It’s hard for me as a die hard Campy guy to say it but, IMHO the number one spot in the group set wars is occupied by Shimano Di2. I believe the electronic group is here to stay and it offers a ride quality not possible with mechanical shifting.
Price and finding the right frame: Lets jump right in. Not only is Di2 pricey but matching the electronic group to a frame can be another price bump. There are not many Di2 integrated frames on the market at the moment. Some are sold as complete bike only and others are just ghost ware. You can see them in the pro peloton but good luck trying to get your hands on one. So what about using a normal frame and installing the Di2 using the Shimano supplied cable fixing tape? My experience with this was a good one. I rode a Di2 installed Orbea Opal for 7 months in all conditions and the bike looked great and the tape held up well.
It's all in the shifting: Like nothing else, with Di2 I make twice the shifts I made with any mechanical group and because of this I spend more time in the optimal gear. On a hilly ride it’s amazing even after the novelty had worn off and trust me when you first ride Di2 it’s so amazing you shift just because you can. Months later you shift more because it makes you ride better. The most amazing thing is the front chain ring shifts. No matter what the electronic derailleur works flawlessly and I mean it. I tried hard to trip it up but nada-not-once-never. You can shift both front and rear derailleurs at the same time. Something I don’t do on any other bike but with Di2 I found I did this quite often and it’s very useful. Drop to the small chain ring and drop one cog at the back same time with complete confidence. Very nice!
Unexpected: Something I did not consider until I put the bike together was the weight of the front end. This is one of the reasons I have always favored Campagnolo over Shimano is the lightweight shifters and the effect they have one the feel of the bike. Di2 shifters are lighter than any other shifter and it’s something that enhances the feel and control you have of the bike. Sprinting and climbing out of the saddle are a pleasure with Di2.
The sound: The servo motors in the front and rear derailleur are powerful and have a distinctive sound. I love the sound, it took some getting used to but after some time the sound becomes pleasant maybe addictive. I did consider that it could possibly foil a surprise attack on my foe. Who cares at least I will be in the right gear first.
Charging the battery: The whole idea of owning a bike that had to be charged was a little strange at first. It became second nature and was never a issue for me when using the bike. During the first few weeks I was a little over conscious about it, thinking out when it would need to be charged and when I would be able to do this but as time wore one I got accustomed to charging when needed which by the way is not very often. In all the time I used the bike I never got into a low battery situation that had any effect on my riding. I have spent quite a bit of forum time discussing the merits of the electronic shifting. I have noticed opinions are divided into two camps. Those that have ridden it and those that have not. Battery charging and potential failure are the biggest reasons most of the nay sayers site as issues for sticking to mechanical groups. If you can manage the battery on your cell phone then the battery on your bike is a no brainier.
Back to the non Di2 frame dilemma: If you are spending the money on the group you probably want a frame wired for Di2. But, what if the frame you want is not made for Di2 or you want to sell the frame a few years down the road and not be limited to selling it to only Di2 users? Also, some non Di2 frames might look strange with the guides intended for the regular shifter cables jutting out without cables routed. So electing to go the non Di2 frame route needs to be carefully thought out. Some frames will work well others will not. If installed correctly there are no real drawbacks over a Di2 integrated frame. There is no effect on the groups performance and the cable guide tape Shimano supplies last a good while.
BH G5 frame has possibly the best answer to the dilemma I have seen, the G5 has the ability to mount the battery underneath the down tube and hide the cables in a channel in the down tube. The Di2 integration on this frame does not have any negative impact on it's use with a mechanical group so the frame is the best of both worlds. I can see this becoming the standard.
If you are thinking about Di2 for your bike give me a call, shoot me an e-mail or better still make a comment below.