In 2008, there's every likelihood Shimano will introduce an electronic shift-by-wire Dura-Ace-style groupset. Shimano communications director Hans Van Vliet talks about this, and other advances in electronics, on a podcast beamed out from the Velo Mondial cycle planning conference in South Africa.

Shimano Europe director talks electronics

The podcast can be listened to by clicking here:

If you’ve got QuickTime installed the audio can be played from your browser. iTunes subscribers can download the podcast for playing in iTunes or on iPods.

Pix of the groupset Hans Van Vliet is heard talking about can be found here:…/03-09

Will the UCI ban such electronically advanced equipment?

In the introduction to the 1996 Lugano Charter – the UCI’s anti-technology codex – advances in technology were frowned upon, partly because developing nations couldn’t afford to keep up with the developed nations and their access to the very best kit.

"If we forget that the technology used is subordinate to the project itself, and not the reverse, we cross the line beyond which technology takes hold of the system and seeks to impose its own logic," argues the Lugano Charter, which was adopted into firm UCI policy in 1998.

"New prototypes can be developed because they do not have to take into account constraints such as safety, a comfortable riding position, accessibility of the controls, manoeuvrability of the machine, etc. The bicycle is losing its user-friendliness and distancing itself from a reality which can be grasped and understood.

"The many effects of this rush to extremes risk damaging the sport of cycling. These include spiralling costs, unequal access to technology, radical innovations prepared in secret, a fait accompli policy, damage to the image of cycle sport and the credibility of performances and the advent of a technocratic form of cycling where power is concentrated in the hands of a few powerful players, to the detriment of the universality of the sport on which its future and continued development depend."

Radical innovations prepared in secret? Er, that’ll be research and development, then? Is that normally carried out in public, for all companies to benefit?

Shimano has might on its side. The UCI would be mad to pick a fight with the world’s biggest bike component company but the UCI is not known for its grasp of real politik, or reality in general.

Shimano has been a commercial partner of the UCI since 1999 and has a contract with the UCI good through until the end of the Olympics in 2008. Shimano will provide technical support at the Beijing Olympic Games. Shimano is also the UCI’s official supplier of technical and mechanical services during the UCI Road, Track, Mountain bike Marathon and Cyclo-cross World Championships and the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup and the UCI Junior World Championships.

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