I have to ride. Recently I have been going too hard so today I wanted something gentle.
Mark from I-Ride delivered a De Rosa Merak with Athena 11s EPS on Saturday morning so, despite perfect dry conditions, there would be no mountain biking for me on Sunday. I have a buddy following a strict training program so I knew that if I rode with him I’d be able to keep the ride steady and rest up my sore legs. He was doing the Burgess Hill sportive and to get some extra miles in he rode out and back on top of the 70 orgainsed miles. I just rode to BH and back.
I have ridden Shimano Dura Ace Di2 before on a Wilier visit so was already familiar with
instant touch shifting. The De Rosa Merak was fitted with the budget Campagnolo Athena EPS eleven speed set up. Over dinner I read up on how to calibrate it. Gav had set it up but I thought that I ought to know how. Campagnolo have opted for the shifters to be virtually identical to the original mechanical version and like them you can shift all the way through the block either up or down with one press.
My finger muscles don’t ache after a road ride so I did wonder about the benefits of touch shifting but it is 2013 and most things that we do function electronically and instantly so it brings the bike right into the digital age. One absolute advantage over the mechanical system is the front shift. Despite the greatest minds at Campagnolo, Sram and Shimano no
one has managed to get front shifting as fast as the rear shift. EPS and Di systems do. One touch and an instant front shift. As I only made one front shift in the whole 74km ride (and that on a hill I usually climb in the big ring) the benefit was as marginal as it was exceptional.
Electronic shifting, is it worth it? I remember being asked what I
thought of Red the first time that I used it. My replay was “Its a road bike, I never thought to think about the gears. They work”. That got me thinking and I felt that for ergonomics and efficiency Sram Red had the edge over Shimano and Campagnolo but not enough of an edge to warrant a need to change. However, it is inevitable that electronic shifting will come down in price and as cyclist realise the benefits of buying higher priced bikes more and
more of you will enjoy the perfection of electronic shifting. If you are worried about losing strength in your forefingers you can always pick your nose.
This was my third ride on the Merak and yet again a ride when I was taking it easy. However, I am now in a lot better shape than the last time. So I was more tuned to a racing rig. The first thing that I noticed was that it was not as comfortable as I remembered but that is not a bad thing, it felt more like the Scott Foil than my Wilier Cento Uno. In other words it felt stiff, fast and responsive. That is what I’d expect a road racing bike to feel like. There is constant talk about “sportive” bikes and they have their place, but it’s nice, if you think you are fit and strong, the get on a speed machine. The Merak is quicker steering that the Cento Uno and is even easier to ride in the drops despite the bars being 10mm lower as they are compact and this shallow drop is pretty standard on bikes today.
I liked the Merak and hope to test it on the Tuesday Thrash. Whilst I am not going the sell my FF29 to fund an EPS road bike I did really enjoy riding the future of gear shifting.