Staff Rides – Aston's European-Made Nicolai GeoMetron Super Bike
It's not my intention to kick-start an all-out war in the comments section below over issues such as the global economy or environmental degradation. But I am interested in the concept of buying local; it's a positive thing... it saves on shipping costs, import taxes, fossil fuels, and you have more insight into who produced your products, how they are made and why. Who can argue against that? Actually buying local, however, is often easier said than done. If you want a banana, like really need a banana, and you don't live in Ecuador or Madeira, you aren't going to pop out and buy a bunch from the local farm shop. The same applies with technology, most Westerners want or need a smartphone, but you can't visit your local computer shop and order a custom phone just for you.Unlike these products, building mountain bikes and components already happens all over the world, though the majority are still produced in Taiwan or China for financial reasons. That said, I have been witnessing a rapidly increasing trend of manufacturing coming back to the EU. We should bear in mind that it was only around twenty to thirty years ago that the rush to the east started. Before that, there were millions of bikes being made in Europe, with a hotbed of activity around Northern Italy and Spain as well as Southern France.Many companies inspired me to take on this project, fueled by conversations with engineers and manufacturers who were proud of building their own products under their own watchful eyes, instead of conversing over the internet, flying thousands of kilometres back and forth, battling language barriers and calculating long-term inventory and shipping times.
The seed was sown three years ago with the following anecdote: Over dinner, Neil Wilkinson from Superstar Components mentioned that a shipment of his pedals were late by several months. Wilkinson's estimated losses from being out of stock were so large he decided it was better to buy the CNC machine needed and just make his next batch of pedals himself. I won't repeat his numbers, but those machines cost six-figures in anybody's currency.It got me thinking... Could I build a bike that I actually wanted to ride, entirely manufactured in my home continent, Europe? I'll cut to the chase, I didn't quite wind up with a 100-percent EU-built bike, but the process proved an interesting journey. Here's a low-down on this super-bike, from front to back.
Renthal Ultra-Tacky Push On GripsSo, I thought with all of the 'Made in Great Britain' history of Renthal products that I would just order some grips and a handlebar, and be done with it. Easy. First box ticked, right? Not so fast. It turns out that every straight-gauge bar Renthal has ever made was in the UK, mostly for motorcycles and even BMX race handlebars. When mountain bikers decided they didn't like an MX-style bolt-on crossbar for added strength, we moved to fancy swaged tubes that are thicker at the stem clamping area than the grip area. The production of the FatBar we all know (and subsequently the carbon versions) have all been produced in Asia. Renthal now have a machine to swage tubing for oversize clamping areas in the UK and are making some MX bars, but currently do not have the capacity to add the MTB products to the line.
|Renthal grips have always been produced right here in the UK. Wherever possible, we like to manufacture in the UK, allowing us the tightest possible control of production and quality. It also helps speed the development of new products and ensures that our exclusive grip compounds are only ever used to produce Renthal grips.—Ian Collins – Cycle Product Marketing Manager|
Magura MT-T Brakes
In 2011 we started to build a new facility in Hengen, nearby our headquarters in Bad Urach, Germany. The reason why is that Magura's owner wanted to guarantee our employees' jobs here. As you know, Magura has a long tradition and we will have our 125-year jubilee in 2018. Magura is not a start-up company, but a company with long-term values: knowledge, engineering, Swabian and success. Nevertheless, we also have a high-level of knowledge in our value chain. As you might know, we produce our brakes on our own. Most of the parts for either powersports or bicycles come from our own composite production nearby. This is also one of several reasons to commit to the German factory location. Short delivery distances and having the technology, engineering, R+D, and production close together make life easier and more effective.—Götz Braun – Head of Marketing
Concerning the MT-T brake we have the perfect collaboration of our Magura factories in Asia and Hengen, in the end we say "made in Germany" because the final assembly is in Hengen. The caliper is delivered from Asia to Germany, the master cylinder is produced itself in Germany, The mounting is done by our German facility. The HC3 lever comes from our facility in Asia and is also mounted in our high-end products. One of the most interesting and most efficient things is, that on one hand, we have our own delivery partner - Magura Asia, and our own assembly facility in Hengen. This is important to combine cost control, delivery control, supply chain and in the end keeping the high-level knowledge in-house.
Intend Grace Stem, Stiffmaster Headset and Edge Fork
|Manufacturing my parts here in Germany makes it possible for me to make small series with a very high quality, and to have a great partnership with my suppliers. Shipping times and prices for customers are low and that's a real benefit. For my business size, it would not be possible to visit a supplier in Taiwan or simply call them if there are problems. Here in Germany, I have a direct wire to the milling and lathing company, and that is worth it.—Cornelius Kapfinger – Everything at Intend|
Nicolai Mojo GeoMetron GPI Frame
|We used a European supplier because I've always been suspicious of the reasons for going to Taiwan to get stuff made... it's essentially cheaper because there's not so much protection and remuneration for the workers and less environmental protection. I quite like people and our planet! It's cheaper to buy but the planet pays and so do the workers... they essentially subsidize our cheap Taiwanese frames (and the expensive ones made by the same people in the same factories... Factories which don't have logos you would recognize as a 'bike company') I also like to work with local people 'cos I'm not a fan of planes and shipping things in them! Not sustainable... Nicolai have been great with us, very brave! Kalle and the crew have the skills needed to make bikes here in the EU, use 'em or lose 'em (that goes for the EU too)...—Chris Porter – GeoMetron Bikes|
Nicolai is not a bike company; it is a rare species of frame manufacturer with 100% in-house production. And “in-house” can be taken literally in this case. Up until today, the entire Nicolai staff, thus all skills but also the entire machinery, have been located in a reconstructed farmhouse from the 19th century. And how could it be otherwise? Kalle lives in this house with his family as well. This local production is eco-friendly and creates a unique working atmosphere. Working from home is one reason why Nicolai and his team of engineers, welders, mechanics, and racers are always ahead of the pack when it comes to cutting-edge technology. Nicolai is a pioneer in matters of gearbox technology, belt drive integration and a revolutionary new geometry approach called GeoMetron and described as our “Geolution”. One could think that innovative power and success would inevitably go hand in hand with the material carbon. But for Nicolai, aluminium offers a wide range of advantages: Only aluminium frames can be 100% customized, modified subsequently, up-cycled and reused infinitely. Instead of hydroforming, which is now part of the mainstream, Nicolai banks on straight tubes, almost out-of-space CNC-milled gussets and rocker arms.—Vincent Stoyhe – Nicolai Marketing
“As of spring 2018, we will move to a bigger factory,” Kalle tells me proudly. “With that step, we can make progress in manufacturing technology, run more 5-axis CNC milling machines, start using robot welding and metal printing.” The new home will not be located at an infrastructural hotspot in a new building, but only a few kilometres away from the headquarters in a rural area, a factory restored by Nicolai.
|Manufacturing in Europe represents a significant part of EXT Racing Shox philosophy. It provides high-skilled partners and enables us to produce technologies that meet our needs. Firstly, we are a racing company and building here allows us to have everything under control within a maximum 100km range. This helps to constantly improve our technologies and products. It's better to source a component from a manufacturer who is aware of this knowledge and puts high-class craftsmanship in order to deliver a totally high-end and dedicated racing product. We strongly believe in Italian quality and innovations.—Daniele Addamo – EXT Marketing|
|A number of my fellow editors have asked, "Wait, isn't the maintenance-free and super-reliable thing supposed to be the big selling point with gearboxes?"—Paul Aston|
A Pinion gearbox consists of more than 140 pieces. Each piece is designed and developed by our engineers at our headquarters in Denkendorf, near Stuttgart (GER). As you can imagine, every single piece must work 100%. Otherwise, the precision of the following 139 pieces is useless… For the production of the components, we rely on our regional network of suppliers in Germany. Most of them are regional and we really appreciate to have it the “short way”.—Andrea Escher – Pinion Marketing
Our gearbox is 100% “Made in Germany”. Our aim was to transfer the technology from a car to a bike. As you know, the German automobile industry is at the top level. Our partners are medium-sized companies that have been working to the standards of the automobile industries for decades. The outstanding quality of the suppliers in the automobile industry is a big advantage for us.
Superstar Nano Pedals
|We've started manufacturing in the UK as the bike industry and market has changed drastically over the past five years. Venture capital funds have invested money, big brands have been content with making losses to win market share and it’s slowly killing off the direct sale of re-badged catalog goods. Where once we were pioneers, now we’re one of many, and we knew we had to change and make ourselves stand out from the crowd of catalog part pushers. Coupled with this, lead times were causing a nightmare for stock control and the fall of the pound against the dollar left us high and dry. So we changed. We invested. We brought the manufacturing in-house, and we did something different.—Neil Wilkinson – Superstar Components Owner|
|Outsourcing our production has never been an option. Initially, it was probably due to the facts that all we knew, but over the years we’ve become passionate about keeping things “in-house”. This approach ensures we have control over every aspect of the design and production of our components, from the quality control in every process, through to knowing all our employees work under ethical conditions. We can also guarantee that 100% of our metal waste is recycled and, although small at the moment we’re looking to do the same in our carbon production.—Alan Weatherill – Sales and Marketing Manager|
Mavic EX830 Rims and Claw Pro XL Front Tire
Since 1966 our rims are produced in our Saint Trivier Sur Moignans factory, France. Everything is designed in Annecy and then shipped to Romania for assembly – these are 'rims for wheels.' Some basic rims are produced in China under our control when the production process is very simple (pin joint, welded) and when no additional Mavic technology is involved such as ISM4D, Exalith treatment, Fore drilling or others.Some years ago, we started producing a few road rim models in China. Only the low-end models to avoid any transfer of technology and know-how. This is to reduce lead times and shipping for our Asian-based OEM customers and to reduce the cost for entry-level products. Since 2016, most of our MTB rims are manufactured there too, due to a lack of resources in our French plant, capacity here is used to produce 'rims for wheels' for our high-end models. In 2019, most MTB rims will be produced again in our St Trivier plant as we are currently investing to produce more here.—Michel Lethenet – Mavic Communication
We want to manufacture in Europe to manage our process from A to Z. France is the home of Mavic since 1889. Manufacture d’Articles Vélocipédiques Idoux and Chanel = MAVIC
Hutchinson Toro Rear Tire
Hutchinson has been making tires in France since 1890 and is the only bicycle tire producer in France, and produce tires on Mavic's behalf. The relationship with Mavic and Hutchinson goes way back to '99 when the brands developed the UST system together along with Michelin – a system I think has been overlooked in the industry, despite the collaborators trying to make it a standard from day one. Why do I think it has been overlooked? It is not a perfect solution, but it is the only tire and rim system to date that is designed to work in unity – the square locking beads of the rim and tire match each other, both are airtight so no sealant is needed, allowable bead stretch is measured and all of the above need to comply with independent lab testing to be allowed the UST badge. Basically, the UST system solved most of the tubeless problems that people still suffer from today nearly twenty years ago. Anyway, flying off on tangents aside, this tire isn't even a UST version and Hutchinson didn't have the 2.4" size available when I needed it. I opted for the 2.25" option which I split nearly resulting in the thrown bike mentioned above.I am looking forward to getting the size I needed soon, as I have been impressed by the Toro on short test rides in the past.
DT Swiss Competition Spokes and Squorx Pro Lock Nipples
Starting with the foundation of the United Wireworks 1634, just one mile away from the place where the DT Swiss Headquarter is located today. The home base in Biel, Switzerland is part of our DNA. Nevertheless, to meet the requirements of the big bicycle producers, as an internationally operating company we need to adapt ourselves. That means that we have production plants outside of Switzerland, like in Taiwan, USA and Poland, too.—Friso Lorscheider – DT Swiss Marketing
But especially when it comes to R&D, we find the best conditions here in Europe. Which means the product management, the engineering department and the test laboratories are located in Switzerland. The same is true as well for a big part of the spoke production and the production of reduced and bladed spokes.
Vecnum moveLOC 200mm Dropper Post
0% Loaded prev 1/5 next
Manufacturing in our own facilities in Germany, for us, is just much more advantageous compared to manufacturing in Asia or elsewhere. The main reasons here are ease of innovation and quality control. Having design, engineering, and manufacturing under one roof allows very fast innovation cycles from the start of an idea to the finished product. Also, having direct control over manufacturing and assembly without third-parties involved guarantees our high standards regarding product quality and customer service.—Matthias – Vecnum Marketing
Our products are 100% designed, engineered, manufactured and assembled in southern Germany in our own facilities. However, we still source some of our raw materials, such as aluminium blanks, from Asia.
66Sick Espacio Libre Saddle
|Yes, our saddles are made 100% made in Italy! Our cooperation with Selle Italia provides us with access to highest production quality standards and decades of experience in the saddle industry. It is a great pleasure to work with the industry market leader as our unique saddle shaping and design aspirations require passion and commitment from my whole team and all business partners to deliver a truly perfect end product to our customer. I personally review the quality of every saddle before it leaves our warehouse in Germany. Italy is not like overseas, it is just around the corner, which makes communication and collaboration much more efficient.—Sascha Meyenborg – CEO|
|When you first pose the question about whether or not a product is from the EU, the initial answer will be an assertive "Yes," but after digging deeper you find that it's not always 100% true.—Paul Aston|
Conclusion My biggest defeat was being beaten by the handlebar. I could have gone carbon with handlebars made in Germany, including BikeAhead Composites or Tune, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. With all of that glorious raw aluminum on display here, I wanted to keep this machine alloy all the way. I like this old Kore bar that came on my girlfriend's second-hand bike – it's 800mm wide with a 15mm rise. It was also one of the few bars that I had that would fit into the Intend Grace stem (the clamp design doesn't allow you to fit a high rise bar). Of course, you could probably nitpick a few more bits and pieces on the bike as not being truly EU-built. The rear sprockets were borrowed from an old cassette and not every single bolt or pedal pin is made in the EU, and materials are sourced from different places, but sometimes you just have to publish the article!I also learned this: When you first pose the question about whether or not a product is from the EU, the initial answer will be an assertive "Yes," but after digging deeper you find that it's not always 100% true. Things like pedal pins, bearings and seals often come from elsewhere in the world. Superstar conceded, for instance, that their axles are made by a specialist in Asia. The same cold-forged product can be made in the UK, but the minimum order of one million plus makes it impossible to go EU-built on that small piece of the puzzle.Finally, I found that just because something is made in the EU it doesn't necessarily mean it will be of a higher quality or perform better than products from the East. It also doesn't mean it will be in stock, arrive on time and or be impossible to break. Oh, and aside from the grips and pedals, it probably ain't going to be cheap either – excluding the handlebar, the bike as it stands is a few Euro's short of five figures.Is it any good? Well, of course, I love it, I have to after I just spent six months building the damn thing. I've had a few rides on it so far and have been blown away by the grip and downhill performance, though, not so much in the other direction. I will be tweaking the setup to make it more lively in the middle ground, I think I can easily sacrifice some of the traction and still be well within my limits but speed things up where grip is not needed. Expect more in-depth reviews of many of the components in the future as I get more time on them.