Revisiting the Birthplace of Shimano

Jun 19, 2018
by Richard Cunningham  



Shimano Japan does not roll out the red carpet for media very often. May 14, 2018, marked the first time in 11 years that the world's largest bicycle component maker opened their doors to journalists for a tour of their factory headquarters in Osaka’s Sakai City. Clothed in secrecy, this is the place where Shimano conceives, develops and manufactures its premier component groups. Shimano’s decision to invite the media was to showcase their ground-up redesign of XTR, and provide an opportunity to watch some of those components move down the production lines while they were being created.

Sakai City was founded centuries ago by Japan’s first metal workers – the ones who crafted the swords for the Samurai warriors. And, much like those legendary blades, which humbly enter the forge as three rectangles of iron and steel, XTR and Deore XT enter Shimano’s factory as simple raw materials which will be stamped, forged, molded, finished, and assembled into mechanical marvels in an industrial campus that envelops four city blocks.

To Westerners, the mystery of Japan is that so much feels similar, but nothing is the same. That also can be said about Shimano. It’s been over two decades since I last visited. I used to make the journey twice a year back when I was designing bikes, so I became about as familiar with the factory
Jun Mizuno at the forge
Jun Mizuno shapes a blade in his Sakai City forge. - RC photo
as any outsider was allowed to be. But I was in for a bit of a shock this time around. Shimano had just recently completed a massive restructuring of its manufacturing facilities and, although I recognized some features from the past, it seemed that every building had been refurbished or replaced completely.

Entrance hall
Shimano's new entrance hall features part-by-part displays of its top-line cycling and fishing components.

There is a new entrance hall, with a museum that depicts the various technologies used to create Shimano’s cycling and fishing products. Next door, the old foyer is still there, its limestone floors polished like new. Behind that old entry hall is the same meeting room where I would sit with our group of product managers and executives on one side of a long mahogany table, while Shimano’s staff, seated on the opposite side, revealed next season’s products.

The atmosphere of those product meetings was gracious, but formal. Occasionally, we would be allowed to peep into one or two buildings to see some essential aspect of Shimano’s design or manufacturing process, but a full-fledged factory tour? That only happened once, and quite by accident.


My First Factory Tour

Shimano is a publicly traded corporation, but it has been controlled and directed by the Shimano family since Shozaburo Shimano founded the brand in a 430 square-foot machine shop back in 1921 to manufacture a better freewheel cog.

By most accounts, Shozaburo’s work ethic, his belief that a superior product would sell itself, and his conservative business practice set the tone for Shimano’s future leadership. Shozo Shimano, who succeeded the founder as the company’s president, built a cycling empire upon those ideals and ran the family business with military precision.
Shozaburo Shimano and his freewheel cog
Shozaburo Shimano founded the Shimano legacy with one product. He stated that he would replace his freewheel cog for free if it failed.

By contrast, his brother Keizo, who became Shimano’s third president, was a jovial man - a creative problem solver who often rode his bike to work and seemed happiest when he was in the bowels of the factory. I also grew up in factories, so we got along quite well. Keizo would occasionally pop in on our product meetings, most often wearing his lab coat, smudged with fingerprints. It was during one of those meetings when Keizo asked me out of the blue: “What products do you think Shimano needs to make?

“Two-sided clip-in pedals, some sort of trigger shifting levers, and a permanently lubricated chain,” I said.

Keizo trotted out of the room and reappeared shortly after with rough prototypes of a dual-sided pedal binding and a shoe to match. He announced that a new shifting system was near production, and that the device I was playing with was the beginning of their research into the possibility of a two-sided mountain bike pedal “The chain?” he shrugged. “We have been working on the chain, but that will be a long way off.” The Shimano side of the conference table erupted into a nervous discussion. It was in Japanese, but it was clear to me that this was not part of the official presentation. Keizo waved his comrades off and then invited me away from the meeting, where we spent the better part of the afternoon in the factory.

bigquotesAlong the back wall, a line of forging presses that towered from floor to ceiling sounded off like monster bass drums: ba – Boom …ba – Boom …ba – Boom …you could feel them through your shoes.

Keizo Shimano
Like his father, Keizo Shimano was at home in the factory and happy to tackle any mechanical challenge. - Marin Museum of Bicycling photo
I say “factory,” but in reality, Shimano’s Sakai headquarters is a number of buildings joined by alleys and overhead walkways.

The beating heart of the complex was the forging and machining facility, which was in full swing as Keiso and I strolled down the aisles between machining centers, stamping presses and assembly fixtures – each with a uniformed man or woman waiting at their station, flanked by crates of parts in the making.

The building was as clean and organized as a heavy manufacturing plant that was operating almost continuously could be kept. The warm air was tainted with the smell of hot steel and chemical lubricants. The concrete floor was crisscrossed by well-worn pathways left by forklifts and foot traffic, and electric motors and hydraulic pumps were droning to the rhythm of their designated tasks. Along the back wall, a line of forging presses
that towered from floor to ceiling sounded off like monster bass drums: ba – Boom …ba – Boom …ba – Boom …you could feel them through your shoes.

Not too far from the machining facility, Keizo walked me through a completely different world – a hermetically clean and air-conditioned workplace, where a small team dressed in lab coats and wearing white gloves quietly monitored a number of automated assembly lines. Here, small pallets were shuffling down tracks to a number of stations where robotic arms were busy assembling bits onto the fixtures, which eventually transformed into rear derailleurs. There were a few stations between the machines where human hands did the work that robots could not be trusted with, or performed inspections.

Finishing and gluing line
Shimano's new assembly robots and transfer systems are larger, more extensive, and a magnitude faster. Automated assembly and inspection promises better consistency and quality, but getting it right requires longer lead times to bring products to market.

Keizo said that Shimano realized early on that automation was going to be key to their survival, so they began the learning process by building their own assembly robots – first, developing some of the automation in the machining and forging factory, and culminating with their precision assembly process. Shimano’s experiment grew into a new enterprise and at some point, they were building robots for other industries as well. Connecting the dots, it could not have been a stretch for Shimano to automate a derailleur shifting system after inventing the robots that assembled those components in the first place.

There was a room near the engineering and design departments that was filled with pieces of electrical panels, automobile dashboard parts, furniture, and all sorts of latches and levers collected from technological sources outside the cycling industry. The room was created to give Shimano’s designers a quiet space to escape from their workplaces, be alone with their thoughts, and dream up ideas that might relate to the projects they were tasked with.

Our makeshift tour ended too soon. It was a treasured opportunity to peer into the soul of Shimano, and it would be the last time I would speak with Keizo, who passed on a short time later after losing his fight with cancer.

Shimano factory visit 2018
The new forging and stamping presses still shake the building, but run much quieter than the machine age monsters that had me spellbound two decades ago. The central forge in this image produces 2,000 tons of force. The workmen in the lower right offer perspective.


Inside Shimano’s Sakai Intelligent Plant

Fast forward to May 15, 2018. We are assembled in Shimano’s spacious Manufacturing Technology Gallery, where fishing reels, XTR, and Dura Ace components have been disassembled down to their tiniest springs and screws, then mounted in sequence on illuminated panels. Displays show the forging and bonding progression of Shimano’s latest cranksets, and how cassette cogs transform under the forges from steel and titanium sheets to sprockets with precisely profiled shifting ramps and tooth profiles. It’s impressive.

Shimano forging and machining area
This wall display features some of the steps required to forge a crank arm from coiled aluminum rod and stamp chainrings from metal strips. Rods are squished to about half their length, before being forged into their final shape.

“No cameras, no cell phones please.” We are guided through elevated walkways, high above Shimano’s new five-level factory where we peer through the glass onto a fully automated miniature city. Musical forklifts that seem to appear out of nowhere are driving themselves down aisles to feed and retrieve parts from rows of machining centers which are inter-connected by overhead tracks - and to massive forges that are busy smashing out XTR crankarms at the rate of about one each second. The 2,000 ton forge is fed by a slightly smaller monster that prepares one-inch-thick coils of aluminum bar into pre-shaped billets that travel to its larger neighbor to be squished into near-perfect crank-arm halves.

Shimano factory visit 2018
Self-guided vehicles have their own network of roads throughout the facility.
Automated warehouse
An automated warehouse receives and delivers supplies to self-guided forklifts that ply the lower floor.

autonomous forklift picking up finished parts
The shuttles play music to warn bystanders while they are loading, instead of beeps or horn honks.

One floor up, we watched while chainrings and crankarms were being assembled, once again by robots, but this was an exponential leap forward from the automated assembly line I knew. The pace was much more rapid and there were no “manned” stations where human hands and eyes intervened with the process.

Shimano factory visit 2018
Anomalies from Shimano's automated equipment are self-reported to this nerve center. They monitor the entire complex from one location.

To my left, chainrings were zipping overhead on their way to final assembly and inspection, while on my right, the aluminum halves of XTR crankarms were being prepared with glue, checked by 3D infrared laser optics, joined, and heat cured – all in a wonderfully organized sequence, with every step 100-percent inspected.

Shimano factory visit 2018
Trees and vegetation grow upwards from glass columns, designed to flood the inside of the buildings with natural light and provide a connection with nature.

The level of automation on display had reduced the labor force to a dozen or so workers on the same footprint where sixty were employed two decades earlier. It would be easy for many to assume that Shimano valued production numbers far more than its workers, but the reverse is true. Under orders of current president Yozo Shimano, the new complex was built and its existing buildings were refurbished to enhance the human experience and to minimize Shimano’s impact on the environment.

Soundproof, rectangular glass enclosures planted with trees and shrubs reach upwards from ground level to the open sky to give workers quiet places to temporarily escape the busy factory and depressurize in a natural setting. Where large bay windows are not practical, motorized rooftop solar refractors flood the workspace with natural sunlight.

Every machine has a vacuum recirculation and filter system that prevents fumes from mixing with the workplace atmosphere, while massive air ducts are trained to continuously refresh the building. In the basement, Shimano installed a purification and recovery system for its cooling and lubricating chemicals. Solar installations further reduce the factory’s carbon footprint.

bigquotesThere is no question that Shimano’s employees are hired to get their jobs done, but it’s also clear that there is an understanding at the highest level that Shimano employees will spend a large part of their waking moments at work, so the best way to enhance their lives is to make the workplace a more positive and fulfilling experience. 

Shimano provides showers, changing rooms and indoor parking for 500 bicycles at the street level, and they maintain a spacious, rooftop cafeteria with fresh-prepared healthy meals. The outsides of the buildings are landscaped with mature trees and foliage, and arranged to encourage outdoor meetings and activities. The vibe is healthy. There is no question that Shimano’s employees are hired to
Shimano Japan
Workers can seek temporary refuge from the din of the factory inside open-air sound-proof glass enclosures, planted with trees and shrubbery.
get their jobs done, but it’s also clear that there is an understanding at the highest level that Shimano employees will spend a large part of their waking moments at work, so the best way to enhance their lives is to make the workplace a more positive and fulfilling experience.


What's Different, What's Unchanged

The Shimano factory that I visited in the early '90s could have been one of many well-run manufacturing facilities in the US or Europe. By contrast, Shimano's latest incarnation of the Sakai City campus seems way over the top. In a practical sense, the predominance of automation is both a necessity for a Japan-based manufacturer to remain competitive in a global marketplace, and an asset for a brand that stakes its reputation upon the quality and consistent performance of its products. Granted, Shimano only builds its highest priced components here in Sakai City, but considering that all of their component groups will eventually benefit from Dura-Ace, XTR, and XT, having a unified workforce that performs every step of the process from pipe dreams to mass production in one facility must generate a fountain of improvements and fresh ideas towards that end.

What I did not expect to see was the massive investment that Shimano made to enhance the workplace environment. Anyone who has returned from a lunch ride can vouch for the mental and emotional recharge that fresh air, greenery, and natural sunlight provides. Shimano's aptly renamed Sakai Intelligent Plant integrates those natural elements into the work environment to a degree that seems out of place in the context of a manufacturing facility - until you've been there for a while. Shimano has upheld that its products connect people with nature. The redesign of their Sakai City complex seems like an affirmation that those ideals should also be expressed where those products are made.
Shimano Japan
Indoor storage for up to 500 bicycles is available on the ground floor with street access.

bigquotesThe best thing and the worst thing about a person are always the same thing.Anonymous

Shimano is often derided for its intense secrecy and for being slow to respond to changing trends. Fair enough. It's common knowledge that new products usually take four years or more before Shimano deems them worthy to release, and its heavy reliance on automation could be a large part of those lead times. The mountain bike marketplace is very dynamic, and four years without any news of a new product can seem like an eternity. As much as we were given an official tour of the new factory, we were sequestered behind glass windows and to elevated walkways, and forbidden to photograph anywhere production took place. Most of the images you see here were provided by Shimano and censored for sensitive information.

The best thing and the worst thing about a person are always the same thing. The flip sides of Shimano's conservative production schedule and strict code of secrecy are also the cornerstones of its success. Shimano's strength is its relentless quest for perfection. Its big innovations spring from layers of small breakthroughs and improvements - any of which could provide an ah-ha moment for a competitor. Perhaps more important, is that developing products in strict secrecy allows its team to experiment, to take risks that may lead to failure as well as success in a learning environment without consequence. That said, there may be a simpler explanation.

Shimano factory visit 2018


Shimano may have grown into a 4.3 billion dollar corporation with 52 offices and factories around the globe, but it still operates on the simple principles established by Shozaburo in his one-room machine shop. Freewheel cogs were the most difficult component of a bicycle to make in 1921. Shozaburo founded Shimano Iron Works. to make a better, more reliable one and when he achieved that goal, he was confident that the quality of his freewheel cogs would sell themselves - and they did..

Shozaburo's principles may seem archaic in today's marketing-driven consumer economy, but simple values are still held in high esteem in Japan. Shimano exists to manufacture great things. I don't think they can see it any other way. Shimano probably would have made the new XTR 9100 group just to prove to themselves that they could do better - and something tells me that Shimano did not implement those environmentally friendly features into their Sakai headquarters in an effort to show the world how green they had become. They wanted to make a better factory. It was the right thing to do.







135 Comments

  • + 137
 Aside from crashes, over 25yrs of riding never had a fault on any shimano product, which I can't say for many other makes. Sure others will say different.
  • + 15
 A few months ago,a cheap slx shifter broke in my new bike.It was replaced in warranty by Shimano. To me it was almost rare that a company took X time to replace and check that cheap shifter and argue it was faulty from the factory.
  • + 11
 @homerjm: slx shifters aren't cheap lol. You probably cracked it first off a crash or improper handling. I've been running slx shifters on two bikes since 2012 they don't just snap under finger load.
  • + 2
 I’ve seen some 200GS and 300GS shifter die, but that was in the early 90s when trigger shifters were new tech. Since that I only experienced wear and tear type end of life scenarios with shimano.
  • + 3
 I am a Shimano fanboi but they aren't perfect by any means. My only serious complaint was their 10speed and 11sp rear mechs and 2012+ brakes. The mechs other than XTR have cages made of cheese and when they bend it is very hard to put them back straight so that the chain doesn't fall between the pulley and the cage. Takes a few visitis at "Vice and Hammer" until it's good again. XTR has carbon cage, it doesn't do that. Then the Shadow tech, seriously it's good with direct mount hanger but otherwise that link between the mech and hanger is a pita. Easy to bend, hard to obtain as a spare, at least it used to be. I've bent a few of those. Meanwhile my Sram x9 rear mechs outlived several hangers. Slammed them into lots of stuff, got them in the spokes - Straight as new. Aside of cage/link all it takes for Shimanos to get bent is bike falling over. That includes Saint. Work great when they work. Haven't ridden any 11sp sram so hard for me to tell. Then around 2002-2009 the shifter feel was crap to me, too soft, too little feedback. Brakes are unreliable across the line the days.
  • - 17
flag Kramz (Jun 19, 2018 at 4:58) (Below Threshold)
 @WAKIdesigns: I think derailleurs are a ridiculous design for a mountain bike, but in all the stories, fairytales, whathaveyou, the retarded people with the dumbest shit always come out on top. Tortoise, and the Hare, pretty much every story ever written, so I don't think it really matters.
  • + 58
 @WAKIdesigns: Hey Waki ... all I got from your post is that you are really bad at choosing good lines on the trail Razz
  • + 7
 @Kramz: Tortoise and the Hare hahah, good one! I personally see lots of MTB stuff through Kings new clothes. Derailleur thing though: I think it's the case of people sitting in the product management meeting and going: screw it, we go with the derailleur - But Sir! - shut up Rogers we have no time for this. It will do. - Hear Hear - yeah Hear.

Cheers!

@HairyLegs - that is possible, However I did bend the link in my 9sp Saint rear mech on a street. Bike fell over to the side and hit the curb. I may have been drunk.
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: Let me translate this for everyone else... "I suck at riding my bike so I prefer beefier components that can handle crashes when I f*ck up."
  • + 3
 I work in bike shops, and in one I used to work for we were putting together a high-end bike with XTR. The front derailleur shift lever was DOA out of the box, so we had to get another one. And I am frequently called upon to de-gunk 20 year old shifters where there are no mechanical problems, except the factory grease they pack into those things turns to glue over time. Apparently it is made partially from fish oil. When it gunks up the only thing that dissolves it is automotive brake parts cleaner. Nasty stuff. Other than that, Shimano makes good products. Their hydraulic disc brakes seem to be the most reliable, easiest to bleed, etc.
  • + 3
 i still have the original XT bottom bracket on my xc bike from 2005. still as smooth and quiet as the day i got it.
  • + 1
 Never had a problem with XT and below stuff from Shimano. On the other side, the 2 XTR parts I bought in my life didn't last long enough for their price. 1. XTR 9 speed cassette lasted 2 months. I destroyed the spider holding the smallest cogs. 2. XTR M9000 race pedals. After 2 years of use they make such an anoying noise. I serviced them, cleaned them, greased them to no avail.
  • + 1
 @APRandom: "fish oil" whaaa?
  • - 4
flag WAKIdesigns (Jun 19, 2018 at 9:18) (Below Threshold)
 @scott-townes: I am triggered like a Dyna-sys
  • + 5
 @WAKIdesigns: They bend easy but are hard to put back straight? are they easy to bend or hard to bend? I have bent a couple but had no issues bending them back again and they worked flwalessly after that. Will always buy shimano products before sram.
  • + 6
 that fish oil is probably made from whales
  • - 3
 @aceface17: I meant that it is hard to bend the cage back back to original shape so that chain doesn’t fall between the pulley and the plate of the cage. Quite a nasty hammr/ pliers work considering you have to put the chain off and on every time, then unscrew and screw in those pulley screws
  • + 1
 @APRandom:

I run a workshop in a busy bike store; it's not unusual to send brand new shimano drivetrain components back for warranty inspection, it's typically the less expensive trigger shifters and road STI shifter/brake levers.

These are components on brand new, boxed bikes. Last season we saw a good number of faulty shimano disc brakes on road bikes, typically leaking between the caliper halves.

They are always great with warranty, but their less expensive and OE parts are far from the quality of their Japanese manufactured higher end components.
  • + 1
 @Thinkpink2017 Man, similar story here, I have nothing but respect for their products, even their cheaper lines are tough as nails and will run with practicly no service for decades!!!
  • + 1
 @APRandom: Try WD-40. A lot less offensive than brake cleaner.
  • + 0
 I had a problem with my Shimano M445 brakes. They would lose pressure over time. I had them bled twice and they still did it. Although I still prefer them to my guides on my new bike....way more stopping power.
  • + 1
 I had a metal xt pad separate from its holder. The rivets failed. I used the holder for braking for final 20 miles of race with awful sounds. Shimano sent me new brake pads and a new rotor.
  • + 2
 @Kramz: Deraillures are pretty ingenious. They have been around since the 1920s first one in 1905 according to wiki. So what better design did they unfairly beat in the 20s. If your so smart what do you think they should have done? Why has nothing better been put forth? I want gear boxes I believe they could work many geniuses smarter than both of us are working on it now and have been working on it for years. So far the market isn’t pleased with the results. It’s easy to sit at a keyboard and call an invention stupid but you probably don’t understand the difficulty of manufacturing a gear changing system that works at a reasonable weight/price. Also they work pretty well albeit in a precarious place.
  • + 1
 @HairyLegs: wouldn’t that apply to everyone wanting stronger wheels,frames,cranks,bikes in general? Lots of people complain about the durability of deraillures. Or wheels literally exploding same with frames cracking. There is nothing wrong with wanting more durable parts it’s also better for the world if your parts don’t get binned every three years.
  • + 2
 Dual Control levers for mtb were faulted by definition.
  • + 1
 @megatryn: Not so sure .... used a set for many years, and moved over to many bikes ... worked well for me.
  • + 0
 @megatryn: it was a fair attempt and wasn't too hyped. It was a miss but props for sending it
  • + 1
 @scott-townes: If you are not crashing, you are probably not progressing riding in any hurry. Beefier components for the win.
  • + 1
 @mhoshal: it broke just ridding,no crash involved.It worked but only change 1 gear at time. That is why shimano replace it,just something fails there. It was rare,but all the setup was OK,nothing bend or broken,gears went up and down smooth but only 1 at time.
  • + 59
 I really like Shimano. Not just for their high end stuff. But mostly because their lower end, utilitarian stuff works really well too.
  • + 4
 Agreed. They really get to me through they lower and mid grade stuff. They do a fantastic job there.
  • + 2
 2nd that. Currently riding my 4 or 5 year old SLX group and it Just works. Now the XT 1x11 and its even better. The Saint breaks however are too bity for my liking but were trouble free for 3 years
  • + 5
 My 2018 reign came with deore brakes and deore 10 spd drivetrain. I was pretty much ready to replace them as soon as I started riding (as I thought they would be low end and not suitable for what I ride), but after about 2 months on the bike I havent felt the need to change any parts at all. Such bombproof, reliable stuff. brakes hold up on huge rock slabs in squamish and garbo laps in the park. Drivetrain works great covered in mud and in the dust. Shimano will always be my go to for brakes and drivetrains.
  • + 3
 It amazes me how well even the Tourney stuff works. I work on a lot of cheap bikes for friends and family and have no qualms about replacing 7 speed components with new Tourney-level stuff.
  • + 58
 Do Robots Dream of Electric Bikes...?
  • + 31
 Shimano - not making stuff out of carbon for the sake of keeping with trends. I salute that!
  • + 14
 But, perhaps, the make stuff for sake!
  • - 6
flag WAKIdesigns (Jun 19, 2018 at 4:41) (Below Threshold)
 Yeah but Di2...
  • + 8
 @WAKIdesigns: I liked it when Sram brought out wireless electric shifting and Shimano's response was "meh, really not interested" XD
  • + 5
 @IllestT: Would you blame them for not wanting to become an IT company? I sure don't. As an IT guy myself, I will be going nowhere near wireless bike components. Last thing I want is to have to stop mid-ride to reconnect my derailleur or something.
  • + 1
 @TheRaven: lol read any cell phone or car forum and all the issues with BT inconsistency is enough to know that I don't wireless anything on my bike.
  • + 1
 Soon as Di2 Saint is available I'm on that!
  • + 26
 Wow! I can't say I have "love" for any large corporation, but Shimano comes the closest...they just seem genuinely passionate about making stuff that works incredibly well, and putting it on the market at competitive prices. On top of that, their trickle down is incredible, as a college student who works in a shop I'm a brokeboi, but I get to play with expensive toys from time to time, and honestly...I see no reason to upgrade from my Saint shifter mated to a Deore mech with Deore brakes. They shift my gears and bring me to a stop just as well as the higher end groupsets (save for stuff with 4-pot calipers), but at a fraction of the price.
  • + 28
 Space for 500 bikes but judging by the photo's only 9 employees... (that's a good N+1 company policy!) unless the robots ride to work?
  • + 28
 "The workmen in the lower right offer perspective."

Shimano's version of Where's Waldo.
  • + 14
 Shimano....The Republic to SRAM´s Empire. This whole sport and industry would be poorer without them.
  • + 25
 Shimano's revenue is almost 3x the SRAM's Smile who's the Empire?
  • + 10
 @shaborider: they make fishing gear though, too. I'd expect it to be higher.
  • + 22
 @shaborider: Wikipedia says shimano made 2.9 bil while sram made 700mil in 2017, thats 4x more...
People probably forget that vast majority of bikes sold are relatively cheap city bikes and those are pretty much 100% shimano
  • + 13
 ??? Dude the empire built things slowly (geez how long did we wait for the XTR Deathstar) but once done their stuff was amazing. Aside from the accuracy issues of their blaster rifles. That was due to a sticky photon piston.
  • + 4
 you do know that SRAM is around because they sued shimano for having a monopoly on bicycle components. However, this can be viewed as a good thing as it allowed SRAM and other companies to be competitive in the bicycle component market - keeping shimano honest. So ya we kind of need both.
  • + 1
 SRAM empire...so good, WorldTour teams don't even want it, as several pay out of pocket to equip Shimano groups instead.
  • + 1
 @winko: can you say "fishing"
  • + 9
 Thanks for the nice write-up and photos RC. I'd give a body part to work in R&D at this place.
Sounds like XTR and perhaps Dura-Ace or perhaps the Di2 stuff is made in Japan at this plant? Is this common to their other industries as well (fishing, rowing)?

How many people worked at this facility?

It reminds me of the showcase 'factories' the big German automakers built where they do final assembly and presentation of the high-end cars.
  • + 4
 @twozerosix Yes, XTR, XT and Dura-Ace are made at the Sakai City factory.
  • + 6
 I just love this company. My vintage dura ace components have survived the test of thousands of miles in various conditions and they still continue to amaze me as regards their longevity [7400 and 7402]. True works of art!
They certainly dont make them as good any more but i still love the company.
And yes, the trickle down mentality for technological aspects as well as the fact that the entry level gruppos still work very good i think define the company.
  • + 8
 My 97 XTR works flawlessly on my old Zaskar. It's so well built, incredibly smooth!
  • - 12
flag WAKIdesigns (Jun 19, 2018 at 4:44) (Below Threshold)
 @t-stoff: actually 950 XTR wasn’t that smooth and that’s what I loved about it. Spring tension was high and shifting feedback was mint. With angels patience and satans fingering strength you could even adjust it, there was a secondary socket for the spring. Later then made everything buttery and this is where X9 and X0 sram came in Cling-Clang Clong! The gear is on Sir! We are good to go Sir! go Sir! But that’s personal prefer
  • + 9
 I wonder what music the robots play? Kraftwerk? Ludacris?
  • + 3
 My first thought too. I would guess japanese chillout with pan pipes and water sounds.
  • + 1
 Yellow magic orchestra. Look them up.
  • + 3
 Meschuggah and Dillinger escape plan to make sure people take notice.
  • + 2
 @loganm2977:
Meshuggah Wink
Great band.
  • + 1
 gagaku
  • + 3
 Rage against the machine
  • + 1
 @russthedog:

Yellow Magic Orchestra. Huh...
Tip: just make sure not to accidentally play Exotic Dance aloud while at work.
  • + 3
 @iamamodel Classical. I knew both pieces, but at the time, I couldn't pin down their titles.
  • + 4
 There's something sentimental when you see that Shimano logo. Maybe it's because in our memories of that first bike ride blasting through that trail on that budget bike we saved up months for, it was a Shimano mech that took us up that hill and a Shimano brake that stopped us from crashing.
  • + 6
 This is the most Japanese thing I've ever seen. Holy.
  • + 6
 They make pretty good fishing reels too.
  • + 24
 Does fishing change their standards every year? Do they use Boost?
  • + 3
 for the fisherman,that buzzing sound is "Shimano music"
  • + 4
 @homerjm: no fish evolution is much slower than trail evolution...
  • + 2
 @homerjm: Not anymore, now that they are using something similar in their reels to the new xtr freehubs. Silence is Golden, especially when out in the sticks balls deep in water.
  • + 4
 @doe222:
How do they no when to wake up without the noise?
  • + 3
 @doe222: Silence is golden, until you get a hit. Then you want to hear that line playing out.
I have a Shimano reel. It is super smooth. But for PNW salmon fishing, it is vintage Penn 209s all the way.
  • + 1
 @Poulsbojohnny: For fish Shimano is solid. Abu Garcia is may fav though. They should make bike components too. That’d be fun.
  • + 2
 @cougar797: Imagine if Hope or Chris King made a reel, they would be screamers!
  • + 1
 @djm35: Some people would then go with i9 to get many more PoE!
  • + 1
 I had two 10 speed deore XT cassettes break within 6 months. The aluminum carrier would snap the arms off allowing the cogs to spin. I switched to SLX after that. I've run SPD pedals as long as they've been in existence, probably my favorite Shimano product. Overall great stuff at a competitive price.
  • + 1
 I like and run Shimano, but the rear mechs all seem to have a very weak outer parallelogram link that bends if you look at it funny. Not a case of smashing it into a rock at full speed, just a gentle bump at the wrong angle will do it, they are clearly very thin forgings.
As I say, I like Shimano, but I think they should look outside the company for ideas too, they were slow with one-by, and they have no dropper etc. We also badly need a Shimano gearbox. They make the best (affordable) internally geared hubs so why not a gearbox? Even something along the lines of the old Honda downhill bike with a mech in a box would be great.
  • + 1
 They have a dropper. It was released like 3 years ago. It's called the koryuk or something like that.
  • + 2
 I agree with the weak outer parallelogram comment. I bent 2 XT rear derailleurs in 2 months. The first time it hit a log while I was riding so I don't fault it. The second time, I have no idea. I don't remember hitting anything (and certainly not hard) but the parallelogram was bent.
  • + 1
 I love Shimano.

It’s early summer 1989, and me, at 14 yrs old, wholly OBSESSED with Mountain bikes. One of the big buzzwords that year, was Hyperglide.. in my opinion, a totally overlooked invention that we all take for granted now.

There were three main reasons why I wanted my Ridgeback 602lx..
black wall tyres
Mountain LX
And Hyperglide.

I was wobbly at the knees when I saw a chap buying a full XT-II group set in a big box at my local bike shop.

Loved the brand ever since.
  • + 4
 Can I please suggest that the workers in the nerve center get an ergonomic evaluation? Their posture is painful to see
  • + 1
 Looks exactly like my posture at work!
  • + 2
 I'm sure that their robots are more intelligent than the local dealer in my country; they don't care about warranties and the prices are ridiculous! Hope their robots bring some justice to my beloved, third world, country.
  • + 1
 Running Saint 1x10 components on my trail bike. Got the OneUp cage and 42 cog. It’s fine and always shifts. Not impressed with SRAM stuff on my wife’s Bronson. Reverb absolutely sucks compared my Thomson. Brakes are meh shifter doesn’t feel as smooth as any of my Shimano stuff. The pike I like. Idk why people go nuts for Sram stuff overall Shimano seems very reliable.
  • + 1
 the only shimano brakes i love to see again is XT BR-M755. 4pot IS mounted with that prong shims, braided hoses and banjo connectors. oh oh....anybody remembers the Dangerboy levers?
  • + 4
 I love my Shimano 600 gruppo.
  • + 1
 Running my 4 year old Zee's with no issues that I can bleed in 30mins or less for the set with mineral oil that is good for my skin. Baffled other companies brakes still compete.
  • + 5
 Skynet+Yakuza=Shimano
  • + 4
 I would wear shimano underwear if they made it.
  • + 1
 @Downdahill: yaaaas!!!!
  • + 3
 It's easier to visit a North Korean nuclear facility than it is the Shimano factory.
  • + 5
 Shimano 'till I die!
  • + 1
 Took the words right out of my mouth
  • + 2
 Thanks pink bike for a great report and insight. These words are well put together and along with the history it seemed to portray a magical world of goodness
  • + 1
 I wonder if Sram factory looks like completely different world. I am sure there pictures somewhere on the web but I am too busy (=lazy) to search.
  • + 1
 Chinese factories, child labor!
  • + 1
 @drivereight: Taiwan for higher end stuff. Pinkbike did an article a year or two ago.

There's also the German factory.
  • + 1
 Here you go (it's mostly road, but same Taichung factory where they make Eagle): youtu.be/HGTUCeHLxfI
  • + 1
 @drivereight: SRAM closed thier mainland China production a couple years ago and moved it all to Taiwan.
  • + 3
 Dude that facility looks scifi-esque cant wait to visit japan
  • + 1
 I like the waterfall paintings on the wall of the production facility. There's something quintessentially Japenese about that.
  • + 2
 Where the fuxk are the HUMANS?
  • + 2
 Shimano or DIE!!! And the way Sram works, you just might......
  • + 1
 S H I M A N O ... this logo I see now it fits way better(Perfect) in robots than bikes...
  • + 1
 I saw a dozen of this articles a month ago, just before xtr launch. Did RC just forgot to press send back then? Smile
  • - 6
flag drivereight (Jun 19, 2018 at 7:56) (Below Threshold)
 Pinkbike is probably sponsored by SRAM, that’s why the NX cassette came out before any Shimano article! SRAM may come out with their products first, but it’s usually crap cause they are just in for the money grab!
  • + 6
 @ZigaK13 Nah, we wanted to give time for RC to do this right, and didn't feel the need to write a "we're at Shimano and can't tell you anything yet" story. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

@drivereight both Shimano and SRAM advertise on Pinkbike. Neither had anything to do with when we posted this story, that's not something we do.
  • - 2
 @brianpark: That may be true, but I see a boatload more SRAM adverts on here than anything else.

Perhaps SRAM should spend more $€£¥₩ on RnD instead of marketing & bonuses?
  • + 1
 @i think SRAM has a bigger focus on MTB since their market is bigger than road. Look at most pro road teams and it’s mostly Shimano. For MTB it’s mostly SRAM with some Shimano here and there. Go figured.....
  • + 1
 Curious which CNCs? betting a lil okuma, tsugami, nakamora, or Mori along with the Fanucs
  • + 1
 Are you really smart or drunk?
  • + 1
 was that obama on the thumbnail
  • + 2
 I love Shimano
  • + 1
 SHIMANO rules!!!
  • + 1
 Aww for fu** sakai
  • - 3
 BOX ONE FOR LIFE!!!
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