Oregon bike rides portland

Electronic shifting: What’s the buzz?

Many who have tried electronic shifting it say it’s the best thing since sliced bread. It sounds mysterious, doesn’t it? Maybe even a little magical. But all that aside, what actually IS electronic shifting?

Here’s the lowdown.

Most bikes since the invention of shifting use cables—called mechanical shifting. When you shift, your hand is physically pushing a lever that moves a cable that is pulling against a taught spring in your derailleur. This means you’re doing the work of making your bike shift. Though it takes such little effort you hardly notice, it is a system with a lot of room for error both by the operator (ahem) and from wear-and-tear on the cables and housing which come out of adjustment over time.

Electronic shifting changes the game with battery-powered shifting. By pushing a small button that takes as little effort as pressing a key on your keyboard, the shifters communicates with a motor in the derailleurs for you. Motors, of course, need power to run them, so electronic shifting requires a rechargeable battery that needs to be charged every few months.

Motors, of course, (even little baby ones like these) also do the manual labor for us.

If you’ve ever thought your front shifter was a pain, electronic shifting makes that a thing of the past.

What makes electronic shifting so great?

The shifting is supreme.
Since a motor and software is telling your derailleurs how to work, it simply works every time. People who have tried it literally gush about how good it is. And that’s not just hype.

It’s low maintenance: it doesn’t go out of adjustment.
After your shop installs it there are no cables to stretch or housing to get clogged with mud or road grime, you don’t ever have shifting go out of adjustment. It’s been said that it’s so reliable that a downside is you have to remember to keep all the other regular maintenance on your bike up!

It’s less susceptible to damaged by the elements.
Since all the wiring is sealed, there is no rust, dirt, debris or anything else to damage. When it was first introduced, this wasn’t always the case, but given a few years time, the reliability in adverse conditions has been top notch. It’s become the go-to choice for racing cyclocross and mountain bikes since it can take the dirt and cleaning sessions that follow. This is why I’m pretty certain that much like disc brakes, it will be the upgrade of choice for commuters at some point.

With Sram E-Tap or Shimano DI2, you can have multiple sets of shifters on your bike.
Both these systems offer options to add shifters on your bike to places you might have not thought of—like the top of your road bars if you like to ride up high.

A great option for smaller or disabled hands.
For those of us with small (or in my case, arthritic) hands (I’m also looking at you Donald) most mechanical shifter hoods on road bikes are unwieldy and can be hard to function. Since there’s less inside, the shifters are smaller for hands—and making your bike look sleeker. For front shifting, the motor makes the big effort a thing of the past.

Ok. If it’s so great and wonderful, why doesn’t everyone have it?

It’s expensive.
While your old bike can be retrofit with electronic shifting, it might mean routing cables on the outside of the frame (modern frames hide the cables inside). So even if you can afford it, you might be looking at a better deal just by investing in a whole new bike. Which again, is expensive. But if you’re already in the market, it’s something to consider.

It’s really expensive.
Yeah, I mean it. This bears repeating because the cost is currently the main the barrier to why more people don’t have electronic shifting. It will take a few more years before this system becomes affordable and you start seeing it on more entry-level bikes. In the meantime if you crash hard enough to damage the shifters or derailleurs, you’ve got a big replacement cost on your hands.

An electronic shifting group is much cheaper on mountain bikes, but even then it’s still hundreds more, instead of potentially thousands. If either of those quantities seems like a lot to you, then you’re not alone, and electronic shifting may be a few more years out before considering.

Should You Make the Shift?

To many of us our shifting is a thing that just kind of works. Meaning we not only don’t understand how it works, but we also don’t always appreciate if it’s working properly since we wouldn’t know the difference. If that’s you, electronic shifting probably won’t impress you too much.

That being said, if you are in a bike shop or somewhere you get an opportunity to experience electronic shifting in your own hands, I’d recommend checking it out. Not only is how it works pretty cool, it makes a rad “pew, pew, pew” noise when it shifts that sounds like you’re driving a spaceship.

And no one can argue with that advancement!

Tori Bortman is ORbike’s resident bike mechanic. She is also an educator, consultant and the owner of Gracie’s Wrench. Tori’s book, The Big Book of Cycling for Beginners, is out now from Bicycling Magazine.


Ride to Defeat ALS!

Ride to Defeat ALS – 7/8 – Mt. Angel

Many of us hop on our bikes without a second thought, but for those who can’t pedal, there’s Ride to Defeat ALS, an opportunity to raise funds and awareness for people living with ALS, also known as Lou Gerhig’s Disease. This devastating
disease eventually takes people’s lives after a long and painful decline in mobility.

But there is great hope! There is so much that can be done to support people living with the disease, to make their lives more comfortable, to provide them with increased mobility options and to to support their loved ones who tirelessly
care for them. Those good efforts come thanks to the National ALS Association and Ride to Defeat ALS is your opportunity to support their impactful work.

This ride is a gorgeous odyssey through the hushed open landscape around Mt. Angel on the edge of Portland. Sign up for this important ride and be a part of the movement for those who can’t.




Cycle the Selkirk Mountains

WACANID | September 11-16 – Washington, Canada, Idaho

Cycle the International Selkirk Loop on this six-day journey that covers 370 miles and showcases the loop’s spectacular scenery – majestic mountains, beautiful lakes, rivers and North America’s longest free ferry ride. There are a few hills for extra reward, and the scenery is well worth every bit of climbing you’ll conquer.

It’s such a thrill to ride through two states and two countries on this exciting ride. The support is top notch and the other riders are friendly. WACANID is your chance to truly get away from it all on a ride you’ll remember for life.

  • Designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation as one of the “Top 10 Scenic Destinations in the Northern Rockies”
  • Named “Best of the Roads” by Rand McNally Road Atlas
  • Named the “West’s Best Scenic Drive” by Sunset Magazine

The weather is mild, the traffic is light and most of the ride occurs on secondary highways whenever possible. You may not see a car for miles and miles as you pass through friendly communities. If you’re looking for a new ride this year,
we think we’ve got just the one.


Photo Gallery


COOL ROUTE: Ultimate PDX Tour

Check out this Ultimate PDX Tour – the best of Portland all in one ride! Fall in love with the city all over again, or take visitors for a ride. You’re going to love this easy cruise from start to finish.


This route comes from the Best Bike Rides in Portland book by ORbike editor Ayleen Crotty and published by Falcon Guides.


Columbia Century Challenge


Sometimes the best routes are hidden in plain sight. The two year old Columbia Century Challenge unveils a network of stunning riding routes that are just on the edge of Portland. Journey through the bicycle-friendly back roads of old Oregon timberlands – Clatskanine and Vernonia – and charming tiny towns like Mist and Apiary. You’ll pedal along historic farm roads through the open fields and pastures along the Columbia River.

The ride snagged second place in our Best Bike Rides of Oregon riders’ poll, and it’s little wonder why, though such accolades are rare for a first time event.

This ride really caters to variety of riders. Though there are purely-pavement routes on the Columbia Century Challenge, this ride is also perfect for riders who like a mix of pavement and gravel grinding. New this year, the ride includes an optional route that is 55% gravel – perfect for riders who like to journey off the beaten path.

This event is an awesome opportunity to test out your gravel skills in a well supported setting. If that 55% is too much, the ride also includes an optional hard pack gravel stretch along the historic Crown-Zellerbach trail, a very approachable 12 mile flat stretch.

This is one of those rides that makes us think, “Wait, why haven’t we been riding here all along?”


Photo Gallery


Device Mania: How to Tune Out on a Ride

This article is presented by WEEKENDER, two days that will make your whole summer.

In over ever-connected world, it’s tempting to share life’s beauty and victories with others. And on a bike ride, beauty and victory are what it’s all about.

But if you’re constantly on your device, sharing the ride during the ride, where are you, really? Are you here? Or are you in Device Land?

The problem with Device Land is that you’re disconnected from the world around you. So much of why we ride is to sink into the landscape, set aside the cares of the world, to just BE.

If you find yourself eager to post, turn off the phone. If you enjoy taking photos, put your phone in airplane mode.

It can be fun to share the ride during the ride, and it’s possible to do this without letting it take over your day. Start with a plan. Take all the photos you want, but instead of composing those posts continually in your head, let it go. Wait until you’re at the first rest stop, and allow yourself a post. A quick one. Don’t overthink it; this doesn’t need to be a masterpiece.

Then continue on your ride and post once again at the finish line. That once can be more of a masterpiece.

That gap in the middle between posts? That’s where you truly sink in. Let go. Disconnect. Enjoy. Ride.

WEEKENDER a ride by Cycle Oregon, is July 7-9, 2017. Bring your friends. Bring your neighbors. Bring your family. Bring your bikes. Everyone is welcome for Cycle Oregon’s two-day bike bash! Linfield College campus is home base for a weekend of great rides, live tunes, and activities galore. Choose from a short, medium or long route through wine country, then camp under the stars or crash in the dorms. It’s two-wheeled fun for everyone!


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