Bicycle component manufacturers Shimano and SRAM both offer a range of products from entry-level to high-end competition components. SRAM is based in Chicago and is focused on making only high-end bicycles and bicycle parts. Shimano, a Japanese company, extends their product range to sport fishing and rowing equipment, although the biggest portion of their revenue comes from bicycle components. Shimano is the worldwide leader in bicycle components with a 50% share of the global market.
|Introduction||SRAM Corporation is a privately held bicycle component manufacturer based in Chicago, USA. SRAM is an acronym comprising the names of its founders, Scott, Ray, and Sam.||Shimano, Inc. is a Japanese multinational manufacturer of cycling components, fishing tackle, and rowing equipment. It produced golf supplies until 2005 and snowboarding gear until 2008.|
|Industry||Bicycle components||Bicycle components, and outdoor equipment|
|Markets||High-end to low-end road and off-road biking components.||High-end to low-end road and off-road biking components.|
|Component Hierarchy||X-3 (entry-level) up to XX1 (pro).||SIS (entry-level) up to XTR (pro).|
|Cycling Products||Drivetrain.||Drivetrain, wheel, pedal, brake components.|
|Innovations||Grip shifting, double tap shifting||Index shifting, clipless pedal, electric shifting|
|Other Products||None||Fishing tackle, snowboarding equipment|
|Founded||1987||1921; First groupset in 1973|
|Key people||Founders Scott, Ray (Stanley R. Day Jr., CEO), and Sam||Yozo Shimano (President), Yoshizo Shimano (Chairman)|
|Headquarters||Chicago, Illinois, USA||Sakai, Osaka, Japan|
|Revenue (2010)||$500 million.||$2.1 billion (75% from biking components).|
The current SRAM mountain bike group sets run from entry-level X.5 products, up through X.7, X.9, X0, X01, to the XX and XX1 pro line. The road bike group sets, in ascending order are: Apex, Rival, Force and Red.
The Shimano mountain bike line runs from the entry-level SIS products, to Tourney, Altus, Acera, Alivio, Deore, SLX, Deore XT, Zee, Saint, and finally XTR pro-level components. The road bike hierarchy goes from Shimano 2300, to Sora, Tiagra, Shimano 105, Ultegra, and up to Dura-Ace.
Key Component Differences
The consensus among enthusiasts is that the Shimano and SRAM products that cost a similar price work equally well, and it really comes down to a an individual’s preference for the ergonomics and functionality of either system. There are, however, a couple noticeable points of differentiation:
- The shifting actuation ratio (between the shifter and the indexer) is different: Shimano shifts at 2:1, while SRAM shifts at a 1:1 ratio. The 1:1 ratio means the cable moves further for each shift, possibly making the setup less sensitive to mud or other influences.
- Shifters: High-end SRAM shifters use double-tap shifting, which uses one lever for shifting both up and down. Shimano utilizes the traditional two-lever system, which some riders prefer.
This video compares Shimano's trigger shifters to SRAM's trigger shifters and twist gripshift style shifters.
Grip shifting (or twist shifting) was SRAM’s breakthrough product in the industry that allowed the startup to begin competing with giants like Shimano. Although early versions tended to malfunction in muddy conditions, the biking world embraced the availability of a new product, and SRAM was wildly successful within a couple years.
SRAM has since become Shimano’s major competitor in biking components, but it was the grip shifter that launched the company. In 1984, Shimano introduced the first index shifting system with discrete stops between gears, which replaced the gear-hunting of continuous shifting. Nearly all modern bikes are now made with index shifting. In 1990, Shimano offered the first clipless pedal system with recessed cleats in the soles of the shoes, which allowed the shoes to be used for walking. 2009 saw Shimano release the first commercially available electronic shifting system, which shifts more quickly than cable-based systems and can self-calibrate.
Warranty and Customer Service
Shimano offers a two-year warranty for material quality and workmanship on most products, and a three-year warranty on the Dura-Ace and XTR component lines. Warranty claims can be made directly to Shimano, or through a dealer. Warranty claim turnaround time averages 3-5 days. Shimano can be contacted directly via telephone for customer service inquiries, but does not accept emails. As Shimano is a large corporation, their customer service is often efficient, if somewhat impersonal.
SRAM offers a two-year materials and workmanship warranty on all products. SRAM differs from Shimano in that they do not deal directly with end-use customers. All SRAM warranty and customer service issues must be handled through a bike shop. This arrangement frustrates customers who do not have access to a good local bike shop, but most people prefer to go through their local shop. This means that individual shops really determine the level of customer service available - e.g. whether loaner bikes are offered while yours is in the shop, and other service depends on the policy of the specific store.
About SRAM and Shimano
SRAM is a dedicated bicycle component company. The company focuses solely on bike components and has not deviated in its line of production. Through a series of acquisitions over the years, SRAM is a major competitor to Shimano’s market dominance, and aims to be a one-stop-shop for bicycle frame manufacturers and brand owners looking for a source of bike components. The company offers a range of products, from entry-level to pro-level, and internal estimates estimate SRAM’s share of their market to be about 15%.
Shimano is a Japanese multinational manufacturer of outdoor gear, mainly bicycle components which constitute the largest portion of their revenue. For decades, the company has been an innovator in the industry. Their annual revenue from bicycle components is undisclosed, but likely over $1 billion, and these products constitute 50% of global bike component sales.
“SRAM” is an acronym for Scott, Ray, and Sam, the three original founders of the company. Their development of the grip shifting system gave them an ‘in’ into the industry. In 1990, they sued Shimano for unfair business practices, claiming they were offering manufacturers an incentive to monopolize Shimano components on their drivetrains. The case was settled out of court, but it earned SRAM the opportunity to compete in bicycle components industry. SRAM has since acquired multiple companies, including RockShox, Avid, Truvativ, Zipp, Sachs, and QUARQ.
In the 1970s there was a sudden increased demand for bikes, which exceeded the traditional European suppliers’ abilities, and a couple Japanese companies, including Shimano, filled the void. Shimano used a strategy of offering new innovations at the low end of the market, rather than trickling down technology from the top of the line. This strategy paid off, and through continuous innovation and forward-thinking products, Shimano came to dominate the market for bicycle components.
- Wikipedia: SRAM Corporation
- Wikipedia: Shimano
- The Product that Changed the World - Bike Magazine
- Shimano MTB Component Hierarchy - ChooseMyBicycle.com
- SRAM MTB Component Hierarchy - ChooseMyBicycle.com
- Wikipedia: Electronic Gear-Shifting System
- Shimano Road Component Hierarchy - ChooseMyBicycle.com