone come up with this sooner or perhaps used a system with compressed air? I think everyone needs to stop riding in the past and realize that new tech=better.

  26. lee

    £450? and its held on with zipties?

    its pretty average, and i’m sure will be put in the cabinet next to the airlines

  27. AMC

    I always liked the fact that everything on my bike is manual. It is a big part of the attraction of bicking for me. It’s a cool product but when I want widgets I ride my motorbike.

  28. AMC


  29. VERG

    I have ridden Di2 and the shifts faster than anything else. It could be a great addition to a DH rig think no contamination, or wear on cables and housing, not thinking about cable routing when designing suspension.
    @Jeremy the battery only weighs about 60g. I doubt any one can feel the difference of 60g, it’s less than the weight variance from tire to tire.

  30. Taylor Williams

    sweeeeeeeeeeeet !

  31. jonzo

    Just cant understand why we still have a derallieur dangling off the back of the bike ready to snap off on the first impact? And leading equipment companies want to develop this further? Why haven’t things progressed???????

  32. Clutch

    Seems like a fine idea to me. Movement of swingarms & cable housings can definitely make cause any mechanical dearilleur jump between gears, so for DH electronic makes perfect sense. No more suspension effect on derailleurs is a very good thing.

  33. Philipp

    And when the batteries are empty, it becomes a singlespeed? I like my shifting the old way…

  34. wildman

    It’s a prototype. Just an idea. Dare I say it, a bit of fun. The shimano guys (at madison) were raving about Di2 so I told them stick it on our rig if its that cool. LOL

    Its fitted to the frame with cableties as its a prototype, modified by hand, shoehorned onto the bike. AND I didnt want 2 x 6mm holes drilled in the downtube just to hide the cable!

    This probably wont ever see the light of day (£450 for RD LOL)but it certainly does get you thinking…


  35. RufusP

    Lots of comments here on ‘keep it as it is’ and ‘what the point’.
    Thank goodness for evolution and peeps trying something new. It might just work, it might be really good too!

    Too expensive? I run a 1000 quid plus fork, which will probably get scratched during the season.

    As for flappy bags of hinges (loved this description btw), yes it is primitive, but isn’t that part of the charm? And it is very practical being able to fix it out in the field. Gearboxes might be good, but maybe too much hassle?

  36. Deeboy

    thats cool…bit lets really get thinkin, wireless, batteries inside the seatpost or similar application. Apple does button & scroll features without a button. maybe the changer should be part of the inside end cap of a lock on grip? etc etc

  37. pete

    If you hooked up the driveshaft to your electrogigatron, and inversed your flux capacitor, you could theoretcially shift before you even thought about it. Box? I cant even see it anymore!!

  38. tony adams

    maybe honda had it right with their gearbox, soooo simple. it was just a regular drivetrain turned backwards. the only problem with it was it took all day to pick up the drive because of the extra bits of chain in there…..but surely this isnt difficult to fix…maybe use a belt drive, theres no slack in them… then youve a maintence free(ish) drivetrain with no crazy expensive (and very fragile) bit hanging out the back gettin smashed up a couple of times a season…

  39. Hogan Koesis

    Hey check it out! One major advantage of this electronic shifting is that the derailleur automatically adjusts itself. So say you smack your stuff on a rock and slightly bend your hanger, we’ve all been there before, this is the only der. that adjusts itself automatically without you touching it. You literally adjust the limits and it adjusts itself as far as shifting. What this means is that you SLAM BAM a turn and then when you go to torque and pedal out of a turn, you can be dead sure that your der won’t skip and your chain won’t break. I think it’s a sick idea, just needs to be a little cheaper, which we all know in time, it will be…. :)

  40. onion

    FAO Leon: FAir point about the half horse power – my roadie boss tells me his ‘output’ is 275watts – that’s only 0.36HP – but we are quite torquey – 13st on the end of a 175mm crank is 141Nm at he BB – that’s 16 more than a 2006 1.4 Golf. If you were 16st, clipped in and pulling 20kgs on the handlebars, you’d be torquier than a spanky new civic type-r – hence why titchy little gearboxes don’t cut the mustard.

    I’m all for though-powered brakes to reduce arm pump though…..

  41. dirty harrold

    LOL at pats comment Braking with an ipod haha that tickled my gooch

  42. Harriieee


    That is all.

  43. ross

    at that price I hope it doesn’t catch on!!

  44. Sid

    @VERG. It’s been said before, and we’ll keep saying it. TYRES!!!!

  45. Jimmy

    Does it still work after you ride through a stream? Probably when its new but what if you ding it then ride through a stream???

  46. Jimmy

    If you added a big capacitor you might be able to throw it near a fish and it would shock it so it floats to the surface like dynamite. Then it would pay for itself after a while…..

    Fetching it would be a hassle when it sinks to the bottom

  47. Catney

    what’s the point, i get it for world cups & champs when shifting could mean seconds but really for everyday riding why waste the money…

  48. Jamie

    We need some F1 tech on the drive train, give is super light gearboxes already!

  49. derek

    these things go for about $900 U.S. for JUST the derailleur and since DH has the tendency to destroy derailleurs i cant see it being practical unless your Gee or Rachael and you are IN with shimano.

  50. batfastad

    How about hydraulic shifting?

  51. Karate Chris

    How many crashes before the battery gets smashed or falls off. Do the designers want to make bike maintenance even more complicate? I don’t want electronics on my bikes… where are much better mechanical solutions to the issue. It’s just one more thing that we can’t fix on the trail when it goes wrong.

  52. Mal

    Same old system hanging vulnerably off the dropout, except 10x the cost of replacing it when you rip it off on a rock. BB Gearbox is the way forwards, and I also think that the cycling market is a total rip off – look what you can get in a motorbike for the same money! Potential in professional racing; No use at all for your average DH rider…

  53. Paul

    It’s ugly, it’s undoubtedly heavy (with the battery and all), it’s expensive, and we still have gears sat on the outside of a bike exposed to everything mother nature can throw at it. Exactly what is improved here?

  54. Nick

    Mavic tryed this shit many years ago, I personally can’t see any advantages to this, compared to a sweet SRAM groupset, for an around town cruiser, yeh, ok…, maybe…, but at the end of the day as allways people will go for what weighs less !!, and if this weighs more then it will be an instant flop, unless certain markets who aren’t soo weight conscious take it up ?, If it aint broke, don’t fix it !!, however, fast forward 20 yrs and if there cruising round on these sleeek bikes that have electric motors that are built into the bottom bracket, powered by batterys that are built into the frame, charged by the rider and regenerative braking etc…, Solar paint on the frame to charge things further (yes this actually exists know !!), and as a complete package for the lazy around towners or the beach cruiser, then yes !!, I personally believe there’s a market there !, though not with the general cycliung fraternity… Thx Nick.

  55. spinach

    DH prototype? Really? It’s just the satellite shifter zapstrapped on.

    Cool, yes, but it’s not a prototype, or r&d, it’s just retrofitting.


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