Shimano are one of those big Japanese companies that seem to make everything, without you really noticing. Established in 1921 by Shozaburo Shimano as the Shimano Iron Works it initially focused on the production of a bicycle freewheel, which it began to export in 1933.
These days it produces fishing tackle and rowing equipment and until a few years ago, golf accessories and snowboarding gear. However, it is cycling components that still make up the bulk of its business and the Shimano company have a long track record of design and innovation that have helped to form what cycling is today. The company is best known for brake, pedal, wheel and drivetrain components for mountain and road bikes. Sales of Shimano products are estimated to account for 50% of the global bike component market. They also produce the PRO range of products.
Over the years Shimano have introduced many innovations into the market, including freehubs, dual pivot brakes and, perhaps most notably, index shifting (SIS or Shimano Index Shifting). These innovations, coupled with some aggressive business tactics, allowed the company to expand exponentially during the 80s and 90s and to secure the dominant global position it currently enjoys.
Shimano is very much involved at the cutting edge of cycling advancements, both for the mass market and for competition bikes. The 2013 Tour de France yellow jersey was worn by a Shimano sponsored athlete at every stage of the competition. 43 per cent of stages were won by riders on Shimano wheels and 50% of riders used Shimano shifting systems. They are also heavily involved in professional mountain biking.