Cycling is more than simply a means of transport for Rainer Sebal. And it’s no coincidence that he owns seven bikes and that he knows the region’s steepest ridges and mountain peaks like the back of his hand – he conquers these on his mountain bike while the trekking bike is what he uses to get around on and is part of family life with his wife and little daughter while the racing bike is the first choice for fitness training and exploring the beautiful passes that are to be found in the region.
It’s said that exploring your own limits makes you happy. Rainer Sebal and his team develop and build the popular Simplon bikes – the ‘high performance’ claim is not simply an empty promise that the company makes – it’s something that’s taken very seriously. The first Simplon bikes that launched the company’s success story in 1961 were already famous for their love of detail. During the post-war period, it was almost impossible in Austria to get high-quality components for bicycles and so pioneering cyclists turned to nearby Switzerland. That’s when mountain cycling races started to grow in popularity and Simplon itself soon became a household name. The brand quickly became a favourite – and it never lost that status. The competition in this market is fierce but Simplon is one of the leaders in the field and frequently sets the pace – not least due to the inventive minds who work with the head of the development department and who are willing to think the impossible.
Which is something they do when it comes down to exploring the limits of their sport as well as the limits of the materials they use. They are the ones who again and again create new impulses as well as challenges that the competition often finds difficult to respond to. “I would have loved to give up on the Chenoa Uni, our lightest e-bike,” he says with a happy smile, “we almost failed … but in the end it became a milestone in the company’s history.”
He likes to push his sport to the extreme and therefore is aware of the limits of his cycling skills – the only life insurance he has in some situations. It’s not possible to achieve victories – professionally or athletically – without team members who are perfectly adapted to each other. So it’s not surprising that the research and development department is mostly staffed by team players – they’re one of the reasons for the enthusiasm that fills Rainer when he climbs into the saddle to cycle to Hard every day.
His grasp of the world of two-wheels is comprehensive and deep because after graduation and leaving university with a profound knowledge of sports technology, he worked as the editor of a major mountain bike magazine for many years where he was responsible for testing the latest bikes and materials. It was a job that took him around the world and he ‘test rode’ bikes for instance during the Absa Cape Epic in South Africa – one of the most famous and toughest stage races for mountain bikes – or the Ötztal Bike Marathon, which covers more than 5,000 metres in altitude difference and 200 kilometres in distance.
The Simplon company brought the young father from Stuttgart to Hard six years ago. He’s been living with his small family in Dornbirn ever since – and is really enjoying life there. “The mix of nature and urbanity here in the region is unique,” he says, “and the extensive network of cycle paths in the Rhine Valley and in the mountains is fantastic. I couldn’t wish for a better place to live right now.”
Simplon bikes are something for people who love cycling. They’re definitely high-priced but, once you’ve been on one, you won’t want to ride anything else. It’s a job that makes Rainer happy – the limits are where he likes to be best – and when he feels like relaxing.