Friday, February 11, 2011

Shifting - Back to the Future - Part 2

In our last installment of Shifting - Back to the Future we described the unique requirements for shifting and braking for local racer Rick Matthew's bicycle.  Here is the project that resulted from a brief conversation and the way in which the requirements were met using Shimano Di2 technology.

After gathering more details, we approached Rick this fall with a proposal for a collaborative R&D project using Di2 to further customize his bike for his specific needs.   He graciously agreed to be our test subject and the project was born.  Over the next few weeks, we discussed what would be his ideal setup, took measurements, observed him on his bike and an overall design began to take shape.

Remote switches control front and rear shifting

His left prosthesis grasps the left side of the bars and helps support his weight.  It does not give him a lot of control for steering so it is important to minimize the amount his right hand has to be moved or taken off of the bars for control and stability.  It appeared that 2 sets of shift switches mounted on top of the bars next to the stem would put the shifting within a compact area easily reached by his thumb and reducing the need to move his hand. 

It took a couple of months to get the design finalized, the parts from Shimano and the bike set-up. Rick saw it for the first time this week and was pretty happy to say the least. Now he can shift front and rear derailleurs with just his thumb and within a range of motion of 4.25 centimeters or less with the same amount of pressure as it takes to depress a key on a computer keyboard.

Rear shifting is also controlled from the rt lever/switches
Both brakes are operated simultaneously with a splitter off of the right brake lever and the lever also has outboard switches to provide up and down shifting on the rear derailleur.

The initial tests indicate that system can be adapted to a very diverse set of rider needs. An obvious application is to use a similar setup for riders suffering from arthritis or other causes of joint pain and stiffness - Di2 would provide welcome assistance in those instances.
Here is a short clip of Rick in action - he seems to be enjoying the new setup.

We view the use of Di2 in an adaptive technology role as a very natural extension of Two Wheel Transit's fit services so we will continue to explore the limits and capabilities of the system. The current pricing for a Dura Ace Di2 system is about $4,500 thus beyond what many can afford or wish to invest.  Shimano has not yet confirmed an Ultegra version that will do the same thing, but there are some very credible sources indicating that it will be available for 2012 for about $2,600 for the entire Ultegra Di2 groupo.  This should make it less of a stretch for people who need this type of assistance to ride longer, more comfortably and safely.

We want to thank Rick Matthews for his willingness to partner with us on this project and wish him well this riding and racing season.

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