Last year Shimano introduced an E-bike system on the European markets called STePS, as direct competition to the similar Bosch crank-based motor. Now a year later Shimano is taking it a step further and integrating the STePS drive motor with its Di2 internally geared hubs to offer a system with full automatic shifting. Shimano has rated the updated E-bike systems for “Light Off Road” use, which generally means trekking on gravel and forest roads but not actual mountain biking. But it is interesting that the bike they featured in the press release looks to have a true MTB tire and a low-riser bar. The system has apparently been beefed up for better shock absorption and has been updated to an 11-speed chain and chainring to add “compatibility for its 11-speed mountain bike rear derailleurs.” That sounds like something that could have more potential than Shimano is letting on.

Read on past the break for more info, and where we think it could lead…



As Shimano says by monitoring speed and cadence “the SHIMANO STEPS system automatically gives a signal to the Di2 hub to shift to the matching gear. The drive unit temporary reduces chain tension while pedaling, which allows the hub to change in the correct gear. This results in a smooth riding experience where a rider does not have to worry about riding in the right gear, because the system automatically shifts to the correct gear.

Combining the separate compatibility talk of Di2 hubs and 11-speed rear derailleurs, it seems to us that there might be potential to combine the auto-shifting system with either road or mountain Di2 rear derailleurs for lightweight, wide gearing ranges, automatic shifting, and and e-bike boost. Update: Shimano confirmed that the previous generation drive unit can also control the Di2 hubs with a firmware upgrade. 



Shimano_STePS_automatic_shifting_computer-head_shifter_SC-E6010_SW-E6000 Shimano_STePS_automatic_shifting_system_battery-power-pack_BT-E6000


Besides the new drive unit, which looks just like the one we found on the Raleigh Misceo a month back, there is also a new cycle computer head unit keeping track of the auto-shifting. It looks much more polished and functional than the more clunky one of the Misceo, with the curious addition of control of headlights too. We reached out to Shimano to see if those would be Shimano-only lights and whether they would be powered by the primary battery, but we haven’t heard back yet. Update: Shimano tells us that this will control either dynamo hub or battery powered lights, and apparently aftermarket lights will continue to function with the correct wiring connections. The shifter appears to remain the same, but the batteries and chargers get an update too, with new fast charging up to 80% in less than 2 hrs. (Total charge time of 4 hours to get up to 100% remains the same.)

Shimano_STePS_automatic-shifting-compatible_internally-geared-hubs_chart Shimano_STePS_automatic_shifting_Nexus_disc-brake_internal-gear-hub_SG-C6060

With the STePS updates also come a few new Nexus 8-speed internally geared hubs. New coaster and disc-brake hubs fill out the Di2 group and double those that will work with the new auto-shifting. Shimano was  a bit vague, but it seems that all of the Alfine Di2 hubs will also be compatible. While this is likely to be put to use on the commuter and trekking markets, we’ll be very curious once this becomes available (Update: Shimano officially tells us this is already out in the world with OEM customers) to see some more creative alternate applications. It is probably too late now, so let me ask for next year: please NAHBS builders, build some unique road, mountain, and commuting bikes with STePS integrated for next year’s show! (OK, so this was a bit of gauging interest before we had anything too concrete. We can confirm that Shimano has gotten the STePS system out to some builders, and we should see some nice solutions at NAHBS at the end of the week!)


  1. Our thirst for new tech and our boredom with those strange human powered machines (whatever was the point in them?) means we’re now turning to other industries. So from Bikes->motorbikes->quad bikes->cars->flying cars->spaceships->time machines

  2. @Ripnshread: Assuming your comment was intended to be disparaging, products such as this have the potential to get more people out on bikes who otherwise would not or could not…and that’s a good thing. I’ll never understand how commenters can look on at them with such disdain.

  3. They aren’t on bikes. They are on motor-assisted vehicles.

    If having a motor on a bike is what makes or breaks you, in terms of throwing a leg over a bike, well, I see no need to attract those people.

  4. Says the commenter that probably throws his bike in the back of a giant truck before and after each ride. E-bikes are for normal people driving kids and groceries. Of course you car people don’t need one, you have a car.

  5. @the other Andy: I’ve an 87 year old client who was recently diagnosed with a heart condition. She’d been riding her entire life (I assure you, on higher end road and mountain bikes than you or I have ever owned) and was told by her physicians that she would never be able to ride again. A pedal assist bicycle has her back in the saddle and allows her to put in miles, while still working as much as she’s able without over-stressing her body. All that to say “those people” could be you or I one day.

  6. “@ the other Andy”: You might want to loosen your spandex and think about the people you “see no need to attract” to bicycling. My dad is 74, lives in a hilly part of Georgia, and after a 30 year hiatus is getting back into biking. He’s the target market for these types of bikes and I for one think that getting people with currently limited ability/mobility onto assisted bikes is a good thing and can help lower the number of people needing assistive devices in the future.

  7. “Attracting” non-riders to bikes with motors isn’t bringing them to cycling, it’s bringing them to motorcycling. It may be helpful to someone who’s impaired but it doesn’t compel cyclists to get excited about it.

  8. Attracting non-riders to bikes with motors is attracting them to cycling with electric assist. It’s not a motorcycle. No one here has the knowledge or experience to say that it won’t attract them to cycling without an electric assist motor.

  9. Think this is an awesome idea and something that could allow my special needs child to actually enjoy riding with me.

  10. “We reached out to Shimano to see if those would be Shimano-only lights and whether they would be powered by the primary battery, but we haven’t heard back yet.” – STEPs already works with 3rd party lights. You just need the cables to connect to the engine and then program the display/switch to act like a control. A stand alone light switch on the display is a good thing because it is a puzzle on the current model if you do not read the supplier manual.

  11. “If having a motor on a bike is what makes or breaks you, in terms of throwing a leg over a bike, well, I see no need to attract those people.”

    These people you see no need to attract currently see no need to vote in favor of bills/laws that would grant us better bicycle infrastructure and land/trail access.

    This is not about converting cyclists to e-cyclists, it is about enabling and attracting more people to ride *something*. If any of the haters would go to a shop and try one of these out, you’d see that this is absolutely NOT a motorcycle.

  12. I am totally for ebikes, for commuting and very light (paved) trail riding, idealy people with dissabilities. Reality is, that a lot of these e-bikes are being sold with 4 inches of suspension front and back. I dont see those meant for commuting, and I would not want to have a heart condition, ride one of those beasts into a trail and have to pedal it back on my own power if the battery ever dies on me. Thus I am for keeping ebikes off mtb trails.

  13. I have no problem with electric bikes except for electric mountain bikes, because I have seen enough trails be ruined by Strava let alone with 40lb motorbikes going straight line on all the corners!

  14. So long as E-bikes do not go beyond the generally accepted 250W power assistance limit, the hatefilled fundamentalists can be ignored.

    The E-bike industry however, is constantly pushing at that limit, trying to get access to bikepaths and trails for motors that have more power than a usual human pedaller can produce. Having opened the door to power assistance and accepted that an amount not exceeding that of a usual human pedaller does NOT turn a bicycle into some kind of motorcycle, the cycling world needs to be eternally vigilant against such brinkmanship.

  15. Riding an ebike is just fun! I ride both ebike and normal. For commuting, my ebike supplements my energy and allows for multi-day, 36 mile RT commutes.

    I can see a need to limit motor power on trails. At a certain level of power, the speed and wear changes the ride and environment, but below 350-500W, we should not care.

    Community bike paths have speed limits for regular and ebikes alike. again, common sense power limits. All these bikes can be PEDALLED with the motor off, so let’s be inclusive a bit here.

  16. For all the folks that can’t think outside the box and comment that e-bikes are lazy. I have lumbar and knee injuries that meant I had to give up inline skating, bike riding. I assure you I am not lazy but physically unable to do the things I used to once enjoy. E-biking allows me to regain one of those pleasures again.
    The world does not revolve around able bodied people. Grow up.

  17. As a retailer in eBike’s we witness how eBikes can change peoples lives. This is what counts.

    For the majority that have lost connection to cycling, an eBike breathes new life in cycling.

    The market cannot survive with narrow-heads, from either side of the argument. eBikes allow cycling for non-cyclist to be enjoyable and build a profile for cycling again.

    Sorry rant over.

    Charged Bikes

  18. I am 55 years old with arthritis in both knees. I love staying as active as possible. My doctor told me that I needed to avoid hills on my road bike because of my knees. I bought an ebike. This was the best decision I ever made. I now ride more than I ever have in my life, and I get more exercise. Folks making negative comments about ebikes obviously have never ridden one. You have to pedal and it is up to you how much you want to push yourself. I still get a great workout and actually ride more because I am no longer afraid of riding because I can now get up the hills. It is no different than folks going to a gym to workout and being able to control the intensity of their workout. Do we make fun of folks that go to the gym and ride a spin bike? Or folks that can control the incline and speed of a treadmill? This is no different. Electric bikes are not a stepping stone to a motorcyle. I have no desire to ride a motorcycle. I am all about staying active and having fun doing it! This is the best purchase I have ever made!

    • I’m totally with you Melany. My wife and I are about the same age as you, and we’ve both ridden bikes all of our lives. One of our current bikes is a tandem mountain bike, which whilst lots of fun, caused my well worn knees to give me grief on some of the long and steep hills in our rural area. I was at a point of giving up the tandem, as I got to a stage of really hating to ride it due to the after effects on my knees. As a last resort, I purchased a 500W ebike kit which I fitted 12 months ago, and since then have ridden every weekend. Most of our journey the assistance is switched off, and only activated on the more steep hills to take some of the load off my knees. I still work up a good sweat on the hills but it means that when I get home I can still walk without pain. I have also ridden motorcycles all of my life, and to see people say that an ebike is just like a motorcycle makes me laugh. They have obviously not had any experience on either !!

  19. I am 76 and have road raced all my life. 7 years ago, I was hit by a truck and left with a broken back and pelvis and a torn aorta which thankfully was repaired in emergency surgery. After 3 months in hospital and 2 years rehab, I was able to ride spiritedly with a group about 15 to 20 years younger than me. However, as the years took their toll, staying with these “youngsters” became harder and then impossible. I finally swallowed my pride and bought a Raleigh Misceo E . This has been a game changer and I can now, not only stay with my riding buddies, but actually pace them when the wind gets strong. I now ride more than ever and have regained some of my speed and strength. I love this bike and am having Naked Bike build a custom titanium frame to take the Raleigh components, complete with belt drive For anyone who is hesitating about going the E bike route, go for it – you will never regret the decision.

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