Is SRAM Knocking Shimano Off The Podium?

Posted by Matt Russ on 13th Feb 2019

SRAM has released a flurry of new technologies in the last few years, most notably the DUB bottom bracket and AXS electronic groupo in 2019, eating into Shimano's market share of high end component sales.  Are they poised to become the standard bearer on bicycles over the 2k price point?  Many say yes and it is not just because of their innovation and products.

Shimano pretty much held a monopoly on the bicycle parts and component market through the 80s against a few niche brands until SRAM came on the scene in the 90s, entering the MTB component market with Gripshift.  Their products were and are distinctively different in design, but arguably not always better.  But they are a much more nimble company than Shimano; quick to innovate, quick to improve, and quick to correct their mistakes.  Shimano on the other hand was still selling chains with pins vs master links.  When Shimano puts a new product out it is always tested and reliable, but when it comes to technology companies are either quick or dead. 

Shimano also made some serious tactical blunders in the US.  They fairly dominated with OEM market and did a good job of keeping SRAM boxed out for a while.  Then they decided to pull their parts out of US distributors and sell dealer direct.  This drastically cut dealer access to parts, and the ability to get parts quickly.  The consumer was also able to buy many parts online below dealer costs through abroad websites such as Wiggle.  This created a lot of bad blood with dealers; especially when customers began bringing in their own parts for service.  This in turn caused dealers to raise service rates and fees on their customers to make ends meets.  Easier access to parts, a great warranty department, and a solid MAP policy made SRAM the good guys and the anti-Shimano for many dealers.  

Meanwhile SRAM gobbled up some really great companies such as Zipp, Truvativ, Rockshox, and Quarq power meters, and they have done a great job of integrating these brands and technologies under the SRAM umbrella.  They have largely shied away from the recreational market which Shimano still dominates with their lower end component groups.  They definitely know their market and are the cool kids on the block.

Where does that leave Shimano?  Mostly trying to play catch up.  They put out a crank based power meter that is well behind Quarq technology.  They introduced electronic shifting but SRAM put out Etap wireless, and now AXS.  XTR was the standard in MTB groupos but has given way to SRAM Eagle and other 1x systems.  By comparison they are seemingly more and more dated in the high end component market, and what this means is consumers are demanding SRAM products, and SRAM is capturing more and more of the OEM market.  Shimano sales are down worldwide and I don't see that changing anytime soon unless they somehow have some tricks up their sleeve.  Being slow to market is no longer an option on the high end.