Electronic or Mechanical? Customising Factory Bikes

Electronic or Mechanical? Customising Factory Bikes

Contrary to how many riders choose a bike, the frame should be the most important decision to move forward. After that, the groupset will often be decided. A common mistake is for riders to buy based on the mechanics offered on a bike. This is an overwhelming mistake and one often made because of a sale price. If a frame is incorrectly sized, incorrect in its geometry or the function is not ideal for your riding goals, then no well priced groupset will make up for bad fit, discomfort, bad performance and, worse case, injury.

Of course, the exception will occur if a rider needs a frame design to accomodate either Electronic or mechanical groupset. But high end factory frames will usually allow for either, or provide two options in the same frame.

When choosing a groupset the first question asked by riders is, "Should I go Electronic or Mechanical?" There are benefits to both which we will touch on here.

Battery Life

Whether its Campagnolo EPS, Shimano Di2 or SRAM eTap every now and then you need to charge the battery. We all hear of riders who struggled up the hills or lost the bunch because they forgot to charge the battery. While its infrequent, loosing battery power from failing to charge is the single biggest fear to put buyers off.

campagnolo shifters on pinarello dogma

A few years back I was riding toward a local freeway with a busy tunnel. I was in a large bunch and realised my gears were rapidly reducing in choice. I was reaching an average of 120 cadence to stay with the bunch (my optimal averages 88rpm). While the experience had me labouring to keep up, it also had me start checking recharging the battery as a habit.

Did my experience have me turning up at the workshop requesting to reinstall the mechanical equivalent? No way! Have you heard of any rider regretting or changing to mechanical because of a power issue? Never.

The process of checking the charge level is as easy as holding your finger on a button. You'll know how much battery life exists and when you should charge. And when you do, its as simple as charging your computer with a USB cable.

basso chainsmith bike shop

To also note, loosing your gears is generally not going to compromise your safety. Its not like breaking a chain in traffic or blowing a tyre at 80km downhill. You will often gradually loose gears increasingly as you continue riding.

wilier 0slr sram etap

Benefits of Electronic over Mechanical

The general benefits are the incredibly smooth, rapid and precise gear change. The efficiencies are perfect for racing, and for endurance rides. You can program the gears to prevent cross chaining, and to change through your entire cassette with just the touch of a finger. The reliability of electronic gearing is incredibly good with the expert installation of mechanics.

How does this change your riding? Reduced endurance fatigue, less expense in wear and tear of your chain, cassette and cables, and very little maintenance.

The pricing of electronic gearing has certainly come down over the years. For the extra expense moving from Shimano Ultegra Mechanical to Electronic has its benefits in efficiency. For the riders who want to remain in control of maintaining their components, then the mechanical option is likely a better option. For the rest, once you use electronic its hard to go back.

Mechanical Benefits over Electronic

wilier 0sl 2021

If budget dictates whether you can either afford an electronic groupset with a substandard frame, or a mechanical groupset with a stella frame, please ... choose the frame. Why? The frame dictates your ride the most. Mechanical groupsets are still incredibly dependable with issues being reduced to just a handful of troubleshooting reasons.

In general, we can spot an issue with a gear malfunction or brakes within minutes. Worn cables are the biggest culprit, a bent hanger (holds the derraileur mechanism that shifts the gears), wear on the chain and/or the cassette can also cause problems. All these issues are generally fixable within the workshop.

A feature of electronic is the ability to make updates and to check diagnostics online. However, for those keen on mechanical

Mechanical is great for riders who plan to travel where mechanical help or electric charge points is limited. There are also mechanical groupsets that can change several gears at once. While its not the same smooth movement as the electronic, it still gives the chance to reduce the amount of times you need to shift.


The Deciding Point

1. Choose the frame first and foremost

The next point asks, What's the most practical option for you in terms of gearing and your ride experience?

Consider your ride history regarding : 

  • fatigue
  • wear of components
  • gear reliability
  • ease of use
  • increased program functions
  • minimal aesthetic (hidden or no cables)
  • efficiency

For many riders wanting a new bike, budget can affect choices. Be realistic when asking for quotes with electronic compared with mechanical! The amount of times we are requested discounts for higher grade components after giving a quote is surprisingly high. If you need more information or specific technical questions contact us at Chainsmith. We are always happy to help when it comes to choosing your first bike, upgrading or buying another road bike. The form we send to potential bike buyers will have us all understand what makes a bike perfectly compatible for your riding goals, your ideal position as well as your ideal components. Contact us to learn more.


How to Charge Electronic

Heres a reference for the difference in checking and charging between SRAM, Campagnolo and Shimano

GETTING STARTED WITH ETAP AXS : The Basics of Going Simply Beyond

 Technical Manual for charging Campagnolo EPS Instructions

Shimano Di2 Charging

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