The Way Forward | The Story of Mondraker Bikes
April 25th, 2017
The Way Forward | The Story of Mondraker Bikes
Only a few years back, riding a Mondraker in the UK would draw a lot of attention as their hunched top tubes, extended Forward Geometry wheelbase and tiny stems screamed for attention.
These days you see quite a lot of Mondrakers around in the UK – typically high end Foxy trail bikes or Summum DH bikes – which have been propelled in to the lime light, following a staggering race campaign last year from messrs Danny Hart; Laurie Greenland and Florent Payet.
Mondraker isn’t a new company though and is no stranger to the world of downhill racing – their very first bike was the Petrol DH, released back in 2001…
The Way Forward
With a DH racing background himself, Mondraker’s CEO Miguel Pina exudes passion for bikes, and told us about his early days working for Team Bike – the Spanish distribution company.
“Originally we distributed Sunn Bicycles, and in the golden era of MTB when it was growing rapidly we were also supplying Camelbak; Schwinn; Giro and many other high end brands.
But when Sunn decided to change their distribution system and go direct, we had a rethink. Soon after Schwinn changed their entire strategy and became a supermarket brand in the US which helped us make our decision to make our own bikes”
At this time in the late 90’s the Freeride movement was huge, so using the timing to help launch, they got things going on a bit of a whim.
“With no business plan or strategy, our first aim was to produce bikes that reflected the way we rode. Four of our first seven models were suspension bikes – Downhill; Freeride; an XC/Trail bike and a 4X bike. The DNA from the beginning was gravity and racing orientated”
With an aim to be a brand focussed on the best possible bikes for the money, Mondraker put out some good bikes with their own touch on things, and made some successful bikes – but were not going where they really wanted to.
Five years in, they made the move to go from a target brand to a performance brand – and started working on their own proprietary suspension platform. This was a huge move, and they put significant investment in to it.
Bike designer and ex World Cup racer Cesar Rojo was introduced to Miguel by Israel Romero – International Comms Manager for Mondraker.
Israel is one of the most passionate people in the mountain bike industry when it comes to technical design – he knew how vital it was for Mondraker to nail the right design…
“We hired Cesar to help us develop our own suspension system with unique traits. A lot of companies were using external developers – like Dave Weagle with the DW Link – but we wanted our own design that could run through the whole collection. Something to be part of our identity”
“Our system is unique – it compresses the shock from both sides and has a very progressive action. This combined with the fact it’s not really affected by chain tension means we don’t need to rely on lock-outs and damping to make the bike pedal well”
The Turning Point
In 2009 Fabien Barel was onboard as both a racer, and working in product development. He gave the brand the validity later that year at Maribor, when he won the World Cup on a prototype Summum frame with Mondraker’s new Zero suspension platform. Suddenly a lot of people were asking questions.
Already working ahead of the curve, Fabien and Cesar came up with the concept of Forward Geometry – reducing stem length and adding that amount to the front centre of the bike. Watch Fabien’s original presentation of Forward Geometry right here .
The stability and handling improvements that forward geometry added was revolutionary – and the technology went in to production in 2012 with the Foxy XR; Dune XR and Summum frames.
At first their wild looks divided arm chair experts, but those who tried the bikes swore by them (read my personal thoughts about the early bikes right here).
Today it runs through the whole Mondraker range – and many other manufacturers have taken a leaf from their design book. But remember when others were still dithering around on ‘short’ 70mm stems, it was Mondraker who cut to the chase and went the whole hog.
As the company started building a reputation on its suspension platform, it’s best moment was still to come – the unveiling of the Foxy Carbon in 2014. That’s where the real momentum kicked in.
Miguel’s eyes light up when he reminisces about the Foxy Carbon – it clearly means a lot to him…
“Despite our advances with suspension technology, the Foxy Carbon has been the most important bike we have made over the years.
It’s the most balanced bike that suits the most riding styles, and really defines where we are right now. The Foxy was the turning point from the high-end aluminium bikes we were making to high-end carbon fibre.
It was the bike that really made things happen for us”
From a couple of days spent with the Mondraker team, it’s very clear they are all incredibly motivated – and busy…
“We are very proud of where we are – and we are pretty much the same team from the very beginning. No body sleeps or sits back thinking ‘this is nice!’ – we are all so directly and emotionally involved in the future of the company”
There’s no doubt that Mondraker is gearing up for something big – you can feel it. But their future isn’t just in making off-road carbon fibre super bikes. Miguel told us that the e-Crafty is currently the best selling bike in the high-end range of Mondraker bikes, and hinted at things to come…
“We are building almost a completely new range with the e-mountain bikes. We already have our existing bike range established and we are constantly making improvements to that – but e-bikes is all new for us. In just two seasons we have had to double up our existing range with bikes that have a f***ing motor! (laughter) It’s crazy out there!
I said at first that that is not the sort of bike for us – but really they are the future. And we are working on the most advanced e-bike concepts on the market…”
Check out this slideshow from our recent trip to visit Mondraker bikes…
We have more Mondraker content dropping soon – for now check out the brand new E-Crusher RIGHT HERE