|The prototype computer that makes BioShift work.|
(from Baron Biosystems).
"We did extensive regression analysis of ride data to establish the correct gearing needed at all cycling intensity levels," said Armando Mastracci of Baron BioSystems.
The makers claim that automatic shifting will be a benefit to novice and recreational cyclists, who "will enjoy the freedom of just pedaling without having to worry about choosing the right gear." To be honest, I really don't believe that the inability to choose the "optimal" gear for every condition is the thing that keeps people from riding bikes, or from enjoying them.
Likewise, the makers believe that competitive cyclists, especially triathletes, will benefit because "BioShift chooses the gear that enables the desired power to be delivered with the least amount of effort, even as the athlete fatigues."
That's right -- a fatigued triathlete apparently cannot choose the right gear. Even staying on the bike at all is a challenge. Then again, much video evidence exists to say that having automatic shifting won't necessarily help them, either.
The BioShift system can apparently also be configured in different ways to aid training. Different modes include "fixed cadence mode, fixed heart rate mode, as well as fixed power mode." In other words, for training, if someone wants to keep their power output at a certain level throughout their ride, the system will apparently keep the rider in the gear that will make that possible.
Lastly, the company claims that BioShift operates transparently with the Di2 electronic shifting system, and can be enabled or disabled at the touch of a button. What a relief, because otherwise I can imagine lots of shifting-disabled cyclists calling for mercy rides home when this automatic system quits working.
I suppose the next step is when the gearing can be selected remotely -- by a rider's coach, for example. With wireless capability, it is already technically possible. And I'd be willing to bet that somebody's working on a system that will make it happen. Then just imagine the fun that could be had by somebody who could hack into the system to take over the shifting of someone else's bike.
One thing I will never understand is what makes anyone think that shifting gears is such a chore, or so confusing that we need to have a computer to do it for us? Are riders really incapable of learning how to shift gears -- so much so that even push-button electronic shifting is too much to master? Maybe it's just because most of my bikes have no more than 14 speeds, but I'm just not seeing this as a great breakthrough.
As far as making shifting easier for novices, the same basic argument was made for indexed shifting back in the 80s, then for integrated brake/shift levers in the 90s -- that shifting was so difficult, so complex, that novices just couldn't get the hang of it. "Gear fear" was supposedly keeping people from riding. Yet with all these "advances" in shifting technology, we have not seen huge numbers of people suddenly start riding bikes. Sales of bikes climb and fall, but the number of actual riders hasn't really grown significantly -- and there are just as many unridden bikes in basements and garages as ever, regardless of what kinds of shifting systems they have.
But beyond that, while a traditional shifting system, like friction, or even indexed downtube or bar-end levers might take a little time to master, it's not as though a person can't become at least competent after only a few rides (if even that long). The beauty of them is that such traditional systems themselves are actually very simple -- there is so little to go wrong. Electronic systems and this new "automatic" BioShift, on the other hand, are seriously complicated systems designed to "simplify" an action that really isn't as difficult as some would have us believe. Which means that they probably won't be able to keep them in stock.