Not sure if you've heard about this but I guess it's been in the making for a while now. Today VeloNews.com ran this story about Shimanoes latest and greatest prototypes being tried out in the tour. It seems a bit wild that any pro would be willing to use a heavier (however so slight) prototype during the biggest race of the year but it appears some of the members of the Gerolsteiner team have been.
While I did read the article first what I really wanted was to see the pictures of these electronic deraileurs and shifters. First thing I though upon seeing the shifters is damn, they're even bigger then the bulky ultegra and dura ace hoods we've got now! (This is coming from one who loves the sleek look of shimanoe 600 hoods without the integrated shifting, everything else just looks bulky). Plus to add to that they've got a damn lcd on the top of them! How wrong can you be??? Sorry but the simplicity of biking is certainly lost on these things; they certainly don't live up in that sense to a fixed gear rig. We've never known from our hoods what gear we were in before so why should we need to now?
Next a look at the deraileurs reveals pure unadulterated bliss... for the ugly fairy. The deraileurs are simply hideous blocks of hard machinery. There is nothing beautiful about them outside of their operation, though I unfortunately will probably never get to witness that. To make all this worse, the damn thing needs a battery pack! It looks very similar to a true night time riding light system; which is something I would never want to try to race on the road. Despite any of the advantages these new products may bring I just don't think I'll ever be able to understand or appreciate this in the sport of bicycle racing.
There is something lost to the sport and unfortunately in the race for the best new thing a boundary appears to have been crossed. The pure simplicity of the bicycle, in all it's complexity is what makes it beautiful. It is simple and easy to understand; all of the moving parts that make up the bicycle are intuitive and logical and electronic convenience and complexity has always been reserved for the rest of the world. Sure, the bike is still human powered (for now) but there is definitely something pure about human powered shifting, where you can feel the moving of the deraileur in your finger tips and you can tell the gear in both your legs and in the movement of the levers.
Bicycle racing is best in its purest form; like drug free... In the race to be the best though, it seems some of these things can be forgotten.
NOTE: In an attempt to not be sued on this I decided not to post the pics of the products here w/o permission. To see the picks and the velonews article, go to Shimano's latest prototypes are racing the Tour