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Will We Wear the Next-Generation SRAM AXS Shifters?

sram wearable axs shifter glove mounted electronic actuator
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On April 1st, 2021, SRAM filed a patent for wearable wireless shifters, or suspension control remotes, integrated directly into a rider’s gloves. The technology would use a set of pressure-sensitive resistors built into the fabric of the glove, to wirelessly actuate derailleur shifting in a highly programmable way. Flicking or extending a finger, or compression of the fingertip against the grip, or even the thumb tip, signals to the derailleur to perform a shift.

Theoretically, a rider could shift through gears no matter their hand positioning. Faster, easier, and even safer shifting are on the table. It could even save on weight; a single shifter on one hand operating both the front and rear derailleur stands to be lighter than any handlebar-mounted shifting technology, electronic or otherwise.

Here’s a closer look at the proposition.

sram patent glove axs shifter wearable actuator
It has not escaped our attention that the SRAM patent in question was filed on April 1st. We’ll allow readers decide whether that is of any relevance here.

SRAM’s Wearable AXS Shifter

The patent in question (US11703118B2) shows several drawings wherein a glove furnished with one or more pressure-sensitive resistors or accelerometers (green), positioned on the pad of each finger, or on the tip of each finger – seen in Fig. 5, above, wired up to an electronic control unit (orange), affixed in a tool-free fashion to the backhand region of the glove via some kind of mount (red).

SRAM describes how the electronic control unit can wirelessly communicate with an electronic derailleur (front or rear), or an electronic suspension adjuster, to shift gears or switch between damping modes on demand. Nothing special there… it’s the proposed method of signaling to the control unit to actuate shifting that is somewhat futuristic.

sram glove axs shifter remote wearable technology bicycle drivetrain accelerometer in fingertip
In reference to the use of an accelerometer to actuate a shift, the patent reads, “Such devices have many advantages as shift control sensors. They are low power, very durable and do not require contact with any other object to work. The sensor simply senses its relative position in space as a function of gravity and change of position as a function of acceleration. For example, the orientation of the device relative to the ground can be used to indicate a shift signal“.

How does it work?

The patent outlines several ways in which this wearable shifter could trigger a shift:

  1. Flicking of the index finger
  2. Touching the thumb and any of the other fingers together, perhaps with some threshold force
  3. Hyper-extension of any of the 5 digits beyond the normal operating range
  4. Compression of the tips of the fingers rather than the pads
  5. Any combination of the above actions

If SRAM had the appetite, they could make this system very customizable, such that individual riders could program the control unit to respond to unique triggers that they find most intuitive, or easy and safe to execute.

An excerpt from the patent document details one way in which the inventors foresee it in use:

“A right-hand actuator would cause a shift of the rear derailleur in one direction, a left-hand actuator would cause a shift of the rear derailleur in the other direction, and activating both actuators simultaneously would toggle the front derailleur to the other of its current inboard or outboard position”. Sounds like the normal thinking behind eTap shift logic, just without the need for shift levers.

The patent states any movement programmed to trigger a shift should not be encountered in the normal course of riding, to avoid unintended shifts.

With the wide variety of hand and finger shapes seen throughout the population, SRAM may have to offer a vast array of sizes, or even fully-customized gloves to make this technology practical for all users. Getting the pressure-sensitive resistors or accelerometers positioned as intended is fundamental to its success.

Glove-Mounted AXS Shifters for Road Cycling

The wearable shifter concept described by SRAM seems most applicable to road riding. Indeed, most of the images seen throughout the patent document depict a road bike.

Hmm… but how many roadies do you know that regularly wear full-finger gloves? Will you need to wear full-finger gloves on those hottest summer road rides? And what happens when winter comes and you need thicker gloves?

On a drop bar, there are three hand positions that a rider might be pedaling along in at any time. There’s the aero position in the drops, an upright position on the tops, with the hood’s position between those extremes.

It would be most convenient, and safe, to shift from any of those positions, without having to change hand position. You can run SRAM eTap AXS Wireless Blips anywhere on the bar, and you are not limited to two. But, adding more shifters means adding more wires and thus, more weight. It will also clutter the cockpit, reducing the aesthetic value.

I’m not much of a road cyclist myself, but I can’t see that solution being overly palatable to gram counters. SRAM’s glove-integrated shifter technology solves this problem, putting the shifter on the rider instead of the bar.

Marginal gains?

Another advantage of this technology is that it could allow a rider to more easily, and safely, brake and change gears simultaneously. We wonder if that could actually present an advantage to a rider during a descent of a big Col in the Alps. Descending on the drops, the rider might be braking hard before a corner. Meanwhile, they could send a single finger into full extension, changing to an easier gear such that they’re subsequently in a better gear for getting back up to speed once they’re through the corner.

As demonstrated beautifully by Tom Pidcock, not every mountain stage of the Tour de France is won on the climbs. If another marginal gain is to be had, riders and teams will surely be checking it out.

Wearable Wireless Shifters and Remotes for Mountain Biking

Though the advantages are perhaps less obvious, it’s possible a glove-integrated actuator could be useful off-road, too, for shifting or otherwise. That said, with mountain biking being a little less predictable than road riding, and with social rides often a very stop-start affair, it seems there’d be greater scope for the accidental triggering of a shift.

In a more controlled, competitive environment, however, it could be advantageous in other ways. While the patent focuses on gear changing, it also mentions potential use as a remote for suspension adjustment. It’s not mentioned by the inventors, but there’s good scope for using it to actuate an AXS dropper post, too.

sram wearable axs shifter glove integrated pressure sensors trigger derailleur shifting suspension adjustment dropper post position
(Images annotated by Cory Benson – BikeRumor)

Imagine switching your suspension from lock to open mode by pushing the tip of your finger into the grip? Or, by pressing the tip of your index finger into the tip of your thumb? Or even, dropping or popping your dropper seat post by doing the same? To my mind, it seems there could be an ergonomic advantage here. A more traditional handlebar-mounted remote requires the rider to move hand position, sometimes requiring a slight loosening of their grip. These wearable shifters could allow riders to maintain a more consistent grip on the bar.

Certainly, there are arguments to be made both ways as to whether the wearable solution would be safer and easier, or more clumsy and therefore dangerous, than the handlebar-mounted remote method. But, we trust that a company like SRAM has the financial capacity and expertise to collect the necessary data to learn more either way. And we already know their top-sponsored MTB athletes have been customizing AXS buttons for years, first spotted on Kate Courtney’s and now Nino Schurter’s bikes, too.

So why not Voice-Activated Shifting, too?

sram voice activate axs shifter wearable device helmet mounted patent

A final method, thrown in almost as an afterthought, is the possibility of voice-activated shifting. Fig. 15 shows a wireless control device (orange) and microphone (84) rigged up to a rider’s helmet. We regularly operate our smartphones through voice, it’s not too far-out to suggest we could trigger a shift by speaking. This one is entirely hands-free, and arguably the safest method, if not the sexiest, of the lot.

Hey Siri, make it easier for me to get up that next climb!

SRAM.com

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45 Comments
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Mr Pink
Mr Pink
8 months ago

Sram hiring kids who’ve never worked in a shop and don’t ride much is really starting to show.

1: don’t we already have too much stuff to plug in and charge? You charge your bike. Your shifters. Your shocks. Your bike computer your helmet light. Your Powermeter. Your headphones. Now your gloves?

2. Dunno about the rest of ya but I do my own laundry. Sure these will have special wash instructions which hey if I still lived at home and my mom did my laundry I’d probably not be aware of this too.

3. Sure this or course will only work with srams gloves. Hard to make a globe fit all hands well. And ya know many of us already have a favorite brand of gloves.

4: voice activated shifting? Bad enough people ride with speakers blaring and no oil on their chains. But now I’m gonna hear someone saying “sram shift up. Sram shift down. Sram I said shift down not up!” No
Thanks.

Rodney James Farrell
Rodney James Farrell
8 months ago
Reply to  Mr Pink

Calm down Pink, it is speculative, a patent, it might be just to stop another company from doing it. And you aren’t forced to buy it. Maybe just concentrate on charging the batteries you have, seems that’s enough for you. Let the adults be progressive.

Jim
Jim
8 months ago

Progressive is regressive

Jose
Jose
8 months ago

Calm down about telling others to calm down.

Choncho
Choncho
8 months ago
Reply to  Mr Pink

Let’s try this command ” hey Mr. Pink! Shut up!” Hahaha

I hear your point that plugging in one more item seems ridiculous. It might not make sense for us casual/semi casual riders. Personally I think it’s a bit much for those of us who don’t really race but it could be cool to see how this technology could be used by the pros.

Jay
Jay
7 months ago
Reply to  Mr Pink

Who remembers the Nintendo Power Glove…

thomas
thomas
7 months ago
Reply to  Mr Pink

headphones? on a bike? Nope.

SomeGuy
SomeGuy
8 months ago

No. Just no. Stop it.

ttxxdd
ttxxdd
8 months ago

I’m holding out until they come out with a chip i can implant in my brain

mark woolson
mark woolson
7 months ago
Reply to  ttxxdd

google Parlee Prius project

Jim E
Jim E
8 months ago

Awesome, now your bike will be useless when you invariably forget your gloves.

Choncho
Choncho
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim E

Naw I think it just becomes a really expensive single speed

Astro_Kraken
Astro_Kraken
8 months ago

Not compatible with Italians.

Samuel Vrooman
Samuel Vrooman
8 months ago

Doh. I just built a single speed this morning.

Joe
Joe
8 months ago

someone help me figure out a patent for the tongue shifter so Sram can’t come up with any more “bright” ideas.

Andrew
Andrew
8 months ago

Ladies and gentleman, another pointless idea from the good guys at Sram. And yes, it was conceived so that ya’ll forget how bad their FD’s and brakes are..

Joel Ulrich
Joel Ulrich
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew

pointless idea? i am going to make my own glove shifter because i like the idea that much. But we all know you are a shimano-fanboy with your pointless „bad FD“ quote, so keep on hating, nobody cares.

Jim
Jim
8 months ago
Reply to  Joel Ulrich

Don’t know much about sram, huh?

pizzaface
pizzaface
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew

So bad they won the giro, and the TDF this year!

David
David
8 months ago
Reply to  pizzaface

Just ask Rohan Dennis!

Mr. John
Mr. John
8 months ago

Pay attention to the day and month it was filed.

Tim Tucker
Tim Tucker
8 months ago
Reply to  Mr. John

Looks a lot like someone took the notes from a brainstorming session for possible April fools day ideas and then filed it as a defensive patent “just in case”.

Billyshoo
Billyshoo
8 months ago
Reply to  Tim Tucker

Best comment here. I think that’s precisely what happened.

Robin
Robin
8 months ago

Please, no.

Robert
Robert
8 months ago

The SRAM control gloves wouldn’t like warm washing temperatures needed to get sweat and grease out of them . Dropping heavy objects on them or accidentally sitting on them would damage the sensors as would slamming a door or drawer on them .

kevin
kevin
8 months ago

gloves on a hot day? gloves that develop holes? gloves that I misplaced? gloves that don’t fit?

bobs
bobs
8 months ago

Realized in the last few years, cyclists as a group-on social media and digital anyway are a very vocal fossil. They want to stay stuck in the past so badly, it’s pretty shocking. Trying new innovations and tech should be what every consumer wants-instead it’s just bitter old keyboard warriors lusting after 26″ triple chainring bikes with elastomer forks and Gore gear cables.

Weiwen
Weiwen
8 months ago

When the batteries run out, you have to dispose of the gloves. Also, SRAM will offer a one-piece skinsuit with integrated gloves, but again, dispose when batteries exhausted,

Jason DW
Jason DW
8 months ago

I think it’s pretty cool

Sean
Sean
8 months ago

IT WAS FILED ON APRIL 1st 2021 YOU MORONS

Brian
Brian
7 months ago
Reply to  Sean

The obliviousness of some of these comments rants is half of the entertainment value

Exodux
8 months ago

While this seems like a pipe dream and from most of the posters comments, I don’t think most people are buying into it, however, I love bicycle technology and welcome products such as this. Maybe the glove thing is a little absurd, but a similar tech will some day be something we won’t be able to live without.
I came into the sport of mtb’s in 1982, we had 15 speed friction shifting, no suspension, no droppers, no disc brakes and frames and forks that made for a whole bike weight of 30+ pounds without all of the above.

tertius_decimus
tertius_decimus
8 months ago

I am at the final stage of getting my track bike together. Because EFF YOU, cycling industry. You have lost the touch with planet Earth.

Danny
Danny
8 months ago

April 1 2021…

Bill
Bill
8 months ago

Thanos, right?

On April 1st 2021…

Yes yesb
Yes yesb
8 months ago

That’s great and all, BUT I DO OTHER THINGS WITH MY HANDS ON THE BIKE. Is popping my water bottle enough movement to shift? I understand this is rumors and trendy shit people click on but don’t follow the patent office for news. It’s more than often just to submit something to that category for possible future copyright infringement cases.

Tyler Johnson
Tyler Johnson
8 months ago

Nintendo Power Glove !!!

Seraph
Seraph
8 months ago

Is it April 1st already? I don’t wear gloves when I ride, does that mean I can’t get the newest tech? So you’re gatekeeping AXS now?

Fig Ciocc
Fig Ciocc
8 months ago
Reply to  Seraph

I think it’s just a goofy patent they want to sit on to gate-keep the idea from other companies. Most likely this will never be actually produced.

thomas
thomas
7 months ago
Reply to  Seraph

most riders wear the gloves

Orthopedic Dentist
Orthopedic Dentist
8 months ago

Good thing they didn’t do nose mounted shifting. Would be awful when I turn my nose up at poor casuals with Ultegra level or lower group sets not on a Factor bike who don’t drive to the ride in their Audi.

Blackdawn
Blackdawn
8 months ago

Hah! Swifting with voice recognition
Reminds me about two Scottish fellows in voice recognition activated elevator

Harles
Harles
7 months ago

April fools

Luk
Luk
7 months ago

And you need a patent? For obvious and existing technologies?
What a BS

David
David
7 months ago

“On April 1st…”

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