What's the future for high end mechanical gears?

Now that SRAM and Shimano are electronic only for their top 2 tiers, that only leaves Campagnolo flying the flag for high-end, cable actuated systems.

Will we see a shift towards electronic on 90%+ of higher-end bikes (a la disc brakes), with Campagnolo having to follow suit, or will mechanical retain its position, and possibly even see something of a swing back?

As a big fan of mechanical Campagnolo, I’m hoping for that to continue (and I’m seeing more Chorus about than I’ve ever done before), but I do suspect that, long term, we’re in the twilight period for Bowden cable systems on ‘premium’ bikes.

I’d be interested in hearing others’ thoughts, and any rationale for them (n.b. I’m trying not to turn this into an electronic vs mechanical thread, more of a ‘future prediction’ one).

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Interesting question. Jan Heine has been suggesting for a while that mechanical brake/shift levers are becoming obsolete (too many small parts, difficult/impossible to repair, etc.).
If this is where we are headed, then I really hope it becomes possible (again) to get good-quality downtube or bar-end shifters for 10-11 speed road cassettes (sorry if this is a bit off-topic). Yes, I am a bit of a dinosaur, but since I started riding again I have been pretty underwhelmed by SRAM and Shimano “brifters” (sorry, no exp with Campagnolo), and I suspect this would make for a lighter, easier-to-maintain build overall.

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I think over the last year or two, most high-end bikes are already electronic and disc. Looking at Trek, Specialized, and Cervelo, their highest end offerings, at least in price, are all electronic shifting and discs and to some degree, necessitate electronic shifting.

I do think Campagnolo will retain high-end cable shifting, but I think it would be wise for them to develop an electronic offering below SR.

I have a new bicycle on the way with Record 12S and rim brakes. So I’m doing what I can to keep it alive.

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I wonder if just like high end and long drop rim brakes, smaller boutique manufacturers may fill the gap left by the larger brands. I’m thinking about manufacturers such as Ingrid, Paul Component and Cane Creek.

I certainly won’t be moving to electronic for a while due to costs. I’ve got several 11 speed mechanical set ups right now that I’m very happy with and I just don’t have the money or inclination to convert them to electronic.

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I wonder if Shimano’s GRX line will keep high-end mechanical going for a while longer? Seems like there’s a bit more demand for mechanical for bikes that spend more time on the dirt.

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It is really hard for small guys like that to develop a well-functioning drivetrain. Paul did RD’s back in the day and they were OK at best…but you would really only ride them just to be a bit different. There was certainly no performance advantage.

I think Campag has realized that there is market space for them to exist almost uncontested in the higher-end mechanical group space. The challenge for them, IMO< will be being able to adapt once electronic systems offer something truly unique in terms of experience that mechanical systems simply can’t replicate…likely some kind of a unified / integrated drivetrain vs. current systems.

Also look for companies such as Microshift to step in at the lower to mid-price points. Their stuff is surprisingly good. After some travel-related bike issues the other week (broken wire clamp on my FSA rear derailleur), I am now working on a easy-to-maintain / repair travel bike. Currently looking at a Giant TCR Advanced Pro frame and building it out with Microshift 11 spd mechanical w/ cable-actuated discs. Can be serviced by me anywhere and any local shop would likely have compatible parts if needed.

Doubtful at least until the patents expire. I have no doubt that a smaller boutique company could make this equipment but they’d likely have to pay exorbitant legal bills or licensing fees to duplicate some of the patents the big 3 have and are still using in their lower end products. Is there that much of a market to justify it though? This “I’ll never use electronic” rally cry just seems like an internet only thing. Everyone I know who bought Dura Ace mechanical did so because they wanted a Dura-Ace bike for sentimental/emotional reasons but couldn’t afford the Di2 version. At the end of the day electronic is just technically superior especially in the ultra high end market.

You’d like to think that there will still be options for people buying higher end bikes these days but I honestly don’t think that is the way the industry is going.

Most stuff on bikes is now totally proprietary (I own a 2022 BMC Teammachine so you can feel my pain) and call me cynical but it’s a great way for the big three drivetrain companies to continue to make recurring revenue after you’ve bought things from them. If the tech is all under patent and proprietary, it is going to be hard for an aftermarket player to gain traction.

There is nothing proprietary about the drivetrains as it relates to frame designs…if anything, the new systems are opening up greater versatility as frame designs become ever more proprietary (especially SRAM).

Now, you can certainly make a good case that as frame designs become ever more integrated, it becomes more and more challenging for a mechanical system to work with them…definitely a valid concern. Personally, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if there is an upcoming backlash against the integrated designs we are seeing today. They simply make adjustments and maintenance overly-complicated and time-consuming for marginal benefit. MY guess is that the backlash will take the form of systems that allow for easier adjustments, which could mean exposed cables in certain areas, which would also then open the designs up for mechanical systems.

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Very relevant quote from the article just published today by CT about Campagnolo:

“Today, there is still demand for mechanical groupsets, especially for gravel,” Baggio said. “But I think, even for gravel, there is more frequent request for an electronic groupset. There’s no crystal ball here, but if I have to say, I don’t think mechanical will completely disappear, but when we look at the trend of the bikes, the trend of the market, the trend of the OE, where they’re moving forward, we think electronic will be a large part of the market. That’s clear.”

There’s also some interesting thoughts on the matter by James Huang in the article on this very topic.

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No offence meant, but I’ll never own an electronic shifting bike, nor one with disc brakes. I have ridden both, on ocassion, but I wouldn’t ever own one. Calling myself a retrogrouch, but I like my bikes to be simple, fast and light (yeah, all three are possible). Cheers

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Integrated cockpit with cables fully concealed probably plays a big part in this extinction. I think in the long run it will kill the mechanical market altogether for every mid-to-high-end bikes. SRAM has gone AXS for it’s Rival groupset and judging by their market’s share on the OEM Shimano would be crazy not to follow Sram with their new 105…

I’ve never tried Di2 or Axs, have no particular interest, but I can see myself struggling to upgrade my good ol’ bike in a not too distant future…

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I am moving away from electronic for my next bike. I was intending to go with rim brakes as well, but was talked out of it - a decision I may regret, I think…

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From SRAM and Campy the writing seems pretty clear. SRAM is moving away from all mechanical, and won’t return. Shimano seems likely to confine mechanical to only 105 and lower going forward. I guess the hope will be for Campagnolo to keep producing mechanical at the higher end, but I can see Super Record being EPS only and then maybe there is a Record mechanical group, a Chorus EPS group and a Centaur mechanical group. This would reduce the sheer amount of product produced by Campagnolo, and still keep all 4 product lines going with decent price-point coverage. As to rim brakes in the future, this will likely follow similar trends if I had to guess.

In the meantime, I need to squirrel away one set of Dura-Ace 9100 shifters and another set of 9120 shifters while I can, too keep 3 bikes running into the longer future.

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I think part of the problem is improving on the current top end mechanical. 105 level today is so darn good that the unobtainium pricing of DuraAce is harder to justify in mechanical. I recently rode a new model 105 after years of di2 and was stunned at how good it was.

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Yes. Also, hard to spend dev/npi $s on mechanical if ppl won’t pay premium for it. We, the mechs, are now the retrogrouch-value market. Electronic offers more opportunities to upsell novelty. Doesn’t guarantee better though. Eg. don’t like what has happened to cars now. Meanwhile, vg mechanical down stream 105/Tiagra/Sora at big discounts - enjoy and shhh.

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I know I posted Jan Heine’s mad invention in the Slack channel, but here it is again since it’s now relevant to the discussion.

Also for posterity, some guy on the Paceline forum apparently had a bunch of interesting stickers made.

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Same, it’s a niche but affluent market there. If they keep mechanical and rim brakes I can see them keeping a steady flow on clients. It’s not something I’d want myself but as witness the C64 thread rim brakes/cables are definitely not dead yet.

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I am not a retrogrouch at all, however I too will not move to electronic shifting. That’s for the simple reason that it is a more expensive “solution” to a problem I just don’t have. My mechanical group sets (Ultegra 8000 and Eagle GX) shift perfectly and I never think it’s not “crisp” or responsive enough. Shifts great, works all the time, needs minimal maintenance and zero charging.

I guess in far future my dropbar will run mechanical 105 or GRX800, as it looks today.

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I think as generations pass and technology develops the choice becomes watered down.

For example a generation today have never had a home/landline phone and only a smartphone.

Whilst there are some positives in this technology there are definitely negatives. But this technology is so indoctrinated within the current generation they will never look back at past technology because they are stuck in the moment and the supplier/technology companies make the previous technology redundant and unavailable.

Personally I prefer and use mechanical (Campagnolo) for the simplicity and I feel we are so over digitalised in society now. I don’t have disc brakes on my road bike but I’m not against them. I just have many wheels that are rim brake and like them so much I do not want to give them up.

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