Electric gears aren’t a new development in the road biking world. Mavic first produced their ‘Zap’ system in 1992. Instead of using battery and motors, the Zap system used the movement of the chain to power the gear changes.
Electric gears have come a long way since then. We take a look at the electric gear systems from the three big players on the market.
Shimano's system is tried and tested, used by a number of teams in the world tour. It has been through three different versions leading to what we have today the Dura Ace 9150 and the Ultegra R8050. It runs a fully wired system with motors in both derailleurs, powered by a battery normally located in the seat tube. With each component of the groupset being separately wired in it is easy to swap around as required. The latest generation has Bluetooth capabilities, so riders can fine tune the way the gears are changed and how quickly they change.
The Electric Power System (EPS) is the Campagnolo version of the electric gears. Now in its third version and being available in the Chorus, Record and Super Record groupsets. Like the Shimano system it is fully wired but with a slightly more complicated install process as components wire to each other to complete the circuit rather than running independently. Again like Shimano the battery is located within the frame and charged from a charger plugged into the bike. The bluetooth set up gives the capability to personalise your gear change sequences. Compared to Shimano and Sram’s electronic groupset Campagnolo EPS is quite expensive. It's the aesthetics and the Italian pedigree that keep people married to the system though.
Sram were late to the party in regards to electronic groupsets, but when they did launch Etap in 2015 it was unique. With a fully wireless system being controlled by Srams own communication protocol. Each derailleur has a rechargeable battery controlling each component which is charged away from the bike. The wireless nature of Etap makes install very simple. Another big difference from the Shimano and Campagnolo systems is the number of buttons used to change gears. Both Shimano and Campag use four buttons whereas Sram decided to just use two. Tap the left button to go up the block and the right button to go down, both together and the front mech shifts from big to small ring or vice versa.
There are various other manufacturers who have have entered the fray for electronic groupsets. In 2018 FSA bought out the semi wireless K Force WE with battery wired derailleurs talking wirelessly to the shifters. It hasn’t taken off like the groupsets from the big three with mixed reviews around functionality and ease of use.
Here at Cycle Exchange we have a number of bikes with electronic groupsets, but remember if there’s a bike without an electronic groupset and you want it we can always look at an upgrade!