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Shimano Di2 breakdown reveals remote control capabilities

  • By VeloNews.com
  • Published Apr. 1, 2013
Shimano's new Di2 offering allows riders' gears to be shifted remotely via a Garmin web application. Photo: VeloNews.com

Ghost shifting is not just for poltergeists and worn chains anymore.

Hidden deep inside Di2′s control box, which houses the system’s relatively simple computer chip “brain,” is a secret. A recent teardown of Shimano’s new Di2 electronic shifting brain revealed a Bluetooth-compatible receiver, capable of taking in signals from an external source and transforming them into shift movement.

Upon receiving a long-term test bike equipped with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9070, the company’s latest electronic groupset, the VeloNews tech department closely examined the control box, or brain of the Di2 system, where all component and battery wires meet. The inspection revealed a hidden circuit board equipped with GPS and Bluetooth chips.

Shimano flatly denied the inclusion of Bluetooth capabilities within the 9070 system, despite physical evidence. “We believe that shifting should always be the prerogative of the individual rider,” spokesman Wayne Stetina said. “It’s a physical process, a personal process. Only you can know when it’s time to shift.”

Multiple Shimano-sponsored riders, who would speak only under condition of anonymity, claim otherwise. Each disclosed that Di2′s Bluetooth chip is capable of syncing with the Garmin Connect Mobile app. The feature allows riders can share rides in real time, which permitting coaches to monitor their athletes while training and, with the new Di2 setup, shift rider’s gears from Garmin’s LiveTrack web application.

A source close to Garmin-Sharp’s Peter Stetina, Wayne Stetina’s nephew, told VeloNews that the rider has been training in Girona, Spain, using a prototype Garmin LiveTrack system that, used in conjunction with the new Di2 9070 system, allows team director Jonathan Vaughters to closely monitor Stetina’s rides in real time.

Stetina could not be reached for comment, but Vaughters told VeloNews that, if needed, he can now shift a rider’s bike from his laptop, thousands of miles away.

“The new system from Shimano and Garmin has been fantastic. Of course we trust our riders to make the right decisions, but in terms of technological advancements for team management, this is the next frontier,” Vaughters said, adding that it had not yet been used in UCI sanctioned events.

“Sometimes they get bored, or hungry or distracted, and they slow down,” Vaughters said. “Jumping to a harder gear is a little prod to keep the pressure on.”

There is currently a rule against live transmission within the UCI’s technical rulebook. When asked for comment, UCI technical commissioner Matthew Mottet told VeloNews that the governing body would be immediately investigating the allegations, and would react accordingly.

“It’s fine if they’re using it when training,” Mottet said. “But racing is different. You should have to push the button yourself, at least. These guys are getting too soft.”

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