Bicycles

New system brings electronic shifting to mechanical derailleurs

The XShifter shifting modules, visible on the seat tube and seat stay
The XShifter shifting modules, visible on the seat tube and seat stay
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The prototype XShifter remote
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The prototype XShifter remote
The XShifter shifting modules, visible on the seat tube and seat stay
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The XShifter shifting modules, visible on the seat tube and seat stay

Electronic gear-shifting for bicycles is becoming increasingly common, with big names like Shimano, Campagnolo and SRAM all offering complete systems. However, what happens if you have a perfectly-good mechanical shifting setup that you don't want to replace, yet you still like the idea of crisp, precise electronic shifts? Well, you may soon be able to simply add the XShifter system to your bike.

Here's how it works …

Users start by removing their existing shifters and cables, but leaving the front and rear derailleurs in place (the make and model don't matter). They then zip-tie two electronic modules onto the frame – one on the seat tube above the front derailleur, and one on the seat stay above the rear derailleur. Short lengths of shifting cable run from those modules to each of the derailleurs.

When wirelessly activated by a handlebar-mounted remote, the modules will pull on or release those cables, moving the derailleurs in or out accordingly. Users initially configure the system using an iOS/Android app, which lets them precisely set the increments by which the derailleurs move with each shift.

While the current prototype allows the front and rear derailleurs to be activated separately using the one remote, there are also plans for a semi-automatic mode in which the two derailleurs will move together to avoid "cross chaining" – this means that riders won't end up in awkward gears where the chain is simultaneously on the outermost chainring and the innermost cassette sprocket, for example.

The prototype XShifter remote
The prototype XShifter remote

XShifter inventor Paul Gallagher tells us that although battery life varies greatly with the amount of shifting done, one charge of each module's removable battery should be good for between 5,000 and 15,000 shifts, or three months of standby time. The remote's battery life reportedly sits at around one year.

He will be launching a Kickstarter campaign for the product on Nov. 1st, which interested parties will be able to access via the link below. Pledges for a complete setup will start at US$199.

The system can be seen in action, in the following video.

Source: XShifter

Introduction Xshifter Wireless shifter

9 comments
MD
So.. the next must-have. "Precise", "Crisp" Yep, of course a cable and well tuned shifters are just so 1990's.. Delegating it to electronics is always such an improvement. ? PS I love electronics and fly by wire, but this isn't. (If you have electronic shifters then at (the very) least it should know what all of the available ratios are and automatically optimise for: desired cadence, constant speed, or optimising endurance when it notices your cadence slipping... Anything less is no advantage over an old style mechanical incremental shifter.) Interesting to see what sells?? Oh it has an APP. well what doesn't these days. At least it is a win for all the kids who learned "my first i-app" when they were six, keeps them employed (in primary school). Sorry just taking the piss.
Boondocks
Electronic shift modules are cable tied to the frame and connected to the derailleurs by shortened shifting cables. How many shifts before the tension in the shifting cables overcomes the friction exerted by the cable ties and the modules fail to shift because they have slipped down the frame tubes? The cyclist will then try to use stronger cable ties or maybe Jubilee clips and will wreck either the shift module or the frame tube in the process.
ClauS
@Boondock, the electronic shift modules are connected by a bowden cable, which is handling the tension, so no issue with the cable ties. Look at the first picture. But I agree with MD, the system should be able to work also automatically, if you are adding a cadence and torque/ramp sensor.
Craig King
Ah, but when will we see automatic gear changing?
DannyJon
But... why? I got a bike that shifts just fine right now with mechanical shifters. Why should I buy this? Excluding weight, excluding ease of install, excluding "fits all frames". Does the xshifter require less maintenance than my shifters? Stays in adjustment longer...? Easier to get back into adjustment...? Anything...? Bueller...?
habakak
Craig King....no serious biker will use automatic shifting. What's really lacking is shifting under load which even hub-based internal gearboxes does not offer. Mechanical shifting these days works very well and even shifts with very little effort and very precisely (off course not with as little effort or smoothly as an electronic system but it's not an issue that really needs improvement). Where electronic systems are better is that there is no cable stretching (which with mechanical systems is just an issue initially and then off course until the cable totally breaks down - which is also a rare occasion). And off course for a 2x setup, electronic systems can handle dual shifting (of the chain ring and cassette simultaneously). I switched to 1x drivetrain and see no point (on the mountain bike at least) in ever going to 2x again. However I know that for most people still prefer a 2x or even 3x setup and on a road bike 1x does not make sense. So this is overall a good development and I wish them luck. The other downside is price. Within another few years electronic shifting will go mainstream and a complete end-to-end wireless electronic system will beat what essentially amounts to a hack job.
Glenny68
I can see how somebody with a old classic wants to put an add on to their bike so as not to alter the original parts so potentiality a huge market there. Personally I wouldn't bother on my modern mechanical derailleurs because it still is too hybrid for me. Also, you would be adding weight unless you change out the shifters completely which fir fir roadie means aftermarket levers. So thats a no from me.
XShifter
We know a lot of our sales came from subscribers here. I want to personally thank everyone that made a pledge on Kickstarter, and those of you that are supporting this project. We smashed our goal in only 2 days and continuing to grow. We are so excited that this product will become a reality. There has been such an overwhelming response to this product, and we’ve received so much feedback. This has given us direction to really improve the product in many ways. With your feedback we have already: 1, Developed the remote control for Road bikes. 2. Developed a modular mounting system that really cleans up the appearance and robustness. 3. Proposed many new smart functions for the APP. 4. Configured dropper post actuation. 5. Working on new remotes for MTB and TT We are working on stretch goals for the campaign to really round out the product line. Thanks so much to all the people that have provided their input, it’s given me ideas way beyond what I had envisioned. This is only the beginning for this company. Dedicated servos for suspension and dropper lockout are being developed. Very soon we will have a system that wirelessly and seamlessly connects all these functions in one remote control.
MartinVoelker
Electronic shifting is perfect for recumbents where routing cables sucks. For mine I had to buy a top of the line shifter/derailleur to make it work as the routing involved a lot of friction.