A couple of weeks ago we brought you news that Scott XC pro Nino Schurter had been spotted out and about riding with what looked like a version of SRAM's electronic shifting eTap type system for mountain bikes. Well, he's been at it again, with our eagle-eyed tech writer finding more clues over on the 'gram. Here's the update:
Photographer Michal Cerveny, out at the Stellenbosch XC World Cup saw Nino again with the electronic mech and shifter on his bike and managed to get this shot of it. Here you can clearly see the battery at the rear of the mech. It will be interesting to see if Nino will be racing on this setup come the weekend.
What's clear from this shot is that this is very much a bespoke, mountain bike specific rear derailleur as it's very different from the wireless RED eTap unit. First up, the parallelogram links of the mech are perpendicular to the cassette, while the road unit is angled.
The knuckle is also much bulkier as it's obviously housing a clutch mechanism, while the jockey wheels are offset in the cage to allow a cassette with a wider range than the 32T biggest cog of the roady group. Seeing as that's a SRAM Eagle XX1 cassette in the background, it's liable to be able to go up to 50T.
It also looks pretty polished, so it's unlikely to be a pre-production mule. SRAM typically likes to tease their finished products around a couple of months before the proper launch, so we'd expect to be seeing something more around May - which happens to be when there are two World Cup XCO races, Albstadt in Germany on the 19th May and Nové Mesto in the Czech Republic on the 26th. Odds on, it'll debut at one of those...
Below is our original article:
The biggest clue yet that electronic shifting for mountain bikes is on the way from SRAM. Scott pro rider, Nino Schurter has been spotted riding a bike fitted with what appears to be an unnamed rear derailleur and a complete absence of a gear cable from the handlebars.
Further investigation shows that Dutch mag Velozine and Spanish mag Planeta MTB reported on this story a few days ago, they say the leaked photos are from a training camp recently in South Africa. The photo of the mech has mysteriously disappeared from the web so you'll have to take our word for it that it looked very much like the diagram below.
We had a quick look at the Fresh Patents site and found a patent supplied for an Electromechanical rear derailleur. So whilst this answers our question "will SRAM make a mountain bike Di2 rival?, the answer is clearly yes, it doesn't help us out too much with 'when?'. At least we know the plans are in place. The patent has been on the internet for some time, it's dated early September 2017, but the sight of the kit in testing on a bike is encouraging.
The patent presents different shifters, one with thumb/forefinger levers and one that appears to be a grip shift but with small 'plus' and 'minus' buttons near the grip. The latter looks like a neat and tidy design. The use of Eagle on Schurter's bike seems to indicate that SRAM's first foray into electronic shifting for mountain bikes will be on a 1x12 drivetrain.
Whilst we can only hope to answer the 'when?' question soon, in the meantime we will just have to hope the 1 by drivetrain shows up sooner rather than later and isn't astronomically priced. Who are we kidding?.... save your pennies kids!
You might also like: