Riese & Müller History, Product Overview, and Questions with Heiko Müller

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Riese & Müller History, Product Overview, and Questions with Heiko Müller

While visiting Propel Bikes in Brooklyn, New York, I had the opportunity to meet Heiko Müller who is the co-founder of Riese & Müller. He presented a bit of company history, described their mission, and shared what he feels sets the company apart and makes it unique in the world. His wife, Dr. Sandra Wolf, was also in attendance and is a managing directory at the company.

Chris Nolte of Propel Bikes, is actually a big part of the reason that Riese & Müller decided to enter the US market. He had traveled to Germany as a part of his Eurobike trip and saw R&M e-bikes and made special email requests and ultimately convinced them to visit Interbike and then to begin supplying his shop along with a few others.

One of the first products that Riese & Müller ever made was the Birdy folding bicycle in 1993 (not electric) and they still produce it! Heiko was studying mechanical engineering and built the Birdy with a friend. Ultimately, the first prototype led to a second and then won a special German innovation prize for the design. In 1994 at Eurobike, they had a booth on the showfloor and they met a Taiwanese builder.

As the Birdy took off, the team decided that full suspension was an important concept. They were riding full suspension mountain bikes in 1995 and felt that you need similar support and control for city bikes. You need the carrier rack, fenders, and a low stand-over height to make it approachable. This is around the time that they introduced the Culture model (which is similar to the Homage but without electric assist). For the next 10 years or so, from 1996 to 2007, they focused on niche full suspension city bikes.

In 2005/2006 they saw electric bikes and thought they were interesting. They liked the concept but felt the bikes all looked the same. R&M decided that they wanted to target a wider market than just older people with ebikes and so they introduced three ebike models in 2008 including the Delite, an electric Birdy, and an electric Culture. Some of them were offering fast 45 km/hr speed-pedelec speeds. Things started slow but over time the target groups became younger (now as young as 30 years old) and eventually Riese & Müller transitioned to 100% electric except for the Birdy which they still sell.

According to Heiko, in 2016/2017 about 15% of all bicycles sold were electric. In the Netherlands, it’s as high as 30%. In the USA apparently it’s closer to just 1% but that was also the case about five years ago in Germany… so he sees this as a progression. The idea is that people who used to drive cars are now turning to electric bikes.

Some of the bikes that Heiko covered were the Delite, the Charger, the Packster, the Load, the Nevo, . They started with some different systems but now use exclusively Bosch because it is reliable and offers worldwide service. Bosch wasn’t an option until 2011. By 2012, Riese & Müller had decided to discontinue using all other products and just focus on ebikes. Heiko explained that this was a very big decision for them but that it was important to focus in on one thing to perform at the level they wanted and succeed. Heiko sees cargo electric bikes as the next big thing because of how useful they are… it’s the same concept of replacing cars with ebikes. Chris likes to say that e-cargo bikes are like “a bike with a trunk” and he has gone carless in the past year or so and now uses the Load frequently around New York City.

I asked Heiko if they still made the electric Birdy model and he said no, they decided to stop it because they feel that folding bicycles should be lightweight (the standard Birdy is just ~22 lbs). Electric assist adds too much weight so it becomes difficult to lift and carry up stairs or onto busses etc. Apparently the e-Birdy didn’t sell that well either. R&M builds their bicycle to suit so that customers get the size, color, and options they want. Heiko explained that their factory has 200 workers, half of which focus on the production line working on-demand. They explained that Marcus Riese, Heiko Müller, and Sandra Wolf share the CEO leadership sort of position. Sandra said that they have experienced a 50% growth rate over the past five years (since 2012).

Order of video contents:
– Introductions: 0:02
– Company History: 2:47
– Model Overview: 21:48
– Questions: 34:57

You can see all of the Riese & Müller in-depth electric bike reviews I have created back at the website at: electricbikereview.com/brand/riese-muller/

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