Thursday, January 5, 2012

What's New Is Old

I will make no bones about it:  I will never own a bicycle with electronic shifting.  If, for some reason, all of the mechanical shifters disappear, I will ride a single speed bike.

Electronic shifting from Shimano and, now, even Campagnolo is all the rage.  It's the latest and greatest!  It's new!

Or, is it?

Scott had a Browning Automatic Bicycle Transmission lying around the shop, back in the mid-1990s.  It consisted of a crankset with articulated chainrings, and a battery-powered shifter which moved the hinged portion of the chainring to either capture the chain from a smaller chainring or drop it down from the larger chainring.  It's marketing hype was remarkably similar to that of the new stuff.

It eliminates the weight and friction of a cable!  Shifting action is instantaneous!


The  Browning was way ahead of its time.  The electronics of the day didn't allow it to work as well as it might have so, thankfully, it never caught on.  But, even if it had worked like a charm, and even if that new crap works like a charm, I just don't want it.

I simply don't want to have a battery on my bike which is necessary for the basic function of the machine.  The thing I like most about bikes is that they are mechanical.  They are rather simple machines which perform way past their complexity.

Electronic shifting adds much more complexity than performance, and I am not impressed.



  1. Absolutely. Couldn't agree more. Quite right. Is there enough room up there on that soap box for two?

  2. We actually could say much the same about indexed shifting. Well, except for the battery. In contrast, friction shifting lasts, well, longer than we will.

  3. We have a few "automatic" shifting bikes at the office that we can use to bike between the buildings and what have you - they work like crap. If you're going down a hill it will get into the high gear and if you keep pressure on the damn things it will never shift to the lower gear while you're going up the hill which inevitably comes after the downhill.

  4. Sorry about the grumpy tone. I had to come home from work, sick with a cold, and I got out of bed to write this story. So, I wasn't feeling very sunny, disposition-wise.

    Still, I stand by everything I said in it.


As always, sorry about the word verification. It's a necessary evil, unfortunately.