Got a bicycle? Not like this one you haven’t. Markus Storck builds bicycles that marry high art with technical exactitude. Their beauty and precision attract some of the best and most persistent enthusiasts in the business, whether for road racing, time trials, mountains, cyclo-cross, or simply riding (very carefully) along the street. Don’t ask about prices, either. Even in the winter sale, Storck’s machines push £2,000 and, if you really go for it, the sky’s the limit: £15,600 for the limited-edition Aston Martin Storck F3.
For a bike wizard, Storck is surprisingly easy to talk to, inveigling you into a world where it seems perfectly sensible to spend a substantial sum on a push bike. Perhaps you already own a Storck? You’d be in good company, because Markus owns an Aston Martin, but we’ll get back to that. The fact is that Storck’s bikes are technically state of the art and his expertise in carbon fibre is the envy of more than a few car builders. At the age of 53, his career has seen involvement with a litany of specialist sports-car builders. So where did this all come from?
“My grandfather was a professional [bicycle] racer,” Storck says from his home near Frankfurt, “and raced for the Opel team. That was on my mother’s side, but on my father’s side, he was a racer as well... So I was genetically coded with bikes.” As a result, Storck started racing bikes from the age of six, but at 13 doctors discovered he only had one kidney, which at that time barred him from racing.
It seemed like a natural step for Storck to go into the family bicycle firm in Frankfurt, which had been purchased by his father in 1969. However, a quiet life brazing up frames and fitting wicker baskets to handlebars wasn’t for him. “I stopped my racing career and started designing,” he says. “I made my first frame in 1977.”
Storck founded his own company in 1986, manufacturing Bike-Tech branded machines, working on tubing and the geometry of existing frames as well as distributing a variety of components, including SRAM and Klein machines.
He was still studying frame design and in 1990 he went to Japan to study under Yoshiaki Ishigaki, master frame builder and founder of Toyo Frames.
“I’d say the Japanese approach to making things is probably the closest to the German one,” he muses. “There’s a lot of shared thinking and engineering is a key part of their success. It’s all about quality and engineering, which sometimes takes forever, but the products are outstanding; we are both numbers people.”
Storck’s studies drove him in the direction of carbon fibre as a frame material (although he still works in titanium, aluminium and steel) and in 1993 he developed the world’s first bicycle crank made of the material.
But the purchase of Klein in 1995 forced him to rethink his future — Klein had represented 60% of Storck’s business. He asked his father’s permission to use the family name (although he had used it before) and in 1995 he founded Storck with the ambition to manufacture the best bicycles in the world.
Twenty-eight years later Storck has certainly made it up there with the best, winning awards by the bucket load, including a prestigious Red Dot design award, German Design and German Brand awards. Olympic champions have ridden his machines and his mountain bike was showcased at the intriguing “Ingenious Bicycle Patents” exhibition at the German Patent Office in Munich. There can’t be much room in the trophy cabinet these days.
Cars have also featured strongly in Storck’s life and he has owned between 35 and 40 over the years. “Lancia Delta Integrale, Lotus Omega [Carlton], an immaculate Triumph TR5 and Porsches, including two Cayennes, and also a Lancia Thema 8.32 — the one with the Ferrari engine,” he recalls. When I mention that the headline on the Fast Lane magazine test of that infamous Lancia was “Conan the Understeer”, he laughs ruefully. “Yes — mine would lose its ignition at 260kph on the autobahn.”
Cars and bikes are his twin passions (after his wife Helena, to whom he has been married for more than 20 years and whom he jointly credits with their successes). Slowly, two and four wheels have started to come together. Between 1999 and 2003 Storck built and designed bicycles to accessorise the Porsche Cayenne, then he was involved as a carbon-fibre consultant with the BMW’s i sub-brand. So where is the Aston Martin connection here? “I loved Porsche, but I am a big James Bond fan,” he says.
The lure of an Aston Martin was strong and in 2010, with the business doing well, he was finally hooked by an N420, the special lightweight edition of the V8 Vantage coupé, with lots of carbon fibre parts. “It was a manual shift and I drove it for nearly two years, through the winter, through everything. It functions better than a [Porsche] 911 in the snow, I can tell you, because there is more clearance round the tyres. I was super happy with that car.”
Storck then decided to upgrade to his beloved DBS. “I said to Helena, ‘It’s my dream car, my last car, I won’t sell it, ever’. Helena said, ‘I’ve heard that one before’, but we bought it anyway.” Although Storck sold the N420 to buy the DBS, he was now “on the list”. As a result, he was invited to the Vanquish launch in Frankfurt, where he offered the benefit of his experience to suggest some changes to the car’s carbon-fibre coachwork, particularly in the roof. “I saw this beautiful car and they didn’t show the carbon fibre because there was a technical issue in using it and not a cosmetic issue, and they had to make an extra mould for the roof. So I said this is crazy because you are adding weight and cost where it is not needed.”
I knew it would be a very difficult project because Aston Martin has never built seven identical cars for a private person
Then followed a chance meeting with then Aston CEO Dr Ulrich Bez at Aston’s centenary celebrations in London, which provided the impetus for a collaborative project with Q by Aston Martin, Aston Martin’s unique personalisation service. Coincidentally, during a stint at Porsche, Bez had initiated the Porsche bikes, was a keen cyclist and a big fan of Storck’s work.
One thing led to another and eventually the German bicycle maker was summoned to Aston’s headquarters at Gaydon to explain his ideas, specifically for a special version of the Vanquish that celebrates the use of carbon fibre. “A key driving force in the success of the project is Marek [Reichmann, Aston Martin’s design director],” he says. “I think he is a super, super, super-talented designer.”
That Storck is proud of the subsequent One of Seven limited edition is something of an understatement. “I knew it would be a very difficult project, because Aston Martin has never built seven identical cars for a private person.” Satin-black paint, bare carbon-fibre trim and even carbon badging, Storck’s concept went further and was more focused than a similar project he undertook with McLaren. The cars were built, with Storck keeping one for himself and finding buyers for the other six. “Do you know why is it called One of Seven,” he asks delightedly, “because One of Seven is O O Seven, is 007!” His face splits in a schoolboy’s grin.
Storck has some interesting ideas about the future for carbon fibre in car making, not just its qualities of rigidity and lightness, but also how to recycle it. “The automotive industry always follows the bike industry,” he says. “But the only way to recycle [carbon fibre] is basically in a shredder,” he says, “and then you burn it, so there is really no recycling because you can’t separate the fibres from the resin. For the moment, a lot of people are thinking about the carbon fibre, [but] it’s good to think more about the resin.”
He wants to expand the use of his Nano Carbon Technology Resin into automotive fields where less resin is used to fill the air gaps between the carbon fibres, which in turn improves its suitability for recycling, especially when combined with a new patented injection-moulding process using short carbon fibres. This dramatically reduces production time and cost, which could democratise carbon fibre’s automotive applications.
Storck believes that carbon fibre isn’t going away, partly because in the forthcoming era of battery-powered individual mobility it offers unassailable advantages in weight and strength. From an aesthetic point of view, it moulds into more extreme shapes that bring the current fashion for matt and dark-grey paint finishes to life. “These are the cars that will appeal to the next generation of car collectors,” he says.
All of this from a liking for a fictional super spy. So who is his favourite Bond? Connery? Lazenby? Moore? He laughs. “This is difficult, but when I look at Sean Connery or Roger Moore, they are more the perfect gentlemen,” he says. “But I think Daniel Craig is absolutely right for the times we live in, a bit of a street-tough guy, the perfect James Bond.” And if Bond ever needs a bike, he knows just where to go.