Thursday, May 15, 2014

Why Electronic Shifting Is Not For Me

Oh boy, Ol' Man Nunemaker has his tinfoil Luddite Beanie on again...

Here's a big ol' quote from Lennard Zinn (an excellent technical writer on things bicycle, in this scribe's rarely-humble opinion) taken from a VeloNews tech piece on adjusting Campy electronic shifting for just the rear derailleur: 

"To adjust an out-of-tune derailleur, simply shift to the big/big gear combination and then hold both mode buttons down for six seconds until the indicator light glows blue on the side of the EPS interface. To adjust the derailleurs once the LED on the EPS interface glows blue, shift to the second-smallest cog and bump the rear shift lever either up or down, depending on which way the jockey wheels need to go to line up under the cog for the chain to run silently. Each bump of the lever in this adjustment mode moves the jockey wheels laterally 0.2mm. Once adjusted correctly, hit the right mode button once to memorize the adjustment. Then shift to the second largest cog (while still on the big chainring). Again, bump the right shifter up or down as needed to center the jockey wheels under the cog and silence the chain. Once adjusted properly, hit the right mode button again. You can fine-tune these adjustments as well, even while riding... hold only the right mode button down for six seconds. The LED on the EPS interface will now glow pink. Bump the right shifter up or down (which moves the rear derailleur in or out 0.2mm with each bump) until the issue is resolved. Then tap the right mode button again to memorize the adjustment."

Got all that? Because you still have a front derailleur to adjust. But if you don't get it right, don't despair -- there's another paragraph devoted to how you can tweak these adjustments out on the road, too!

If you go to the original article linked above (starting at Adjustment), you can see that I've edited out quite a bit just to stay somewhere in the vicinity of fair use (though the hoops I had to jump through just to copy the text made me want to go nuts and quote the whole dang thing -- uncool, VeloNews). And as I said above, Lennard Zinn is really good at his job, a job I would love to have if I thought I were remotely good enough. But when I read about holding buttons and finding Adjustment Mode when certain lights glow and pressing other buttons to make the microprocessor memorize the adjustment when the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars, my eyes glaze over -- and I'm GOOD at pushing buttons! I push buttons for a (quasi-) living, in addition to carrying around an electronic gidget in my pocket with a lot of glowing lights and buttons just for fun. When I'm riding my bike, though, I want something tactile, something physical, a simple mechanical interface between me and the machine. I don't need an app for that.

Could I describe adjusting a mechanical, indexed rear derailleur in fewer words than Lennard Zinn uses for electronics? Probably not, though I am tempted to try. And when my beloved mechanical indexed derailleurs hit the scene, could some snarky friction-shifting curmudgeon have lobbed the same complaint regarding the incantations and dark magic required to adjust those? Sure. I'm not saying that my arbitrary retro-grouch line in the sand is the retro-grouch line in the sand, or even that it's a defensible one. It's just the one I've drawn for myself.

(I will armchair-psychoanalyze Lennard Zinn for a second, though, in parentheses and a smaller whispery font: Later in the article, he's discussing the fact that Campy puts all the diagnostic/adjustment tools in the on-bike unit rather than relying on separate software, and claims this is in the interest of "simplicity, ease and convenience." When I see those three adjectives piling up on each other like triathletes attempting to ride a paceline, I feel like maybe the author doth protest a bit too much, no?)

1 comment:

Inhabitant said...

Finally I can articulate why electronic shifting is not for me either. Until I read your article I knew it was wrong, all wrong, but now I know exactly why. thanks!