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It all started with freewheels. The year was 1921 when Shozaburo Shimano established Shimano Iron Works, in Sakai City, Japan. It's a city steeped in metalworking history—once a major center for sword making and still home to a thriving cutlery industry, it's a fitting birthplace for Shimano. Having access to a world-class workforce allowed the company to build its first product, a high-quality freewheel, which required manufacturing techniques that at the time were cutting edge. Today, Shimano's bicycle components are trusted around the world for their quality and reliability. Shimano manufactures components for nearly every application, from professional racing to recreational cycling.
Although it’s the world's largest manufacturer of cycling components, Shimano stays nimble when it comes to product development, always looking for ways to think outside the box. It’s this brand of innovative thinking that led to the introduction of the STI integrated shifter/brake lever combo in 1989, which singlehandedly ended the era of downtube shifters. Or the SPD clipless pedal, which has earned a diehard following in the past three decades, and whose modern descendants share the same basic design as the original. Then there's Di2 electronic shifting, which has been proven at the top levels of professional road and cyclocross racing. And with the advent of disc brakes for road bikes, Shimano continues to lead the market.
Shimano is best known for component groups that cater to the full range of cyclists. In fact, Shimano pioneered the concept of the modern groupset (shifters, derailleurs, cassettes, and chains); it has since become standard industry practice to offer complete drivetrains. Shimano’s pro-level Dura Ace road bike and XTR cross-country mountain bike groupsets act as a proving ground for new technologies and weight-saving measures. The second-tier Ultegra road and XT mountain groups are functionally on par with Dura Ace and XTR, with some concessions made to weight savings. Technologies and innovations quickly trickle down throughout the component family tree; middle-tier components like the Deore and SLX mountain groups, or the 105 road groups, are in some ways superior to their pro-level counterparts from only a few years ago.
In addition to drivetrain components, Shimano builds both hubs and complete system wheelsets as well as a full line of cycling shoes and mountain bike shoes. Despite the wide variety of products offered, each product group receives the same fanatical attention to detail to ensure that it's a class leader. In other words, the Shimano logo means you're getting a product that's backed by nearly a century of history, and executed to perfection.