One of the best known faces, and voices… in the Australian bicycle industry is retiring on Friday 15th December after a lifetime of deep immersion in all aspects of cycling.
When I first started Bicycling Australia magazine, Rob featured prominently as a mountain bike racer, including our front cover photo in late 1993 when he won both the cross country and downhill national titles in the same year.
In those years he worked for Graeme Southcott managing the all-conquering GT team. Rob also briefly worked at Steve Cramer Products as a Rockshox suspension technician. But it’s with SRAM that Rob’s name is synonymous.
“When I started with SRAM we had plastic GripShifts, a couple of other products and were a $65 million company,” he recalled. “Let’s just say we’re not that size anymore!” SRAM remains a private company that is not required to publish financial information, but according to Wikipedia, in 2020 SRAM was just under US$1 billion in sales (A$1.51 billion) with 3,500 employees.
“I’m one of what they call Foundation Members,” Rob continued. When I joined there were only 60 staff and now only 30 of us are left who have worked at SRAM for 25 years or more.
“I have absolute respect for the Day brothers (primary co-founders and managers Stan and F.K. Day) and the other senior managers there. I think the Day family have been saints of the industry. I think Stan (who was CEO for many years) should be given sainthood for what he’s done for the global bicycle industry. He opened up the industry by breaking the Shimano monopoly, something that no-one else had been able to do.
“They allowed me to build the Australian office and streamline our distribution.”
As anyone who has met Rob would know, he’s hyperactive, fast talking and high energy. So retirement will certainly not involve sitting around and playing some occasional golf.
“I’ve invested heavily in Warburton, buying four adjoining properties and doing them up to be a bike stay venue for mountain bikers,” said Rob, who was literally painting the fence of this compound when I called him. Warburton which is about 1 ½ hours east of Melbourne, is set to become one of Australia’s biggest MTB venues.
“I’ve also got the contract to do the watering and lawn maintenance of the new pump track here, which I think is the best pump track in Australia.
“In January I’m working as a contractor at the Tour Down Under. I’m also going to be doing some gravel rides and other ‘credit card touring’ with Phil Anderson and some guests.
“My last official day with SRAM is on 15th December but on 16th December we’re all going for a big mountain bike ride to celebrate.
“I’m not just going to say, ‘I don’t care anymore.’ I’ll be a SRAM ambassador for life. It’s been an incredible ride and I’ve enjoyed every second of it.”
Rob said that for now, a direct replacement has not been named and that his long time colleague Dave Evans would be taking up dual duties.