By: Forest Dramis
The pros and cons of electronic versus mechanical shifting have been written about ad nauseum, so I won't add to what's already been said about the controllability of Di2, the reliability of mechanical, the death of the soul of shifting and anything else that doesn't really mean anything.
Let me start by qualifying their shift performance. They're both Dura Ace. They shift perfectly. Every, single, time. Period. After spending many hours riding both I can tell you that anyone who says they can notice faster or better shifting in one or the other is lying. While quantitatively Di2 may shift faster, it is completely imperceptible. For that matter Ultegra 6700 shifts so well you'd be hard pressed to distinguish it in a blind test, though it does have a slightly different lever throw.
So if DA900 and Di29070 both shift perfectly, what separates them? Money is one answer. Di2 is more money. Way more money. If you're rich and money is no object? Go for it. It's totally bling. It looks awesome, there are no cables to ruin the line of your custom Pegoretti and truth be told, the sound the servos make is awesome. A little like the sound the Enterprise makes when launching photo torpedoes. In a word, Di2 is cool. And let's just admit it right now, we want our bikes to be cool.
The other advantage of note is sprint and climbing shifters. While completely unnecessary, I have to say, they're pretty darn nice. Not having to move your hands off the tops while going going full gas on a climb is pretty nice. Being able to easily shift from the drops in a full out out sprint is REALLY nice. Is that worth the extra coin? If you've got the coin? Absolutely. If you don't have the coin, well, it's just the cross we have to bear.
After many hours on each, which is my preference? Mechanical. And I'll tell you why. First off, I can't afford the extra coin for Di2 and would rather spend that money on race wheels, travel money or something else. Secondly, I actually like mechanical better. This will surprise anyone who knows me as I am a confirmed geek. I love technology and I love gadgets and Di2 is a super cool example of both. But for me, it's all about the lever. Di2 shifts so easily and there's so little lever movement that I was finding myself unsure if I'd pushed the lever far enough. Also, the upshift VS downshift levers have such similar feel that it was hard for me to know where my fingers were in full fingered gloves.
I'm the first to admit that these issues would go away in a week's worth of riding. Without question. But the small benefit of Di2 coupled with the large drawback in cost doesn't make me covet electronic. That said, if money was no object, it wouldn't even be a question. We'd all be on Di2.
DA 9000: $2,700 • 2,074 grams
Di2 9070: $4,125 • 2,047 grams (Internal battery), 2,104g (External battery)