Eddy Merckx Combines History with Modern Technology
ZELLIK, Belgium – Founded in 1980, the bicycle brand with a historical name, Eddy Merckx Cycles has gone through some turbulent years. Since 2011 private equity firm Diepensteyn raised its investment in the company step-by-step to make it profitable again. Today Belgium Diepensteyn is the single owner of Eddy Merckx Cycles.
An important part of the reorganization of the bicycle manufacturer was the creation of an experienced management team. Today the company is managed by former Batavus MD Rob Beset, Rolf Singenberger, former BMC product development manager and marketing manager Geert De Craen. Cycling legend Eddy Merckx is no longer involved in the daily business of Eddy Merckx Cycles but still taking part in the product development of the bicycles.
Relation still strong
“My relationship with the company is still very strong, I live nearby and walk in regularly,” says Eddy Merckx said on a previous occasion. “Also at shows and events Merckx is still a frequent guest,” adds Rob Beset. Particularly in Belgium, the brand name is still a ‘local hero’, but in the rest of the world it is just a strong brand. Diepensteyn’s latest capital injection will be invested in the creation of a strong market position outside the Benelux. That is the main growth market for Eddy Merckx Cycles.
Linking history to newest technology
“How fast thing might change was obvious in the United States and several Asian countries,” explains Rob Beset. “Sales have grown very quickly and that is mainly the result of the historical name of the brand. We link this history directly to the use of the latest technology. For example regarding the frame design we prefer geometry and stiffness over the lowest possible weight.”
Geometry is leading
Rolf Singenberger adds, “Geometry is leading as it defines the seating position of the rider and as such the comfort. Moreover, it says a lot about how the bike behaves. I like to call it: I want to ride the bike, not the bike ride with me’. Therefore we have a bend in the fork and the top tube in our frame design.”
His first project when he joined the company was the development of the Eddy 70, specially designed to celebrate Merckx’s seventieth birthday.
Local frame production
Started as a small factory in 1980, the Eddy Merckx Cycles has grown to an annual output of 10,000 bikes. Entering the facility in Belgium Zellik means a step into history. Every corner and each doorstep in the modern-styled offices and showroom reminds the visitors of Merckx’s 525 victories in his cycling career. This is perfect brand building for the company, highlighting the successes of the company’s founder and namesake.
The production hall itself will soon be restyled as well, but already includes the latest technology, including a paint facility. Although Eddy Merckx Cycles imports most of the frames from Asia, its fully-equipped frame production department is still operational for small series, as well as special projects such as the limited editions and customization. “This is also an important part of our heritage that we are proud (of) and which we are going to put forward in our marketing,” says Singenberger.
Production in Belgium
Diepensteyn’s investment in Eddy Merckx Cycles was aimed to maintain the production of bicycles in Belgium ownership. Diepensteyn is the private equity owned by Jan Toye, among them CEO of the Palm beer brewery and focuses on Belgian companies with a strong and historical brand.
Making Eddy Merckx Cycles future-proof
“The idea of Diepensteyn was to make Eddy Merckx Cycles future-proof and profitable again,” says Jan Toye. “To be prepared for the growth we have also been looking for top manufacturing partners very close to the market. It is not beneficial to produce everything in Belgium. In addition to the costs, it is also limiting your flexibility. Therefore, we work with two assembly partners in Taiwan. Here in Zellik we still assemble all bicycles for the European market, the high-end range as well as all customized bikes for customers worldwide.”