Welcome to the World Headquarters. We like bikes.
Red is the color of choice and bike parts are the decor dujour.
Willy Nelson, Engineering Tech, can't talk about what he is working on.
The walls are lined with bits and pieces from the company's long history.
The offices were pretty sparsely populated, as everyone was preparing for Eurobike and Interbike.
Rich Scutellaro, Event Manager, doesn't have to do Eurobike or Interbike. Lucky bastard.
"Hey, can we go in there?" The door reads "test lab" and I really want to take a quick peak. "Um. No."
The walls still have a surprising number of Lance Armstrong pictures and posters. "We're moving soon."
Everything tastes better microwaved in a red kitchen. It's a fact.
Autographed posters, pictures and jerseys hang everywhere.
Just a hop, skip and a jump from downtown Chicago.
So what is a bike geek supposed to do when he finds out he’s going to have to leave his California comforts and spend a week in the Windy City?
Well, the first thing he does is get on Strava to map out the best routes in Chicago. Turns out there is really only one. Up and down Sheridan Road and back along the adjacent Lake Michigan bike path. I kid you not. Almost all of the first fifty route hits were some variation of this out and back.
The second thing he does is bug his buddy, the PR guru, to get him in the door at SRAM World Headquarters.
“Are you going to write about how cool 1X is on mountain bike?” the PR guy asks.
“Sure,” I reply.
That does the trick. I’m in. I’m stoked.
I got my first piece of SRAM one Christmas a million years ago. My mother-in-law had asked my wife what I wanted and miraculously she told her I wanted Grip Shift X-ray.
Now, these might not have been the best shifters of all time, but they were super cool looking and the women in my life were buying me bike parts. How awesome is that?
Anyway, on day four of my trip, I suddenly found myself inside the hallowed grounds of the company that gave us an alternative to Shimano and Campagnolo. They’ve brought us Powerglide Chainrings, X-sync chain control, some of the best shifting front derailleurs ever, an impressive 1X mtb group (see what I did there), a 1X cyclocross group, the Quarq power meter, a relaunched HydroR brake system, and the list goes on.
Inside the building I tried to dawdle at every desk and in every room. I had a brief sit down with Ron Ritzler, category manager for all things drivetrain, thought about asking for a test ride and kept my eye out for the schwag closet. A good percentage of the staff was out—either prepping for the big bike expos or sneaking in a little vacation time—so the building was emptier than normal.
As my tour came to an end, I made a couple quick observations about life at World Headquarters. Even though the only vertical feet the SRAM riders seem to get on the bike are the numerous speed bumps on their one route, that doesn’t seem to stop them from being skinny and fit. For some reason, working there must make you happy and pleasant because everyone was super sweet and smiley. They are hoarders. The place is covered with memorabilia, former art projects, parts from yesteryear and top secret things we are not allowed to talk about. And finally, it turns out that even though they only have one bike route, they are a bunch of bike geeks just like me.