Whether you like it or not, electronics are coming to modern mountain bikes in a big way. We’ve already seen electric endeavours emerge onto the market from the likes of the Fox iCD suspension platform, the automated pedalling platform on the Lapierre/RockShox e:i system, and of course Shimano’s XTR and now XT’s Di2 electric drivetrain.
As for wireless electrics, that’s a little newer, though there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with wireless technology if you own a smartphone or a GPS computer like a Garmin or a Lezyne unit. For operating more fundamental actions on the bike itself, we’ve also seen electronic dropper posts from the likes of the Magura Veyron, and more recently, the KS LEV Circuit. Oh, and if we’re talking about electrics and mountain bikes, we should probably mention electric mountain bikes too…
Despite all of this progression, it seems that modern mountain bikes are still stuck in the dark ages using regular ol’ cables to shift our gears. Of course Shimano has electronic shifting on offer, but that still uses wires. And SRAM has debuted eTap shifting for its Red road groupset, but that’s not for knobbly tyres. Yet…
But while we eagerly await news of wireless shifting systems from the big guys, there appears to be a new, smaller player coming to market, propelled by the brains of a previous SRAM engineer, Paul Gallagher. At this point in time, Gallagher’s ‘XShifter’ system is still in prototype phase, and it will soon be launching on Kickstarter to help fund production. We’ve been checking out the development videos behind the system, and it certainly has some intriguing aspects to it.
Essentially, XSHIFTER is a wireless gear shifting system that’s designed to be used with your existing drivetrain. All you do is remove your shifters and cables, and install an XSHIFTER remote on the handlebars. Then mount an XSHIFTER unit just above the front and rear derailleurs, plug them into your derailleurs, and ‘hey presto’, you’ve got wireless electronic shifting!
“Companies design their products to lock you into their equipment ecosystem and I don’t think that is fair to the cyclists. With XSHIFTER you can mix and match gear sets from any brand and adjust the precision in minutes, you really can’t do that with other equipment out on the market right now,” says Gallagher.
So from what we can tell, the derailleurs on a bike with the XSHIFTER system are still cable operated. It’s just that those cables plug into the XSHIFTER unit, which uses some kind of motorised trickery inside it to pull the cabling. That motor is wireless activated by the remote on the handlebar, so that’s where the ‘wireless’ part of the equation comes in. According to Gallagher, the advantages of the XSHIFTER system are;
- It’s really really fun to use.
- Attach to any bike frame.
- Use with any derailleur.
- Minimize chain rubbing and drop.
- Less weight.
- Fast, accurate shifting.
We’re still a little dubious, but it will be interesting to see how the system progresses over time. If anything, it should be a much cheaper solution than something like SRAM’s eTap drivetrain or Shimano’s Di2 components. If you want to follow the progress of the XSHIFTER, you can check out their website, Facebook page, and their YouTube channel. Gallagher plans to launch XSHIFTER on Kickstarter in late September, so keep your eyes peeled for further dates. Until then, checkout the video below to see what it’s all about…