Sebastian Meinecke, CEO, and founder of Urwahn Engineering tells us about the 3-D printed urban bikes.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sebastian Meinecke: I think it is a hard time for everyone, especially. But in general, we are doing good so far and are hoping for better times.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Urwahn Engineering.
Sebastian Meinecke: As a passionate cyclist, I wanted to motivate more people to switch – to an environmentally conscious way of getting around. That’s how I came up with the idea of “Urwahn Bikes” in 2014. I wanted to develop a bike that is user-oriented, and that inspires people with a purist design and technical refinements on a whole level. Our goal was to develop a framework that was user-friendly for people as users (human-centered) and efficiently geared to the holistic product life cycle with a high degree of sustainability and cost-effectiveness.
We merge advanced technologies with sophisticated design, which leads to a unique, organic frame shape with high recognition value and a multitude of integrated technical refinements. The frame itself, with its composition of first-class tempered steel and elastic rear suspension, provides a completely new and comfortable riding experience.
How does Urwahn Engineering innovate?
Sebastian Meinecke: Unlike conventional bicycle frames, the tube of our Urwahn Bikes does not run down from the saddle to the bottom bracket but bends beforehand towards the wheel suspension, creating the “Urwahn”-typical bend in the frame. Similar to the hind legs of a fox, the elastic rear end is intended to enable dynamic maneuverability and additionally compensate for road irregularities for the benefit of riding comfort.
Another special feature of the frame is the 3D-printed connecting elements, those parts that join the tubes together. We were one of the first manufacturers to use this process in bicycle construction. Our innovative steel frame is holistically developed and produced in Germany because we are concerned about regional roots and fair conditions for all those involved in development and production. We have therefore carefully aligned our value chain and work only with selected industry and cooperation partners who, like us, are committed to quality products and process-optimized manufacturing techniques.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Sebastian Meinecke: The bicycle industry has boomed as a result of COVID-19. Many people have switched from public transportation to bicycling to avoid contact. Accordingly, we can say that we have not been hit as hard as other industries have been. Because we don’t have our frames produced in the Far East and work with smaller dealers, we are well-positioned here, unlike some of our competitors. However, we are not completely spared from the procurement difficulties of some parts, which the whole industry is facing.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Sebastian Meinecke: The biggest challenge is still the bureaucratic hurdles that often slow down development and/or even bring it to a standstill. A lot of patience and staying power is required here, which leads many potential founders to run out of puff early on. The last major challenge is the basic financial framework, without which the idea can neither be advanced nor the team rewarded for their hard work.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Sebastian Meinecke: You have to be able to test a bike before you buy it. Through COVID-19, we had sometimes gone over to sending bikes to customers’ homes for testing when bike shops were closed, or customers couldn’t come to our studio in Magdeburg.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Sebastian Meinecke: Our competitors are mostly design-savvy bicycle companies in the urban bike segment. With our unique design, innovative technologies (3D printing), technical refinements, as well as the possibility to quickly make changes, thanks to 3D printing, we can stand out very well.
Furthermore, through the production on demand, we can accept and implement individualization requests from customers, which our competitors do not manage.