Sprockets and wheels don't sound like the beginning of a global corporation, but these could be said to have laid the foundation for the company the world now knows as Shimano.
It all began in 1921, when a very young Shozaburo Shimano rented a small workshop on what was once a celluloid factory. Using borrowed tools, Shimano began to create freewheels for bicycles, which required a lot of expertise and technology, but which the young man had already mastered.
Within the next two decades the company was a total success, and by 1940, had grown to a staff of more than 300 workers. At this time the company had its own iron works and was soon incorporated.
Within fifteen years of incorporating, the company now had the technology and capability of making external speed changer gear for bicycles as well. A year later, in 1957, the firm began making 3-speed hubs as well as developing their own cold forging processes. By 1961, Shimano had developed and perfected its take on a 3-speed hub and displayed it at the International Toy and Cycle Show in New York. This led to a tremendous boost in sales as the US markets for bicycles was very strong.
Over the next decade the Shimano company grew exponentially, establishing offices in the US and Germany, building a new factory in Japan, and expanding operations to include a fishing tackle division as well.
Clearly, the different cogs, sprockets, wheels, and gears needed for cycling were a natural for the addition of the fishing tackle division. This new line, however, was also directly in line with the company's overarching mission of encouraging outdoor activity.
In 1974, Shimano introduced its Positron system for shifting and continually released products demonstrating advances in fishing gear and cycling equipment.
The year 1981 saw Shimano making its first large scale acquisition of the Dunphy Holding group, and things seemed to just explode after that.
Since the first days of making only a single product, Shimano has expanded into many areas of the world. It is a publicly listed company with more than thirteen thousand employees. It focuses today on the creation of bicycle components, rowing equipment, and fishing tackle.
It is no longer the sum of one or two mergers but is actually the umbrella of more than 44 consolidated subsidiaries around the globe. Facilities exist in Sais, Europe, Japan, Oceana, South America, and North America.
The mission of the company is simple - they work to ensure the health and happiness of their buyers by enabling them to enjoy the natural world around them. To accomplish this, they provide some of the best tools and resources that include their fishing, cycling, and rowing products.
Around 50% of their business is in the bicycle component market, and they are among the first to innovate equipment for road, mountain bikes, as well as hybrids. They are most famous for their STI or Shimano Total Integration that incorporates the brake lever with the shifter.
However, over the decades the firm has been able to create some of the most impressive systems that included cranksets, sprockets, brakes, brackets, and various mechanisms.
The bicycles and parts that result from Shimano tech are considered some of the best in the world and the firm is known for having very little competition.
The firm has sponsored cycling teams over the years, but a lot of evidence about the superiority of their products can be seen in the victories of other professional cyclists. From the Olympians to the Tour de France champions using Shimano-outfitted cycles, it is hard to argue that their products are not the most superior.
Their most recognized product lines or group sets in cycling equipment include:
They also have mountain bike and trekking group sets that include the XTR, DEORE XT, SLX, and DEORE.
Decades of experience, research, success, and results ensure that the Shimano components and parts will deliver. The company's desire to enable everyone to better enjoy the natural world is what has allowed them to create fail- proof gear that delivers the best results, and is why the firm remains at the top of the industry.
Shimano. The Philosophies of Team Shimano. Shimano.com. 2014.