Shimano’s latest technology for their STEPS system now allows e-bikes with drop handlebars to toggle between the drive unit modes using Di2 shift buttons. This means you no longer have to use a typical e-mtb style switch, making for quicker and easier shifting on road and gravel e-bikes.
As STEPS is a 1x system, it means you'll be able to customise your Ultegra Di2 shifters via Shimano’s E-Tube app so that one side controls your shifting and the other side takes care of your assistance level. It’s compatible with Shimano’s existing Ultegra Di2 R8070 levers, and recommended specifically for e-road and e-gravel bikes.
As well as a cleaner-looking bike, practically it will be welcome news for gravel riders who will regularly encounter loose or rocky terrain. Drop shifting means you no longer need to risk being thrown off line by taking your hands off the bars to alter your assistance level. The Shimano STEPS brand manager Pieter Vincent has described drop bar functionality as “the next logical step” for e-bikes: “With e-bikes rapidly gaining popularity with mountain bikers as well as city/trekking riders, the next logical step for e-bikes is the drop handlebar market.
“Whilst these might be new segments for many riders, they have an obvious attraction for riders who want e-power to ride trails, gravel paths or roads with the racier position that drop handlebars provide.”
The STEPS e-road and e-gravel drop handle bar functionality is compatible with Shimano’s E8000, E7000, E6100 and E5000 drive units, and will works with downtube or integrated batteries and E6100 or E7000 displays. It’s also compatible with a range of derailleurs, including the standard Ultegra and Ultegra RX clutch, plus the XT and XTR rear mechs.
If you’re using mechanical shifting, it will still possible to use STEPS on your drop bar e-bike by using the third button on the display unit to toggle between support modes. The firmware update to take advantage of the new tech will become available on the E-Tube app from Monday the 8th April.
More new e-bike stuff from Shimano
Tapping into the growing gravel, touring and fast commuting e-bike market, Shimano will be releasing a new 47T chainring in June. The bigger ratio will allow for higher power and faster speeds, and mounts like an ordinary chainring between the STEPS drive unit and your crank arm. They will also be bringing out a new 160mm crank arm for better ground clearance than the next-shortest existing offering of 165mm. And of course, this will be appreciated by riders who are shorter in stature too.
On the mountain bike side, Shimano will be offering a number of new 12 speed components from May onwards including MTB-specific 34T, 36T, 38T chain rings. A 12 speed 42T chainring for e-trekking bikes will also be introduced.
Last but not least, from September you’ll be able to charge your battery twice as quickly as the previous EC-E6002 charger with the new lightweight EC-8004 model. Shimano say it’s capable of going from empty to 80% charge in 2.5hrs, with a full charge time of 4.5hrs.