How it all started

|Insights

Simplon was founded in 1961 by Josef Hämmerle. Today, it’s a world-renowned brand for premium bikes. How did this all come to pass? Let’s find out! 

If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always gotten.
-Albert Einstein-

A brand takes over the bike world

A saying that has a lot of truth to it: If you forget to “keep learning”, you’ll reach a stand-still. If you don’t engage with anything new, there’s no room for development. 

Josef Hämmerle – the founder of Simplon – once made it his goal to produce the highest-quality bikes in the world. With the finest technology available to him at the time. To this day, Simplon stands for innovation, state-of-the-art technology and well-conceived design – always at the forefront of emerging trends. 

Let’s find out, how Simplon developed from a small specialist bike shop into an iconic brand … 
 

Josef Hämmerle – the specialist retailer

A dream came true for Josef Hämmerle in 1930: He opened his own little specialist bike shop in Hard, a small municipality at Lake Bodensee in Austria. Reality caught up with the gifted businessman quickly though. His business wasn’t very profitable in the first few years. The reason: His Swiss competitors kept snatching the customers away from under his nose. Because it wasn’t just the Swiss watches that had a reputation for being high-quality. The premium bikes “Made in Switzerland” were incredibly popular in the 50s. 

Upset about this development, Josef Hämmerle and his two sons, Kurt and Heinz, devised a plan … that turned out to be the beginning of an amazing success story! 

The first bike manufacture in Hard Austria

Josef Hämmerle imported bike parts from Switzerland to piece together his own bicycle. But not just any kind of bike – one that would be better than all the others. In 1961, he eventually founded the brand Simplon together with his sons and, thus, the first bike manufacture in Hard. 

Did you know? The Swiss Alpine pass “Simplon” is the namesake of the bicycle brand. It’s intended to reflect the high standard of quality and precision with which the bikes are manufactured in Hard. 

The 70s: Road bikes become fashionable

In the 70s, road cycle racing started to boom: More and more sports enthusiasts were thrilled by racing along the road on narrow tyres. The sons of the Hämmerle family devoted themselves to this sport with a passion as well. But they didn’t want to ride on a bike off the rack. Instead, they wanted one that would satisfy all their wishes and needs. 

By the end of the 70s, Simplon had established itself on the Austrian market with a number of road bike models. The frames of these new bikes were developed inhouse and then produced by different suppliers.
 

Simplon conquers the mountains

In the 80s, Simplon needed a new company building – for the manufacture, assembly and storage of the bikes. Location: the Obere Achdamm in Hard. 

Andreas Hämmerle – a passionate next-generation cyclist – introduced several other innovations at the company. During his time in the United States, he collected plenty of experience and returned to the Simplon headquarters with new ideas and concepts from overseas. The first mountain bike models were added to Simplon’s range of products – yee-haw, mountains! 

Who would have thought: Andreas Hämmerle purposely refrained from introducing US trends that didn’t live up to his high standards of quality. Simplon was thus often criticised for being old-fashioned. Pretty quickly the decision turned out to be exactly right, though. The fashionable bikes all vanished from the market after a while … 

Steeply uphill – with the accession to the EU and novel technology

The 90s not only opened a lot of doors for Simplon – they were also a time in which new product lines were developed. Frame manufacture experienced a revolution as well. 

With Austria’s accession to the EU in 1995, new export possibilities emerged. Thanks to the opening-up of borders, Simplon took its first steps towards entering the German market. Simplon primarily wanted to stand out with novel technology: frames made of carbon. A material composed of carbon fibres that makes the bikes more comfortable, light-weight and, yet, incredibly durable. It was a major challenge at the time – nowadays, it’s one of the key success factors for Simplon. 

Did you know? Simplon was one of the first manufacturers that established a trekking bike on the market. It was released in 1989 – under the name “Safari”. 

In the here and now

Today, Simplon is known all over the world for its high-quality premium bikes. The individually manufactured bikes made from aluminium and carbon are equally popular with road cyclists, mountain bikers, e-bike riders and wanderlusty trekking fans. Day in and day out, the engineers and designers at Simplon work on novel ideas, materials and technologies to make the bikes even more advanced – always under the credo of “never stand still” … 

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© Erwin Haiden

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