"If I do something, it should be outstanding. For consecutive years our frames has been the benchmark, and we're trying to compete with our frames."
Storck Store Manila offcially opened their doors to the public last April 29 at the Greenfield District in Mandaluyong City. Philippine cyclists can finally see and experience the full range of the brand's award-winning bikes, designed by none other than Markus Storck.
We were fortunate enough to have a quick interview with "the crown prince of carbon fiber," talking about his beginnings, the brand, and numerous innovations and technological advances that has ultimately changed the world of cycling.
The Breakaway: How did you get into cycling?
Markus Storck: "I started road racing when I was 6 years old. My grandfather was a professional racer, he and his brother were both members of the Opel professional racing team. They were 10 kids, 5 boys and 5 girls, and all boys were racing. My mother met my father through cycling, and my father was also racing in the 1950s. In 1969, my father bought a bicycle shop in Frankfurt. This is the shop I grew up in. My parents went out of the shop for a couple of minutes in 1970 to unload the truck, when they came back I have sold my first bike. One thing is true: I love bikes."
TB: Tell us more about how the Storck brand started.
MS: "In 1986 I founded my first company. In 1988 my bikes were called Bike-Tech designed by Markus Storck in Germany. I was the distributor for SRAM, I was doing Klein. In 1995 I was already 8 years a distributor for Klein bicycles, which was the largest portion of my business. When Gary Klein sold his company, I lost 60% of my turnover. Then I thought about what I should do under Bike-Tech, what is the direction. So two good friends, one was Hans Holczer who was the Team Owner of Team Gerolsteiner, and the other was the chief editor of Tour Magazine, said ‘Markus, you should do it under your family name.’ Then I asked my father if I could use the family name. Because in 1977 I already designed bikes with Storck branding, but in the time period I stopped. I actually could have claimed Storck rights since 1977, but because there was a break in between, I'm now claiming it since 1995. In 1995 we founded Storck, and the target was to make and manufacture the best bicycles in the world."
TB: Would you consider the brand focuses more on road bikes?
MS: "I had a vision: I just didn't want to do road; I wanted to do road, mountain, hybrid, and so on. And by that, Bart Brentjens won the first Olympic gold medal for mountain biking in Atlanta on my bike in 1996. Back then, the brand was only one-year renewed to the market. Now a lot of people are connecting me to road, but the roots are very strong as well as in mountain bikes because I brought the mountain bike trend to Germany. We designed then various mountain bikes, the most iconic product would be the Organic. It’s the first virtual pivot point full carbon-fiber frame. What would you say when you see it today? It looks futuristic, but it came to the market in 1998. We started the development in 1996, so it was from 19 years ago.”
TB: You got into the carbon-fiber material very early on. Would you consider it to be the best material for a bike?
MS: “The first product we did was a carbon-fiber crank, and we hold the world-record building the best aluminium frame. We also manufactured the first full-carbon fiber fork, from the steerer all the way down to the dropouts.
We started early with carbon fiber, but we have roots in steel and aluminium. I have also worked with titanium, but carbon fiber has the largest potential. But with carbon fiber you can have two identical frames coming out of the same mold, even the same fiber material, one could be the worst frame in the world and the other is a world-record frame.
Carbon fiber gives you the freedom of development. You decide on your material, how much it weighs, on your yield strengths , on your weaving, direction and order of layering, and how many layers you have”
TB: Storck has established itself to be a trailblazer, setting benchmarks for strength and weight of bike frames. Having said that, how difficult is it to do better than your own products?
MS: “I think it’s quite interesting. For me, it doesn’t matter if it’s your own product or a competitor. It’s the game about having the best available product. The bike industry has tremendously changed. In the 70’s if somebody wanted to know if the product is good, he went ahead and asked a pro rider. These days now, Pro Tour teams only ride products they are paid for. Now it became a game only the largest manufacturers are sponsoring teams, or smaller brands but automatically their prices are higher. So you get less value in the product because money you pay on the bike goes to team sponsorship. In my case, I’d rather that my customers get more in their product. So I spend the money solely and purely into the development and engineering.”
TB: How would you describe the progression of product development?
MS: “Product development on bikes has changed over the last years. In the beginning we had the achievement building a light frame and a stiff frame. Light frames are easy because the customer would lift it up with a finger, and they’d know the difference. But it doesn’t say anything much about the bike. It may be light, but it could be way too soft. Then they decided to measure stiffness. Then they measured stiffness and weight of the fork. Then they added comfort of the fork and the frame. They added aerodynamics. They made it all measurable. As a product manufacturer and designer, we try to find new directions in the industry which can be influential.”
TB: Since having lightweight bikes is one of your main focus, does the UCI limit in bicycle weight in racing limit your product development?
MS: “UCI with this rule, in my opinion, has done one of the dumbest things in the world. Weight doesn’t tell you anything about the strength of the bike. You can have a light bike that is good, you can have a light bike and it fails. How do I know if a bike fails? If I do a test. I would understand if UCI asks for the frame put it on a test machine. Or they could provide a norm, and the manufacturers need to fulfill the norm. I don’t care about the UCI weight limit. I care that the frame is having the stiffness, having the comfort, having hard factors and passing test machines.”
TB: In terms of putting out your technology and products out to the world, specifically Asia, is there a specific reason for choosing Manila?
MS: “I think sometimes you take chances in your life with people being dedicated to the brand. The team around Carlos and Jeremy is passionate, they love the brand. They invested, because they believe this is an outstanding brand. For me it is important to have passionate people and I think they are a part of the culture and development of your country.”
TB: What are ways that you think the Philippines would be able to cultivate the cycling culture?
MS: “Your biggest problem here is your government. I’m not talking about politics. I’m just saying they don’t understand that people want to cycle and they need to make room for the cyclists. You’ll have healthy people, a healthy environment, room to grow the sport. So I talked to the team and asked them to please get connected to the people who make the decisions. And if they would start to add bicycle passes along the river, or a certain area which is dedicated to cyclists. It’s just a question of how the government is reacting. Change starts in your brain. I think the best thing is if they see more cyclists, and they get to sit on a bike, it will change their mentality."
Aside from having a showroom of award-winning Storck products, Storck Store Manila is proud to carry a range of cycling products and accessories from respected industry vendors like Garmin, 3T, Proviz, and Kask. Another offeringis the Bio Mechanical bike-fitting services created by master bike fitter David Greenfield, with over 20 years experience in the United States and Asia.