Electronic Shifting

A brief History of electronic shifting

Derailleur gear systems have existed since the late 19th century. However, they didn't make it into the Tour de France until 1937. Before that, riders had to remove their wheel and flip it around to access a second set of cogs that could provide different ratios. 


The first derailleur systems used for racing were rudimentary in design. It wasn't until Tullio Campagnolo introduced the Gran Sport derailleur in 1949 that they became widely employed by professional riders. Initially limited to ten prototypes, the design was released to the public the following year. 


For the next four decades, a parallelogram-type derailleur operated by a lever connected with a Bowden cable became the near-universal way for racing cyclists to shift gears. 


Then in 1992, French firm Mavic released the revolutionary Zap groupset. It used electronics to control the movement of the derailleur. Doing away with the parallelogram design, it relied on the pedalling action of the rider and a toothed shaft inside the derailleur to control the movement of the gears. This first Zap groupset was followed in 1999 by a wireless version called Mektronic. 


In our archive, you can find an early version of the Nova bicycle fitted with a rare wireless Mektronic groupset. It might have been a first glimpse of the future. Yet, for all their innovation, neither of Mavic's groupsets was considered a success. The result was that when electronic shifting disappeared from the retail market, few were sad to see it go. 

Nevertheless, in the pro ranks, Campagnolo continued experimenting with electronic shifting. Unlike Mavic, its designs focused on using motors to drive the derailleur. Throughout the late 90s and early 2000s, several squads, including the Spanish Reynolds team (later to become Movistar), trialled the products in elite-level races.


Although unavailable to the public, Passsoni's relationship with Campagnolo meant several of our prototype bikes from the era also featured the unreleased groupsets. Still, as they remained unavailable for general consumption, the dream of electronic shifting largely faded from public consciousness. 

Everything changed in 2010 when Japanese firm Shimano became the first company since Mavic to release a consumer electronic groupset. Campagnolo followed suit a year later, introducing its first EPS products in 2011. 

Ever since, amateur riders have had a choice to execute their shifting electronically using motor-activated derailleurs or rely on the traditional system of cables and pulleys. Now more than a decade on, electronic groupsets have come to dominate the top of the market. 

Our bikes like the Titanio or the XXTi can be equipped with electric gear changes.