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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Tech News – March 14, 2006

Edited by John Stevenson

Got tech? Send press releases, news, and tech questions to the Cyclingnews tech desk.

The electronic front derailleur
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The sensor
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The rear derailleur
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Which ring am I in?
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Shimano's electric shifter - more pics & details

Gerolsteiner rider Ronny Scholz is a happy man after 2,500km on Shimano's prototype electronic gear-shifting system. In the last days of Paris-Nice, Scholz told Cyclingnews reporter Hedwig Kröner that he had had no problems with the system, "It's worked well," said Scholz. "No problems with the batteries either."

Scholz' team manager Hans-Michael Holczer is also impressed and believes it's the future of gear shifting. Holczer told Cyclingnews that Scholz had used the new system at the two one-day Swiss season-openers, GP Chiasso and GP Lugano and believed that it gave him a considerable advantage when shifting on climbs as it makes a shift within a quarter of a turn of the wheel. "So it's very efficient and even when your brain is out of it in the effort, and your fingers stiff from the cold, you don't have to worry about getting something wrong when shifting," Holczer added.

Another advantage of the system is that the front derailleur does not need 'trimming' to stop the chain rubbing. A sensor detects the position of the chain and moves the front derailleur automatically. Unlike conventional front derailleurs, the electronic Shimano derailleur uses its spring to shift the chain from the smaller to the larger ring, a design move intended to reduce the power (and therefore battery drain) needed for the upshift.

Speaking to Carlton Reid of bikebiz.co.uk, Shimano Europe's director of communications Hans Van Vliet said that the new group would not be available in 2007, but "it's on its way," and hinted of other developments in the same vein. "Shifting by wire, braking by wire, it's possible," he said.

The electronic components will not be part of the Dura-Ace group. "I don't want to call it Dura-Ace," said van Vliet, "but it will be on that quality level."

Van Vliet conceded that the question, "why would pros want electronic shifting?" was "tricky," but drew a parallel with Shimano's introduction of indexed gearing back in the 1980s. "In the beginning the pro did not want to have an indexed gear," he said. "The pro was convinced that he knew how to shift. Later on we came to the conclusion that the indexed gear is helping him to shift when he is fatigued."

HED Bastogne wheels
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HED Bastogne rear
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HED launches Spring offensive with Bastogne wheels

Wheel builder HED is best known for its carbon fiber-rimmed aero wheels, but the company has recently launched a new low-profile, lightweight clincher wheel, the Bastogne.

The wheels are named in honour of the Belgian town of Bastogne, the turn-around point for the oldest of the Spring Classics, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and also the scene of a historic engagement between paratroopers of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division and German forces in December 1944.

The Bastogne wheels are intended to be both light and strong, according to HED which claims they tip the scales at 598g for the front wheel and 835g for the rear. That's light for clinchers, and the low mass is achieved by use of 27mm alloy rims with machined sidewalls; 18 bladed titanium spokes up front front, 24 bladed steel spokes in the rear wheel and, Sonic hubs for Campy or Shimano.

HED Bastogne wheels retail for US$650 per pair.

More information: www.hedcycling.com

Blue supports USA Triathlon

Bike maker Blue Competition Bicycles has signed up as official bike supplier for USA Triathlon.

Blue will be providing the frame sets, seat posts, forks and bars to the athletes of the Resident team, Under 23 team, Junior team and to emerging elite athletes. The company will also be extending a purchase program to certified coaches of USA Triathlon and using National Team athletes in promotional materials.

"We are proud and honored to be a partner with USAT," said Mike Skop, president of Blue Competition Cycles. "Our company was originally founded in part to help developing athletes and this affiliation continues our commitment to helping competitive cyclists of all disciplines achieve their dreams."

More information: www.rideblue.com.

Ted Lee's Orbea 29er
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Ten sprockets
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Paul's thumbshifter mounts
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DIY ten-speed MTB

With Shimano keeping details of its 2007 XTR mountain bike components tightly under wraps, there's been much speculation that the new group will include a ten-speed rear cluster, following the extra gears added to Dura-Ace, Ultegra and 105 over the last few years. But if you're impatient to have more gears right now, reader Ted Lee says it's quite easily done.

"I've been running the ten speed cassette on my Orbea 29er for over a year now," says Ted. "I'm using an original ('92) XTR derailleur with '05 105 jockey wheels, a ten speed cassette, Connex chain, and Paul Thumbies with bar ends."

As you can see from the pics, this is very much a racing set-up - Ted is also using just two chainrings up front, and he says that's the application he's been putting it to. "The set up rocks. I rode the '05 Off Road Assault on Mt Mitchell not missing one shift. Mud, water, nothing compromised it."

Top Italian companies profiled in Italia Bici

Over the last few days we've posted the first in our annual 'Italia Bici' series of special sponsored features on companies from cycling's spiritual heartland, Italy. In each one we meet some of the designers and craftsmen behind some great Italian names, and look at what's new from companies that have shaped our sport.

So far we've looked at clothing maker De Marchi, saddle specialist Selle Italia, legendary bike builder De Rosa and shorts lining maker Cytech. Italia Bici starts here and there will be more behind-the-scenes looks at great Italian companies over the next few days.