The Riese & Müller Story.
Two friends with a passion for bikes created a globally leading premium bike company from modest beginnings. Not overnight – but they did so with good ideas, mutual appreciation in their collaboration and a deep-rooted conviction to do the right thing. These values remain at the core of how we see ourselves to this day. This is the history of Riese & Müller.
It all starts with friendship.
1988. It was a coincidence that decisively shaped their lives. Markus Riese and Heiko Müller got to know each other on the first day of their mechanical engineering degree course in Darmstadt. They were in their early twenties and quickly became friends. Their common passions: tinkering, cycling – and travel. A cycle tour first took them to Tunisia in 1991, which ended up being a real adventure. They were riding through rough terrain and their wheels kept getting stuck in the desert sand. Nonetheless, they didn’t give up. They discussed their future, desires and goals on this trip. The friends realised: they both wanted to change something. With bikes.
The birth of the Birdy.
1992 & 1993.
The two friends started tinkering away in the garage while they still lived with their parents. At some point, Markus came up with an idea: a folding bike on which the pivot points act as suspension, and which rides like a normal bike. This was a first. Using a borrowed welding machine, they first built a bike for test rides from frame parts, then a geometric model. The concept worked.
Markus and Heiko were so convinced of their invention that they decided to enter it for the 1993 Hesse Innovation Award. In just 10 days and several night shifts, they produced a full-suspension, folding, bright-red prototype. The riding experience was incomparable – like flying through the air as light as a feather: the Birdy was born. It won the Special Award – an incredible success and source of motivation.
“I want to build this bicycle!”
1993 & 1994. With the award in their pocket and brimming with euphoria, the two friends presented themselves to the trade for the first time as “riese und müller”. On their improvised stand at Intercycle in Cologne and Eurobike in Friedrichshafen, they showcased the Birdy alongside other products, including the “Hot Ears” – an early invention by Markus to prevent riders getting cold ears under a bike helmet.
Representatives of the sector took interest in the young engineers, but no one bit. Until a Taiwan-based entrepreneur came to their stand. George Lin saw the Birdy and was enthused: “I want to build this bicycle!” This was their big opportunity.
Riese & Müller forms a company.
1994 & 1995. Straight from the fair, Markus travelled to Taiwan for two weeks with the red Birdy in his luggage to have a production-ready prototype built. The dream of their own bike company was within reach, but the risks were great. Friends and family provided start-up capital, and a bank offered the duo the start-up loan they need. Only then could Markus and Heiko have the first 250 Birdys produced in Taiwan.
The arrival of the container at the company headquarters, an old dairy in Darmstadt, represented a milestone. A small business had emerged from their modest start in the garage.
A folding bike conquers the world.
1995 & 1996. The Birdy took on an unbelievable momentum of its own. Bike retailers were practically grabbing the innovative folding bikes out of Markus and Heiko’s hands. It was also sold in the USA and Japan. Riese & Müller was an international company from the outset. The Birdy was the ‘hot’ insider tip among commuters; cycling tourists even took it as far as Nepal and the Antarctic. Fan clubs emerged all over the world. The Birdy gained cult status.
The range of models grows.
1997-2008. The company’s innovative prowess was unabated. With their new Culture and Avenue models Markus and Heiko developed two comfortable, extremely dynamic bikes for urban riding and touring. The sporty, iconic Delite came shortly after. The company consistently made the “Full-suspension cycling” slogan a reality. Riese & Müller became a brand for discerning clients who valued comfort, durability and a distinctive look. The Equinox chair bike and the Gemini, the first Cargo Bike with a child seat integrated at the front, originated from this era.
Bikes go electric.
2008. Markus and Heiko made a groundbreaking decision. They saw huge potential for everyday mobility in the pedelec, which was still a niche product at the time. The goals they set for a new product range were – once again – ambitious: light weight, excellent comfort, visual integration of the drive and battery and ultimate performance for all components. After intensive development, they launched the Jetstream hybrid alongside electric versions of the Birdy and Delite. With a slim design, full suspension, 250-watt motor and 37 km range, it perfectly met all requirements – and struck a chord: it won the Eurobike Green Award for its outstanding ecological and sustainable credentials. That was exactly how Markus and Heiko had imagined it.
The breakthrough as a mobility provider.
2009-2018. From now on, the company focused on electric bikes. The complete model range, with the exception of the Birdy, was converted to pedelecs. This was a conviction that went far beyond cycling: E-Bikes were intended to persuade amateur sportsmen and women but also people who do not usually use bikes. E-Bikes could replace cars. Riese & Müller pursued these fundamental ideas with a host of new models. The result was the comfortable Nevo low step-through, the Charger, which is ideal for everyday commuting, and the Packster and Load Cargo Bikes.
The company’s declared objectives: to provide high-quality, well-thought-out bikes for the ‘mobility revolution’, to create an awareness of mitigating climate change and a responsible lifestyle and to become the market leader in the premium E-Bike growth sector. In 2013, the economist Dr Sandra Wolf was brought on board as a third CEO to help to achieve this vision. Since then, she has acted as a pioneer in shaping the company.
Three personalities – one common path.
2019-2023. Society and urban mobility were changing at a record pace; global challenges were calling into question accepted norms. The management team reformed: Sandra Wolf has become Managing Partner and is responsible for the company’s strategic direction and sustainability – one of the cornerstones of Riese & Müller. Founder and partner Markus Riese is completely in his element as an engineering mentor: coming up with new ideas and trying the impossible. And Heiko Müller, as Managing Partner, oversees day-to-day operational business – with foresight and prudence.
Where we are now.
Today & in the future. We face the challenges of the times with courage and determination – after all, big tasks have always had a magical attraction for us. What does tomorrow’s mobility look like? On our state-of-the-art campus in Mühltal, Germany, we are working on products and ideas that are far more than just bikes: lightweight E-Bikes for urban environments, smart and connected. Smart cargo solutions for businesses of all sizes. And new ways of owning a bike.
As a global company, we also assume responsibility for the ecological and social consequences of our actions. In our view, sustainable product design, resource-efficient management, fair conditions for the people we work with, and a transparent supply chain are not just options reserved for the good times. They are part of our identity and conviction.