Deuter made the first mountain bike backpack ... by accident!
Deuter’s foray into mountain bike backpacks happened by accident. Literally.
It was the winter of 1979-80, and Andi Heckmair was working as a certified mountain guide in Europe. There was an avalanche, and Heckmair -- the son of a noted German climber -- was injured in the slide. Badly enough, he would admit in interviews later, to take big mountain skiing and mountaineering off his list of favorite activities. Instead, he said, he focused on cycling. Heckmair’s pain would eventually become Deuter’s gain.
Heckmair's dive into cycling came just about the time mountain biking was starting to take root. Although off-road cycling had been around for some time (for instance, the Buffalo Soldiers used off-road bikes on an expedition from Missoula to Yellowstone in 1896), it wasn’t until the late 1970s that road bike companies started to produce “mountain bicycles.” At the 1981 cycling industry show, Specialized introduced the Stumpjumer as the first mass-produced mountain bike, and a whole new sport was born.
By a mixture of happenstance and timing, Heckmair was caught up in mountain biking boom. In 1990 he was the first person to cross the Alps from his home of Oberstdorf in southern Germany to Lake Garda in Italy on his mountain bike, a route mostly made up of old mule trails. In doing so, he developed the “Heckmair Route, a Trans-Alp journey of more than 300 kilometers that is now a favorite of European mountain bikers.
About the same time he was establishing the eponymous mountain bike trail, Heckmair began shopping around his idea of a mountain-bike specific backpack. Other manufacturers passed on the opportunity. But Deuter’s Bernd Kullmann, known for his creativity and new initiatives, listened to what Heckmair had to say. It didn’t take long for Heckmair’s idea of a bike-specific backpack -- including the new Airstripes back system that maximized ventilation -- to be produced. In 1990 the first bike-specific pack (The Deuter Bike 1) went to market.
You can still occasionally find versions of the Bike One out on the trail, but Deuter’s modern-day bike line now has options ranging from a small hydration bag to the 30-liter Trans Alpine. In a 2014 interview in Bergzeit Magazin (that translates to “Mountain Time Magazine”), Heckmair said he considers the Trans Alpine his favorite bike pack.
After 25 years of making mountain bike packs, having one of the pioneers of the sport still in love with your products is no accident.
Lead photo credit: Deuter Ambassador Brittany Greer.