One button shifts up, the other down (Courtesy)

Ever since Shimano introduced
the Di2 system for Dura-Ace, electric shifting has been a talking point
— if not the envy — of many a cyclist. The price, however, has put
Di2 (and now Campagnolo’s EPS electronic group) well up into the fantasy level
for most riders.

Now a do-it-yourself (DIY)
enthusiast has come up with a way of making the electronic dream a reality – if you’re willing to build the parts
yourself, and you’re forgiving about
the less-than-svelte aethestics. Total cost? About $155.

Nabil Tewolde of Markham,
Ontario, has created an electronic derailleur that is part of his bike computer
project. Even better for those who like to tinker, he’s made it
available as an “instructable,”
or a how to, with Make Magazine.

His system works with existing
components and frames.

“I absolutely believe a DIY aftermarket system will make this technology
more accessible,” Tewolde told BikeRadar. “The commercial alternatives cost
thousands of dollars and offer a lot of functionality, but it is probably
overkill for non-professional riders. Enthusiasts like me won’t pay more than
the cost of their bike just for electronic shifters. However, they might be
attracted to a DIY version, which they can easily maintain and upgrade.”

While not quite a kit
level project, Tewolde added that anyone comfortable doing their own bike
maintenance and who understands basic electronic concepts, including
soldering and Arduino, could build their own electronic shifter in about two

“This includes
building, calibration and testing,” said Tewolde. “Good idea to do it
over a weekend.”

This DIY system can be used with existing derailleurs

He estimates cost to be
about $155, assuming you have the tools, computer and soldering equipment.

The most expensive items

  • Arduino $20
  • ftdi programmer $20
  • boost converter $15
  • battery $40
  • ram mount $20
  • servo $20
  • miscellaneous $ 20

Tewolde admits he hasn’t had a chance to even try Di2
shifters, but he thinks his system
could be more customizable.

“At this time the Di2 are more fully featured than my
DIY version, but I believe an open source system will have the advantage of
being more customizable,” added Tewolde. “For example, I’ve talked to some
people that would like to add automatic shifting and an anti-theft mechanism.
One of my goals is to incorporate sensors to record speed, inclination and
power to determine if the rider is changing gears efficiently. Some of these
ideas are not likely to be incorporated by Shimano, which is why an open source
alternative might be better for some.”

And as this is just one project that the DIYer has in
the works, he’s looking to shift gears to the next one soon.

“My next bike project is to design and build a better
bike computer to realize some of the goals I’ve talked about above,” he said,
already looking ahead to the next step. “It will also be open sourced. Once I complete
that I plan on building a website for riders to analyze and share their stats.”

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