Revisiting SRAM Corp.

Two weeks ago, when I was in Chicago for IMTS, I visited SRAM Corporation.

Last week, investment bank and 40% equity owner of SRAM,  Lehman Brothers Holdings, collapsed. The bankrupt firm retains its reported $200 million stake in SRAM.  

This past Wednesday, at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, Lance Armstrong formerly announced his comeback to professional cycling. He joined the Astana Cycling Team. Astana rides SRAM components.

What a wild ride for SRAM. First my visit, then all of this other crazy stuff! Seriously, Armstrong’s return is significant, and apparently for a good cause (fighting cancer), but it doesn’t interest me very much. The performance enhancing drug debacle that has plagued the sport forever, isn’t going away just because he is returning to the peloton. I remain disinterested. It is likely that the scientists and pharmacists will have to develop something even more potent to overcome Armstrong and his cadre of doctors. Just think about how much new performance enhancing drug technology has been developed since he won his last Tour de France three years ago.

Armstrong has ridden Shimano components for most of his career. The shift to SRAM is a boon for them because of his popularity. With a bankrupt minority owner, this is likely good news for their future sales and their morale.

My tour of SRAM was fabulous. I had a gracious host from their engineering department and got to see most of their engineering, industrial design, marketing, prototype, and testing operations. All of their manufacturing is offshore, but much of their administration and R&D is in Chicago at their world headquarters. With Lehman’s stake valuing the firm at $500 million, it is evident that they have come a long way from the Grip-Shift days when founder, Stan Day, hatched his new concept on a shoe-string budget.

My June 2008 cover story in Today’s Machining World, has a nice coda to it since I have visited SRAM and now that Armstrong has become one of their new poster boys.

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