MERIDA is not just one of the biggest bike manufacturers in the world, but also offers a huge selection of parts and accessories. With this rather large array of products, from standard items like water bottles, mini pumps and bottle cages, via parts like our S-Flex seat post, our bars and super light stems all the way to apparel like race kit, helmets, glasses and gloves, it is not that surprising that our product team needs a dedicated man in charge. Welcome to Marc Lehmann, our man behind the…‘mini pump’.
In on our series of 'man behind…' we are keen to find out what the various members of our team do to take our products to the next level, how they got into their jobs, where they get their inspiration from but also what makes them tick away from their desk.
MERIDA: Marc, you have been part of the MERIDA family for almost a year now. Please let us know what you did before you joined us and how you got into your current position as the Product Manager for MERIDA Parts and Accessories (MPA)?
MARC: Before I started cycling almost 8 years ago I was madly into motorbikes. I spent all my free time on the racetrack, worked as a motorcycle mechanic and studied automotive engineering afterwards. But after a couple of years into my degree, I discovered cycling. Fixed gear cycling to be exact. At the beginning I rode from here to there, from home to the university, it was just casual riding and absolutely not sportive. But then I met some guys who were training properly. I started riding with them, and they challenged me a lot at the beginning. I am naturally very ambitious, so I began to train as well. We became friends, and we founded a fixed gear crew - the origin of my cycling passion. This crew became known in the surrounding cities, and I got to know more and more people like Jens Lange for example. Jens is the former MPA guy and the man behind the SILEX. He was my first contact within the MERIDA family. I was working for Daimler in the R&D department of truck engines when I met Jens.
After two years with Daimler, I decided to take a half year break and go hiking and climbing, which besides cycling are my other passion. I spent a few weeks climbing in Italy, before flying to Nepal for an amazing three-week-long hiking trip. After that, I flew to Laos where I spent two months in a climbing camp close to Thakhek. During that time, I realised that the automotive business is not my future. And now I am a part of the MERIDA family. Life is like cycling. If you train hard and keep working on your goals, you can reach them. Sometimes it’s heaven, sometimes it’s hell, but it is always fun and worth it.
MERIDA: Give us an idea what your typical day looks like. As it probably changes a lot from when you are in your office and when you are abroad (Taiwan), maybe give us an idea of both of those 'typical' days.
MARC: A normal working day, no matter where starts of course with a coffee. When I am in Germany, I commute to work every day. 45km a day. 225km a week. 900 a month. Fixed, road or cyclo cross bike, it all depends on the weather. When I arrive at the office, I have another coffee and check my emails. And then the real work starts. Due to the variety of the MPA line-up, there are a lot of things to do. As a product manager, you have the responsibly to find the right products, define the line-up for the next year and to make sure that everything looks good.
Therefore, most of the time I communicate with our vendors and suppliers and try to finalise the product range and what the products look like. As it doesn’t always work that well to communicate via email or phone, I have regular face to face meetings with our key vendors and suppliers. I spend 3 to 4 weeks of the year in Taiwan to find new products, to work on new ideas, visit exhibitions and of course enjoy the warm weather when it is winter in Germany. But a typical workday in Taiwan is quite busy compared to a day in the office in Germany. Meetings, meetings and guess what meetings. But it is always worth it and very productive. I feel very comfortable because the Taiwanese mentality is very warm and courteous. Always respectful and focused to reach the goal. If I stay over the weekend, I have the chance to ride a bike and to discover the area around Changhua like the beautiful Sun Moon Lake.
MERIDA: As we mentioned above, we have a fair few ‘classic’ products like water bottles and bottle cages in our line-up, but there are also a few new ‘different’ ones on the horizon. What are you currently working on and what exciting new part can we expect in the future?
MARC: This year’s big topic was cycling apparel like shorts, jerseys and jackets. Since the beginning of the year, I am also responsible for the cycling apparel. Luckily it is not unknown territory to me, as I used to make a lot of designs for our crew but it is entirely different now to create designs for the whole world instead of a bunch of fixed gear riders. But it worked very well, and we have developed some great looking designs. I am looking forward to seeing our new apparel line-up out on the roads and trails. Besides that, we will offer a new range of self-developed saddles in three different types with an interface to attached a MERIDA saddle bag for example. Other attachable accessories will follow in the future like a very tiny toolbox with the most important Torx and Allen keys inside.
MERIDA: We know that you are a keen cyclist and that you like your bikes ‘simple’ i.e. fixies. Please give us a little bit of a rundown of what sort of riding you are into and how often you get the chance to do it?
MARC: In general, I prefer bikes with a drop bar. I am not really into MTB. My first and biggest love is to ride fixed gear bikes. Sometimes super-fast, technical fixed gear crits or long-distance stage rides like from Munich to Venice, Stuttgart to Hamburg, Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro or from Geneva to Nice over the most spectacular alpine passes. Or just super stupid long distance on day rides between 250 and 370km. As I said HEAVEN and HELL. Before I started working for MERIDA, I didn’t have a bike with gears. It took me some time to get used to the brakes and the shifters, but now I have a second love: road and cyclo cross bikes. I love to ride the REACTO and the brand-new MISSION CX. It is always great to have the choice which bike to take for the daily commute. The variety of the route choices keeps the commuting motivation alive. It is necessary as I have no car and no desire to take the train.
MERIDA: As we know from the bike side of things, it is crucial for our bike product managers to spend as much time as possible on new products and to test them in different stages of the development process and varying conditions. Is that similar for you and do you get the chance to do that?
MARC: Yeah, of course, it is necessary. Only a well-tested product shows its potential issues. Some products are straightforward to test, others are more difficult. That is the most enjoyable part of my job. Testing, testing and testing. At the moment I am testing new items for the MY20 like helmets, sunglasses, pumps and super light two compound bottle cages for example.
MERIDA: Just before you joined us, you took our REACTO TRACK away from its intended home of the velodrome and placed into a very different environment for a very unusual trip. Please tell us more about your Brazilian adventure.
MARC: The Brazilian adventure was called ‘A FOREIGNER IN THE CIRCLE OF THE HARDBRAKERS’ or just HARDBRAKERS GRAND TOUR 2017. I knew one of the guys from that crew and he invited me to join the trip from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro on a track bike with 15 other people including two local guys from the Crew VELODEATH. It was an amazing trip with a bunch of super friendly, chaotic, likeable people. Unfortunately, I did not tolerate the vaccine and was sick the entire trip and had to fly back a few days earlier. But it was incredible to ride the Brazilian highway, the streets on the coast and the national park all the way from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro on a track bike. A lot of people asked me why we use such a bike and I can only say: BECAUSE WE CAN! It is just the purest form of cycling. This summer we rode from Geneva to Nice. 10 People, 10 Track Bikes and 500km with over 9000 meters of climbing in 4 days. This trip was definitely HEAVEN and HELL.
MERIDA: When not riding your bike or working on our growing MPA range, what does Marc Lehmann get up to? Have you got any other perhaps unusual hobbies?
MARC: I don’t know if it is that unusual, but as I mentioned before, I really like hiking and climbing, almost as much as cycling. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to go climbing recently, due to an injury on my left biceps tendon. But this winter I will try to go back to the wall. Otherwise, I like cooking and visiting concerts.
Thanks a lot for your time Marc. We are very much looking forward to some new and exciting accessories, and we hope that will have the chance to go on more exciting fixie trips with your friends.