When my phone recently pinged with a text message from Wayne Stetina telling me that after 37 years he was leaving Shimano and taking a job with SRAM, my chin got scuffed when it hit the ground. People, this was big. Really big. How big? Think back to when the news broke that LeBron James was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Los Angeles Lakers, or when Tom Brady absconded from Boston and moved to Tampa Bay. In short, the idea that Wayne was moving from Shimano’s Irvine office in SoCal to SRAM’s Chicago abode was shocking.
In the most simple terms, I love Wayne Stetina. Wayne is a bike freak of the most fantastic variety and we’ve been trading barbs and handshakes for over three decades. As part of “the first family” of American road racing, Wayne’s race record includes every thing from winning the Little 500 in Indiana to competing in the Olympics, the Coors Classic and just about every other conceivable race imaginable. Wayne represents a fundamental chapter of cycling heritage. But beyond his five decade-plus renown as a racer, more importantly has been his role developing road and mountain bike components for Shimano.
IN WAYNE’S WORLD
Wayne, SRAM! What the heck are you talking about?!
Yeah, it’s going to be interesting see how this plays out, but I’m really excited about starting over with a competitor that I’ve long respected. I’m parting with Shimano on good terms and have to say that it’s actually been better than I thought it would be. Of course they were concerned about product confidentiality so I had to sign some papers, but I think their also aware of my history of integrity. In fact, even SRAM made me sign papers that would hold me responsible if there was ever any information passing over.
For as long as you and I have been discussing components, you’ve always been much bigger on Shimano.
You’re right and that’s because I’m really proud of everything we’ve accomplished there – and really if I wasn’t, what kind of legacy would I be leaving behind?! In my new position a “Senior Field Guide” I see an opportunity to concentrate on making better parts for road and gravel riders to use, as well as visiting shops and working with our sponsored teams.
SRAM and Campy have always been competitors for Shimano. Although to me their Double Tap components weren’t in the ballpark, it wasn’t until I tried e-Tap that I realized that they were a serious competitor, especially in regard to the ergonomics. I still think Shimano sets the bar and the new Dura Ace Di2 only raised the bar, but after having ridden e-Tap, I know SRAM can compete against it. Until now, my only relationship with SRAM had been in dealing with lawsuits!
What can you add about your days at Shimano?
I joined them back in 1984 when they launched the six-speed index shifting drivetrain. Back in those days when we had the AX group Shimano was the butt of the joke and honestly, I don’t think any of us could’ve imagined where they are now in terms of sales and racing success. Over the years I created a job at Shimano that worked extremely well for me. At one point my title was “VP & Road Product Specialist” and it allowed me to develop parts and still maintain a level of fitness to still race in the 50+ class!
You mentioned SRAM being more flexible with a remote office which allowed you to get out of SoCal. Now you’re up in the east coast mountains – what’s your riding schedule looking like these days?
Well, I haven’t lost my fitness yet! Although I delude myself that I can still ride well, it’s still easy for me to ride hard. I try to get in 3k to 5k of climbing a day within a 3 hour ride at 40 to 50 miles. If I know a ride camp is coming up or I know I’m going to go ride with my nephew (Peter Stetina) I can increase my workouts and be able to stay with them – as long as they stay conversational. The only problem is that their “conversational” level is at 300 watts!
The way I look at it, if you ride less than you want to, it stays fun. The moment when it becomes a job, the fun goes away. I’m okay with taking a day or two off the bike, but a week or two definitely becomes a problem!
Hey, does racing still improve the breed?
For components racing is the harshest test there is. Whether it’s over at the Classics or at the Unbound 200, the Pro riders will stress the parts more than any recreational rider ever could. Racing remains the ultimate proving ground.
Okay, will there still be derailleur cables in five years?
Oh for sure. I mean, they’ll be gone on the high-end bikes, but remember, it’s the $800 to $1000 bikes that are the bread and butter of the industry and they will still be pulling cables.
What about disc brakes?
Any last words?
I think you know me well enough to know that I never get tired of either riding or talking about bikes! I’m 68 years old, but still energetic with no intention of going anywhere (in terms of retiring). I think this will be the biggest challenge of my life and I’m really excited about it. To me it’s a bit like when I got started and Campagnolo was the big player. Campagnolo is still in the fight and Shimano remains a juggernaut. SRAM doesn’t need any help with the mountain bike product and my only goal is to be able to contribute to make some great road and gravel product
WAYNE ACCORDING TO JOE MURRAY
In the September issue of Mountain Bike Action I wrote a feature story on two-time NORBA National Champion Joe Murray who has also been long-time Shimano skunk works rider…when the subject of Wayne came up, the following is what he had to say…
Wayne Stetina is a legacy American road racer, yet he’s had a big impact with mountain bikes overseeing the Skunk team. How would you describe his role over the years?
I still remember the fax you sent him in the early 90s that read “Wayne you are an idiot” that he pinned above his desk. As you know, Wayne is a freak of nature. All he ever really wanted to do was ride his bike and ride it hard, yet he was a serious product guy and was made for the job at Shimano. They made him Vice President of the bicycle division and he hated it, so it was not long before he demoted himself back to being like the rest of the people in the office and just having to think about developing new products.
Wayne has always been a straight shooter, and way too serious. He did a lot for the testing protocol by mostly keeping everyone in line and pushing everyone to submit reports. He was a detail-oriented parts geek and we debated the details of parts and we were always related on that level. He was hard to drop on the fire roads.