Shimano freewheel 1921.jpg
NOSTALGIA

100 years of Shimano

Words NSMB Staff
Date Mar 26, 2021
Reading time

Last weekend, Shimano celebrated its 100th Anniversary and if you'd like to dig in and reminisce a bit, there is a new Shimano Centennial Website that is packed with photos, videos, and stories that commemorate the last 100 years of innovation.

No matter how long you've been riding, Shimano products have been key touch points in one way or another. So, we thought it would be fitting to do a bit of reminiscing of our own and reach back into fond memories of Shimano componentry that graced our bikes over the years. And let us know in the comments what some of your vivid memories are of Shimano components and the bikes on which they did a tour of duty.

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Ryan Walters' stunning 2004 Dark Cycles Scarab DH complete with Shimano Saint brakes.

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In case you couldn't see it under all the mud, this is what the original Saint brake caliper looked like. It would be considered rude to let it look this new for long.

Saint brakes - Ryan Walters

Easily the most defining moment of my experience with Shimano was way back when Saint first hit the shelves. My memory is muddy, but I wanna say this was 2004(?) Gravity riders rejoiced – we finally had our own groupo! The initial release of Saint happened to coincide with the completion of a small run of Scarab DH frames we had manufactured at Dark Cycles, and it was a no-brainer to get our bikes kitted out with as much Saint stuff as possible. Of course, there was the crankset and derailleur that looked more like military armaments than bike parts – but for me, the standout piece of the early Saint puzzle was definitely the brakes. I don’t know how they squeezed so much power out of those little single-pot calipers, but they sure were a huge improvement over whatever long-in-the-tooth brake I was running before that (pssst...it rhymes with Mayes Hag). And so what if those awesome little brakes were basically just XTs with brown paint – mine were as close to flawless as a brake has ever been.

XTR V-Brakes – A.J. Barlas

My first notable experience with a Shimano product was when a well-used thermoplastic GT LTS came into my possession. Much of the bike was an improvement and I fondly remember many of the parts but those brakes were one of the standouts.

Before the GT, I was riding a cheap steel hardtail that also had v-brakes, but they didn't come close to the crisp feel and great power experienced with the new to me XTR brakes. Even in the wet, the XTR brakes seemed to do much more than I'd previously experienced and with less effort. The relative lack of maintenance needed to keep them running well was also welcome.

At a time when disc brakes were becoming more common, and a quick progression into the sport causing me to move quickly through gear, I didn't spend long with the XTR brakes, and perhaps not long enough. But I've never forgotten them. They were my first experience with high-end equipment and quickly asserted that in some places more than others, you get what you pay for.

Shimano DX / MP66 / AM45 Shoes - Tim Coleman

I’ve ridden exclusively in Shimano shoes for over 15 years. Shoes might seem like an odd choice for a homage to a drivetrain and brakes company, but as a key touch point on the bike, Shimano shoes have been a standout for me. For over a decade the DX / MP66 / AM45 were the only riding shoes I owned. It’s the only consistent piece of kit I can think of that’s been on every ride I’ve done over such a long period. The trusty DX shoe carried me through countless downhill races, bike park days, and XC epics. Somehow, they always seemed perfectly comfortable and protective. For me the DX shoe is a symbol of what Shimano has so often been about: making stuff that get the job done, at a reasonable price, without superfluous flash and fanfare. Here’s hoping for 100 more years of quality Shimano products!

Hollowtech II – Andrew Major

First there was square taper, then Octalink, and ISIS spline. Before Shimano debuted Hollowtech II in 2003, cranks were as much a wear item as tires or brake pads. Many a Shore-style rider had given up on mountain bike cranks entirely in favour of the durability of three-piece steel BMX cranks which weighed as much as a suspension fork.

The hollow-steel 24mm spindle and massive bearing, open standard, external bottom brackets were an instant hit with aggressive mountain bikers, and in 2004 Shimano brought the technology down to an updated version of their workhorse XT group as well as their newly released SAINT freeride components. LX, the precursor to SLX, and Hone, the precursor to Zee, would follow shortly after with inter-compatible 24mm spindle, external bottom bracket cranksets from a plethora of companies.

It seems now like it took minutes for the entire bike industry and every rider I knew to switch over to the new standard without complaint - a rarity even then. An hour later there was a sea of aftermarket bottom bracket options for 24mm cranksets. In addition to better crank and bearing durability, I think it was amazing that Shimano allowed their TL-FC32 BB tool to act as a universal key for everyone’s bottom brackets and didn't try to block the open use of the 24mm spindle standard.

Servo-Wave Levers - Deniz Merdano

Nine year old me had saved up all I could to spend it all on a sick mountain bike. I wasn't planning on riding it in the mountains all that much thanks living in the 'big shitty' but I had to have the best I could afford for our urban assault posse. I wish I could have gotten a photo of the environment, but: imagine a bridge underpass, 500 meters long, filled with bike shops, hundreds of them, all thriving. It was 1992 and Shimano XTR had just been released. I sure as hell could not afford a ride with a full race group back then, but there was a Forest Green/Black Splatter paint Peugeot which was clearly too big for me, in my price range. I jumped on it even though I had no access to a pump with presta valve capability.

It had an XT/DX gruppo dripping in enamel black goodness. The Servo Wave brake levers that allowed the cantilever brakes to pull the cable fast in the initial part of the travel allowed me to run the lever blades as close to the bar as possible for my tiny 9-year-old hands. I loved that bike...I loved those brakes. For me, when set up properly, nothing comes close to the performance and feel of a shimano Servo Wave brake set. I'm currently on a pair of XTR 9120 stoppers and I could not ask for anything more.

SL-M700 Thumbshifters - Cam McRae

My first mountain bike was mostly Shimano. That wasn’t a choice really since there were no other suitable options back then. After consulting my more experienced buddies at Boulevard Bikes in Vancouver, where I was working at the time, I ordered an unpainted 1984 Ritchey Timberline and the appropriate parts one by one. There was no question that the drivetrain and cantilever brakes were going to be Shimano and they still are to this day. I rode and raced that bike until 1990 when it became my commuter. Parts gradually changed as things wore out or broke, but the shifters kept on working as did the brakes. In 1998 my wife and I toured from Budapest to Genoa and then, some months later, on to Amsterdam through the Alps. In between we rode our full-rigid mountain bikes on Italian trails and roads daily. In all that time the original Shimano SL-M700 thumb shifters remained turbine-smooth and perfectly reliable, just as they will be once again, after I get the bike dusted off and back closer to being a pure mountain bike once again, bull moose bars and all.

SPD M737 pedals and M-100 Shoes - Pete Roggeman

When I started riding, there was Shimano. There was also SR Suntour and Sugino, but certainly no SRAM and GripShift was still way in the future. More importantly, there weren't even clipless pedals yet, and flats were plastic crap or resin or metal jobs with molded pins. Basically useless, so they weren't even considered for use on the Shore until the late 90s or early 00s. But for this memory, I'm taking it back to 1991 or so. I saved up my money and my dad told me he'd match whatever I could raise. That $880 (combined) got me into a Kona Fire Mountain (the Cinder Cone was within reach but I had a few upgrades in mind). Before I even took it home I paid for DX Rapid-fire shifters and cantilever brakes. Coming from Deore thumbies I thought the new one-piece rapid-fire stuff looked so cool but if I'm being honest, it didn't make much difference. Sure, you could shift while braking, but I don't know how much I actually did that back then. The DX cantis were good, too, but also not as big an upgrade as I probably thought - my Avid V-brakes were still years in the future but I remember that v-brakes put cantilever stoppers out of business faster than Netflix sent Blockbuster into the ground. But the killer upgrade was taking the leap from toe clips - which I had learned to love - into clipless pedals, which felt like a better attachment to the bike and were intuitive to me as a skier.

Whether or not I was faster, I don't really know. The point was that clipless pedals felt good and made me want to ride, and as I learned to negotiate the log pyramids of the old UBC Endowment Lands secret trails (loamers!), I could unclip from a clipless pedal before I toppled over, whereas if my toe clip straps were done up tight, I had no chance. Confidence soared, and I was able to nail the hardest line of log pyramid up-and-overs I could find. That may have also been the pinnacle of my days racing buses around the west side of Vancouver, but that habit started early and died hard. I still use Shimano clipless pedals when I clip in, and Shimano shoes are usually the ones that last longest in my shoe closet.

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Comments

Tremeer023
+4 Mammal Pete Roggeman Dan Ryan Walters
Tremeer023  - March 26, 2021, 6:40 a.m.

Their Saint range was a real game changer. My (approx) 10 year old Saint DH crank is the oldest component on my bike.  The paint is worn and bb has been changed but I'm confident that the crank Arms and spindle will still be working fine 10 years from now.

Reply

mammal
+10 Pete Roggeman Dan Tremeer023 Luix samnation Andrew Major Gage Wright taprider twk Marc Fenigstein
Mammal  - March 26, 2021, 7:59 a.m.

You just can't kill those cranks. 

My buddy and I were racing a BC Cup DH at Panorama one year, and somewhere on the last 30 seconds of the course he caught the tip of his crank arm on a rock or something, almost sent him over but not quite. No pedal strokes through the last straight-away, and after he crossed, I asked him what happened. He said "I buggered my crank arm on some rock back there". We both looked down, and sure enough, looked like his Saint crank was bent over, contacting the chain stay on his Cove Peeler (blue). After getting back to my van, we realized the rear end had actually bent over towards the crank arm, not the other way around. When he got back to The Cove, they realized he had actually bent both the front triangle and rear end. Both ends of the bike got replaced with the new Brown Peeler (better race geo that year), and the same pair of cranks were proudly hung from that bike too.

Reply

Gbergevin
+4 Pete Roggeman Dan Cam McRae Derek Baker
Gbergevin  - March 26, 2021, 7:04 a.m.

For me, as a grown up BMX kid, Shimano DX V brakes - the red kit they used to sell with lever/cables/brake. All the cool kids at the track had red DX brakes, they were all over BMX Plus, and the lever was that awesome two fingerish shape with the little plastic door over the cable end - they felt amazing and had adjustable leverage ratios. That was a serious lust item, and when I saved up and got them from the LBS I later ended up working at it, it was an early example of me figuring out the install process with tools borrowed from my dad and ended up being a massive upgrade over the OEM cantis on my Dyno Nitro. 

I  was probably 12, and I still remember ripping a big skid down the driveway on my first test stop. I'm 35 now.

Damn do I love bikes.

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insectoid
0
insectoid  - March 28, 2021, 7:15 p.m.

Those DX brake levers were amazing. They just had raw power, especially if you set them in max power mode. The only thing was that they and the other similar MTB levers (LX and, for awhile, STX-RC) all tended to develop massive play in the pivot. And the lever blade was made out of pot metal. Still, they were so powerful that in spite of their flaws I would use them for the rear brake of my trials bikes.

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insectoid
0
insectoid  - March 28, 2021, 7:15 p.m.

This comment has been removed.

velocipedestrian
+1 Cam McRae
Velocipedestrian  - March 29, 2021, 2:16 p.m.

I have a set of red DX v brakes. Good condition, still very shiny.

They're waiting for the kids bikes to get slightly bigger, and they'll be back in use (kids won't know how lucky they are).

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mammal
0
Mammal  - March 26, 2021, 8:30 a.m.

I only started riding mountain bikes more seriously in '99, so I missed a lot of the early shimano appreciation (the plastic SIS shifters on my '92 Norco Mini Mountaineer don't count). Regardless, so many notable shimano bits stick out in my memory from various years.

The first "wow" moment was probably when someone at the local shop kicked me down a well-used 8spd XTR deraileur. I had only run the cheapest of what I could get my hands on at that point, and it felt like I was mounting a gold watch on my hanger. I was so impressed with how precise, reliable, and durable it was. It was a window into a world of quality I wasn't yet familiar with.

Next up is probably the same amazing Saint Cranks. I was well into DH bikes at that point, and just starting to race. The whole group stood out weaponry as opposed to mere components, and definitely more prepared for battle than anything else available. But the cranks... They were so stiff, so strong, and spun so smoothly for so long. Those were the absolute gold standard for me. Four consecutive years of getting a new DH bike every season, and those cranks came along for every one of them, while the RF Diabolous or Truvative Whatevers got sold as new take-offs. My best story wasn't actually mine, and is mentioned above, so I won't repeat it.

Onto the present-ish times now, and the 11spd group I bought for the soon-to-be mine custom hard tail that my buddy was whipping up for me Nov'17. I didn't have a lot of cash to throw down on the N+1 bike at the time, and needed to be pretty calculated about it. This was right before Chain Reaction stopped selling Shimano stuff, and I reasoned myself into an 11spd SLX set of Cranks, BB, Derailleur, chain and 2-pot brakes. I don't recall what the price of that package was, but it was borderline criminal. And fast forward to after 3+ years of 4-season thrashings, and everything's still on there being awesome, aside from the chain. As the rest of my bikes got brake upgrades over the last year or so, I was even able to purchase individual Deore 4-pot calipers (Thanks Shimano!) to upgrade those 3yo brakes, and they just pack so much power now. That stuff will probably last the life of the bike, at least in my hands.

Reply

Jotegir
+3 Mammal Pete Roggeman Cam McRae
Lu Kz  - March 26, 2021, 8:38 a.m.

For me it's gotta be using the fishing reels with Grandpa. Sorry bike stuff.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - March 26, 2021, 2:12 p.m.

I kinda wish I had Shimano fishing gear memories, but just didn't grow up fishing. Now I dream of learning to fly fish, but lots of idle time in good weather just sees me go riding instead...

Reply

dan
+2 Mammal Cam McRae Derek Baker samnation
Dan  - March 26, 2021, 9:11 a.m.

Came here for someone to nominate Saint Dual Control shifter/brakes... ;)

Reply

mammal
+2 Dan Ryan Walters Cam McRae samnation
Mammal  - March 26, 2021, 10:02 a.m.

Also Rapid-rise... These things will never get compliments.

Reply

denomerdano
+3 Ryan Walters AJ Barlas Cam McRae
Deniz Merdano  - March 26, 2021, 5:21 p.m.

I have a set of XTR M965 on my 2003 Spec Epic and they are the single most terrifying piece of equipment to offroad on. But no they are not coming off..

Reply

cxfahrer
+1 Pete Roggeman
cxfahrer  - March 26, 2021, 9:14 a.m.

Complete XT m730 21speed with Biopace. Fond memories of a rigid Cinelli grey/yellow, 1992.

Reply

sanesh-iyer
+6 Mammal Dan Pete Roggeman Deniz Merdano Metacomet Cam McRae
Sanesh Iyer  - March 26, 2021, 10:21 a.m.

The bleed funnel - Easy enough to use that you can top up your brakes as fast as you pump up your tires (aka right before a ride, trailside). Lets you regularly and easily inspect your brake fluid so bleeding isn't about feel or guessing.

Reply

rwalters
+2 Sanesh Iyer Mammal
Ryan Walters  - March 28, 2021, 11:39 a.m.

Please tell me you don’t ride with a bleed funnel in your pack. I refuse to believe that trailside brake bleeds are a thing.

Reply

sanesh-iyer
+3 Ryan Walters Pete Roggeman Mammal
Sanesh Iyer  - March 28, 2021, 12:05 p.m.

Yeah man, I do it before I drop into bobsled! 

No I don't usually keep one in my pack. But when I am guiding, travelling w/bike, or doing shuttle days there's usually one nearby. It's never for my bike, but someone inevitably has a janky setup. I once rented a bike in Zermatt that needed a brake bleed, shifting adjustment, and wheel true before I went out. The rental shop said the bike was in perfect shape so I did it right outside their shop. You can bet they weren't stoked, but for that price and the shitty service I received I really could care less. I would have detonated that bike in the condition they rented it to me and it came back better than when I took it out.

Reply

mammal
+1 Sanesh Iyer
Mammal  - March 31, 2021, 11:49 a.m.

I'd probably never stop laughing if someone carried a funnel 24/7. But that said, it's easy enough that it could be a thing. WAY quicker that installing a tube.

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cam@nsmb.com
+1 Sanesh Iyer
Cam McRae  - April 1, 2021, 8:26 a.m.

One of our riding buddies used to roll with a spare Hayes line on big rides. He swapped his line and did a bleed partway down the Monster in Kaslo. Was a thing to behold.

Reply

sanesh-iyer
0
Sanesh Iyer  - April 1, 2021, 8:30 a.m.

I can't tell if you're April foolsing or not. But I might have a new hero.

Reply

andy-eunson
+4 Mammal Dan Pete Roggeman Sandy James Oates
Andy Eunson  - March 26, 2021, 11:05 a.m.

My second mountain bike was a Fisher Montare that came with the first Shimano mountain bike group. Deore with the deer head emblem. I recall their first mountain bike specific freewheel. At a product knowledge seminar attended by many shops the rep proclaimed that it was sealed. Pippin asked if we could inject grease with a Phil Wood injector when it got dirty. The rep said it was sealed. Pip said yeah but can you inject it with grease when it got dirty. This went back and forth a few times until the rep finally conceded that maybe Vancouver had different conditions than California where he was from. Still, those free wheels were good. And the brakes had toe in adjust dealies whereas the Mafac brakes we had been using you just bent with a bfw. Better retrofriction shifters too. And I think when XT came out there were grease ports in the hub dust caps.

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pete@nsmb.com
+1 Andy Eunson
Pete Roggeman  - March 26, 2021, 2:13 p.m.

Pippin Osborne? The legend himself.

Reply

andy-eunson
0
Andy Eunson  - March 26, 2021, 5:01 p.m.

Yes. He passed away recently. Not that old either.

Reply

sieneke
+3 Pete Roggeman Cam McRae Mammal
Sieneke Toering  - March 28, 2021, 9:53 a.m.

O no, so sad to have been told about this message. Pip was my neighbour for the past 8 years, and he'd always come check out my new bikes and talk about Horst Links. Not long ago he went to hospice and I wondered how he was fairing, knowing that he was very ill. I miss waving at him on his front steps, but know that he'll be out of pain now. He left Lower Lonsdale with a 'peace out!'. Rest in peace to you, good neighbour.

Reply

NealWood
+2 Pete Roggeman Cam McRae
NealWood  - March 28, 2021, 5:35 p.m.

Worked with Pip for 8 years at Syncros.  He was a special guy. He really kept to himself so none of us knew until it was too late. The guy lived a life that's for sure.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+2 Mammal Derek Baker
Pete Roggeman  - March 29, 2021, 9:33 a.m.

We just got wind of this as well and I was a bit dismayed that we hadn't heard it through the grapevine somehow. Pippin is for sure deserving of a tribute of some sort. We'll put out a call for stories, anecdotes, etc, and see if we can't pull something together.

Reply

rwalters
+6 Deniz Merdano Mammal AJ Barlas Pete Roggeman Cam McRae Derek Baker
Ryan Walters  - March 26, 2021, 9:06 p.m.

I’m surprised no one has mentioned these pedals yet:

Shimano DX

Reply

denomerdano
+2 Ryan Walters Pete Roggeman
Deniz Merdano  - March 26, 2021, 10:31 p.m.

They were the invitation to the clipped in darkside for me..

I just couldn't resist..

Reply

pepperJerome
+1 Pete Roggeman
pepperJerome  - March 29, 2021, 7:26 a.m.

thank you for mentioning the pedals, I still have a well worn set. These are the last pair of clipless pedals I have owned. I have switched to flat pedals for the last 20 years

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pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - March 29, 2021, 9:34 a.m.

I never owned any or they would have been right up there!

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mammal
0
Mammal  - March 31, 2021, 11:53 a.m.

These were my first set of clips in 2002, on my '02 Norco Shore with boxxers. Moved onto the black/grey models after that. The newer generation with composite platforms never quite had the same retention force as these did.

Reply

ridestuff
0
Derek Baker  - April 2, 2021, 12:19 p.m.

Still have a working set (actually all my old Shimano SPD pedals are still in brilliant shape!) as well!

Reply

Squint
+4 Mammal Ryan Walters Pete Roggeman Cam McRae
Squint  - March 26, 2021, 9:39 p.m.

Wow this article made me realize how much legacy Shimano stuff I have, starting with the XT- equipped 1992 GT Team Avalanche that's still in the garage, complete with Servo Wave. The first-gen rapid fire shifters blew up after about 6 months, so I hacksawed the mounts off and went thumb shifters, which finally gave up a few years back.

I have a set of those red DX pedals, they look a lot worse than those pictured but still work fine. Those M737s look familiar too but mine are too beat up to find a model number. 

Those shoes look similar to a pair I've had since the early 90's (label long worn off), they've been completely soaked through countless times and I wore them just today riding to work; even the velcro is still good. I think they have the original cleats in them, and they clip just fine into the Saint pedals I bought last week.  I have 20+ year old tools that still work on current products.

I think that's why Shimano has been the stand out for my entire cycling experience; compatibility seems to be forever and the stuff just lasts. And same as the praise we hear today for Deore and SLX, the mechanics in the shop I worked at in the early 90s swore by DX; just as good as XTR, but cheaper and tougher.

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trumpstinyhands
+2 Pete Roggeman Derek Baker
trumpstinyhands  - March 28, 2021, 8:25 a.m.

7 sp XT thumbshifters with the 'extra' click so you could still use them with 8 speed. Mounted upside down (so with the RH shifter under the LH brake lever) for better ergonomics, other than needing 10cm long thumbs to get into first gear ;) 

Re. Rapid Rise, possibly still the fastest shifting I've experienced was 8 speed (I think) XTR Rapid Rise. But yes, weak derailleur springs seemed to kill that idea off.

Reply

andy-eunson
+1 Cam McRae
Andy Eunson  - March 28, 2021, 11:25 a.m.

Didja know they made rowing shoes and cleat system? https://www.shimano.com/en/manufacturing/rowing.html

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+1 Andy Eunson
Pete Roggeman  - March 29, 2021, 9:36 a.m.

Only discovered that when I got this press release and went to the website! They're new to that game, but I'll bet they're killing it.

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - March 29, 2021, 11:06 p.m.

Considering what they replace, these are a long time coming.

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insectoid
+1 Pete Roggeman
insectoid  - March 28, 2021, 7:10 p.m.

I still ride XTR M910 cantilever brake levers hooked up to my mechanical disc brakes. M739 8-speed shifter pods were also amazing. Absolutely solid, predictable clicks that always shifted right. 

As for rivals to Shimano, I am surprised no one has brought up Suntour- they made the only shifter that I have loved more than M730 thumbshifters- the Suntour XC Pro Shimano-compatible 8-speed thumbshifter.

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pete@nsmb.com
+1 Mammal
Pete Roggeman  - March 29, 2021, 9:38 a.m.

I mentioned SR Suntour in my section, but this was really about our cherished old Shimano gear, not everything that ruled back in the day. However, my dad still has a Bridgestone MB-4 with SR Suntour thumbies and they still feel amazing.

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mammal
0
Mammal  - March 31, 2021, 11:53 a.m.

Such a nice frame!

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - March 29, 2021, 11:07 p.m.

All XC  Pro stuff was amazing. Not quite equal to Superbe Pro, but a close second.

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velocipedestrian
+1 Mammal
Velocipedestrian  - March 29, 2021, 2:28 p.m.

DX shoes, the white with black accents version. Man those lasted a long time.

AM's favourite - the 970 shifter, mine is driving an Ultegra derailleur on a commuter. Though I feel the shifting might have finally been matched by the 780 driving a Zee (with the swish XTR cable/housing). 

The earliest strong Shimano memory however, goes to upgrading the rear derailleur on my Diamondback Ascent EX from SIS to STX. So satisfying to ~12 year old me.

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kurt-adams
0
Kurt Adams  - March 30, 2021, 8:40 p.m.

PD-M520.

Enough said.

Pedals, damn Shimano makes great pedals.

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mammal
0
Mammal  - March 31, 2021, 11:57 a.m.

For me, it's the PD-530. I think I bought 3 pairs between 2010-2015 for around $30 each, and they're still all working well. One set on my Ripmo AF, and one set on my hard tail, currently.

Reply

JLW124
+1 Cam McRae
Jason Wolfe  - April 1, 2021, 8:14 a.m.

In the early 80s the roughly 10-year old me coveted the DX freewheel on his BMX bike for the sole reason it was chrome-plated and all of the others were black.  Chrome-everything was a thing back then.  Been in the Shimano camp ever since save for a few dark years.

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