MTB Pro and regular columnist Erik Kleinhans recently spent some time in Germany at the Team Topeak Ergon HQ and was treated to some top-secret Canyon bike testing.
With winter approaching in the Cape, I decided to book my flights a little early for a visit to our team home base, Koblenz. RTI is the company behind Team Topeak Ergon that writes the cheques and signs the contracts and also the importers of Topeak into Germany and the designers of top class Ergon products. While Canyon needs no introduction as the team equipment supplier.
Since arriving in Koblenz I was treated with so much care and love it just reminded me again why I love this incredible team so much! Boss-man, Dirk Juckwer, had me all settled in and soon after arriving I got a tour of the RTI building. Most of their products work on an import and distribution basis, like I got to know while working for Omnico in SA, but I have to admit, on a much smoother and German precision scale with no room for error or any miss-counts.
What stood out for me was the Ergon products, from the sport-scientists to the industrial designers that all have an influence to get the best ergonomic product out to the consumer. Also, the machinery to “cut/build” products for testing before finalising designs to manufacture moulds for production. It used to take weeks to get test products from the East, but now all those can be made in-house and reduce big time, making testing and getting the optimum product ready much sooner. They are excited to launch a new women‘s range of saddles and grips.
Canyon on the other hand grew so fast over the last years with more than 800 full-time employees at the moment in the head office and factories together. I needed two days to experience it all, starting with a tour through the head office and spectacular showroom.
Canyon is much more than just an online shop! You can get real special treatment if you take the trip to their showroom where you can test-ride any of their bikes. They have every size from every single model built and ready to ride, I saw them all standing there! Once decided on a bike they give you a full setup and one of the many mechanics will get it ready for you while you have a complimentary coffee in the bistro.
You can also send your bike to Canyon for a service or warrantee or whatever, they have a warehouse full of top mechanics that work on customer bikes from all over Europe. This massive workshop was incredible to see with 20, if not more mechanics, in a super kitted out and clean warehouse.
Needless to say, the R&D department was super interesting, but nothing I can share here with you! Even more so the testing area where all forks and stems get X-rayed to make sure there are not even the slightest fractures after production to risk your safety. So do not think you will get away with sending your fork back claiming a fault … they have an x-ray on file from every last one to confirm your claim 😉 Also, to see the fatigue tests on all their products gave me so much comfort with the assurance that it will be safe going down a pass at 100km/h and even hitting a bump.
Then there is the sales building with stacks of people on the phone and mail helping customers, the media department with some photographers and videographer I knew from the Epic, marketing and social media, all the different product managers, and at the end the online boys(everything stops with them), pictures of final products, finely displayed so you can drool over them and just ‘add-to-basket’ as many times as you like!
Another day was needed to test-ride an all new racing machine that will be launched around the beginning of next year. Man, that bike was so fast and smooth, I had a big smile on my face for the full 2h30 ride, cannot wait! And then we visited their new factory in the afternoon. That was so impressive to see! This incredible big, black building that gave me goosebumps. Inside the storage was incredible, stacked so high and just narrow enough that the forklifts get steered manually down the alleys to get to product as high as 20 meters.
The organisation of all the products arriving from all over the world to use for building the bikes is still something I cannot understand on how they get it right. From sorting it to getting the right parts to the right station where the bikes get built, 20 at a time, moving from station to station where a single person at each one is responsible for one task only. Starting with the frame and cockpit till it ends up as a complete bike with final testers riding the bikes up and down this magnificent warehouse, setting everything perfect before it goes into a box, ready for a customer order.
Thank you, Julian and Johannes, for this amazing experience at Canyon! Thank you, Andy, Dirk and all at RTI for making me feel right at home! And Andy, Julian, Johannes, Sebastian and everyone that works for one of these two amazing companies that was so kind in taking me out for a ride or greeting me along the roads!