Previously we took a look at 10 little-know German manufacturers making exciting stuff
. While Germany has a wealth of companies making cool things in-house, perhaps more than any other country in Europe, it's time to cast the net a bit further and look to the rest of continental Europe.
Garbaruk originated in Kyiv, Ukraine, but recently re-located to Krakow, Poland. Their portfolio consists nearly exclusively of drivetrain components. From things as small as jockey wheels to complete cassettes, each piece looks to be machined with exquisite detail.
Chainrings in all shapes, sizes, fitments, and colours use teeth profiles with extended heights and shapes to stop muck and grime collecting.
They offer cassettes for 10, 11 and 12-speed drivetrains on a variety of freehub bodies and also machine new derailleur cages to allow sizing up on your cassette with your current drivetrain. In most cases, their cassettes weigh slightly less than the SRAM or Shimano one it would replace. All but the largest cog is machined from a single block of steel and, according to RC, encroach so damn close to the performance of the top tier competitors.
Their derailleur pulleys look like pieces of jewellery and incorporate the mud shedding capabilities of their chainrings. If you’re at this level of bike component upgrading then these should be on your list for sure.Garbaruk's website
Taking a short break from Germany and going over the border to pastures of outstanding ice cream and coffee we arrive close to Venice, Italy, and to EXT.
EXT are a suspension manufacturer with a deep history steeped in multi-discipline racing. F1 is often touted as the blue ribbon event that all other industries take inspiration from, but something must be said for the vast differences in inputs, packages and performance criteria that span the tarmac and off-road genres for everything from cars to lifting jacks.
Focussing on the MTB world, EXT offer a range of coil spring dampers, coil springs, fluids and lubricants. Their dampers feature unique adjustments such as hydraulic bottom out control and get away with using very low IFP pressures in comparison to other brands.
As is now commonplace on this list, and in keeping with Italian fashion culture, their products are definitely one to take a minute to absorb all the details before it gets mounted and covered in muck.
They offer shocks compatible for enduro, trail and downhill applications. There’s a multitude of sizes on offer for metric, imperial, and trunnion lengths and each damper is custom built according to the bike it will live on and the rider’s weight and riding preferences. Their shocks also come with two springs, allowing the rider to swap it out depending on conditions, terrain and how much send the rider wants to get involved in on that particular day.EXT's website
Da Pilten could be one of the least known brands here. But nestled away in the Val Müstair region of Switzerland is someone who could only be described as a mad scientist, Sergio Tschenett.
Val Müstair is often described by people not in words but in a series of fond and warm noises. Anyone who has ridden or spent time there will know. It’s an absolute gem of an area.
On the face of it Da Pilten only make some custom headsets to adjust the angle and reach, axles, and cassette spacers. Personal experience with Sergio and Da Pilten comes from some specific projects at Scott with custom headsets and drop outs for single speed bikes to take a rear mech. As soon as the parcels arrived you could always see the quality of craftsmanship and that someone had thought about the small details. One of his custom headsets still sits on my desk as a reminder, while another has been in and out of about 4 bikes.
Bike specific projects expand further into custom pistons for shocks requiring clock making tools to do the necessary machining, offset crowns, designs of custom shocks, custom links for adjusting suspension or geometry, locking axles for stiffening the rear triangles of bikes and even complete full suspension bikes.
However, also lurking in their online shop is a trailer extension for carrying up to 24 bikes, and this is where it gets really interesting.
Da Pilten is one part of a group of small companies that can literally turn their hand to anything. The Bikepatcher being their own bike shop and Tschenett Metallbau being their family run metal work and fabricating shop. Their collective work spans such projects as staircases, automation machines, excavator arms and even retractable floatation aids for piste bashers to break up lake ice to ensure a more solid freezing of the lakes in winter. The array of projects that they’ve done is mind bending, and the level of craftsmanship with each project is just as head hurting.
Da Pilten, and its surrounding companies, embody the title of this article more than any other – little known and making exciting stuff. And the cherry on the cake is that they’re a bunch of top people.Da Pilten's website
Duke are a French brand and manufacturer of wheels in Chambretaud, France. What started as a side business of wheel building for Philippe Jacquinet soon grew to be his prime focus in 2009. As the business grew with more employees and sales, Duke Racing Wheels was formed in 2010 and by 2013 the business had grown sufficiently to warrant moving out of the garage and into bigger premises that enabled them to keep up with demand and even allow future growth.
Duke wheel have been the wheels of choice for athletes such as Julien Absalon and Pauline Ferrand-Prevot where they’ve been raced to success at World Cup and World Champion levels. They offer wheels for disciplines from XC, through trail, to endure and also for road, CX and gravel.
From early on in the company’s life it was clear that only way to fully control every stage of the process was to design and manufacturer their own hubs and rims following their own specifications. Duke look at a pair of wheels as a system, and not individual components. They utilise different rim sections, stiffnesses and rim offsets to suit front and rear wheel scenarios. They also feature rim shapes to help prevent burping by trying to lock the tyre in place. They also offer an array of hubs suited to any genre of riding and in either carbon or aluminium.
With such a knowledge of wheel building, a claimed 2,000 per year, they’ve been able to identify and refine the technologies available that actually work while adding in their personal French touch.Duke's website
Also based out of France, Plestan this time, Fast started with a familiar story of a person in a garage. This time it was with custom suspension tuning. In 2007 they started with data acquisition systems and even a suspension test bench to try and eke out as much suspension performance that they could.
Shortly after they became the French service centre for Cannondale’s Fatty and Lefty forks. The business grew, along with their headquarters and they began to invest in CNC machines to produce their own kits.
In 2015 they drew on their experience from the past almost decade to release their own shock, the Holy Grail, followed shortly after by their own kit for the Rock Shox Charger 1 damper. All manufactured in house. The growth continued, and ultimately they needed to outsource production given that they had reached the limits of their in-house production.
2019 was a great year for Fast with overall series wins in the Elite Women’s DH, podium finishes at the EWS and victories at the Trophy of Nations too.
While they still offer the ability to purchase all kinds of service items for your suspension, their standout products are their two shocks, the Fenix and Holy Grail, and their upgrade kits for Rock Shox forks. While it seems each suspension manufacturer has their own signature colour, if you spot some purple bits adorning the suspension of a bike it’s most likely this French brand.Fast's website
The oldest brand on our list, Galfer was founded in 1952. They’ve been manufacturing friction materials and components for braking systems with products gracing the automobile, motorcycle and bike world.
It wasn’t until 1990 that they began development and manufacturing of their first disc pads for bikes. Before then they’d been heavily involved with cars and motorcycles supplying parts for SEATs in the 50s and 60s. They worked on projects to replace asbestos with aramid fibres and with manufacturers such as Ducati. They’ve also collected titles in pretty much every discipline of motorcycle racing.
As simple as their introduction, for bikes they focus solely on the braking system with pads, rotors and adaptors. Fixed and floating rotors in all sizes using high carbon steel. They’ve got 1.8mm thick rotors for non e-bikes and 2.0mm thick ones for e-bikes too.
Brake pads for pretty much all systems out there with compounds ranging from general all-around riding, extreme wet conditions, road riding, ebikes and even pads that require no bedding in period for race applications.
With DH race teams like Polygon UR, XC teams like KMC-Ekoi-Orbea and enduro teams like the Orbea Enduro team using their parts it shows their ability to span all disciplines with success in each.Galfer's website
Gemini are a Barcelona based outfit concentrating only on bar stem combos. The combination of two brothers, and their combined experience in the bicycle, motorcycle and composite manufacturing industries has led them to make some of the most eye-catching control pieces out there. The duo not only manufacture in Barcelona but they also make an effort to use European materials. With their desire to produce such high quality parts it was required that they have control over each and every step.
They offer three combo setups, one aimed at XC, one at enduro and the third at DH. Each combo is engineered to take advantage of the changing rigours of each discipline. While all feature integrated top caps and titanium bolts.
The XC combo, the Pröpus, uses a 12mm drop in the system over a virtual stem length of between 50mm to 80mm and is said to be designed around a 67˚ to 70˚ head angle, which should cover all XC bikes easily.
Their enduro combo, the Kästor, ranges from virtual stem lengths of 10mm to 50mm using a 5˚ upsweep and a 7˚ back sweep designed around head angles of 64˚ to 67˚. It comes in at a weight of 235g.
Their DH combo, the Pollux, uses the same angles as before but over a 20mm to 50mm virtual stem length that uses the standard bolt on pattern to the top crown of DH forks. The Pollux weighs in at a claimed 255g which gives it a weight advantage over the traditional 2-piece bar stem setup.
While combos might not be for everyone due to their lack of adjustability, many will find them attractive and the Gemini offerings are some of the cleanest best engineered out there.Gemini's website
Yep are a Swiss company founded by Andrea Chiesa who has been a part of motor racing since he was knee high to a grasshopper. Humble beginnings in go-karts led all the way to being a professional race driver for Formula and GT cars. It is Andrea’s fascination with the technical and mechanical side that was transferred from automobiles to bikes and Yep was set up.
Being based out of the Ticino canton of Switzerland, close to the Italian border where the trains run on time but then the coffee is spot on, gives ample opportunity for riding all year round. Elite XC athletes often frequent this region for winter training programmes.
Yep design and manufacture dropper posts. While not winning the award for biggest drop, their posts are all crafted from top grade alloys of aluminium and feature multiple options for customization with anodized colours of the whole rainbow.
Their posts also work with lower internal pressures for the return spring in an attempt to out-live the competition when it comes to durability. A range of 120-180psi is considerably lower than the likes of some other big-brand seat posts.
Seeing as the posts are manufactured by Yep they also offer all the replacement parts you could ever need, just in case something goes wrong. For the dropper post equivalent of a lower leg service all the information is provided on their website for you to do it at home with tools that any proficient home mechanic should have. No custom tools needed here.
Their lever is also interesting in that it can be operated in any direction rather than the conventional single plane action of most other levers.Yep's website
To be fair, I’d never heard of Leonardi before. But they do everything from tools to even frames, and a whole host of other components in-between.
Relatively new, founded in 2014, they’re based in Madrid, Spain, and have their manufacturing done in Italy. Their main drive is to find the perfect balance of strength and weight, and reach that point where a product does its job well, for a long time, for the least amount of weight.
Cassettes, derailleur cages, SRAM rollamajig pulleys, cranks, chainrings, chain guides, hubs, bars and seat posts all grace their catalogue, as well as tools for servicing and installing their own parts as well as Cannondale Lefty dedicated tools. The Lefty is a staple of their work, with partner Michele Leonardi having an incredible knowledge of the forks and how to service and repair them.
For their cassettes, Leonardi go as low as a 9 tooth for the hardest gear with differing options from 36 to 45 teeth depending on application and preference. With the cassettes being a split of aluminium and steel between the block, there’s colour options available for the largest aluminium cogs.
While these roundup articles are focussing on the component side of things, it is worth mentioning that Leonardi frames are also made entirely in Italy, like their components, with pretty striking designs for both their hardtail and full suspension models.Leonardi's website
Ingrid are based not far from Pisa, Italy. They focus on drivetrain components and a nice alternative to the mainstream if you like your bike to be adorned by rare components.
Currently they offer high performance crank sets, chainrings and cassettes for road to MTB, with gravel and cyclocross covered too.
Their crank sets are machined from separate aluminium pieces that are then bonded together to create a finished crank arm. This enables them to react and adapt their design to new lengths and fitments quickly. You can even have them in their unique Rasta colourway, made possible from their manufacturing method of separate parts.
Ingrid’s cassettes cater for 12 or 11 speed systems and are made up from steel for the lower cogs with the final three lightest gears being machined from 7075 aluminium. Both versions of the cassette utilise a SRAM XD driver body.
In 2019 Ingrid also showed off its complete 12 speed group set aimed at being adaptable from MTB to gravel and road use. It looks to feature all the necessary technology that the big players feature while. And speaking of big players, it’s rumoured to be compatible with 12 speed SRAM parts, so you can mix and match the components you prefer. Hopefully the group set will be officially released this year as was hinted by Ingrid back in 2019.Ingrid's website
While not a comprehensive list, we endeavoured to show the lesser-known continental European brands out there making cool parts. We know there will be some that we didn't cover, so let us know your suggestions in the comments. We're keen to discover more brands doing it in-house.