DISRAELI GEARS

Lightweight

Eugen Allmendinger full-carbon prototype main image Eugen Allmendinger full-carbon prototype main image Eugen Allmendinger full-carbon prototype main image

Lightweight is a brand of CarbonSports GmbH based in Friedrichshafen on the picturesque shores of the Bodensee (Lake Constance to you) in Southern Germany. Many a European cycle dealer will have fond memories of Friedrichshafen from visiting the Eurobike show - which often claims to be the largest bicycle related trade fair in all the world. You can certainly spend a pleasant hour or three there, gazing wistfully across the lake at the distant snowy peaks of the Swiss Alps, while patiently waiting in the mother of all traffic jams caused by tens of thousands of salivating, dreadlocked-German-bike-geek-dudes flocking to get their annual fix of CNC-machined-component-porn.

The Lightweight web site credits the formation of the brand to Heinz Obermayer and Rudolf Dierl who developed full carbon wheels in their garage ‘near Munich’. Strangely, the patent record shows one Monika Dierl and Heinz Obermayer as having applied for their first patent relating to carbon wheels in 1988. Rudolph’s name doesn’t appear on relevant patents until 1993. In the 1988 patent Heinz is listed as living in Munich, but Monika lives in Dachau which is, of course, ‘near Munich’ and may be the site of the legendary garage. I might guess that Dachau is a charming suburb, with clean public parks, good local schools and low property taxes, but its history may just be a touch too toxic for its name to be allowed to appear in advertising material.

What is unarguable is that, by 1995, Lightweight had developed a spectacularly successful wheel design. It was used to win the Tour de France with Bjarne Riis in 1996, Jan Ullrich in 1997 and kind-of-win-it with Lance Armstrong in 2001.

In 2003 the Lightweight brand was sold to CarbonSports GmbH, who were, and are, based in Friedrichshafen.

Lightweight appears on this site because it introduced a startlingly light derailleur constructed almost entirely of carbon composite. The story of this derailleur is a touch obscure, but it might go something like this:

  • Eugen Allmendinger, a serial patenter of bicycle component designs, from Biberach, a town only 65km due north of Friedrichshafen, was an enthusiastic builder of ultra-lightweight carbon-fibre derailleurs. His initial design had a curvaceous form a bit reminiscent of a Shimano Ultegra (6500).
  • Eugen may have built a very small number of these derailleurs to order and sold them through Bike-Tuning-Parts (BTP). This was a company owned by Bernhard Langerbein in Hamm in the Ruhr. These derailleurs were sometimes referred to as 'BTP' derailleurs.
  • Another company, possibly called Carbon Crew may also have sold these derailleurs - or been involved in some way. You sometimes see references to 'Carbon Crew' derailleurs.
  • At some point in the early 'noughties' Eugen Allmendinger started to work with Lightweight to turn his ideas into a higher volume, more commercial, product that would be part of the Lightweight product line.
  • At the 2005 Eurobike show Lightweight showed a prototype of a full carbon derailleur. This followed Eugen Allmendinger's curvaceous design.
  • At the 2006 Eurobike show Lightweight displayed an interesting aluminium development model ostensibly for testing. This was clearly related to Eugen's design, but had a much cleaner, more geometric look.
  • The 2007 Eurobike show marked the appearance of the final, full-carbon, production model based on the 2006 geometric design. This had a claimed weight of a mere 120g and a retail price of, a not very mere, $1,100. I believe that it was available in two versions, one for 9 & 10 speed Shimano and the other for 9, 10 and 11 speed Campagnolo. I have only ever met one person who had used one of these derailleurs (a Campagnolo version) and they swore that it shifted peerlessly.
  • I have a sense that production of the Lightweight derailleur ended in about 2012, but I have no evidence for this date. There was no obvious presence of it on the Lightweight web site in 2015.


Lightweight - web site 2010?

Lightweight - web site 2010?

Lightweight - web site image 1 thumbnail