For the past couple of years, the only major bicycle parts manufacturer to offer electronic gear shifting has been Shimano, with its Dura-Ace Di2 drivetrain. That changed this Monday, however, as renowned Italian components-maker Campagnolo launched electronic versions of its two highest-end shifter/derailleur groups. The new products are called Record EPS and Super Record EPS, with the tacked-on acronym standing for Electronic Power Shift.

Campagnolo has been tinkering with powered shifting since 1992, when it first began work on an experimental system that incorporated electric motors on both derailleurs. The setup was revised six times over the following years, but never quite made it to the marketplace. EPS marks its latest incarnation, and the first time that it will be available for purchase.

The system consists of five parts: the Ergopower EPS shift levers (an electronic version of Campy's existing Ergopower levers), an electronic interface, a power unit, and the two derailleurs.

Processing for the system takes place in the centralized "thought center" - which is composed of the interface and the power unit - and not in the components themselves. It receives electronic impulses that are generated when the cyclist adjusts the Ergopower levers, processes those impulses into digital signals, then sends those to the actuators on the derailleurs. It also remains in contact with the derailleurs, receiving performance feedback from them and making adjustments as necessary.

Additionally, the interface keeps the rider informed of the charge level of the power unit, through an LED display. Power for the entire system is provided by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack - one charge should be good for approximately 1,552 to 2,029 kilometers (964 to 1,261 miles) of riding, depending on intensity of use. Should riders run out of juice on the road, a RIDE BACK HOME function will allow them to manually adjust the rear derailleur.

As with their non-electronic namesakes, Record EPS and Super Record EPS differ mainly in how they're made, and what they're made of. Super Record EPS uses more carbon fiber, for instance, and incorporates more weight-saving holes in its various parts. The result - the entire Super Record EPS group weighs in at 2,098 grams (74 oz), which is 86 grams lighter than Record EPS' 2,184-gram (77 oz) tonnage.

So, why would anyone want electronic shifting? According to Campagnolo, lever movements will be smooth and consistent, with no gears requiring an extra "push" or more shift time. Multi-shifting will also be possible, wherein the rear derailleur will continuously shift up or down, as long as the lever is held in place. Additionally, as mentioned, the system will monitor the derailleurs and trim them as needed. Finally, riders won't have to get their drivetrains adjusted, to compensate for cable stretch - they will, however, have to keep the battery charged.

Prices for Record EPS and Super Record EPS have yet to be announced, but they doubtless will not be inexpensive. They should be available sometime next year.

Source: Bikeradar