Shimano pedals faster as COVID pandemic propels cycling boom

Nikkei -- Jul 16
Shimano's showroom at its headquarters in Osaka is a shrine to the technology that has made the company a household name in global cycling.

A bicycle weighing just 7 kg and kitted out with its high-specification components, can be lifted easily with one hand. Shimano staff point out items such as its Dura-Ace line, developed in 1973 for competitive road racing and again on show in this year's Tour de France, which ends this weekend in Paris.

Just as Shimano's components are designed to work as a package, the showroom is linked to the frantic activity at the company's factory a short distance away. There, hundreds of employees are working flat out, making parts to satisfy voracious global demand amid an unprecedented surge in cycling's popularity.

The scene is similar at Shimano's 15 plants around the world. "There is no factory that is not in full operation at the moment," said Taizo Shimano, the company's president.

For Taizo Shimano, whose appointment this year as the sixth member of his family to lead the company coincides with its centenary, these are rewarding but stressful times.

Shimano Cycling World in Singapore: the company aims to open a new plant in the city-state in 2022. (Photo by Weixiang Lim)

Shimano's sales and profit have soared since the coronavirus pandemic began, as newcomers take to two wheels -- some looking for an easy way to exercise during lockdowns, others preferring to pedal to work rather than brave crowded public transport.

Shimano had net income of 63 billion yen ($574 million) in 2020, up 22.5% from the previous year. For fiscal 2021, the company is forecasting another jump in net income to 79 billion yen. Last year its market capitalization exceeded that of Japanese automaker Nissan. It now stands at 2.5 trillion yen.

But the cycling craze presents Shimano with a challenge: keeping up with the seemingly insatiable demand for its parts.

- Nikkei