Canyon Bicycles has built a strong following in Europe with their carefully engineered bikes and direct sales channel to customers. The German brand does not work with dealers, which is how the bike industry has traditionally worked. Instead, Canyon sells to customers through the brand’s website.
In August Canyon will begin selling in the U.S. for the first time. RoadBikeReview caught up with Canyon’s global communications manager Thorsten Lewandowski to find out more about why they’ve chosen to sell exclusively online and what it means for customers.
Check out the complete Canyon bike line-up.
The Canyon brand story
Canyon began selling bikes through the internet in 2003, a time when buying anything online was little unusual. Facebook didn’t exist yet and Amazon was best known as a book seller.
Canyon founder Roman Arnold grew up racing track and criteriums. As Lewandowski tells the story, Arnold’s father got bored waiting for his son to finish his races and decided to start a business. In 1985, he bought a blue trailer emblazoned with Rad-Sport-Arnold and started selling bikes and components directly to riders. Since racers tend to break parts regularly, the elder Arnold did a steady business. The trailer became a garage, and eventually a shop. Soon after, Roman Arnold took over the business from his father.
When Arnold started Canyon, he maintained the belief that direct sales were the best way to reach customers. It also allowed Arnold to offer his products at lower prices, which remains one of Canyon’s key selling points. One of the brand’s core taglines is “democratizing performance,” and they believe by selling direct, they are able to give customers a better bike at each price point.
“If you want to spend $3000 and you go through a retailer, you will get a bike valued at $2000 or $2500, and the rest will stay with the retailer,” said Lewandowski. “We cut this off, so that for €3000 or $3000, you get a $3000 bike.”
How Canyon bikes are made
Because Canyon sells through the internet, their bike travel a somewhat different route than the usual dealer channels. Canyon’s frames, forks, and carbon cockpits are built in Taiwan. That much is typical of the modern bike industry. Then the bikes are fully assembled by Canyon technicians and road tested. For the European market, this assembly and testing happens at global HQ in Koblenz, Germany. Canyon also now has a U.S. facility to assemble and test bikes for North American customers.
In an unusual move, Canyon’s carbon forks and cockpits are tested for flaws in the lay-ups using CT scanners. Newly launched models are scanned at a 100% rate in both Taiwan and Koblenz. Once the scans reveal fewer than .02% failures, the German factory will scan 10% of forks and cockpits, while the factories in Taiwan will still scan all forks and cockpit parts. Canyon also uses the CT scanners in their R&D process to create 3D models of the products they’re developing.
“If something on your frame breaks, like a rear stay or a seat stay, you will notice it, but you will not necessarily crash,” said Lewandowski. “If your fork or your cockpit breaks, you will definitely crash, so that’s why [they’re] the most crucial things to test on a carbon bike.”
After assembly by Canyon technicians, the bikes are packed into what Canyon calls a “bike guard” and shipped to the customer. Canyon advertises a 15-minute build time for your new bike. According to the brand, when your bike arrives, you should be able to ride it after 15 minutes of basic assembly. Lewandowski suggests experienced home mechanics will find the assembly easy, though for newer enthusiasts it may take a bit longer. “It’s pre-assembled to 90%,” he said.
Once unboxed, a Canyon road bike will need the front wheel installed and the bars and stem secured. Canyon provides a torque wrench for tightening the stem and top cap bolts. The bike comes with what Lewandowski describes as a “really thick” manual and Canyon also provides how-to videos on their website.
Getting the right size
To help customers figure out their size, the Canyon website asks a detailed set of questions about body dimensions. In addition to obvious questions such as height and inseam, additional measurements such as shoulder width and arm length are submitted. “When we want you to be sitting on the best bike possible for you, we need to know the most of you,” said Lewandowski.
Canyon has a 30-day return policy for all of their bikes. Even with careful measurement, it’s still possible to get the wrong size. For riders between sizes, this allows customers to try a size, knowing it can be sent back. It’s also possible that a customer simply won’t like the bike they ordered online. Canyon will take it back, no questions asked, within 30 days. Because they realize customers are buying a bike they may never have seen before, Canyon wants to make it as easy as possible for customers to make returns.
U.S. Service Centers
Canyon is setting up a headquarters for its U.S. operations in Carlsbad, California. Similarly to Koblenz, there will be a showroom where prospective customers can visit and see Canyon’s product line in real life. Lewandowski estimates that Canyon will have a staff of 40 to service the U.S. market and hinted that Canyon’s U.S. showroom will host events, test rides, and pro athlete signings in the future.
The U.S. service team will be the go-to for customers who need help with their new bikes or have questions about the product line. Lewandowski says Canyon also plans to set up a service network for bikes that need repairs or adjustments. For example, a bike may show up with a derailleur that needs adjustment. This network is not expected to be in place when Canyon’s U.S. site launches and Lewandowski described it as a work in progress.
Canyon expects U.S. riders to be more demanding on the service front than those in Europe. “Your customers are highly demanding,” Lewandowski said. “You know how great service can be.”
He sees this cultural norm as one of the challenges for the brand in the move to the U.S. market and planning for that dynamic has played a big part in Canyon’s preparations for their expansion to the U.S.
As Lewandowski tells it, Canyon is an engineering-driven company. Put simply, they’re bike nerds. They’re bike nerds armed with CT scanners and high-tech software, out to design the best possible bikes they can. This isn’t too different from many of the brands you already know here in the U.S.
“But we try to do it differently,” Lewandowski emphasized. “We try to convince our customers through the product.” If people view Canyon as a “cool” brand, that’s great, he says. “But what we like better is that people recognize that we understood the product differently.”
More than anything, Canyon wants to be known for their engineering and innovation. They also want riders to get the best bikes for their needs. “We say, what [must the product be like so] that it’s the best product accessible to the customer? We want them to have the greatest fun and the best riding experience,” he said.
For more information visit www.canyon.com.