Would you prefer standard or automatic?

Yes, I am old enough to remember the rarity of automatic transmissions in automobiles (at least in my economically strapped family as a child). It was an upgrade that had to be purchased, kind of like air conditioning; that is where we get the term “standard” on manual transmissions. It was standard. Now, we could have that option on bicycles. Many will balk at this and scream the same arguments of not having umpires at a baseball game when a computer could call balls and strikes much better, because it takes away from what being a good cyclist is all about. May I?

Yes, if you’ve been following my blog, you know that I ride a Cervélo S5 with Dura Ace Di2 electronic shifting. Some would say, a few years ago, that the electronic shifting was also taking away from some form of what cycling is all about. One thing that I have noticed every time that I ride is no one has shifters on their down tube anymore. And it is very, very rare to see someone “strapping” their shoes into the pedals. And what is up with everyone wearing helmets? You get the point. Progress can be hard to swallow sometimes. Let me be perfectly honest for a moment: this is hard for me. After one watches the video, it is clear that a power meter and electronic shifting is used in conjunction with this new idea. So is this just an upgrade to that? Here is what is hard for me: part of the learning curve of cycling is learning how to shift correctly, when to shift, and shift well. If a rider doesn’t have to think about that and the bike does it for him, is that putting others at a disadvantage? I know. The same argument goes for electronic shifting, but I think a true cyclist can see the difference here.

Back to my umpire argument . . . why does baseball still use humans to call balls and strikes when there is so much better technology out there? The answers are usually human error and part of the game. Now, in cycling, we have all done it: Being in the wrong gear at the wrong time. Professional riders have done it. It is part of the game. It is actually part of what makes professional riders . . . well, pros. I am not against progress, making a helmet or bike more aerodynamic or a set of wheels lighter and stronger, but this is a bit much. Why not just put a motor where the pedals go and  . . . wait, that has been done. It’s called a motorcycle.

What say YOU?


12 thoughts on “Would you prefer standard or automatic?

  1. Hmmm….I’m no expert as i plod to work and enjoy tinkering with shifting on the same landscape to see whats best. Thats really enjoyable and adds variety, especially on the same roads during my commute. Seems to me that the future will be based on the quality of the rider’s situational awareness of how the auto gear helps them win a race? Acknowledge that this probably happens now but human factors dictate that the race may hinge on descisions and related error if they’re all technically similar. May as well put them on an exercise bike in front of a screen and take the whole enjoyment out of it-for everyone…

  2. This would be a huge benefit to noobs who won’t be willing to part with the cash to own the system…at least in the beginning (see also electronic shifting). Also, a friend, who has electronic shifting, has forgotten to charge his battery on a regular basis so he ends up riding a century in one gear (of course, this is when I choose to hurt him because he regularly wears me out when he can shift).

    I am not a lazy shifter, nor do I need a power meter, so to each his own but I can’t see needing it.

  3. Auto shifting is for mindless drones…imo. Manual or electronic shifting, where the rider has to engage the gear shifter/lever and THINK about where to and when to shift is what contributes to the overall skill-set of riding. There will be a day when the streets and roads are full of electric powered automatic shifting bicycles…and you know who will be riding them? The same mindless idiots that nearly runs us down every time we are out riding. The less and less humans have to actually work out for themselves, the more and more mankind is doomed.


  4. BTW- I liken Di2 and other systems to older racer cars with a manual clutch and a traditional 4/5/6 speed box vs the paddle shifting prototypes and F1 machines, etc. Still have to shift, it’s just much more seamless and much quicker.

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