Shimano Organizes Shimano Suzuka Road, One of Japan’s Biggest Cycle Sports Events

Shimano Suzuka Road

Shimano Suzuka Road Shimano Suzuka Road
Shimano Suzuka Road is one of Japan’s biggest cycle sports events in which a wide range of people can participate, from entry- to top-level racers in and from outside Japan and from children to adults. It started in 1984 and was originally called the Shimano Greenpia Road, which took place in Greenpia Miki in Hyogo Prefecture (from the 9th edition, the venue was changed to Suzuka Circuit and the event was renamed). Since then, Shimano Suzuka Road has been held 36 times (as of 2019). Every time it was held, the event has enhanced its system to entertain even more people, and the total number of participants has increased from about 1,000 in early times to about 15,000 at the largest.

Yozo Shimano (the then Manager of the Marketing Department), who has a profound knowledge of European road races and took the leadership in holding the event, once explained the purpose of the event as follows: “Simply breaking a sweat at a competition-oriented event and winning or losing the race are not enough for much more people in Japan to learn about road races and enjoy them. I wondered how I could set up an event that would entertain not only riders but also spectators while maintaining the pleasure of competition.” Starting from the 1st Shimano Greenpia Road, employees have always operated the event in order to make road races attractive also to the eyes of spectators and to enliven this event so that spectators can be excited as much as riders.

Shimano Suzuka Road has been enjoyed by visitors and has developed and evolved with them. Shimano will continue to propose opportunities to enjoy cycling.

“Let’s Make It on Our Own” Were the Words with Which This Employee-led Road Race Festival Started

Everything about Shimano Suzuka Road started with the above words uttered by Yozo Shimano, then Vice President of the Marketing Department.

That was Shimano’s first attempt to run a race event. For about seven years until it held the 1st Shimano Greenpia Road in 1984, Shimano made various trials regarding events. For a racing course, Shimano selected a circuit track at Greenpia Miki, a then-public recreation facility for welfare pension contributors and recipients (in Hyogo Prefecture) so that more participants could enjoy the event. For the sake of visitors and, in the long run, for the sake of the bicycle industry—many employees with this passion engaged in the event from its planning phase. In the spirit of going down to the venue, sharing the same air with visitors, and providing services for them, these employees fulfilled a wide range of tasks to run the event on the day, including getting riders registered, calling them out, guiding them to the course, judging at the finish line, and giving first aid.

These efforts have continued at the 2nd and subsequent Shimano Suzuka Road, and improvements have been made every year. Some bicycle dealers make teams and bring their customers with them. An increasing number of manufacturers and exclusive distributors in the industry run a booth, and the event has been getting livelier year after year. Shimano Suzuka Road has been enjoyed by many people as Shimano’s festival of its own making where the industry unites as one and where bicycle lovers get together.
For the enjoyment not only of racers but also of spectators, stands were placed and a special open-air cafeteria was set up. Between races, a brass band performed to set the mood for the event.
To reproduce the atmosphere of cycling culture in overseas countries, the event invited noted riders from overseas, which was unusual in Japan in those days. The 4th Shimano Suzuka Road had Bernard Hinault as a guest. This star athlete, a five-time winner of the Tour de France, excited cycling fans.
The Milky Race started at the 15th edition. This race among preschoolers gained popularity as an opportunity for children to enjoy cycling while having fun with their parents, and it is still held today. (The photo is from 1999.)
As part of Shimano’s efforts to widen the circle of bicycle users, the Shimano Racing Team started subevents, including the Road Race School, which attracted many fans.
At the 28th edition, a class for women was added to the Team Time Trial. The number of categories in which female riders could participate increased to 38 as of the 36th edition held in 2019. Shimano Suzuka Road has become a road race event that has Japan’s greatest number of classes for female riders.
A safety training session for beginners started at the 29th edition. Intended participants were those who would make a debut appearance in a race and those who had little experience in racing. Shimano employees served as instructors and offered knowledge and tips on how to relieve concern for cycling in a group and ride safely. The session led to a sharp decrease in the number of accidents and clashes in the beginners’ class of the race.