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Bicycle production Keeping a family business alive

Arnold Ramel has been making Aarios bicycles for 30 years and is now the only manufacturer to solder the frames for his bikes himself. It's a different story to bikes made with imported parts. (Thomas Kern,

Aarios bicycles are put together in Gretzenbach, canton Solothurn, in a modern industrial warehouse which lies between a Buddhist temple and a nuclear cooling tower. More than 30 years ago, Ramel still worked at the Bally shoe factory in neighbouring Schönenwerd, where he was a successful salesman with a sound business sense.

“Bicycles are the things to sell,” he said at the time – a period marked by recession and the oil crisis. He foresaw a world in which only a few people could afford cars and the rest would therefore have to change to the cheaper form of transport.

He bought Aarios, which had been founded in 1930 and which was then still in nearby Aarau, and became self-employed. A lot has changed since then – and not as Ramel expected: wages have gone up and cars have become much cheaper. But much more important – and something that he couldn’t have imagined back then – today he produces bicycles for a brand which supplies finished frames to be bought for less than CHF20 ($20.50).

Ramel is a grafter – nothing has ever been handed to him on a plate. His children grew up with a father who was always in the workshop. A son and daughter today work alongside him. Almost half the staff are family; the others have been there for decades.

Every year between 1,500 and 2,000 bicycles leave the workshop. Individually made bikes for everyday life, but also more expensive touring cycles which accompany their owners around the world.

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