Fully Charged Insights
Riese & Muller – Premium eBikes with a green soul
We visit the Riese & Muller factory in Germany, gaining an insight into one of the most respected and innovative eBike companies in the world.
Words By Max
Since their first prototype of the ever-popular, non-electric ‘Birdy’ in the 80’s, Markus Riese and Heiko Muller have been pioneers in a new form of mobility. Fast forward thirty years to their new factory, a sleek modernist block lying in farmland to the south of Frankfurt.
Bare concrete walls house an immaculate production operation together with a network of well-proportioned, bright office spaces. First impressions are of a company that knows the value of its employees and wants to provide a good working life. 450 people work here, from 38 different nations. Many employees cruise to work via an impressive network of local cycleways on their favourite model. Plenty of space is provided for secure parking:
Our tour guide, Eric, has been with the company for five years. He’s right to be proud and is quick to mention the factors differentiating it from other plants. We begin where the wheelsets are produced, bundles of spokes being woven into rims and hubs by a handful of women. The average age of the Riese and Muller workforce is 37. There’s a sense of energy and vibrancy here. As we reach the machines that are truing the wheels, Eric points out that they operate to a 90%+ accuracy compared to the 60% accepted by many other brands (the rejects are still trued by hand).
We are led on to the gargantuan warehousing area where painted frames and parts are brought in. The parts shelves stand three stories tall and we learn that a ‘chaotic’ system is used to bring goods into stock. In this context ‘chaotic’ means incredibly organised. Every item is scanned and logged, but no analogue records are needed.
Batteries are stored in a separate room of equal height with a fireproof door. Sceptics of e-transport often cite the human and environmental costs associated with the manufacture and disposal of lithium-ion cells. It is a fair argument. Since 2008 sustainability has been a priority for Riese and Muller. The factory boasts sound credentials in terms of renewable energy use and waste management. But the organisation is also compelling suppliers to follow suit. For their part, Riese and Muller are doing all they can and actively engaging Bosch CEO Volkmar Denner to address these concerns.
Large trolleys carry groups of identical frames from Portugal, Taiwan and Vietnam. The emphasis is on diversifying supply, reducing reliance on a single source. In this way the volatility of world events can be mitigated. The product is tougher than average, built to mountain-bike safety factors with a further 10% added. So, a Riese & Muller eBike will keep you on the road and on the tracks for a lifetime.