12 Apr 2018

Silex designer Jens Lange

Following on from our 1st article of looking behind the scenes of our Magstadt (Germany) based R&D team in which we sat down with Reynaldo Ilagan to talk about the new ONE-FORTY (story here), it was now time to focus our attention on another new addition to our 2018 line-up and another member of our R&D team – meet Jens Lange and the all-new SILEX.

The SILEX, like all our bikes, are group efforts where various people impact on the initial concept and also turn the new idea into reality. One of the key members of that team has been Jens Lange who we have had the chance to sit down with and not just go through the thought process and the mile-long feature list of the bike, but also meet the person behind the bike who has put his own ‘life and soul’ into this new ‘all road’ bike.

Jens, the new SILEX is in many people’s eyes a somewhat unexpected bike for MERIDA. Can you describe in a few words what the fundamental/original thinking behind this new concept is?

JENS: You can describe the concept in just one sentence: ‘EVERY ROAD IS YOURS’. Our SILEX very much embodies a very modern approach and unique concept with regards to its geometry. The frame stands out due to its versatility and unique geometry. The amount of different mounting options, tyre clearance, newest standards and its adventure-endurance geometry make this bike an outstanding product. Additionally, we offer some great and perfectly fitting MERIDA parts & accessories for the SILEX. The SILEX features the most versatile frame MERIDA has ever made and most likely one of the most versatile bikes on the market today.

The SILEX (like many of our bikes) are real team efforts, where an array of individuals work in tandem to create the best product possible. You were one of the main people behind this bike. Please explain to us what your main part of the project was?

JENS: My experience with bicycles mostly comes from the urban sector, and I have a good knowledge of bicycle parts & accessories. So, for me it was clear, that a ‘gravel’ bike, also has to work for commuting, travelling and bike packing. That’s why we have created the SILEX with lots of interfaces for various accessories, like fenders, carrier, multiple options to mount bottle cages, etc.

Going further along the development process, from the original thinking about the SILEX concept, has the bike developed throughout the process? What has it ultimately turned into?

JENS: The basic idea of the SILEX came from Patrick, who was the product manager for 700C at the time. He wanted to create an endurance road bike that simply offering more comfort than the competition. To say it with his words: ‘We see a lot of bikes with classic drop bars, even though the majority of the riders do not really use the drops. Due to its special geometry (with a long head tube) the SILEX allows for a comfortable riding position even when riding in the drops. The reasons for being able to comfortably ride in the drops of the handlebar are that the rider has more control while descending, as the whole hand can hold onto the handlebar while one finger can use the brakes. Also for long distance rides, it’s essential to be able to change the grip position to create more variety and with that comfort.
Furthermore, we wanted to create a very versatile bike, which is not just versatile on the paper:
-    Great tire clearance (700C x 42mm and 650B x 2.2mm)
-    Lots of mounting point for accessories (bottle cages, fenders, lights, carriers)
-    Possibility to use a dropper seat post
-    And to have a very light frame, which can compete with modern road carbon frames
Summarized in one sentence: "A bike which is your perfect companion, when you are not sure, where today’s ride will end, gravel, road or trails.”

You could argue that our all-road-bike is a compromise on many levels. Where do you see the main strength of the bike?

JENS: The main strength of the SILEX is its versatility and the riding comfort it offers. A very long head tube and long reach combined with a short stem and relatively low stand-over-height give a unique riding experience. This leads to a very upright position on the bike which creates less tension in the back and neck area. There are many bikes out there with a so-called endurance geometry, but the actual difference is very small. Usually, the difference is just a longer head tube and a shorter reach. We have noticed that many customers still put a significant amount of spacers underneath the stem to bring up their position on the bike. This reduces the stiffness noticeably as well as having a negative effect on the clean appearance of the bike. With our new concept, we’ll have a long tapered head tube which makes the use of several spacers obsolete. Not only will the bike look much sportier, but it will have a substantial increase in front end stiffness which is quite important if you take it off-road. Everybody who goes from a regular road bike to a SILEX will notice the difference immediately.

You were lucky enough to ride one of the early prototypes of the bike from the very beginning on, and you made good use of it over various bike packing trios etc. Is the SILEX your ideal bike or/and what kind of riding do you enjoy?

JENS: Yes, that’s correct, I'm still riding the first prototype, for over two years now, and I fell in love with it from the beginning. It has become my daily commuter, and also a reliable ‘companion’ for several bike packing trips. I would not be riding it with such pleasure if I wasn’t totally convinced. The SILEX is the perfect bike for me.

When out on a ride do you always ‘test’ certain parts of the bike or new accessories we have in our range, or it is sometimes ‘just a ride’?

JENS: Riding is always about having fun but also testing new parts & accessories. Cycling is not only a job; it’s passion and interest in new products the market offers. And there is nothing nicer than to test new products, which were born in our R&D centre, out on the roads and trails and to see that the idea behind them works.

You have been at MERIDA for some years. How did you get into the world of bikes and then ultimately to the position you are in now?

JENS: I grew up with bicycles, and they accompanied me all my life. After school, I started working for several years in a bike shop and got trained up as a bicycle mechanic. After that, I went back to school to get my high school diploma and then studied ‘production & logistic’. During my studies as an engineer for ‘production & logistic’ I had an internship in Taiwan at a bicycle manufacturer. After returning, I decided to go ‘self-employed’ and founded my own small bicycle brand. But after four years of being more or less successful with my own small brand doing custom bikes according to individual customer’s specifications, it was time for something new. Next step was to work for one of the big German bicycle testing institutes, which finally tuned out to be not the right job for me, but taught me a lot about ISO testing and CE-Certification. Finally, I started working at MERIDA over three years ago now as the product manager for parts and accessories where I built a completely new line-up of MERIDA parts & accessories for the aftermarket. Later on, I changed internally to the product management for 700C, E-bikes EQ & Kids Bikes.

Going by the experience of our 2017 launch event for the SILEX which took place on some superb gravel track in the south of Germany, the SILEX seems to be one of those bikes which have a real ‘A-HA’ moment when people ride them for the first time. They seem to be skeptical when they hear about the bike or even when they look at it, but it all seems to make sense when they ride it. Would you have an idea what that is the case?

JENS: In my opinion, a bike like the SILEX is what most people are looking for, ‘versatility’. When you go out for a ride, more and more people do not want to commit themselves to just one specific riding purpose, like just riding on the road or in the forests. You want to have the option to turn around the next corner and when the road surface is changing, to just continue riding and not to turn around. But even if you are focused on only one riding purpose, you can easily modify your SILEX to be the perfect bike for it. You can say, we have created a convertible platform, and the rider can decide where its strength in use should be. Furthermore, when you start riding it, you can feel straight away that the geometry is not typically road orientated but inspired by mountain bikes. The long top tube in combination with a short stem, combined with the long head tube gives you a good comfort feeling, while also offering a planted and stable feeling when it comes to fast gravel / off-road descents. The outstanding stiffness of the frame makes it stable on roots and rocks, while also remaining nimble on the road, even when loaded with travel baggage. The SILEX just offers you that sense of being on the perfect bike in almost every riding situation. 

Besides riding your bike and working with bikes all day long, what else is Jens Lange into? Where are you from originally, and what brought you to the Stuttgart area.

JENS: You may wonder, but beside bike riding and working with bikes, even in my spare time, I spent a lot of time in my small workshop, still building nice custom bikes for me and with my friend and I also like crafts. But besides that, I like spending time with my friends, going out, listening to music and cooking is something I really love to do. Originally, I am from the ‘Swabian Alb’ (a mountain range in Baden-Württemberg, Germany), where I spent my childhood. After that, I spent a lot of time near Cologne as well as in a small town near Heidelberg. Around 15 years ago I moved to Heilbronn to start my professional training as a bicycle mechanic. During my civilian service, I spend some time in the black forest near Freiburg, then I went to Heilbronn to study, where I still live.  

We know that you are into your cooking. Any simple suggestions you can make for the perfect post-ride snack?

JENS: I think that can be anything, as long as it’s cooked with love and fresh organic ingredients.
‘Cooking’ and ‘simple’ does not really work for me, the path is the goal. I really enjoy spending time in the kitchen and listening to music while I am cooking. As my cooking is mostly vegetarian style, a delicious ‘snack’ always is to make some Falafel wraps. Sounds like a lot of work, but it´s pretty quick. First of all you have to mill whole grain flour. In a large bowl, stir together flour, salt and baking powder. Pour in water; stir to combine. Mix in additional water in 1 tablespoon increments, until a soft pliable dough is formed. Knead briefly on a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into small equal pieces. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes. Flour each ball well, place between two pieces of wax paper and roll out to desired size and thickness. Heat a skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat. Grill/fry until brown flecks appear underneath. Turn and cook other side. Now you have the perfect home-made wrap bread. The falafel you can easily make by yourself or just buy some falafel cooking mix. Some simply made yogurt sauce, salad, tomatoes and whatever you like, put all ingredients on the bread, wrap it and there you go with a perfect post ride snack.  For sure, the wraps can also be prepared in advance and just be heat up in the oven to save time.

Thank you very much for your time Jens, we are certainly looking forward to seeing how the SILEX will establish itself as one of the go-to-bikes for comfort-seeking long distance road riders, bike packers and gravel riders.

For further details on the SILEX, please find the SILEX Highlights page here

And for the overview of the SILEX line-up in Australia, please click here.