Mountain bike icon Brian Lopes has explained his mid-season sponsor switch from Shimano drivetrains and Hayes brakes to SRAM drivetrains and Avid brakes.
Lopes was sponsored by Shimano for all but two years – the Volvo-Cannondale squad was sponsored SRAM GripShift – of his storied career. “My relationship with Shimano was pretty much from the beginning,” the former four-cross, dual slalom and BMX champ told BikeRadar.
He cited SRAM’s recent high-profile product developments and their close relationships with athletes through the BlackBox program as key factors in his decision to switch. It was former riding buddy Chris Hilton, now SRAM’s drivetrain product manager, who made the internal case to hire Lopes mid-season – a time when sponsorship budgets are, for the most part, already allocated.
“Basically, it all kind of happened because of the relationship with Chris," said Lopes. "He was the instigator, but obviously SRAM have a lot of cool stuff that’s been coming out and, I mean, I like cool new rad stuff!”
Hilton and Lopes have known each other since the late ’90s when Hilton worked as Easton’s component product manager. Both lived in Laguna Beach, California and ended up riding together often. Hilton brought Lopes on to help develop Easton’s line during that time. Now, a decade later, he sees Lopes as a valuable asset to develop SRAM drivetrain components.
“My job is to develop bad-ass product,” said Hilton. “My interest in Brian is as a product tester and guinea pig to assist in development. It’s about how he can help me make the product better.”
Hilton said it's often hard to get decent feedback from athletes whose primary job is to win races because their schedules are too packed and they don’t have the time to do multi-day test sessions throughout the year. That’s where he sees Lopes stepping in.
“Brian brings the perspective of a highly technical, very precise application [dual slalom and 4X] where control of the bike is everything, shifts are everything,” said Hilton. “He has a unique view of the control centre and cockpit of a bicycle.
"As a downhill and dual slalom guy he’s less thinking about it a two or three hour perspective, but more of a 45 second to five minute perspective, which might be closer to what an actual consumer might focus on just riding trails.” Lopes will continue with Marzocchi suspension forks and shocks through the 2011 season.