An Open Letter to Shimano: My Idea for an Ad for Dura-Ace Di2

09.5.2008 | 10:27 am

Dear Shimano,

Let me begin by saying that I like bikes, and I’m a huge nerd. Thus, it goes without saying that for quite some time, I’ve been interested in your upcoming electronic shifting option for the 2009 Dura-Ace group. I like the idea of a front derailleur that automatically trims. I like the idea of a two-stage downshift for the front, reducing the likelihood of dropping the chain. I like the idea of having the derailleurs auto-adjust to the cassette.

But then, a couple of days ago, I read the following in your press release (emphases mine), announcing that this new shifting option will be available in January ‘09.

“Going electric helps to ensure precision that can make a rider faster and reduce mental fatigue. If you think about Formula One racing, the race cars use automatic and clutchless transmissions because the computer can create a faster, more synchronized and consistent shift than a skilled driver can manually,” said Devin Walton, Shimano’s public relations manager. “That being said, those same technologies can improve performance for anyone and there is a certain novelty factor for those enthusiasts that like to indulge in the latest high tech equipment or use the same equipment that professionals use.”

Well, Shimano, whereas before I was merely interested in electronic shifting, now I am sold. In fact, I’d like o propose the following television ad, based on Mr. Walton’s excellent points.

Ad Spot 1: Mental Fatigue
Three cyclists are sitting on the curb outside a convenience store. Two of them are plainly exhausted from the ride they are currently on. The third looks perky and ready to go again.

Cyclist 1: Wow, what a ride. I don’t think I have ever shifted so many times in my life.

Cyclist 2: Mumm hubboo wugga ogglebork.

Cyclist 1: Dude, you sound even more mentally fatigued than I am! All that shifting must have totally melted your brain.

Cyclist 2: Buffo wacka wacka.

Cyclist 1: I don’t know what you’re saying, but dude, I know what you mean.

Cyclist 3: Perhaps you, as I recently have, should investigate the merits of the new Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, a technologically advanced, electronic shifting option for the all new 7900 series Dura-Ace. I have found that my mental fatigue has decreased by 9.26% since I have integrated this sublime technology into my cycling regimen.

Cyclist 1: I think I’d agree with you, but all that shifting I did on that ride was just too much. My mind is too fatigued to have paid attention to what you just said.

Cyclist 2: Corpubookka wifflemarfin? (starts drooling)

Cyclist 3: Indubitably. In addition, I find the novelty factor of this bike quite gratifying. Pip pip!

Cyclist 1: (Head explodes)

Rim shot. Fade to black. Go to Shimano logo.

Ad Spot 2: Formula Racer
OK, Shimano, I admit: I don’t have the idea for this one quite nailed down, because I’m not quite sure what Mr. Walton means when he says:

If you think about Formula One racing, the race cars use automatic and clutchless transmissions because the computer can create a faster, more synchronized and consistent shift than a skilled driver can manually

If I understand correctly, he’s saying F1 automatic transmissions shift faster than manual transmissions. I get that. My problem is that even though it’s electronic, the new Di2 transmission is still definitely manual. I mean, it’s not going to shift except when I tell it to, right?

And the whole thing about “clutchless transmissions” completely mystifies me. Are you saying that the new Di2 is superior because it’s clutchless? If this is the case, you may want to have a conversation with your engineering department. They may have news for you about all the other bike drivetrains that have ever existed in the history of bikes (hint: none of them have ever had clutches.)

Get back to me on this, would you, Shimano, and I’ll get this second ad spot written, pronto.

Kind Regards,

The Fat Cyclist


  1. Comment by Bryan | 09.5.2008 | 10:35 am

    The real question is if the electronic Di2 will draw the babes like Formula 1 does.

  2. Comment by dug | 09.5.2008 | 10:41 am

    i am 10% less mentally fatigued just THINKING about automatic shifting.

    el dorado baby.

  3. Comment by matt (ming) | 09.5.2008 | 10:47 am

    was at work yesterday and kozo shimano sat in my section, former head of shimano usa. found out who he was and had a nice littl chat about di2, hes excited for it, said battery life was ‘long enough for the pros’ which was kinda ominous

  4. Comment by Aaron | 09.5.2008 | 10:48 am

    See for what was meant by an “automatic” and “clutchless” transmission in F1 cars. I think Walton’s analogy is fairly accurate: shifting manually with a clutch is akin to the delicacy of normal bicycle shifting (trimming, avoiding dropping the chain, etc.); shifting electronically via paddles behind the wheel is akin to shifting with these electronic bicycle shifters. In all cases, the shift occurs (hopefully) only when the driver initiates it. The difference is only in how the shift is implemented; electronics makes the shift cleaner and faster.

  5. Comment by Clydesdale | 09.5.2008 | 10:49 am

    Darn Bridesmaid!

    Here’s an idea. Guy on 2nd step of podium uses some lame pick up line on a podium girl. Something like “Hey baby my name is Dug, look at my chiseled thighs” as the podium girl rolls her eye’s in disgust.
    The winner, Fatty on the top step of course, uses the obviously superior and less mentally fatigued line of “the reason I won was due to the clutchless Shimano Dura Ace Di2 drivetrain and resulting less mental fatigue. Would you care to test drive my drivetrain?”
    Kenny would be 3rd step admiring his tattoo. Of course Fatty rides off into the sunset with BOTH podium girls.

    Purely imagination used here of course as we all know how well grounded and family oriented Fatty, Kenny and Dug are!

  6. Comment by Clydesdale | 09.5.2008 | 10:50 am

    Whoah! Missed 3 spots just writing a comment. Not much going on a Friday I guess!!

  7. Comment by Jeff | 09.5.2008 | 11:00 am

    Great post Fatty! Pip-pip!

  8. Comment by Clydesteve | 09.5.2008 | 11:01 am

    Mumm hubboo wugga ogglebork.

    I was just thinking that this morning, when an inconvenient headwind was causing me to have to shift too often.

    A bike clutch. What a concept!

  9. Comment by Clydesteve | 09.5.2008 | 11:05 am

    Is it my imagination, or are they now using junior high school girls in the FC sidebar REI ads?

    must be mental fatigue.

  10. Comment by KanyonKris | 09.5.2008 | 11:26 am

    Ah, fun with advertising hyperbole – well done.

  11. Comment by cyclostu | 09.5.2008 | 11:26 am

    I’m personally not going to invest in the electronic phase until they get the direct brain link worked out. That way, all I’ll have to do is think about shifting and it’ll be as good as done! Clutchless, paddleless, and effortless! Although, this may increase my mental exhaustion. Hmmm.

    And Aaron – I think you may be taking this a bit too seriously. :)

  12. Comment by Al Maviva | 09.5.2008 | 11:30 am

    I’m excited about electronic shifting because it gives me another way – besides heating my house with flaming $100 bills and burning orphans – to contribute to global warming. Electricity doesn’t give off smoke when you use it – except when used to catch the orphans on fire – but that doesn’t mean it was created without impacting the environment.

    I think I’m going to protest the new shifting system by doing donuts on the lawn in my Hummer.

  13. Comment by mair | 09.5.2008 | 11:39 am

    hm? this sturmey sprinter hub I’m currently failing to dismantle definitely has a clutch.

  14. Comment by Aaron | 09.5.2008 | 11:53 am

    Cyclostu, you’re right. Still, facts are facts, and I agree with Walton (for better or for worse) that electronic bike shifting is akin to electronic (driver-initiated) shifting in auto racing.

    Each advance in sports technology makes me (and others) wonder: which aspects should remain the responsibility of the athlete? Last time I checked, CART racers still use a clutch, and may the better shifter win. If there’s much more tech, bike racing may be reduced to measuring watts in a climate-controlled room… (joke)

  15. Comment by bikemike | 09.5.2008 | 12:06 pm

    can i play cyclist #2 in the tv ad?

  16. Pingback by An Open Letter to Shimano: My Idea for an Ad for Dura-Ace Di2 | Randomblog blog | 09.5.2008 | 12:25 pm

    [...] An Open Letter to Shimano: My Idea for an Ad for Dura-Ace Di2 Posted by admin on September 05, 2008 random Dear Shimano, [...]

  17. Comment by Don | 09.5.2008 | 12:27 pm

    @*&#^%!!! I just spit water on my display… That was hilarious, though!

  18. Comment by Anonymous | 09.5.2008 | 12:47 pm

    The original campy shifting system was kind of like a clutch. One lever to loosen the rear wheel, another to shift, then the first lever to tighten things up again.

  19. Comment by Kathleen | 09.5.2008 | 12:49 pm

    oh, so that’s what has been holding me back…not!

  20. Comment by Clint | 09.5.2008 | 12:51 pm

    This thing is wireless?

    Oooh. It’s just begging to be hacked.

    Who needs doping when you can flip a switch and make everyone else gear down?

  21. Comment by Bill | 09.5.2008 | 12:54 pm

    If you can not afford such mental boosters you would ride up to competitors and ask them questions. How much does a case of Double Haul cost? Math questions would be the best. You could wear out all your competition or at the very least bring those non-thinking-shifterheads back to your level.

  22. Comment by The D | 09.5.2008 | 1:05 pm

    Finally, technology that will allow me to sneak up on my faster, techier friends and safely chunk them into the big ring in the middle of a climb!

    This is something I have been missing since the downtube shifter days.

    Score: The D: 1 Everyone else: 0

  23. Comment by SteveW | 09.5.2008 | 1:31 pm

    Finally! The perfect use for my patented solar cell helmet with backup wind-powered beanie propeller generator!!!!

  24. Comment by rich | 09.5.2008 | 1:46 pm

    I dig the idea of having a wireless remote to mess with my friends as we climb….jsut as they stand to hammer I slip them into the granny….great visual!!!

  25. Comment by SurlyCommuter | 09.5.2008 | 2:28 pm

    Hey T6! When can I get a T-shirt with my new catch phrase, “Corpubookka wifflemarfin”

  26. Comment by SurlyCommuter | 09.5.2008 | 2:28 pm

    Actually – it might be better as a battle cry, “Corpubookka! Wifflemarfin!”

  27. Comment by Anonymous | 09.5.2008 | 2:32 pm

    “This thing is wireless?

    Oooh. It’s just begging to be hacked.”

    Nice write-up Fatty.

  28. Comment by Bitter (I'm a girl | 09.5.2008 | 2:32 pm

    Um, the most recent anonymous was me… dang cache getting deleted…

  29. Comment by Lizzylou | 09.5.2008 | 2:46 pm

    “the new Dual Control lever weight is reduced by over 155g over the mechanical version”

    Could just fly up those hills! I know those extra 155g are just holding me back.

    That being said, I’m not sold on the whole ‘elimination of mental fatigue’ angle, but the advancements in down shifting which result in not throwing the chain… that I like. Mostly because when I throw my chain I quickly shift back up to a larger gear so that I can get the chain back on without all that tedious stopping, and of course cleaner fingers. But the downside… I’m still not in the gear I want to be in.

  30. Comment by Philly Jen | 09.5.2008 | 3:30 pm

    Cyclist 2: Mumm hubboo wugga ogglebork….
    Cyclist 2: Buffo wacka wacka….
    Cyclist 2: Corpubookka wifflemarfin? (starts drooling)

    That’s not the sound of someone who needs electronic shifting — it’s just your female readership staring at Kenny, as per usual.

    I think “Corpubookka wifflemarfin” is the new aspritzen.

  31. Comment by Philly Jen | 09.5.2008 | 3:31 pm

    …the new aspritzen

  32. Comment by Bjorn 4Lycra | 09.5.2008 | 4:17 pm

    Bikemike I’ll fight you for it.
    I think (as best as I can remember)Fatty has dfirectly quoted me from my discussion with the security guard at work this morning (saturday).
    him “Your not bringing that bike in here use the bike shed”
    me “Mumm hubboo wugga ogglebork”
    him “stop your not going in with that”
    me “Buffo wacka wacka”
    him “get back here now”
    me not drooling “Corpubookka wifflemarfin……!”
    discussion over.
    Me thinks electronic shifting is just another thing that can go wrong and just another item to add to the “service bill” it’s about as useful as carbon it will never catch on.

  33. Comment by coffee | 09.5.2008 | 5:20 pm

    All (almost all) kidding aside for a sec’. I’ve always thought that electronic or pneumatic shifters should be outlawed. However small it may be, it is an external energy source assisting the rider. Am I alone in this thinking? What’s next, JATO packs?

  34. Comment by bikemike | 09.5.2008 | 5:31 pm

    pffffffttt !

  35. Comment by joliver3 | 09.5.2008 | 7:47 pm

    Wasn’t Corpubookka a character in Revenge of the Sith?

  36. Comment by joliver3 | 09.5.2008 | 7:52 pm

    Note that what Mr. Walton referred to as a “clutchless” transmission in an F1 car really does have a clutch, it’s just operated by computer when the driver initiates the shift. There’s no clutch pedal — maybe that’s what he meant.

    The newest F1 transmissions (similar concepts now showing up on street cars) actually have TWO clutches. Now there’s an innovation that we should get onto the bike — add not just one but two clutches. I’m sure that would be good for reliability, and heck, we’ve got that 155g weight savings margin to play within.

    WIN Susan!

  37. Comment by Chadgo | 09.5.2008 | 8:22 pm

    Just what I needed to read on a Friday night awaiting Tropical Storm winds and rain in North Carolina. You made me laugh out loud sitting on my couch.

    Have a good weekend!

  38. Comment by Ritcheyboy | 09.5.2008 | 8:42 pm

    Does It come with automatic electronic brakes also? Then we can just pedal and not use another 3% of brain space. Also, it would be neat to program the entire ride so no other rider decision would be needed. I don’t about about you but, I need my hands for ice cream cones and waving to people I don’t know.

    Win Susan.

  39. Comment by boots | 09.5.2008 | 9:00 pm

    Where did wireless come in? My understanding based on reading, is that Shimano tried wireless but decided against it because the power required would have necessitated a humongous battery. The system they are bringing to market uses wires to transmit signals. It is electronic but not wireless. (I think!)

  40. Comment by Mtbnomore | 09.5.2008 | 9:58 pm

    I think you’ve nailed your new T-shirt with any of Cyclist 2’s lines. I know I’d buy one.

  41. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 09.5.2008 | 11:46 pm

    My 2 favourite bikes are already …less.

    There’s a beauty and simplicity that Shimano are only just starting to tap into, but that many cyclists have had access to for decades… throw away the Shimano. Throw away almost all of it. Pedal a fixie, pedal a trackbike.

    Maybe now that Lance Armstrong isn’t tied to the corporate sponsors he should retitle his biography: “It’s not about the groupset.”

  42. Comment by Mike Roadie | 09.6.2008 | 6:47 am

    Al: My brother is a flaming orphan!

    In between strorms here…..think I’ll go for a ride on my manual tranny Cervelo…..

    ……..always an innovation behind……..


  43. Comment by eileen | 09.6.2008 | 7:11 am

    @ philly jen: I’m female, and I get it, though I don’t feel particularly fatigued by shifting. I scarcely notice. Anyone else?

    Plus, much as we like to think otherwise, humans are not machines. The way I take a hill one day is not the way I take it the next, and I do vary in what gear I’ll want to ride depending on how I feel.

    So, Shimano… whu? and more importantly, why?

    Liked the post. Longtime lurker, first time commenter

  44. Comment by Al Maviva | 09.6.2008 | 8:36 am

    There’s a beauty and simplicity that Shimano are only just starting to tap into, but that many cyclists have had access to for decades… throw away the Shimano. Throw away almost all of it. Pedal a fixie, pedal a trackbike.

    Mike, some of my friends are Scorchers, they ride fixed gear mountain bikes. They are nearly as fast fixed as they are on their single speeds, and they are generally faster on single speeds than they are on geared MTBs, and on any MTB, they are insanely fast. They say the same thing and tell me all the time how amazingly wonderful and superior a fixed gear MTB is. Of course they also smoke up to 155 grams of marijuana each ride, so that may affect their judgment.

    Mike Roadie – don’t knock the alternative heating methods until you’ve tried them. BTW, why is your Cervelo transgendered? Did it have a rough childhood in the low speed wind tunnel? Or was it born that way?

  45. Comment by Al Maviva | 09.6.2008 | 8:37 am

  46. Comment by Tim D | 09.6.2008 | 9:15 am

    Al Maviva is the Frankie Boyle of the FC comments section.

    (Warning: if you look on You Tube for Frankie Boyle, you might want to keep the sound turned down)

  47. Comment by Al Maviva | 09.6.2008 | 11:43 am

    Yeah, pretty much spot on Tim. Except Frankie is a *recovering* alcoholic. Big difference.

  48. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 09.6.2008 | 4:28 pm

    Al – I understand the bit where you’re not quite “recovering” yet, but when did you go back to alcohol. I figured you were a drain-cleaner-for-life kinda guy.

  49. Comment by sansauto | 09.6.2008 | 6:35 pm

    Didn’t Mavic make an electronic shifting thing like 10-15 years ago? I know that it bombed big time, but I’m pretty sure I saw one… someone tried to sell it to me.

  50. Comment by Jared | 09.6.2008 | 8:13 pm

    So how will this shifter make me any faster then I’d become through loosing weight and training? Only thing I liked the sound of was not dropping the chain, but I can count on one hand the number of times thats happened on my road bike.

  51. Comment by Jim | 09.6.2008 | 11:39 pm



  52. Comment by blinddrew | 09.7.2008 | 4:56 am

    There’s a book called Bicycle Design by a chap called Mike Burrows that’s very good for anyone interested in bike tech and he does briefly go into the subject of automatic and electronic gears. I have to agree with his eventual conclusion (and i should caveat with the fact that he’s primarily talking about the various automatic transmissions that have been suggested at times), which is that if someone is too lazy to wiggle a lever then they’re probably going to be too lazy to turn the pedals…

  53. Comment by Kerbouchaud | 09.7.2008 | 7:01 am

    Who care about the logistics. Let Shimano work out those details. I’m more concerned about the condition of Fatty’s soul after he obviously put it on the open market for a chance to test ride these new shifters.
    Shameless! Creative, and I’m jealous I didn’t think of it first, but still shameless!

  54. Comment by Bikerchick_Barb | 09.7.2008 | 10:23 am

    All this time I was thinking that the biggest benefit of these systems was eliminating fatigue in your hands from repetitive shifting injury, or RSI. About the brain fatigue, who has not borrowed, say, a SRAM or Campy gruppo equipped bike after riding Shimano, and has to rewire their brain?

  55. Comment by Michael P. | 09.7.2008 | 11:00 am

    Wow, even me, a hack marketing “pro” can tell you that press release is bad. Why would you even associate your $3k+ gruppo with the word novelty?

    P.S. Fatty, your like a cycling marketing muckraker. Just don’t start posting crazy pics of pig carcasses.

  56. Comment by Bike Peddler | 09.7.2008 | 6:28 pm

    I’m dropping lines on a couple of the blog of local guys to let people know about the Bike Peddler in American Fork’s weekly group rides. Sorry for the blatant Spammy content. Check out the blog at for info about upcoming rides. They’ll typically leave Wednesday evenings and Saturday Mornings through the end of the season. This Saturday we’re doing a night ride on South Fork. Come Join us!

  57. Comment by McBain_v1 | 09.8.2008 | 8:38 am

    Whilst the latest post is up to Fatty’s usual high-standard, I feel that [b]Clydesdale[/b] has neglected to fill in some crucial details about the forthcoming Fatty/Shimano advert… who would play the podium girls?

  58. Comment by bob | 09.14.2008 | 9:40 pm

    Er, hate to be a nitpick, but plenty of internally geared and coaster-brake hubs have clutches.

    …Just sayin’…

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