Applications placed with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) appear to confirm that Shimano is adding wireless technology to its groupset ecosystem, seeing it catch up with SRAM which introduced the capability back in 2015.
A selection of applications are available on the FCCUD.io website, the documents also include a request for ‘short-term confidentiality’, providing 180 days of secrecy, from the date of authorisation. Since authorisation was granted on January 26, the tech can only stay covered up until the end of July which correlates well with the rumoured launch date of Shimano’s 100 year anniversary in March.
Last year’s patents included wireless shifters, and wireless front and rear derailleurs – as well as a 12-speed cassette. The arrival of wireless for Shimano could well solve a lot of internal cable routing quandaries, making cleaner front ends much easier to achieve whilst also drawing cheers from anyone who builds bikes on a regular basis.
The new documents confirm that these use Bluetooth LE and Ant+ wireless tech, as well as featuring a third party radio frequency named ‘SHIMANO ORIGINAL’. This would allow for a private wireless network, similar to the system SRAM uses to prevent interference.
Interestingly, the FCC documents currently only confirm a wireless shifting module and a wireless rear mech. There’s no document referring to a wireless front mech. It is possible that Shimano may opt for a wire at the front. It’s also possible that a rear mech wired to a central battery will serve as the operator, with a radio transmitter doing the job up front. Equally, let’s not forget the third scenario: another document is yet to be submitted.
The rear derailleur testing referenced via the FCC documents notes “the test was performed with the New Battery”, this is referenced as BT-DN300 – notably a departure from the current Di2 battery BT-DN110.
What caught our attention when exploring the patents last year was the possible use of a piezoelectric element in the shifters, instead of batteries. Piezoelectric effect works by applying mechanical force to certain materials (such as crystals and ceramics), which produce an electrical charge when under stress. This charge could be used to send signal to the derailleurs.
However, Shimano also included an alternative patent featuring a more traditional coin cell battery.
All of the patents showed traditional mechanical cable-operated and hydraulic set ups with regard to the shifter/brake operation.
Interestingly, they still showed cable ports at the shifters, but these could be there to service statellite/sprint shifters or offer compatibility across the range.
The addition of 12-speed is not really in dispute, since drawings showed a 12-speed cassette and Shimano has already incorporated this into its mountain bike groupsets whilst both SRAM and Campagnolo have brought it to the road.
Shimano is clearly planning something big for its 100th anniversary, with a dedicated countdown on its website: as of February 1 2021, the big event was 47 days away.
Will we see the birthday celebrated via a brand new groupset for 2022 bikes? It remains to be seen, but the signs are moving increasingly in the direction of the affirmative.