This is the ProShift 'brain' that does the thinking for you while also showing all the data. There's even a fuel gauge that gives you a theoretical estimate of where you're sitting energy-wise.
ProShift's system, which has been in development for two years, ties into your electronic drivetrain and uses real-time power, cadence, speed, and heart rate data in order to decide when to shift gears for you. The company says that the system will ''keep you at your optimum performance level and within your optimal power band - continuously, accurately, imperceptibly.'' As of right now, ProShift is compatible with Campagnolo EPS, SRAM eTAP, and Shimano's Di2 road drivetrains, but the Texas company says that they're about three or four months out from a setup designed to work with Shimano's XTR and XT Di2 mountain bike drivetrains.
Will the future of electronic drivetrains be automatic?
• Automatic shift system
• Compatible with eTAP, EPS, Di2
• Shimano XTR / XT Di2 version available soon
• Measures speed, cadence, power, heart rate and shifts for you
• Fifty-hour + battery life
• Weight: TBA
• MSRP: $799 USD
How does it work?
Riders don't have to modify their pricey electronic group at all. Think of the ProShift system as a brain that only tells your drivetrain when to shift and how many gears to shift, and it knows this thanks to power, cadence, heart rate and speed data that it takes in from sensors on the bike. This data comes in via ANT+ from any number of different devices (it's compatible with products from Stages, Garmin, SRM, Quarq, and a lot more), but the ProShift computer can also be taught that the rider prefers a certain pedaling style and adjusts for that. If you feel best in a tall gear and at a low cadence or vice versa, you can program this into the computer via the simple two button controls on the head unit.
The idea is two-fold; one, it's claimed to be able to keep the rider at his or her optimum cadence, which is ideal for energy management; and two, it removes having to think about shifting.
Laugh if you want, but getting into a rhythm and focusing only on turning the pedals over can be just the ticket for some types of road riding, especially when the rider is extremely fatigued to the point where they're making mistakes.
ProShift says that the system also makes sense for those who ride a hand-cycle where shifting gears can sometimes be an awkward job, or for other riders with a disability.
There are, however, a few more challenges involved when it comes to mountain biking, mainly the sudden and sometimes unexpected need to shift through the gear range when a rider makes a mistake and loses forward momentum, or how different cadences can suit different conditions. Regardless, ProShift says that a mountain bike-specific version to work with Shimano's XTR and XT Di2 drivetrains is only a few months out and that the system can shift as quickly as twice in a single second.
It's also important to note that the rider is also always able to shift as if their electronic drivetrain was completely manual - your shifters automatically override the ProShift's wishes - and your drivetrain will also revert to normal operation if the fifty-hour rechargeable battery does empty while you're out on your bike. A Garmin heads-up display can show all of your data without you needing to look down.
Word is that representatives from both SRAM and Shimano who stopped in to take a look at the system were impressed, although I doubt very much that either company would ever endorse or go down the automatic transmission road.
There's much more pushback on electronic mountain bike drivetrains than there was from the road crowd, some of it for valid reasons, so I doubt very much that ProShift's automatic drivetrain will be widely accepted in mountain bike circles. After all, most people using Di2 groups are relatively capable riders who wouldn't want to give up control of when they shift. Regardless of if ProShift's off-road system dies on the vine, the road setup, which is already in production and selling, is clever enough that it's at least worth taking a look at.
We've come a long way from when indexed shift first came out in the late 1980s, haven't we?