Shimano. They are a power house in the global market, a clear dominant force in just about every form of cycling. Even those that have never laid eyes on a bike have heard of them...
Words - Mike Boudrie
Shimano. Stop any group of riders, on the road, on the trail, at the local cafe, or making the commute and it's pretty likely that most of them will have their bikes powered by Shimano components.
Why is this... well I'm not 100% sure but I've got an idea. I've ridden plenty of groupsets and wheels, tried shoes from many brands. Most of these products are brilliant, in fact I think you have to try pretty hard these days to buy something that is no good. This got me thinking about what makes so many of us flock to Shimano.
Stripping away all the marketing, pictures, and pro results I think it comes down to one main reason... and that is, Shimano are the safe bet.
Most of us don't get equipment thrown at us by sponsors. When we buy, it's for the long term, and let's not kid around, bikes, parts and clothing are not exactly cheap. So when you're putting your own hard earned cash on the table you don't want to get it wrong.
I caught up with Toby Shingleton from Shimano earlier in the year to chat about what Shimano had coming up. What stuck in my head most about the conversation was not all the new releases, but the massive lead times that are taken up by idea generation, research and development, then through testing and finally to release. This is what makes the products that hit the market a safe bet for consumers like you and me.
As an outsider we may almost think that some of the products that Shimano release have been done before, but it's likely that the products were in concept before anything else like them existed. The long lead time more often than not results in a bomb proof product, even at the first generation level.
I'm not saying that other brands like Campagnolo, Sram, wheel and shoe manufacturers etc are not great at what they do. My beloved C50 (r.i.p) had a pretty old Record groupset that was still getting it done very nicely well past it's life expectancy... and my S-Works road shoes, now a few years old, are some of the stiffest, lightest and most uncompromising shoes I have ever owned.
Even saying this, it appears that Shimano are still the dominant force on a global scale compared to just about any other 'non bike' e.g. Giant brand. They set the standard and produce equipment from entry through to professional levels. Their kit comes as standard on the vast majority of bikes from low end to high end. When people ask me what grupo they should go for on a new build or upgrade they are actually asking me what Shimano Groupset the should go for.. With the most common question being Ultegra or Dura Ace, but thats an entire article in itself.
Is this good for us as consumers. Well I think yes. The brands are constantly fighting for market position, and while Shimano are one of the biggest in the business, I don't think that they can afford to rest.
The other smaller and potentially more nimble brands are looking to jump past the line to improve on what is available. An example of this is what Sram is doing with eTAP, an exciting development and I'm soon to be having a roll with it and can't wait to see how it performs. These innovations keep the research and development dollars at Shimano rolling along. This keeps the products improving and the quality high... and most importantly provides us with new cool stuff to buy!
In case your wondering, when it comes to spending my own money I'm currently running two bikes, my road bike and a gravel grinder, both running a Shimano drive train. Why? Dura Ace Di2 is unmatched in my opinion, and once you've used it it's tough to go to anything else. My gravel grinder runs 105, it's a simply awesome groupset, and my pick for the best value groupset out there at the moment... and it's super reliable.
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