Canyon are something of a phenomenon in the bike world. The German company's combination of direct internet sales linked to cutting edge design and technology, usually at a much more affordable price than its competitors, has proved a winning formula. Growth has been rapid and with it there have been growing pains. The implementation of a new software system as their new assembly line came on stream last year lead to frustrations all round.
On the back of that Canyon invited us over to Germany to see exactly what they were trying to achieve and how they were working to clear the backlog of orders.
road.cc last visited Canyon Bikes back in August of 2013 and a lot has changed since then, most notably the opening in October of their brand new warehouse and production facility which houses a state of the art assembly line and enough room to store 14,000 bikes. We popped over to Koblenz to take a guided tour.
Due to the rapid growth of Canyon expansion was necessary so just a few kilometres drive from Canyon Home (that’s what they call the HQ building) you’ll find their new factory looking pretty imposing with its matt black slab-sided walls and fifty thousand square meter footprint.
This building is arguably one of the most advanced facilities in the cycle industry and is primarily used for building bikes. Canyon have their frames, forks and components manufactured in the Far East but final assembly of each model is done here in Germany.
At full capacity three hundred and seventy-five bikes a day (eight hour shift) will come off of the assembly line though it hasn't been without its problems. The new setup had teething troubles right from the beginning which had a huge knock on affect to customer delivery times, especially in the UK. It was a hard time for Canyon with- as we reported at the time - many customers taking to social media to vent their frustrations.
Some days the line was only running for 60% of the shift and with each stop and restart needing a twenty minute reboot it was quick to see why they fell behind schedule so quickly.
Due to the backlog Canyon have had to continue assembling at their previous factory too where they have a maximum capacity of one hundred and eighty bikes in an eight-hour shift. The new facility is currently alternating between a week of nine-hour shifts and running all day on a Saturday.
Canyon believe they’ve now resolved the transition issues and the delivery date you see on the website is the one you’ll be unwrapping your new bike.
Security is tight and once you've passed through the ID card activated turnstiles and two electronically locked doors you find the inside is typically Canyon, clean, organised and uncluttered with large expanses of glass everywhere to let plenty of light in. The two hundred odd staff (it’s not only production here, you’ll find IT, Purchasing and Finance departments too) get a large locker room with showers and drying facilities which considering most of them cycle to work is very well used. There is also a large canteen with its own chef, vending machines and of course – table football.
From the canteen, full height glass panels give you your first glimpse of the assembly line - this is it.
Canyon’s Head of Logistics is an ex-BMW employee and you can see his influence as soon as you set foot on the shop floor as it is basically a miniature version of an automotive factory.
The line comprises of twenty-three stations, each with a team member who has a specific job to do as the frames continuously pass by before coming off of the end a completed bike. The first operations being frame preparation like facing of the bottom bracket shell, headsets, that kind of thing before cockpit, groupsets and the rest get added.
The line travels at a speed to balance efficiency and precision, after all it's no point building hundreds of bikes that then need to be re-assembled or fettled all over again.
You certainly don’t want operatives pulling the ‘red ball’ (an emergency stop cord above each station) either for a rushed fudged part installation due to that twenty minute reboot time.
With time will come refinement which will see efficiency rise to hit that full capacity although there is still a little way to go as on the day we arrived the output was two hundred and twenty bikes, the operatives had hit the daily target though.
Once completed each bike gets a test ride on the indoor track, a simple marked lane up the side of the facility where brakes and gears are tested to make sure everything is spot on before it reaches the customer.
If everything is good it gets passed over to the Dispatch area where the bike will be placed into one of Canyon’s bespoke bike boxes. If you’ve not seen one before it’s an oversized bike box which allows the bike to placed inside practically fully assembled, all you’ll have to do is add the handlebars, seatpost and front wheel. The Ultimate CF SLX we’re currently testing arrived in one and assembly took all of fifteen minutes.
On a full production day Dispatch can be boxing and packing up to six hundred bikes a day into the backs of lorries which, when you include components and accessories orders can see two thousand parcels per day leaving the factory within fourteen hours of you clicking 'buy' with your mouse if it's on the shelves.
Three of the four goods in/goods out bays were being used for deliveries the day we were there though thanks to lorry loads of SRAM boxes turning up.
It truly is amazing how many components are delivered and stored within the facility which is why Canyon needed the twenty-eight thousand square meters of warehousing containing rows and rows of racking reaching thirty meters high. Every product on the shelving is scanned and traced too from the moment it enters the building to the moment it leaves.
Teams of pickers on forklifts or electric pallet trucks whizz around the factory moving parts to where they need to go guided by the details downloaded to their wrist worn tablet devices. The factory runs three different computer systems to keep track of everything.
Each range of bikes are built in batches which is dependent on customer orders and component deliveries as well, suppliers like Shimano also manufacture in batches too you see. This is what creates the bike's delivery date on the Canyon website.
To make sure the assembly line is running smoothly a picker will have a full list of components for each bike so these will be scanned and delivered to each work station, boxes of bottom bracket cups, bolts, cables and the like all neatly aligned in easy reach for the assembly operative.
Selling components and kit is also part of the business, that’s how Canyon started off after all so there are also rows and rows of helmets, shoes and accessories taking up space in the warehouse.
So there you have it, a pretty impressive facility don’t you think.
Although with sales of bikes expecting to hit 100,000 a year within the foreseeable future don't expect this to be the final Canyon factory to be built, they've already earmarked the land either side for expansion.
Canyon’s HQ is located on the outskirts of the city and it’s the main hub of everything that is going on within the company. You’ve got the shop which is open to the public selling the bikes, clothing, accessories and components from a range of manufacturers with one of the coolest interiors you’ll see. TV’s playing demo videos and an in-store cafe.
There is a service hub too, a small room where you drop your bike off for repair and servicing before it’s taken into the main workshop for a fettle by one of the twenty or so mechanics, each at a fully stocked work station.
In here you’ll also find the frankly amazing demo fleet, virtually every model in a variation of builds and sizes are available for prospective customers to take a test ride.
It's like your local bike shop on steroids.
Behind closed doors
Canyon may outsource their production to Asia but the design, development and testing is done right here behind the locked doors of their own Secret Squirrel section. Dave Arthur took you around this area in his previous piece so I won’t dwell too much, there have been a few additions though.
Remember this X-ray machine?
A device that cost Canyon a cool half a million Euro’s but it’s something they wouldn’t be without. So much so that some of their frame suppliers now have them too by Canyon's request – especially those who are manufacturing the top end Ultimate’s or Aeroad's for example with their lightweight, thin walled tubes.
Every frame is checked before it leaves the factory plus Canyon HQ then rechecks 5% of each batch at random before assembly. The same goes for carbon components like forks and the H36 Aerocockpit one-piece handlebar and stem – 100% of them are X-rayed in Koblenz with the computer software not only storing the image against the components serial number but also a 3D model created from the scan. This gives Canyon full traceability of each component from manufacture to customer.
Destructive testing also takes place at the HQ with the likes of this machine and jig for testing fork leg fatigue.
A load of 620N is applied in both a forwards and backwards direction for 100,000 cycles to make sure it passes.
For production of small prototype parts Canyon have also invested in their own five axis CNC milling machine. Another huge outlay but working alongside 3D printers they can produce new components and brackets in tiny batches before going to full production.
The R&D department works closely with their pro teams too with both Movistar and Katusha being assigned their own Canyon engineers who work with them at every single race passing back feedback from the riders to the development team.
Canyon are still growing at an outstanding pace with, as I said earlier, the expectance of selling 100,000 bikes per year pretty soon. Once the new production facility is up to full speed they are expecting to be shipping 750 bikes a day plus be able to offer fully customisable bike builds – various bar tape, tyre and saddle colours for example.
What about discs I hear you ask? Well we know they’re coming – after all we saw Kristoff's Tweet the other day didn’t we but Canyon aren’t in any rush to release something they aren’t 100% confident with giving the impression they are watching the whole disc thing to see where standards and the like are going.
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!