These companies should come as no surprise, though the disparity between apparent competitors might. In the realm of skinny tires, the Big Three are really the Only Three: Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo.
Oddly enough, Campagnolo is the youthful upstart of the three. Shimano, née Shimano Iron Works, was actually founded 12 years before the Italian company, with their first freewheels produced in 1921. Tullio Campagnolo founded his company in 1933. Despite his fashionably late entrance, the Italian certainly had a greater impact on the development of the pre-STI bicycle than Shozaburo Shimano did, though.
But both are younger than the baby-faced SRAM, which bought the bicycle division of Sachs in 1997 — a manufacturer that dates back to 1895, giving SRAM the longest lineage of them all. SRAM itself, as started by Scott, Ray (CEO Stan Day’s middle name) and Sam, is only 25 years old, though.
But here’s where it all gets interesting, at least for this über-nerd.
In fiscal year 2010, Campagnolo brought in about $150 million in sales. SRAM nearly quintupled that, with an estimated $524 million haul. That includes subsidiaries Avid, RockShox, Truvativ, and Zipp. Both figures come from the National Bicycle Dealer’s Association (NBDA). Campagnolo and SRAM are privately held companies, so precise financial data is a bit harder to come by.
Given the sales figures from these two, I expected that Shimano would pull in somewhere north of $500 million and south of about $1.5 billion annually. They provide a much wider breadth of products, across every price range, and have had the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer, the parts sold to frame makers to build complete bikes) market all but cornered in the past.
Nope. Shimano’s sales totaled an incredible $2.7 billion in 2010. Five times larger than SRAM, eighteen times larger than Campagnolo.
About 80% of that comes from Shimano-branded bike componentry; the rest is from subsidiaries like Pearl Izumi and from fishing equipment. That drops the total sales down to about $2.16 billion for cycling hardgoods — still four times larger than its closest competitor. No wonder the company has about a billion dollars in cash reserves, and a few hundred more patents than SRAM and Campagnolo.
In other words, Shimano is still the undisputed king of componentry.