There’s something hypnotic about watching swarf and chips form around a cutter while it goes about its job of shaping metal into something purposeful. Or even the process of laying up multiple pieces of carbon to form a recognizable shape that eventually emerges from a mold greater than the sum of its parts. And there’s an unspoken respect for the people who know how to turn something raw into something with purpose. Especially when that purpose it to go out and get ridden. Blue collar knowledge is worth its weight in gold.
Living in the shadow of the giants lie some smaller, but not necessarily inferior, companies that manufacture in-house. Some are boutique, some are pretty quiet and let the products do the talking, and others push the boundaries with new ideas and details that could go unseen to the untrained eye, but that make the products perform so damn well. Europe houses a hive of brands that do exactly this and manufacture in house. Actually, it's such a hive that as during the creation of this list we discovered ten-fold more brands that could grace it. So in our first look at these lesser known brands, here are 10 German companies that manufacture in house and that caught our eye.
Based out of Wiggensbach, Germany, Newmen are component manufacturers with an attention to detail and testing that leave others with a lot to be desired. Newman’s history stems from similarly well engineered brands with Michael Grätz at the helm, who was previously at Liteville and Syntace.
Wheels, stems, bars and seat posts all come out from this brand, often with a slightly different view of how to make a product perform at its best.
Their rims have a profile that angles the sidewalls out, rather than the norm of vertical, to better align them with incoming forces from impacts. Their wheels also include washers between the nipples and rim to distribute the spoke force evenly around the spoke hole and also align the nipple and spoke directly to the hub flange.
Stems are often overlooked as to how much engineering goes into them. But I can tell you from experience that they have more development in them than meets the eye. Way more. Newmen’s stems are engineered to within an inch of their life and with weights as low as 69 grams it shows.
They manufacture using aluminum and carbon fiber composites, and also complete copious amounts of in-house testing to validate their designs and products. They’re also very open about their testing methods
and show in detail what they do to their components to make sure they’re up to scratch and also perform with a designed amount of flex. It’s nice to see behind the curtain like this, and it evokes confidence in their products.
They also think completely outside of the box with ideas such as fabric spokes and tiny stickers to convert your Torque Cap RockShox forks to a standard end cap system to improve ease of use.Newmen's website
Hopp are a very niche brand from Oranienburg, Germany, close to Berlin. Their niche is carbon parts, and if you’re wanting to take your bike upgrading up a notch then look no further.
With rapid development speed, they offer replacement small parts for suspension, drivetrains and frames made from short fiber composites. And when we say small parts, we mean suspension adjuster and mech hanger small. In most cases their parts weigh in at half the weight of the standard parts.
They’ve been around for long enough to now offer complete derailleurs for SRAM and Shimano that replace all the knuckles and cage with their own composite parts. And frankly they’re sodding beautiful, reminiscent of Lamborghini’s Forged Carbon parts.
As is usually the case with bike upgrades, the diminishing returns on parts like this are there. If you’re into counting grams then these parts should definitely help on your bike’s weight spreadsheet. I imagine you’re using a spreadsheet if you’re this serious about it?Hopp's website
Secretly, Intend wins the award for coolest owner’s name. Cornelius Kapfinger’s German brand is a gem that, like Newmen, take a few steps to the side for a different perspective when developing their products.
With components ranging from suspension to headsets, it really shows their ability to apply technical thought to differing situations. And they aren’t afraid to show their working out either, with in depth tech features on most of their components showing CAD drawings, stress plots and graphs galore. If you like geeking out then it’s definitely worth a peruse
. Who doesn’t love a cross section?
Perhaps now most known for their upside-down Edge, Infinity and Hero forks, they also make a wild looking air shock, headsets to improve stiffness issues encountered with single crown forks, beautifully machined two clamp bolt stems with subtle shapes in the machining to relieve stress in concentration zones, and brake rotors that are designed to increase the braking surface area while simultaneously reducing heat build-up and increase rotor stiffness.
It’s fantastic to read about all the decisions and factors involved in product development and the Intend products definitely stand out when you see them in the wild.Intend's website
The steeps of Champéry demand brakes that will not faulter at all. And my favourite brakes recently got dethroned at a product launch with the Trickstuff Maximas. Yes, they do cost as much as a black-market kidney, but my lord were they powerful and a pleasure to pull on. It’s not just subjective either, with recent lab tests rating their average braking torque and deceleration times substantially better than the rest of the competition.
Continuing the theme, their products are machining works of art and span not just brakes but headset parts, eccentric bottom brackets and even hydraulic gyros. There’s often a resemblance to some of the Intend components and that’s due to Intend’s Cornelius Kapfinger being a former employee.
While the high price of such highly engineered components can often put them out of reach for the general riding public, one product that Trickstuff sells offers a measured boost in performance for a snip of the price. Their brake pads come in all shapes, sizes and compounds and offer sizeable chunks of performance in average braking torque and deceleration times for their Power+ pads versus standard pads.Trickstuff's website
“Bike Components and Engineering.” There’s no beating around the bush in Germany and 77designz offer exactly what they say. Bash guards, chain guides and chain rings were once their mainstay. But a recent collaboration with WeAreOne saw them engineering a stem and bar system that takes a shim around the bar to evenly distribute the clamping force from their stem.
Amongst their products lie small parts like derailleur pulleys, seat clamps and fenders. But it’s with the other side of the business that things get really interesting.
77designz are also an engineering consultancy who offer services from start to finish of product development. Kinematic design, CAD modelling and FEA simulation are all in their portfolio of skills. I guess they did so much for other brands that they started to wonder if they could just do a bike themselves. The answer was yes, and they set out to develop and manufacture a frame for themselves. They documented the whole process with videos showing their successes and failures of designing and making a high-pivot enduro bike. This naturally evolved into the brand Kavenz, which they will sell the bike under.
Again, it’s a treat to have a peak behind the curtain of development and see how it’s done, the decisions and mistakes that lead to the final product. 77designz's website
Vecnum engineer and manufacture dropper seat posts out of the Ällgäu region of Germany. Sat right in front of the Alps, it’s a good job they do this as there are some of the steepest fire roads I’ve ever climbed lurking in those German forests.
Heralding from aerospace manufacturing, they began as a one man show with their moveLOC post. Vecnum now make a variety of posts for use in enduro to XC with accompanying levers and even seat post clamps to ensure properly functioning droppers in your frame.
The biggest drop game now stretches over 200mm and Vecnum offer posts with 212mm of cable actuated drop at staggeringly low weights. And if you’re confused about which post your frame should take there’s even a step by step guide to find exactly the right post for you and your bike.
Don’t think that you’ll be left high and dry after you’ve purchased one - they’ll service them for you, too, and take care issues if you encounter any.Vecnum's website
Over the past couple of years, I’ve found the UK hill climb scene weirdly fascinating. Stumbling upon it via Bike Radar Diaries I ended up watching episodes of how they train, race and build their bikes for a very niche racing category. One brand kept popping up in their bike builds for its insanely low weight components. That brand was Schmolke from Konstanz, Germany.
Schmolke’s speciality is carbon fiber composite parts and using the least amount of carbon fibers to do the job. The manufacture road and MTB components with everything from wheels to road frames.
Saddles as light as 62g, bars at 62g and seat posts at 91g all adorn their catalogue of very expensive parts. But the weight figures show how much engineering went into achieving these parts and should help you sleep a little better at night hiding the fact you’ve secretly spent your partner’s life savings on making your bike lighter.
It’s hard to imagine components lighter than these, most of which come with strict weight limits. No superfluous material finds a home here, and if you really want to take things up a notch they even sell carbon fiber screws.
Not to just be parts for weighing, it’s clear that they can be ridden hard after witnessing the hill climb videos and individual bike builds from guys pushing the boundary of exotic spec lists while still riding the bikes. Carbon fiber composites are still regarded by some as a black art, but these Germans seem to be getting on just fine with the magical fibers.Schmolke's website
Tune celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2019, and for each and every one of those years they’ve focussed on making lightweight components. They reside in Buggingen, Germany, on the edge of the Black Forest, and so have a brilliant testing grounds right out the front door. Started by Uli Fahl, who first travelled by bike into the Alps for climbing, he found his bikes too heavy, sapping the energy needed to scale the peaks. Bit by bit he experimented with reducing the weight of the components of his bike and slowly he started to interest others. Fahl eventually quit his day job and started Tune. After getting burnt by a supplier in the mid-90s, Tune then brought almost everything back to being manufactured in house.
Sebastian Linser is now managing the company, a long-time employee of Tune and pupil of Fahl. They continue to strive for utmost quality and precision constantly monitoring and adjusting the CNC machines depending on factors like temperature and air pressure. Attention to detail is up there.
Their parts catalogue is comprised of full wheels, hubs, bars, stems, headsets, saddles, seat posts, axles and all manner of small items for around your bike. It spans materials like high end aluminum alloys, titanium and carbon fiber, which they lay up and cure themselves in their own oven.
Tune shows a very cool story from one man’s side passion to make his own bike lighter to today where they have a wealth of components on offer and all proudly crafted in Germany. Also, if you fancy an unconventional salt and pepper shaker then look no further.Tune's website
BIKE AHEAD, BEAST & LIGHTWEIGHT
With the wealth of clever chaps in the cycling industry in Germany there is some overlap with brands in what they offer. Three brands that may appear similar at a glance are Bike Ahead, Beast and Lightweight. But looking a little deeper shows their differences.
Bike Ahead's biturboRS wheels are one piece and pretty striking in design.
Bike Ahead, Beast and Lightweight cover a similar component range of wheels, controls and accessories, each manufacturing in Germany and using carbon fiber composites to push the boundary of component weight. Lightweight do have the exception of offering a road frame.
Bike Ahead's most striking offering might be their one-piece biturboRS wheels. 1,249g for a pair of 29” XC wheels is astounding and goes towards showcasing their skills in development and manufacturing. Developing a one-piece wheel is not easy, but they do have the advantage of manufacturing in-house giving them quicker feedback loops and control over quality.
The six spoke wheels have an inner rim width of 27mm, unique hubs to cover the entire range of axle and brake standards and even an integrated spoke magnet for use with cycling computers.Bike Ahead's website
Beast's manufacturing is all done in-house in Dresden, Germany.
Beast hail from Dresden and also design, engineer and manufacturer in house. They show a knowledge and application of manufacturing techniques such as Resin Transfer Moulding and Vacuum Assisted Process, which was developed by Airbus and helps reduce air bubbles and voids in the composite structure.
A bar and stem combination from Beast can be as little as 241g. While some companies would impose a strict rider weight limit on components that light, Beast do not have a weight limit affixed to these featherweight components. In fact, most of their components are rated at ASTM class 3 and above.
Beast are also multiple time award winners for their their bars, stems, saddles and wheels, which goes to show, along with their lack of weight limits, how well engineered their components are.Beast's website
Lightweight cater more to the road segment, but their parts often find a home on mountain bikes.
Lightweight, based out of Friedrichshafen, have been making components from the very early 90s. Before that the two founders were making composite parts for cars and lightweight horse drawn carts. World Champion titles and Tour de France appearances followed their first disc wheel effort and word spread quickly about these garage made racing wheels.
Appearances in all road racing events carried on for many years until in 2013 when they launched their first in-house developed road frame to the market.
While Lightweight’s focus may be on the road segment their parts often crossover to the MTB world on some of the lightest and most exotic builds. With appearances in the Olympics it shows that their components are worthy of the top tier racing requirements.Lightweight's website
While not a comprehensive list, we endeavoured to show the lesser known German brands out there making cool parts. But we know there will be some we overlooked, so let us know your suggestions in the comments. We're keen to discover more brands doing it in-house.