Build your own cheap Di2 satellite shifters (DIY)
If you've ever looked online for Di2 satellite shifters you will have no doubt seen the price tag. More than $ 100 / € 100 for a pair of satellite shifters? Ouch!
Sure, they're great quality and guaranteed to work… but they're costly. Did you know that you can actually make your own? Your own homemade, DIY Satellite shifters? At a relatively low cost?
Not for 11-speed Disc
Before we start, I need to apologise to 11-speed disc riders (ST-R8070 / ST-R9170 / GRX). The method described here will only work on 11-speed rim brake bikes and 12-speed Ultegra and Dura-Ace road bikes.
Why? Well, the 105 disc shift lever and the 11-speed disc brake shift levers do not have the required satellite shifter port. These shifters only have regular SD50 / SD300 ports, and any component you plug in there needs Di2 firmware (and thus a PCB) to register on the Di2 CAN-based network.
How does this work, exactly?
The great thing about satellite shifter ports is that they'll accept any simple switch. In fact, regular Di2 components will not work in those ports. Only satellite shifters.
Every 12-speed shift lever has one of those satellite shifter ports, and the 11-speed rim brake shifters do too. This is always the bottom port.
And yes, it looks different. Satellite shifter connectors have little 'tabs' or 'fins' on them to make sure you do not plug a Shimano satellite shifter into a regular Di2 port.
I know what you're thinking, but don't worry. You can plug a normal SD300 or SD50 wire into a satellite shifter port just fine. We'll take advantage of that to hook up the DIY shifter to the rest of the system.
What buttons to buy
Let's discuss the parts you need in more detail, starting with the buttons.
First, the buttons or switches. Any momentary switch will do. Ideally waterproof or at the very least water-resistant. Even if you do not intend to ever ride your bike in the rain, I bet you do wash your bike every now and then.
This will be the main part of your satellite shifter, so make sure you get it right.
Unless you plan on installing another battery, make sure the button you buy does not require power for an LED or a light. Any basic two-wire button will do, there's no need to make this any more complicated.
One single wire has two plugs, one at either end. Cut that wire in half and you'll end up with two wires that you can connect to your buttons
As for the wire length, that's up to you. It also depends on the shifter placement. For this project, I decided I wanted to put a shifter in the handlebar drop and went with a 600mm wire,
I figured that this would let me make two 300mm satellite shifters, and that 300mm would be more than enough.
I was wrong.
Now… this isn't a huge issue, because I can extend the wires using regular electrical wire, but save yourself the trouble - make sure the wire you buy is long enough.
You can tuck away excess wire in the frame or handlebar, or hide it underneath the bar tape. Long wires cost the same as shorter ones, so there's no cost-saving benefit there either.
Buy the wires at your local bike shop, or, if you want to support the site, use one of my (affiliate) links:
- EW-SD300 (12-speed Dura-Ace / Ultegra): Amazon | Ebay | Wiggle | The Pro's Closet
- EW-SD50 (11-speed Dura-Ace / Ultegra): Amazon | Ebay | Wiggle | The Pro's Closet
Building the satellite shifter
With that out of the way, let's build the actual shifter. The process is really simple.
- Cut your E-Tube wire in half
- Strip the wire and expose the inner wires
- Connect the wire to your button/switch
You can do this without tools if you really want to, but there are a couple of things that make life a lot easier.
I recommend using a decent wire stripper to, well, help strip the wires. They're pretty tiny and you'll need all the help you can get.
Depending on the button you've bought, you may also need a soldering iron to join the wire, and heat shrink tubing to secure and protect the joined wire.
Here are the tools I used:
- Soldering Iron Amazon | Ebay
- Heat shrink tubing Amazon | Ebay
- Heat gun Amazon | Ebay
- Wire stripper Amazon | Ebay
Cut the E-Tube wire and expose the wires
Take your Di2 wire out of the box if you haven't already, and cut it in half. A pair of scissors or other cutting tools will do.
Now get that wire stripper out and take off the black outer layer. I took about 30mm - 40 mm off so I could comfortably strip the inner wires. I recommend doing this in a two-step process, rather than taking the entire length of the outer layer off at once.
The inner wires are 0.9mm in diameter, and you need to be careful not to damage them.
Don't have a wire stripper? Take a sharp knife and carefully cut away the outer layer. This may take a couple of tries, but can be done. Some people actually prefer this over using a wire stripper.
Inside you'll find two very small inner wires:
Next, you'll need to expose the strands of the inner wires. You can either use a wire stripper or use your fingernails or knife. Each wire is made up of 36 smaller wires (strands).
The strands will probably come untwisted as you strip the inner wire, so twist them back to form a single wire again.
If your button lets you connect the wires to it directly then you're pretty much done at this point. Simply connect the wires to your button and you're ready to test whether or not your creation works - shifts the bike.
Here's an example where I could connect the wires to the button using the button's connectors.
: Other buttons and switches come with wires attached to them and usually require you to join your E-Tube wire and button wire together.
There are a couple of ways to do this, but the most popular seem to be soldering and crimping. Since I have a soldering iron that I hadn't used for a while I decided to give soldering a go. I did the same when I added 7972 satellite shifters to my commuter bike.
I'd love to show you images of both methods, but my soldering "handiwork" probably isn't the best example to learn from. Instead, here's a video that explains both methods in more detail.
It makes sense to add some protection against the elements. No one likes glitchy shifting or ghost shifts.
The most basic (and cheap!) protection you can add is heat shrink tubing. It shrinks when heated, causing a tight seal around the wire.
Before I soldered the wires together and made a permanent join I slid some heat shrink tubing over the two inner wires, and a larger one over the wire's outer layer. This way my wires are protected, and won't accidentally touch and cause ghost shifts.
There's "regular" and waterproof heat-shrink tubing. Naturally, the waterproof version is preferred - all bikes get wet at some point.
If your E-Tube wires connect to the button directly, I'd also protect that area. Heat shrink tubing is one method, but my preferred solution is to use epoxy resin to create a robust, waterproof area around the connectors. At the same time, this will also protect against pulling the wires loose.
And yeah, these won't do you any good if your button isn't waterproof - as you can see in the video at the bottom of this page.
Set up and test the buttons
Chances are pretty good that your buttons will work out of the box, but if they don't then they're probably disabled in the software.
If you're on 11-speed Di2, connect to the bike using the charger and a windows computer.
You can change the satellite shifter button assignments through the customize page. Open the shifter properties and make sure the satellite shifters are enabled. This is also where you can change the shifter function.
Again, open the customize page and tap the shifters to customize them and their button assignments.
Want to know more about changing your Di2 button settings? I've published a page on just that right here: Change Di2 button setup.
Did you know that you can connect more than one of these satellite shifters to each satellite shifter port? You cannot program them individually, so they'll all perform the same function, but this is a great way to have satellite shifters on both the tops and the drops.
How? Simple! Connect them to a four-port junction (EW-JC304), and then run a single wire from that junction to the satellite shifter port.
You can do this with regular Shimano satellite shifters too, but you'll have to cut the little tabs/fins off the connector.
Build your own
That's it! You should now be able to build and set up your own DIY shifters. I'd love to see what you can come up with. Please share your creations in the comments below, or tag me on Instagram (@BetterShifting).
Any problems? Questions? Ask me anything.