Sagan is back on mechanical for Roubaix. A measured decision or superstition ?

Sagan’s Specialized Roubaix: Mechanical is dead, long live mechanical

Peter Sagan will once again ride Dura-Ace mechanical at Paris-Roubaix. Has he lost his marbles?

Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.

Jump To Comments

Peter Sagan will line up for Paris-Roubaix on Sunday on a bike with cable-operated mechanical gears. Just like when he won Roubaix in 2018, the Slovak champion will race with the Shimano Dura-Ace 9100 Di2 mechanical groupset on his Specialized Roubaix.

Is it another Sagan stunt, or just a bike that’s cobbled together? Can Bora-Hansgrohe not find new drivetrain parts just like the rest of us?

Given today’s increasing focus on marginal gains and, heck, employee welfare, one can only wonder why the Bora-Hansgrohe team management signed off on Sagan’s request to run such antiquated technology. Nevertheless, the decision is final.

All joking aside, when Shimano announced its new Dura-Ace Di2 R9200 and Ultegra Di2 R8100 12 speed groupsets at the end of last month, the biggest (read worst) news for many was the death of the mechanical variants. Shimano will still offer the Dura-Ace R9100 for the next year or so, but don’t expect to see much of it. The general consensus in the CyclingTips forum is that most people wouldn’t buy a new Dura-Ace mechanical group if it were offered.

SRAM has taken a similar path, and though it hasn’t gone as far as ruling out a new mechanical groupset, it seems unlikely we will see one anytime soon. 

Add to that how rarely we see pro riders race on mechanical groupsets, how streamlined electronic shifting bike builds are, and the relative lack of mechanical equipped top-end bikes, and it’s no surprise mechanical is slowly disappearing. 

Why has Sagan opted for mechanical? Well, it is most likely he finds the Di2 shifter buttons harder to find, or perhaps easier to shift accidentally when bouncing across the cobles at 50 kph. The big paddles on Shimano mechanical are particularly easy to operate while shaking. Fabian Cancellara used to switch to mechanical for the same reasons. There’s also less that’s likely to fail under the violence of Roubaix in a mechanical group.

Mechanical may be slowly disappearing or all but dead, but before we all hop on Twitter to hurl abuse at Shimano and SRAM, let’s take a look in the mirror. If mechanical groupset sales outperformed electronic, this imminent demise would be much less imminent. The last two groupsets I purchased were both mechanical (Record 12spd, and Ultegra R8000), but I had been on electronic for five years before that. Both my parent’s bikes, whose equipment choices I am primarily responsible for, are both on electronic shifting. Most of my clubmates ride electronic. If anything, my last two groupset purchases are almost “protest votes”, at very least heart picks rather than head picks. 

Mechanical is effectively dead at this level of racing, but it’s good to see it rear its head every once in a while. Electronic, as much as I hate to say it, is just better. It requires less tuning, gear changes are faster, it sounds cool, and it’s fun and nerdy. Show a non-cyclist your electronic gears and watch their response; enough said. But we certainly don’t need it. A mechanical groupset will not make a rider slower, nor will electronic make a rider faster, it’s just two different ways of doing the same thing. If Sagan and Cancellara compete and win in Roubaix on mechanical, that’s good enough for me. 

Editors' Picks