December 27, 2011 (Toronto, ON) – With Shimano’s new Ultegra Di2 gruppo, electronic drivetrains have taken a giant step towards becoming a realistic choice for most consumers. As revolutionary as Dura Ace Di2 was, it was simply too expensive for most consumers.
With Ultegra Di2, electronic groups are now increasingly available. Most frame manufacturers offer an electronic compatible frame and many offer frames that will work with both electronic and mechanical groups. We chose Cervelo’s new S5 to be our test bed for the new Ultegra Di2 components. The first reason we selected Cervelo is that it’s a Canadian company – we’re a tad patriotic eh?
The second reason is that the S5 is one of a generation of new frames built with electronic compatibility in mind and it’s Cervelo’s first effort at creating an electronic compatible frame, that’s a perfect match for the new Ultegra Di2. Cables are all run internally and removable plastic cable stops can be replaced with grommets for the electronic wiring. The S5 is the most aerodynamic road bike Cervelo has ever built; Thor Hushovd went on a tear at the Tour de France this past summer and he did so aboard the S5.
Cervelo headquarters in Toronto was the perfect site for the build. Setting up the new Ultegra Di2 is easy. Unlike mechanical drivetrains, one needn’t concern oneself as to whether the housing is properly trimmed, the correct length, or routed appropriately. And cable tension is a thing of the past. Just plug in the components into the wiring harness and you are 75% of the way there.
When Dura Ace Di2 came out, it was one step ahead of where frame manufacturers were at the time. On most frames, the wiring harness had to be taped along the length of the down tube and the excess cable neatly zip tied out of the way. The battery was mounted on a long metal arm underneath the bottle cages. Now that frame manufacturers have had several years to sort out their approach to electronic drivetrains, mounting the components and running the cables is spectacularly easy. Cevelo’s Phil Spearman helped us cable up the new S5 frame.
With the bottom bracket not yet in the frame, run the main wiring harness from the small hole behind headtube through the downtube to the bottom bracket. Here it meets up with three other cables. One for the rear derailleur via the drive side chain stay (note: if you run the cable in the direction from the drop out to the bottom bracket it’s much easier), one to the front derailleur and one to the battery. Where the cable protrudes near the stem, connect it to the control box and run both cables to the shifter. As I mentioned earlier, you are now 75% of the way done.
The Ultegra Di2 wiring is much slimmer than the Dura Ace wiring and the new cables just snap together, no heat shrinking required, probably one of the best improvements over the existing Dura Ace. Once you have your bottom bracket, crank and chain mounted you can use the control box to adjust the rear derailleur and then set the limit screws in the back and up front. Done. Easy. If you’ve set it up correctly, you likely won’t have to touch it for a very long time. There is no black magic, special lube, or brass feurrels required – just plug and play.
The build quality of the new Ultegra Di2 is quite nice and the ergonomics are great. The Ultegra shifters fit nicely into your hands and the hood features a nice texture to prevent your hand from slipping. The lever is easily adjustable for smaller hands which should make it a hit with smaller riders. Both of the derailleurs function just as well as the Dura Ace derailleurs, however, they are slightly larger and slightly heavier (270 grams for the Ultegra RD vs 225 for the Dura Ace RD). The Ultegra battery has a range of 2,000km and takes about 90 minutes to charge. The crank, brakes, chain, cassette and pedals are all shared with the mechanical Ultegra group and quality and finish are all top notch.
We are very excited to have the new Ultegra Di2 group until the end of spring and we plan on getting a lot of riding in during this period. Watch for updates via the website and the print version of Pedal as we’ll be updating readers on how the new 2012 Ultegra group actually performs – look for our first report in early spring. The Cervelo S5 is with us until the end of the season so stay tuned for an early spring feature and a long term test report later in the season.