This 17,000 square meter facility is the home of research and development for SRAM drivetrain components. Among many other developments, this is where more recently the SRAM Eagle 12 speed mountain bike groupset came to life.
A little bit of history
So how does a US based company land up with a development center in Germany? As a once scrappy startup, which was founded in Chicago in the late 1980’s, SRAM introduced GripShift to the road bike market in 1988. Through the early to mid 1990’s SRAM expanded their shifter range across road, mountain bike and triathlon and by 1996 had produced 25 million shifter sets.
The following year, SRAM acquired German-based Sachs Bicycle Components which provided the already growing company with a depth of knowledge in engineering and manufacturing thanks to Sachs's more than 100 years in the bicycle business. This was the first in a string of notable acquisitions including RockShox (2002), Avid (2004), Truvativ (2004), Zipp (2008), and Quarq (2011) - all of which have played a role in forming the multi-faceted company we know today.
Shortly after their acquisition of Sachs in 1997, SRAM began construction of a new factory to produce internal gear hubs in Schweinfurt. Completed in 1999 this facility would much later become the SRAM European Development Center as manufacturing moved to the east. It is here where drivetrain components like SRAM Red and Eagle XX1 are developed and tested before hitting the shelves of your local bike store.
The development process
While no mass production takes place within these walls, a mashup of hi-tech and decades-old machinery allow engineers to produce and refine prototypes for testing. What begins with an idea soon becomes a design and then a prototype.
The evolution of a rear derailleur, from a functional sample to a production-ready version, all produced in-house. Before the industrial designers get their hands on the component in order to sculpt it into something desirable, engineers have the opportunity to test the functional performance of the prototypes.
Before a product will get anywhere close to production each component and the system as a whole must undergo rigorous testing. In addition to meeting certain industry safety standards, the SRAM engineers have their own set of standards which a given product needs to pass.
The 22 person test team in Schweinfurt forms part of a global test team of some 80 people. Within this facility alone they will run around 5000 pre-production tests each year across their fleet of in-house test rigs. These dedicated test machines are custom built by the team in order to simulate specific conditions. Each rig itself can take 3-6 months to build and once up and running may run individual tests for up to 4 weeks at a time non-stop in order to simulate the lifetime of a component and test the limits beyond.
Left: That's what 184m of chain looks like. The test team will go through 250m of chain in a given month on average.
In addition to the lab-based testing, the engineers work with a team of field testers who supply qualitative and quantitative input via their own feedback and a myriad of data sensors on the test bike.
Dealer service and training
Schweinfurt is also home to a dealer service and training centre. Here a team of technicians service a range of products while simultaneously acting as telephone support to dealers for technical queries.
Alongside the service center, a dedicated training room provides eight fully-equipped workstations provide dealer training.
And, when the day is done a backyard bike park is on hand for a casual ride or exhibition style events.