What could be more exclusive than electronic gear shifting? Swiss-made electronic twist shifters, that's what. The unique take on how to shift Shimano Di2, SRAM eTap or Campagnolo EPS gears comes attached to a road bike – the Zirbel Velocity Racer – but will also be available as an aftermarket item, with pricing TBC at the time of writing.
The innovation uses something called Magnetic Click Technology to allow the construction of very small, robust and lightweight twist grip shifters that can, so it's claimed, be operated easily with gloves. What's more, a single shifter can operate both front and rear derailleur, and can be mounted on the right or left side of the handlebars as needed.
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Go on then, how much does it weigh? Well the twist grip shifter weighs 16-19g, depending on whether it's Shimano Di2, SRAM eTap or Campagnolo EPS. The brake levers weigh 826, meaning that the total weight of a pair of twist grip shifters and brake levers is 98-101g. This compares with 130g for a pair of SRAM eTap shifters/brake levers.
The complete carbon-framed Zirbel Velocity Racer bike weighs an impressive 6.7kg without pedals, a hair under the official UCI weight limit. Finishing kit includes Profile Design handlebars, a Specialized Toupe saddle and Vision 55 wheels shod with Vittoria Corsa Elite tyres.
So what's the damage? The complete road bike costs around €4,500, equipped with Shimano Ultegra Di2, SRAM eTap or Campagnolo EPS. It seems to be aimed more at the endurance end of the market, with a more upright position than conventional race bikes, and is equipped with a multifunction stem that can be mounted with a light, GoPro or bike computer.
"The basic idea behind the Zirbel Velocity Racer was to build a bike with road bike performance relating to frame geometry, weight and technology for racing in flat areas and the mountains on one hand and for cycling in the city on the other hand," says Stefan Koller, the man behind the Zirbel Velocity Racer.
Can it be fitted to any bike?
"In theory the twist grip shifter can be mounted on all tubes with diameter of 23.8mm," says Stefan. "If there is an interest, I would make the twist grip shifter available for Triathlon and TT bikes as well."
Most of the parts for the Zirbel shifting system were made in Switzerland, and the complete Zirbel Velocity Racer is for sale right now from www.zirbel.ch.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, the name Zirbel comes from a type of tree that marks the forest line in the Alps. Once you pass the last of the Zirbel trees, you are around 2,000 metres above sea level. "This is always good moment while climbing a pass," says Stefan, and we have to agree.
We're getting one in for testing very soon – watch this space.
What do you think of the Zirbel Velocity Racer? Let us know in the comments below.