Mega Boost! A conversation with Canyon CEO Armin Landgraf
Mr. Landgraf, the classic bicycle is over two hundred years old. How viable is the concept?
If you ask me, the bicycle, as old as it may seem, still has its big breakthrough ahead of it. And I’m not talking about its use in recreational terms, but rather for commuting and urban mobility. The bicycle is increasingly becoming the best option for individual mobility when it comes to covering short distances in modern city centers.
A while back, your company presented the Future Mobility Concept, a kind of cross between an electric bike and a car.
Yes, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. An interesting thing is that it not only elicited enthusiasm from bicycle experts, but primarily from the automotive media and from trend scouts. Our engineers did a great job.
Do you have something like a future department?
No, there’s no such thing at Canyon. To give you an idea, we have the same rules as Google. We give our employees the opportunity to spend some of their time on projects that spark their own interest and on developing their own innovative ideas. That’s also how the future mobility concept came about. It was driven by designers and engineers and supported financially by the management.
Does that mean that your departments take an interdisciplinary approach to their work?
Yes, to a great extent. That drives innovation. Also, we are now even more frequently able to attract new employees from a wide range of industries, which further increases our diversity of experience. That’s why I’m so sure that urban mobility concepts are undergoing a highly dynamic innovation phase. The bicycle is more cutting-edge than ever.
“If you ask me, the bicycle, as old as it may seem, still has its big breakthrough ahead of it. And I’m not talking about its use in recreational terms, but rather for commuting and urban mobility.”
And what will become of the concept now?
We would like to keep that information under wraps for the time being. What I can confirm is that we are now looking even more closely at the realm of urban mobility so that future products can actually achieve their intended impact.
What does that mean in concrete terms?
Customer focus is a top priority at Canyon. With this in mind, it is of central importance to our team that we understand the Future Mobility Concept’s target group and their requirements to the best of our ability. That is why we are focusing very closely on the lifestyles and environments of people who today may opt for alternative ways to meet their mobility needs.
And how will the bicycle position itself in this new world of mobility?
For people who favor a sustainable approach to living and who have discovered fitness as a lifestyle, the bicycle is the ideal mobility solution. The bicycle is becoming safer and increasingly comfortable. It is also really fun and offers up new experiences. And electrification makes even long distances or climbing hills in the city a pleasure. Thanks to the rapid development of infrastructure in Europe, the US and Asia, the bicycle will substantially increase its share of urban mobility, something that has also been confirmed by numerous studies we have examined.
You also make electric bikes.
Admittedly, we jumped on this bandwagon a bit later than others. One reason was because we wanted to wait until the quality of the systems was good enough. When I look at our current portfolio, I can only reiterate that our engineers and designers have done a great job. The electric bicycles from Canyon introduce many new customer groups to cycling. And this trend will continue. It gives us immense pleasure to share our passion with a growing number of people.
How has the pandemic specifically contributed to the evolution of the bicycle
The pandemic boosted the bicycle’s status in cities overnight. Many are rediscovering it, while others are discovering it for the first time. And our forecast is that both customer groups will stick with it and use their bikes regularly over the long term. Of course, no one can predict exactly what the “new normal” will look like. But bike lanes, as sustainable mobility arteries, will increasingly improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas.
“The pandemic boosted the bicycle’s status in cities overnight. Many are rediscovering it, while others are discovering it for the first time.”
In what way?
Electric bicycles are a fairly new phenomenon that is currently changing at lightning speed. Unlike cars, range is no longer a problem. And over the next five years, we can expect the bicycle to evolve significantly in terms of integration, comfort and connectivity. We see this as a great opportunity to expand our portfolio with numerous lifestyle products that inspire our emotions.
Speaking of emotional products: How does the lifestyle aspect fit in?
Strong brands emphasize our lived emotions in a meaningful way. The Canyon brand stands for rational values such as quality and durability, and also for outstanding design and a fitness-oriented lifestyle. The authenticity of the brand also appeals to our customers.
Sustainability is another component.
The bicycle is possibly the most sustainable urban mobility solution. But the compelling reason why people choose it on a daily basis may well be something else: to have fun and to experience the luxury of mindfulness that comes with cycling.
Let’s talk about Canyon. What does the brand stand for?
Excellent design and top quality at a fair price. Our team has won numerous design awards in recent years and maintains a very consistent design language in all of our product worlds. A Canyon is unmistakable even without the logo, be it a triathlon bike, a road bike, a gravel bike, a mountain bike or a city bike.
And your customers?
For the most part, our customers today are experts and enthusiastic cyclists who identify strongly with the bicycle concept. But to really change the world, we want to increasingly reach customers who are just beginning to discover the bicycle for themselves.
“The bicycle is possibly the most sustainable urban mobility solution. But the compelling reason why people choose it on a daily basis may well be something else: to have fun.”
So your customers are connoisseurs, as opposed to consumers.
Absolutely. Our success today is based on the fact that we’ve been working with top athletes for a long time, developing products that win races and set standards at the cutting edge of technology. Our connoisseur customers are very loyal, and that inspires us to strive to even greater heights.
Are achievements in sport still relevant for the image of a brand?
Definitely. We work with the best athletes in road cycling as well as gravel, triathlon and mountain biking. The result is a long list of victories in all disciplines at the global level. It is still vital that top athletes in all disciplines compete successfully on our bikes. We are all true believers here and will continue to pursue the pro sport enthusiasm and passion of our founder Roman Arnold in every discipline.
Do you ride much yourself?
Personally, I am passionate about mountain biking and gravel biking. In the city I am, in fact, still fully pedal powered and take my gravel bike for most trips. My bike is a real allrounder and I wouldn’t be surprised if more people soon developed a liking for it. The leadership team also rides bikes together because it offers us a creative change of pace.
And what is your relationship with cars?
I come from the car industry, and I like driving. In the future, I predict a more sensible coexistence between cars and bicycles. The bicycle will not be able to supplant the car in all areas. Nor should it. But in many situations in the future, we will all think more often about which product makes more sense to use. I have seen many very positive changes taking place. The pursuit of sustainability and fitness is making us redefine luxury. And the bicycle has automatically become an expression of a modern sustainable lifestyle for more and more people.
Last question: What kind of future would you like to see for the bicycle?
I would like to see bicycles bring considerable calm to cities large and small in the next five years. If we manage to get the majority of people to ride their bikes to restaurants, cafés or shopping, the quality of life in our cities will make an incredible leap forward. I would also like to see children being able to move around more safely on bicycles, which will require further infrastructure efforts and more thoughtfulness and awareness on the road.
ARMIN LANDGRAF was born in Limburg in 1967 and studied mechanical engineering at TU Darmstadt and WHU Koblenz in cooperation with the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. As an automotive specialist, he worked for GM Europe between 1995 and 2000 and served as a management consultant to various German automobile manufacturers between 2001 and 2014. From 2015 to 2018, he was CEO of Pon Bikes in Amsterdam before joining Canyon in 2019. The fifty-four-year-old has led the company since October 2020.