A Make-Your-Own Electronic Group?

DIY enthusiast offers ‘How To’ for homemade electronic shifters

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 at least part of the electronic dream a reality – if you’re willing to build the parts yourself, and you’re forgiving about the less-than-svelte aesthetics. Total cost? About $155.

Nabil Tewolde of Markham, Ontario, has created an electronic rear 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, for Instructable's Make It Real Challenge.

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 full-group 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 days.

"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 are:

  • 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 the moment the system only works with rear derailleurs.

“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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