Shimano North America is our site sponsor. This makes writing about their products nettlesome, because readers might reasonably think I have been compensated to say good things about them. The truth is that Shimano has put no conditions on their sponsorship and has not requested that we write or talk about their stuff in any way. In fact, since they agreed to sponsor us, we haven’t talked. I’m lonely, guys. Holler at me.
Having pre-ambled, let’s get to it.
My primary bike is a gravel bike set up with their GRX Di2 1x drivetrain, and I have thoughts about it, and that’s why you’re reading these words. My thoughts, in brief, are: wow, cool, hey, what the?, and dope. It is easy to say that Di2 is great. The shifting is responsive, fast, and accurate. You can shift under load. It is far superior to even the best mechanical shifting, and I have virtually mind-melded with my Di2 setup, so that gear changes happen almost without me thinking about it.
But it costs money. It costs more money than a mechanical drivetrain, so is it worth it?
I think you know which way I’m leaning on this, but here’s a wrinkle you maybe didn’t expect. I believe, unquestionably, that Di2 gives me a better off-road riding experience, but on the road, I think the advantages are less telling. It’s not that it’s not better, but I’m of the opinion that it’s not worth the extra investment on a road bike, unless you’re racing.
I’m just in a lot fewer under-stress-shifting-situations (USSS) on the road, where reading terrain is less fraught and generally you can afford to roll over a few pedal strokes between gear changes. Again, if you often find yourself in a paceline or a crit, then maybe you ought to consider Di2, but I’ll stick to its value off-road. To me, that’s where it really shines.
This just in. Shimano now offers 105 Di2 for the road. Check it.
There are other things to discuss here. The ergonomics of the GRX Di2 levers are amazing, a big upgrade over previous generations. Also, the battery life is stellar. For a slacker like me, this turns out to be pretty important. Finally, I’ve made the possibly odd choice to go 1x on my gravel bike, and I love that too. The lack of complexity suits my style and my mental capacities. If you live in a particularly hilly area, nay, even mountainous, then you’re going to want to consider a 2x setup just to get those merciful little gears that can mean the difference between a successful day on the bike and helicopter rescue.
Have you ridden this stuff? Did I fail to address some key issue? Chime in, in the comments.
Like our friends at Shimano, No22 Bicycles is also a sponsor of The Cycling Independent.