I don’t get it. I really don’t. I mean I get 12 speeds—it’s just natural evolution of the group set arms race. Much like automobile manufacturers have engaged in constant battle to see who can create the transmission with most gears, we can expect to see all of the major manufacturers continue to increase the available gears regardless of users’ actual needs. And I get electronic group sets (regardless of Devon’s Luddite take on technological advances). Regardless of the type of riding you are doing, an electronic groupset provides fast consistent shifts. Bundled with the ability to add multiple shift points (sprint shifters for road bikes and brake mounted shifters for TT), electronic shifters are going to be increasingly prevalent in both the peloton and transition.
However what I don’t get is the need for wireless control of an electronic groupset. What benefit does going wireless bring? The first issue is weight. Every control unit is going to require its own battery back and transmitter plus the “brain” needs both a receiver and possibly a transmitter (for computers such as Shimano’s Flight Deck, which could record gear positions for future analysis). The second issue is the higher risk of control interference. 120 bikes in a group with conflicting signals pose no risk when the wireless data is only analytical in nature, but add the risk of unintentional shifting due to these conflicting signals and the danger to the peloton becomes quite great. Lastly is the risk of a battery running out of juice. The current Di2 battery, which powers the entire system, lasts 600 to 1,500 miles. However, a road bike system would require 3 batteries (one for the brain and one for each shifter), which would require individual charging and monitoring.
I am all for innovation but not just for innovation’s sake. I love how Shimano is integrating wireless transmission with its new Di2 group. Knowing your current ratio combined with speed and other data will only increase a cyclist’s knowledge of their own abilities. However I think Tiso is taking wireless too far. Bike frames are inherently hollow, and besides the junction from the stem to the frame, there are easy ways to transmit data around a bike in a wired sense that is going to be both lighter and more reliable than a wireless version. I hope to see continual advances in electronic group sets, particularly in areas which bring price down. I am holding out hope for an electronic 105 group set in the next year or two, but I hope those advances are for cyclists’ sake and not innovation.