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 6: German Möhren – Germans Cycles
Being one of the first ever dedicated mountain bike shops in western Germany in the late 1980s, you provided high-end mountain bikes and parts to riders. How did that happen?
Back in 1983/84, I used to work in one of the first outdoor shops in Frankfurt/Main. It was then, that I got hold of a French frame builder’s flyer – probably one of the first to build mountain bikes in Europe. That got me fascinated with mountain biking and soon after, I ordered two MTB build kits. Building them up and riding was a lot of fun. A bit later, in 1986, I founded my company ‘Germans Cycles’.
In 2012, you ended the Germans brand closed your bike shop. What were the reasons for that, are the still relevant today?
The main reason for closing my company was the internet and, as a consequence, customers’ buying behaviour. Of course, there has always been competition, but in the past, you could stand out from the crowd by providing good advice and service. But suddenly, more and more people only requested advice while never planning to buy anything from our shop. At some point, you become frustrated and upset about this. So, being open towards potential new customers became difficult and I didn’t want to continue like that. This left me with two decisions; to become a pure salesman or take a harsh decision. I went for the latter. In fact, these reasons would be even more relevant today. The power of the big internet vendors is equally as impressive as it’s scary; a huge range, fast delivery and good warranty management! This often leaves small manufacturers or bike shops with nothing, even if they have generous customers. So, I wonder what towns will look like in the future?
You yourself wrote mountain bike history in Germany and Europe. Do you miss the intensity of the early days in mountain biking? Was everything better in the old days?
In the early years everything was new and one was excited about the smallest innovation. Some manufacturers attracted attention with only one new part and many innovators served small market niches. Like myself, most companies started quite modestly – hard to imagine nowadays. Definitely, everything was far more authentic.
As former distributor of famous brands such as Yeti or Salsa, what’s your favourite frame?
Even if Yeti’s John Parker would kill me for this statement; that would be the ‘Punisher’ from Extreme Performance Products. Like Yeti it was made of certified aircraft tubing, the frame was powder coated. Featuring a great attention to detail and a very straight look. All frame parts like such as the bottom bracket shell, dropouts and brake bosses were Extreme’s proprietary development, and manufactured by the company itself. Manufacturing quality was very high for that time, though unfortunately, the brand could not assert itself on the market.
What’s your summary of the time when you were developing and managing the Germans Cycles brand and your own bike shop?
It was a leap into the unknown, an adventure. Fortunately and through a lot of hard work, our business developed very positively. A very intense period with a lot of great and some negative experiences. But the plus side outweighs the negative by far, which led to my drastic decision to close my company; this enabled me to finish on a high. 26 years of hard work is a long time.
You closed your bike shop back in 2012, what have you been up to in recent years?
At first, I was busy with the closure of my company, which took me quite some time. And after that I was no longer interested in the professional aspect of bicycling. Two years ago, I went for a bike trip through the French Alps with some friends, riding as many mountain passes as possible. Last year, we climbed to the top of Mount Ventoux three times in a row, riding from three different directions. So, my passion for cycling is still alive and I now have the time for such adventures!