Building the Tout Terrain Brand and Bikes
Tout Terrain builds bicycles to cross continents or circumnavigating the globe. Development and production takes place in an inconspicuous, industrial building from 1970s in Gundelfingen, a small town abutting the north of Freiburg in the Black Forest of Southern Germany. While the building may be older, what’s inside is cutting edge. The Black Forest region is a hub of German bicycle innovation in research, development, and manufacturing. Of these local innovations, one was Tout Terrain’s frame design with integrated rear racks, and another was the brand becoming the first manufacturer to spec the Gates Carbon Drive® belt as standard equipment. These features required a splittable and particularly precise frame. Other innovations came in the form of framesets which integrate the Pinion gearbox, with its impressive 636 percent gear range. This found its way into a production bicycle for the first time under the Tout Terrain roof. For the brand, even simple things must be done very, very well. Every detail from steel to spoke, is carefully scrutinized.
Tout Terrain's history in Touring Bikes
“For us, rider input is invaluable, and we put their wishes first,” explains Oliver Römer, discussing the Tout Terrain approach to products and service which was developed together with Stephanie Römer. “This is why we like to talk with long-standing customers and listen carefully when they talk about their perfect bike.” Stephanie shows one of the prototypes models: “Even our test bicycles are ready to ride. They have been well tested, and because of the feedback we get, we know what needs improvement.” In the end, the high standards and low maintenance of the bikes allow riders to plot courses freely between countries rather than riding from bike shop to bike shop. “Our prototypes have to be perfect for us first, then they proceed to lab for testing to ensure they meed the highest technical standards. An example of our focus: our expedition series steel comes from the Italian tubing manufacturer Dedacciai, which is absolutely the best material for this application.“ Explains Oliver. “All of the raw frames you see in our workshop that are waiting to be painted are fabricated and welded by same specialized family firm in Taiwan.“ There is also a lot of in-house quality control: “No bicycle leaves our hands without undergoing thorough series of checks performed throughout the build process.“
Building Bikes in Germany
It may be self-evident that many members of the Tout Terrain‘s team are bike-geeks. There is true devotion from everyone in the build process from frame painting, and wheel building to the fine adjustment of headsets and shift cables. “Every single team member is strong in his job, but only as a team are we perfect,” says Stephanie as she explains the working atmosphere. “This is the only way to create something special: a long-lasting, high-quality, safe, and thoughtful two-wheeled companion.“ Most of the team members have a Tout Terrain bike, and commute to work by bicycle. Cycling is the greenest form of transportation after all, but at Tout Terrain environmental responsibility is taken a few steps further. Stephanie cites the example of the farm-to-table fruit crate, which is delivered weekly to the manufactory, encouraging healthy attitudes and supporting local farmers, reducing plastic waste and transportation emissions. “Our shipping department reuses packaging materials whenever they can,“ Oliver adds. Because Tout Terrain bicycles are designed to last a lifetime, the frames are well-protected. The environmentally conscious in-house powder coating facility lets the finishing team apply three coats of paint on every bicycle with utmost care and attention to detail.
Steel, rather than aluminum, is the frame material of choice at Tout Terrain. This has both performance and ecological reasons: not only does this minimize the footprint of the production process, but the likelihood that one can repair rather than replace a frame is much higher. On the road, this can mean saving both a frame and a tour. If the day does come to retire your bike, steel is very easy to recycle. In 2009, Julian Sayarer circumnavigated the globe in 165 days on the Tout Terrain Silkroad. The 29,049 kilometers put him in the Guinness Book of World Records. Paul and Hansen Hoeppner biked 13,000 km from Berlin to Shanghai, also on the Silkroad. “Most of the improvements to our bikes, however, have been made after small tours,” explains Oliver as he presses the button on the handlebar lock of the Ergo-Stop-Plus steering stop. “See here, this keeps the handlebars straight even with heavily loaded panniers up front. It prevents damage to the frame, light cables and hoses.“
Early Adpters of the Belt Drivetrain
The quality drivetrain options on all Tout Terrain Touring bikes are a joy to pedal. Not only are there models for tours around the world, but for trips around the block. “The belt drive and the Pinion gearbox fit perfectly together,” Stephanie explains the concept and takes a look in the showroom, pointing first to The City model. “First and foremost, this clean belt-driven drivetrain is the perfect street-car substitute: low maintenance and clean.“ But a city bike is by no means limited to the commute: with a rear rack and bottle cages, these bikes can work all week long, and happily play on the weekends.
The Introduction of E-Bikes
For a brand that offers recreational bikes, the choice to include e-bikes in the lineup was a relatively easy one. “The majority of our touring cyclists want to ride without electric assist. They even use generator hubs which and which allow them to charge their GPS or smartphone,“ explains Oliver. Nevertheless, there are now six E-bike models in the lineup. To integrate the electric assist, Tout Terrain opted for a rear hub motor in combination with the Pinion gearbox and Gates Carbon belt drive. This configuration also allows a fast, 45 km/h S-Pedelec version model for the Swiss market.
Tout Terrain Trailers
It is perhaps no surprise that a niche product specialist like Tout Terrain would bring single-wheeled child trailers to market. Their unique, narrow design allows the trailers to follow in-line with the wheels of the parent’s bike. The Singletrailer is in use behind Stephanie‘s bike right now. Trailers have been part of the product lineup since the early days of the company and are still in production (and evolving) today. Behind the frosted glass door of the “Future Lab” on the top floor of the manufactory, the development team is constantly working on enhancements to the product lineup which now consists of 24 bicycle models. The lab is of course for authorized personal only! In the end, the developers want only the best products for their own tours - a product development plan that really works.
Awards and Recognition
Tout Terrain bikes have their price. That‘s not really surprising given selection of components and the care taken in assembly. The bikes are also award-winning: In 2006, the Panamericana model was awarded the Eurobike Award, and in 2008 nominated for the German Design Award. The Silkroad Xplore won the Prize German Design Award in 2014, while in 2017 the X.Over Scrambler won the same award. Other recognition was given to the Metropolitan and the Silkroad Xplore models with the Eurobike Awards in 2009 and 2012. But it’s not only experts that like Tout Terrain bikes. In February 2017 Readers of Cycle magazine voted the Chiyoda as the best Urban Bike. In Trekkingbike magazine they chose Tout Terrain in second place among the competing bike brands.