Who was first? This questions often pops up in regard to mountain bike history in Europe. Just as in the US, the MTB’s motherland, there’s not just one name that fits the description. In the US it’s not all about Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze and the like, who can be acknowledged as the founding fathers of the sport and culture of mountain biking.
Part 4: Markus Storck – Storck Bicycle
How did you come into contact with mountain biking?
By riding one of the first ever mountain bikes available: Raleigh’s “Grafter” in 1980. At that time, most people were not familiar with the term mountain bike, in the early 1980s it was often sold as a 26”-BMX. Initially, German bicycle dealers were sceptical towards mountain bikes, due to their negative experiences with BMX bikes. Looking back, it’s funny that we lacked proper riding gear; we even wore used military boots for riding.
When did you realize the great potential of the mountain bike?
I was pretty much convinced of the MTB’s success early on and urged my father to sell mountain bikes in his cycling shop in Frankfurt/Main. Actually, we soon started selling Schauff bikes and went on to import US brands, Cannondale being among them. We first sold Cannondale panniers, followed by their first road bikes in the early 1980s, before presenting the first Cannondale mountain bike in 1985, featuring a 26” front and a 24” rear wheel. When I founded Bike-tech in 1987, we started to import Klein Bicycles. Bike-tech’s first piece of equipment was a brake booster for canti style brakes, allowing for precise lateral adjustment to various rim/ tyre widths. We produced the first Bike-tech mountain bike in 1987/88.
Along with Dr. Eric Gross you developed one of the first efficient full-suspension bikes for your second bike brand 2-Danger. Back then, little was known about full-suspension bikes – what was the biggest challenge during development?
Calculating the suspension kinematics was truly challenging and Dr. Eric Groß had to use the main frame computer of the Technical Univer- sity Hamburg-Harburg to do that. By paying attention to the smallest of details, one of our early full suspension prototypes didn’t meet our quality standards, due to a little bit too much chain tension. Therefore, we decided against a production run, despite the loss of 200,000 D-Marks in development costs, plus losses in sales.
Around 1999, Storck released the futuristic full-carbon full-suspension model „Organic“. Mainly an attention-grabber, or Storck’s best development ever?
No, we actually built 325 Organics and we sold almost all of them. German carbon specialist Thomas Mertin of THM Carbones brought in his carbon expertise and Dr. Eric Groß did all the calculation for the frame and kinematics. The Organic’s special four-bar-linkage was an original innovation by Norbert Nattefort. We were happy to win the famous Red Dot Design Award with the Organic in 2000, which demonstrates that bicycles are worthy museum exhibits. Of course, the Organic was not only about highend design, but also offered the best possible function. If a bike disappoints function-wise, your customers will realize at some point.