Headwinds and tailwinds: ABUS on how the future looks for the German brand

Since it was founded in 1994, ABUS kept a firm focus on the commuting and leisure markets, but in 2016 jumped into the high-performance scene. Here’s how the future looks for the German brand

This piece first appeared in the June edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here

Unlike many brands in the cycle industry, ABUS is a name that will be recognised far outside of the bike trade bubble. Initially founded in 1924 as a padlock manufacturer, the brand remained focused on producing innovative locks, including the first ever U-lock, before ABUS made the fateful decision to branch into bike helmets in 1994.

Fast forward to 2022, August Bremicker und Söhne (August Bremicker and Sons) is one of the most recognisable helmet brands on the market, in part thanks to its major focus on performance, from WorldTour road cycling to triathlon superstars.

But the decision to focus on the high-performance side of the trade is a recent development for ABUS, so how did it come about? “Since ABUS started making helmets in 1994 our focus has been primarily on commuting, leisure and kids helmets,” said Roger Seal, sales and marketing manager for ABUS Mobile Security in the UK and Ireland. “ABUS is very strong in most European markets where ‘everyday’ cycling is the norm.

“In 2016-17 we jumped into the road performance sector, started our sponsorship of Movistar Team and opened ‘Made In Italy’ helmet production. We made the strategic decision at this time to attack the road market first, so project MTB had to wait until 2018, when we launched a compact, mid-to-high-end range of trail and enduro helmets.”

The move proved fruitful, as ABUS has since been present at some of the biggest events in the cycling world, worn by cross-discipline star Mathieu van der Poel at the Tour de France, former road world champion Annemiek van Vleuten, and mountain bike legend Cedric Gracia.

But ABUS’ elite sponsorship is not just about exposure, as the brand also uses pro rider expertise to help innovate and improve its range of protective equipment. Seal added: “Every single helmet we offer is constantly scrutinised and re-developed. Mountain biking is a hugely varied sport and back in 2018 our range didn’t include models suitable for gravity riders, nor were entry-level price points available.

“Working with our brand ambassadors like Cedric Gracia and [freeride pioneer] Ritchey Schley gave our development team a big increase in expertise and the motivation to create products that were class-leading in every category.

“We are super happy to be working with so many top athletes and brand ambassadors. Their passion, relentless questioning and search for ever-greater performance drives our product development teams.”

In 1993, ABUS split its cycling offering into an independent division of the company, known as Mobile Security. Today the company is still split into three major components – Home Security locks and alarms for private residences, Commercial Security all focused around businesses, and Mobile Security, where bicycle, motorbike, and other leisure products sit.

ABUS now offers helmets for all disciplines, from road, to off-road, urban, and the kids’ market, while also remaining a major player in bike locks. There has been plenty of sporting success for ABUS helmets, but like the rest of the industry, the brand has had to battle through the chaos of the coronavirus pandemic, including the difficulty in developing new products through various global lockdowns.

“Covid has been given us both headwinds and tailwinds,” Seal added. “Back in 2020 it created a boom by getting more people on bikes and therefore needing new helmets. In many European markets our helmet business has massively increased.

“But at the same time lead times and shipping costs have dramatically increased, bike and component supply is erratic, and this situation doesn’t look likely to change during 2022, with a constant rollercoaster of lockdowns straining supply chains and fanning inflation. Product development has been a huge challenge when you are not allowed to travel.”

While the ripples from the pandemic continue to impact the trade, ABUS still has plans to capitalise on the success of its helmet business in recent years, particularly in the gravel and e-bike markets, which Seal said will broaden the demographic of cycling consumers. ABUS recently took 100% ownership of its Italian helmet production, making it one of the only brands that manufactures its own helmets, which will help ramp up production in the coming years.

On plans for the future, Seal said: “We will continue to build the current range to include helmets for all MTB disciplines and age groups. We plan to hugely increase capacity over the next four years. This will also allow us to offer helmets across all categories made in the EU at a wider range of price points than was previously possible.”

He added: “Gravel and e-bikes continue to bring a wider demographic into cycling. For MTB riders the breadth of trail choices and levels constantly gets bigger. In towns and cities cargo bikes are slowly replacing school runs and white vans. We have a long way to go in the UK before cycling becomes mainstream – but that’s where we belong.”

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