A wireless shifting system that retrofits to almost any bike has taken Kickstarter by storm. Having smashed its initial Kickstarter target of $50,000, the system looks set to go into production in March 2017.
The XSHIFTER will be sold as a conversion kit to provide customisable wireless shifting to bikes with a regular mechanical drivetrain and will offer some of the benefits of dedicated electronic drivetrains, but at a fraction of the cost – early backers can currently purchase the system for $199.
Different versions are set to be available for everything from road bikes to mountain bikes, recumbents and even tandems.
How does it work?
The system works by swapping out a drivetrain’s mechanical shifters and replacing them with either one or a couple of frame-mounted, wireless motors that imitate their function — pulling a small length of cable to actuate the derailleurs.
Once in place, the system does away with the physical restrictions of a mechanical shifter, meaning faster shifts and customisable shift patterns are now possible.
Should the system be used with two derailleurs for example, the people behind XSHIFTER have also created a semi-automatic mode. Similar to Shimano’s Synchro-Shift technology, it allows the system to follow a pre-programmed shift map; meaning only one shifter is necessary to control both derailleurs — a rider simply has to click up or down like they would do with a 1x system.
If you're still not clear on how the system works then we'd suggest heading over to the product's Kickstarter pledge where an informative video shows the system in action.
XSHIFTER & XSHIFTER DUAL
Confusingly, when XSHIFTER says the word XSHIFTER it refers to the motorised component that pulls the cable through each derailleur.
Each XSHIFTER is identifiable as a black box that sits within a cable’s reach of a derailleur. Using a reinforced nylon casing, they’re waterproof and each contains its own removable, USB-chargeable battery. Each XSHIFTER unit communicates with its remote via a low energy Bluetooth connection.
Talking of battery life, XSHIFTER vaguely claims the system will last between a week and a month depending on use. A complete charge of an XSHIFTER battery is said to take around four hours.
The example installations shown on XSHIFTER’s Kickstarter page use a couple of XSHIFTER boxes mounted at the rear seat stays of a frame (rear derailleur) and the down tube (front derailleur). However, XSHIFTER states that you can attach these components wherever you like and insists that its Bowden cable will keep shifting seamless regardless of location.
Once the system is physically installed it then has to be configured, a video on the Kickstarter page shows that this shouldn’t be too difficult a procedure. Using a Bluetooth connection with a smartphone app, the system has to be shown the extremities of the cassette as well as being told the drivetrain specification. Once that’s completed, the drivetrain should then be ready to ride.
Two versions are available: the regular XSHIFTER, which uses one cable output to control one derailleur and a Dual version, which features a second cable output, this can be used to operate either two derailleurs or a dropper post as well as a derailleur. The XSHIFTER comes in at 80g while the XSHIFTER Dual sits at 110g.
The XREMOTE is what we’d normally refer to as a shifter, although it should really be thought of as a wireless switch. Two prototype shifters are available: one for drop bars (30g) and one for flat bars (35g). Both types of shifter also feature four customisable buttons, while the flat bar version also includes a battery level indicator.
An XREMOTE for TT bikes is also in the pipeline.
Our take on the system
XSHIFTER could well be onto something big here. It’s clear from the Kickstarter success alone that this system has impressed a lot of people. It seems like one of those ideas that you’d kick yourself for not coming up with.
Said to work with any frame and any derailleur-based drivetrain, the system definitely ticks the versatility box but its performance is yet to be seen or tested. From a maintenance perspective, this system probably won't match the fit and forget reputation that some electronic drivetrains have earned, after all, it still uses a cable (albeit, a very short one).
It’s certainly priced competitively though and the weight penalty is something that we think a lot of people would swallow for a system such as this.
There’s a long way to go yet, but if XSHIFTER nails the basics: battery life, ergonomics and shift feel e.t.c, then the potential here is huge. Wireless shifting for the masses, this could just be it.
Head on over to the XSHIFTER Kickstarter pledge for more information.