I consider myself to be pretty well-experienced with Di2 at this point. I’m running 11 speed Ultegra Di2 on the Madone, and 11 speed hydro-braked Ultegra Di2 (with Dura-Ace bits) on the Moots.
Where am I at on it?
When first I rode Di2, I wasn’t overwhelmed. It shifted fantastic, looked great, and felt great to the hand, but I didn’t see a real advantage over mechanical. I was pretty happy with SRAM Red, and having previously ridden Shimano mechanical drivetrains, I wasn’t in a big rush to go back to Shimano. (My biggest dislike of Shimano mechanical is the way the brake lever moves to shift–so if you go to grab the brake in a hurry, with wet hands, it sometimes wants to move away from your hand). Truth be told, it was only the massive recall of SRAM hydro brakes that caused me to really question things. While SRAM handled the recall appropriately, I lost some faith in their products (and started to understand all of the anti-SRAM folks out there who alleged that SRAM was using first-yen product purchasers as quality-control employees).
So I started to contemplate how to redo the Moots (my first priority, as it was lacking brakes after the SRAM recall). I ended up looking at Shimano hydros, which were tasty feeling, and then came to the logical conclusion that if I was going Shimano hydro, I should look at Di2. After a brief time with Di2 on the Moots, I realized that I wanted it on the road bike as well.
What are the benefits of Di2?
- It shifts. Always. Predictably. One gear per tap. Under any conditions.
- It shifts flawlessly–never over or under. Never needs adjustment. Never has cable stretch.
- If you hold the button, it will keep shifting (even better than Campy).
- It looks great, and the ergonomics of the brifters are fantastic for both mechanical and hydro brakes.
- It shifts just as fast, if not faster than, mechanical.
- Front derailleur shifts are undeniably better than with any mechanical I’ve ever ridden.
- It always works the same.
Di2, day in and day out, works as well as or better than a perfectly-tuned mechanical system. I don’t have to adjust it. I don’t have to chase cable tension. I don’t have to think about it.
I had concerns about downsides, and to date, there are none. Here were a few of my concerns (now erased):
- It functions perfectly in wet conditions–inclusive of riding through running water, unbelievable downpours, hail, etc.
- There have been no wiring issues, loose connections, or electrical component failures.
- Battery life is a non-issue.
That last one is critical. Who wants to have to “charge their bike” before they ride it? I certainly don’t. In the time that I’ve had the Moots, I charged it once. It has thousands of miles on it–enough that I’ve had to replace the (brand new when purchased) rear tire because it was a slick. I did run the battery on the Madone down to ‘safe mode’, where it stops shifting the front derailleur, one time. When that happened, I thought to myself, “when did I last charge this bike?”, and realized that I had never charged it. Between the two bikes, I’ve got several thousand miles of trouble-free operation. Sure, I’ll probably charge the Moots before the Ten Thousand, but I probably wouldn’t have to.
Admittedly–you never get a dead battery with mechanical shifting. But frankly, I don’t see the battery as being an issue…battery life is so good, that the only issue might be forgetting to charge it ever, as I did.
In retrospect, would I Di2 it again? Absolutely. I have no reservations, compunctions, qualms or disclaimers on that opinion. Di2 is the best shifting, best performing drivetrain on the market right now between anything offered by SRAM or Shimano (and I exclude Campy as I haven’t ridden the newest generation of their products, nor have I experienced EPS). I would also say that Di2 is a worthy upgrade for an existing bike–it makes a big enough difference to warrant a retrofit.
I know that around the corner, there will be wireless drivetrains, with a battery for the rear derailleur (and no wiring harness). Frankly, I have spent enough time in my life working with bluetooth, wireless routers, and even wireless cadence sensors such that I have no interest in a wireless drivetrain. The Di2 wiring is small and slick, and completely unobtrusive. Even if wireless comes out, I’m sticking with wired, and one battery.
Di2 is great. Perhaps even perfect. I can’t say enough good things about it.