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 7: Hans Schauff – Schauff
How did you get in involved with mountain bikes?
n the 1970s, we built a lot of bicycles for US industry customers and visited the annual International Cycle Show in New York. Hence, we were familiar with new trends early on and manufactured early BMX style bikes in 1974, which had developed from the so called ‘Highriser’ cycles. Taking inspiration from BMX bikes, at the request of our US customers, we built our first mountain bike prototypes in the summer of 1981. The very first Schauff off-road bike was displayed at the ISPO Munich 1981, named the “The Jeep on two wheels”. While the bike wasn’t well received by our German customers, thanks to our good contacts abroad, we soon produced mountain bikes for foreign markets, especially the British one with Muddy Fox being one of our biggest customers.
What convinced you of the strong future ahead for the MTB in Europe?
Against all naysayers, at Schauff, we believed in the potential of the mountain bike early on. Because roads were carrying more and more traffic and what was worse, as a cyclist, you were forced to use forestry trails to ride safely and undisturbed. But it was a true challenge to convince bike shops of the mountain bike’s worth. Often sports stores, and in particular the wind surfing scene, got more excited about mountain bikes. To further promote the mountain bike, we invited riders to the first ‘Velo Schauff Offroad Cup’ as early as 1985.
Along with the Schauff brand, you produced some of Europe’s first ever mountain bikes and even some of the first fullsuspension bikes in the early 1990s. What is Schauff’s most important achievement besides that?
(laughs) In 1992, a doctor from a well-known orthopaedic hospital approached us in search of a bicycle that his patients could easily ride as a means of rehabilitation after disc surgery. Common bikes didn’t fulfil the patients’ needs. So, we realised some prototypes based on our ‘Gran Canyon’, and these were tested by the clinic’s patients. Finally, we produced the “Ischia”, aka the ‘Intervertebral discs bike’.
The best selling mountain bike in Schauff’s history?
That’s a tough one, since before digitalisation, you didn’t archive all facts for more than ten years and most of our mountain bikes were built in that period. However, we sold more than 100,000 of the “Djungle” model, a mountain bike with a street compatible parts spec, before 1990.