Everyone loves new electronic gadgets (except Luddites), what about when they are added to something as simple as bicycles? Shimano did that a couple years ago with the Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 system. It really interested me when it first was announced, and I have had a couple of chances to try it out on trainers at a couple different shows, never on the road. It truly is an amazing system, and if I was a pro-level racer I would really like to take advantage of the perfect and quick shifting. They are coming out with an Ultegra Di2 now, helping to lower the price and allowing for more people to take advantage of the electronic shifting system.
Who would have ever guessed Shimano’s next step with the Di2 system would be to put it on an Alfine internal gear hub? The Shimano Alfine Di2. To me this system seems confusing, but at the same time it makes some sense. This could be a system that works with some commuters, but probably just those who are already riding carbon bikes to work.
The system is only a prototype right now; the finished product should be out in September of 2012 (no idea on price). It looks like there will be no big changes to the internal hub itself. Instead it will just have an electronic shifting mechanism on the outside (though I could be wrong). It will be offered in a 8 speed and 11 speed, and will offer 2 different brake/shifter lever set ups: road and flat bar. They will offer a road lever system, similar if not the same lever as the Ultegra Di2, allowing electronic shifting with the right lever, while the left will just be a brake. This will be Shimano’s first road lever shifter for an internal hub. They will also have a flat bar system, with a Rapid Fire electronic shifter. The system will also have an electronic display screen to show the gear you are in and battery life. The Dura-Ace Di2 currently only has a small battery indicator. The system will use the same battery system as the other Di2 systems.
Photos from BikeRadar.com article (Here)
I hope Shimano realizes if they want this system to actually work for commuters and people who bike tour, they will need to do something better about the battery. The advantage of an internal gear hub is they are maintenance free. If you throw a battery in picture you are going backwards. It keeps the hub maintenance free even more so by removing the cables, but you have to make sure your battery is charged, and that you have enough power for long rides, and even short tours. The system would probably have a lot more battery life than the Dura-Ace and Ultegra Di2, because it only deals with shifting the hub, as opposed to two separate derailleurs. It would really boggle my mind and probably a lot of others if they don’t make a way for the Alfine Di2 to be powered from a dynamo hub. I think that would be a necessity for this system, as it would keep it so much simple. If you can power your light, and electronic shifter, then I think the system would work well. If they only offer a battery set up, then there must be a way to lock the battery in place. On BicycleRetailer.com, they mention a battery placement of a “seatpost-mounted battery”. I don’t what that means, and I can’t find anything else about it. I don’t know if that means the battery could be mounted in the seat tube or just to the seat tube. If the battery could go in the seat tube you would keep it safer. If it’s on a commuter then it should be locked down, no one want to deal with taking more stuff off their bike that could get stolen, so lock it down. The dynamo would be easier though.
Overall I think the Alfine Di2 will find its place, just like the Dura-Ace Di2 has. If the Alfine Di2 system can work with a Gates Carbon Belt Drive, it could make an amazing mix. I would really like to try the Alfine Di2 out for my self when it come out. Maybe then I will understand it more.
• BikeRadar.com – Shimano Alfine Di2 – First pictures
• Road.cc – Shimano to launch Alfine Di2
• Singletrack Magazine – Shimano 2013 – Alfine Di2 and other Shimano Tech
• Bicycle Retailer – Shimano announces Di2 Alfine option, more