In February we reported
that Shimano had been granted two wireless communication applications, a strong hint that some sort of wireless electronic components were in development. A patent that was granted to Shimano
last week sheds even more light on what could be on the way, and on the potential uses for the new wireless system.
Along with the expected wireless shifting, and the ability to activate a wireless dropper post, the patent also includes details about the ability to control the bike's suspension, either the fork, shock, or both.
The patent states, "the first telescopic operation signal is a wireless signal to operate the bicycle electric seatpost assembly. The second telescopic operation signal is a wireless signal to operate the bicycle electric suspension." This makes it seem like it may be possible to control the suspension at the same time as the dropper post. In other words, there's potential for a system that locks or firms up the fork or shock when the post is fully extended, and then opens it up when it's compressed.
The operation of the controls also appears to have good degree of customization potential. According to the patent, “In a case where operating devices are integrally provided with each other as a single unit, a user operation can be distinguished based on a manipulation method (long press of a switch, simultaneous press of switches)." The drawings of the controllers in the patent are rudimentary, and leave a lot to the imagination; it will be interesting to see what they end up looking like in the real world, whenever that may be. Not being constrained by a cable opens the door for all sorts of design possibilities and methods of controlling the various components.
While the drawings are of a mountain bike, that doesn't meant the patent doesn't translate over to road components as well. A section in the patent points out that, "the bicycle wireless control system can be applied to a road bike or any type of bicycle," and it includes drawings of an electronic front derailleur.
We reached out to Shimano for more details and received the expected response: "Shimano is constantly in development of new products but does not comment on rumors, innuendo, or speculation about products whether they are in development or not."