Is electronic shifting less fatiguing on long rides (gravel and road)?

I have a Roubaix Expert with Ultegra Di2 and my longest ride was 112 miles. I never once worried about the shifting since it’s so easy and effortless with Di2.

I’m turning 40 this year and decided to focus my mid-life crisis on bikes and gravel riding. :rofl: I have some big gravel rides (up to 90 miles) planned this year and I’ve committed seriously to cycling training, weight management, and strength training so I can complete them!

I built up a Salsa Cutthroat with GRX 1x mechanical but haven’t had a chance to go more than 20 miles since it’s too damned cold. I agonized which way to go with the build (thanks again for listening in other threads!) I initially strongly considered a SRAM Force AXS mullet but couldn’t find all the parts…but out of sheer luck I found the shifters at MSRP and bought them. The derailleur and cassettes are easy enough to find.

I’m trying to figure it’s worth going to SRAM AXS and selling the GRX components. I don’t necessarily mean this to be a SRAM v Shimano thread, but I am looking for everything I can to make sure I finish and do well in these events.

In reading/watching reviews of SRAM, one point that came up a few times was that electronic shifting (in general) reduces fatigue and cognitive load since it “just works”. I never thought about that before. I’m a bigger rider so if I can’t get my power/cadence/shifting right it can really screw up my off road climbs. SRAM shifting seems intuitive and reliable…but I know a well set up mechanical system can work beautifully too.

Think there’s any merit to the arguments re cognitive load and reduced fatigue?

Hmm, I mean, the reason I love Di2 is the fact that I never have to think about it working. If its working and its charged, it works.

Feels too often that I have buddies that have to stop mid ride and adjust stuff on their mechanicals. I also really really prefer the smaller shifters on the Di2 compare to mechanical hydro.

Cognitive wise, yes, for me its less as well considering I dont have to think about cross chaining Di2 due to it not allowing me to.

So when I ride, I never think about gears, compared to when I rode mechanical and had to think now and then…

Reduced fatigue, no, more focus on actual riding and better ride feel, yes! :slight_smile:

I would go AXS!

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I run ultegra di2 and GRX 2x on my road/gravel bikes respectively. The GRX stuff these days is pretty spot on, and i think is some of the best mechanical shifting you can get. Its crisp, precise and feels a bit like a sniper rifle trigger engagement. You’re never left wondering if you’ve shifted.
The cognitive load of all of this is going to be pretty minimal.

Knock against di2 for gravel…
rattling roads are not great on batteries and connections. When di2 works it is flawless, but when it doesn’t, you are hooped. Mechanical at least you stand a chance to be able to trouble shoot.

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I rode Paris-Brest-Paris, and it was the first time I’d ever had sore hands from shifting. It’s a 90h, ~1200km ride through rolling hills so there was a lot of shifting… never had that problem on other brevets, even up to 1000k and one other 1200. I’m probably gonna end up with arthritis later in life so it might just be that starting… but if I had the money I’d try di2 on my next gravel bike.

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I know Mike Hall had Di2 when he did his record Tour Divide ride so it must have worked fine for all that bumping and rattling.

Fettling mid-ride? Something’s wrong if you need to be doing that on a regular basis. I might not touch my mechanical gears for months.

For me: road bike with 2x, definitely electronic; gravel bike with 2x, probably; gravel bike with 1x, probably not; MTB likely not; Fat bike: definitely mechanical. YMMV of course.

Edit: meant to add, I do most of my long rides (both time wise and by distance) on the MTBs.

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I hadn’t really thought of it from a cognitive point of view, but I notice the physical wear and tear. I have broken my right wrist a number of times after a day of swinging the rear shifter on varied terrain (I.e., shifting a lot) my right wrist joints are noticeably sore. I also find that I would appreciate electronic shifting in those situations where you need to change gears quickly for rapid transitions from downhill to uphill and really tight corners I don’t think my control is as good when I am trying to steer and shift at the same time. I think part of the issue of road vs mountain mechanical is that the thumb shifter on Mtn allow you to maintain a more consistent grip.

Maybe this is just me trying to talk myself into upgrading, but the SRAM Rival is a really appealing and semi-affordable option for a gravel bike.

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I noticed the benefits of e-shifters ever since i “shifted” to electronic shifting starting with my gravel bike. I had an 3T Exploro with 11sp etap before it was a gravel group (road group…i dropped chains a lot). I road Dirty Kanza with this set up and having 2 sets of blips in the right spots really helped.
I’m a 50+ rider and the hand fatigue thing is real it makes a big difference i think. Now i have a MTB, Gravel and road with either Sram or Di2 and am not looking back on a mechanical. I still have it on my CX bikes but i think because of the mucky nature of the sport and how short the efforts are i’m gonna stick with that but for anything over an hour its worth it.
I use the blips a lot as well and even though their action is not as light it makes a big difference and don’t even have regular axs shifters on my roady and just use blips. For MTB i was the most skeptical but found it from both a physical and mental fatigue standpoint they make a big difference. There are a few studies out there that one of the big markers/indicators of fast/strong MTB racers is grip strength and not having to have to worry nor really push for that upshift helps in this regard.
I was skeptical when it first came out but as an older rider i’m sold.

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almost 12k miles in the last 2 years on my GRX Di2 and I have NEVER had a connection come undone.

I have done multiple 200 mile days on it, and the thought of a mechanical front shift at the end sounds horrific.

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Only time I am adjusting my shifters is when I replace my cables. Annually for everything except my roadie (about every 3000 miles for that).

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Ditto! And I’m on the cheapest MicroShift shite ever (it works fine by the way).

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i knew as i typed that there were going to be these types of comments. I’ve put 10’s of thousands on my road bike and hadn’t had an issue…then i did. Once. Integrated wiring and connection loose in the seat post left me with zero gear shifting, in a suboptimal gear, an hour from home.
Is it frequent? No. Can it happen? Yes. Is it a FPITA? Absolutely.

I didn’t raise the issue to fear monger, more to point out that depending on what you are doing you may want the ability to fix things when you are off the beaten path.

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Did I charge it? Oh no? Am I too low? Where’s my spare battery?

All nonsense. Mechanical just works. How many people you know with stories of dead batteries on trail and/or forgot to pack their spare battery? I know lots. I would probably be one of them if I went electronic.

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I’m wondering if the same people who forget to charge their batteries also forget to charge their lights and computer? Not being argumentative, but there’s lots to charge these days.

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Maybe. I do from time to time. I don’t ride at night anymore but have on occasion, but I bring 3 or 4 lights so one going out doesn’t matter much. I see it now and then as well as with people I ride with…or “I thought I plugged it in.”

It’s also a bit less so as computer needs charging at least once or twice a week. AXS goes months and don’t forget the coin cells in the shifters.

BTW that’s exactly why I will stay mechanical. At least I can still ride even if I have no other stuff. Human powered.

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And a broken shift cable will equally leave you up a creek. Both systems have their failure points.

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my computer will give me a low battery warning that comes early enough that I have more than enough left to finish my ride(unless it happens at the begining of a 200 mile day, but thats my fault for not ensuring I’m charged up for a long day) you almost have to try to run it dead.

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The DI2 is a bit harder to repair though, with all the bits that need to be removed. Shift cables can be bought at least pre-pandemic at many different places including Target and Walmart.

But, having routed shift housing and brake housing through my handlebar and stem, I would not wish to replace housing (normally annually) any time in the next 5 years. Definitely external routing is easier to manage. Score one for wireless.

Skimming this, but maybe we don’t need to rehash the pros/cons of electronic outside the scope of this particular topic? All those other issues are well covered in several existing topics.

This one related to fatigue is “new” from what I have seen, and I actually used that as part of my choice in getting my GRX Di2 after having a very sore and tired hand from LOTS of shifting on an 80+ mile ride with tons of hills. For me, it was a real consideration born of actual issues in a ride that lead to very sketchy moments and a rough finish.

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I’ve never seen Di2 cables just magically break. I’ve seen it happen in a crash or some other accident like a knocked over bike, but I have never seen a Di2 cable break while JRA.

They don’t break but they do come loose at the junction points. They are smaller so easier to fish around, which is good. But the junction points are usually well hidden and requires taking apart a good amount to get to.