Our friend and MTB legend, Steve Boehmke, helped organize an interview with Marius Wrede of Acros. For those of you living under a rock, Acros is the German company responsible for the groundbreaking A-GE hydraulic shifting system. Thanks Steve!
Q. As the head of ACROS, do you define yourself first as a businessman, or as a cyclist? What is your background?
M.W. Primarily for sure still as a cyclist. This is the reason we came to the business – through our passion for biking. On the other hand my responsibility for our employees and the company needs my whole attention as a businessman. But after all it is still a great job since we have the opportunity to work for something we love to do – biking.
Q. ACROS offers durable components that are highly regarded. What lead you to develop a hydraulic shifting mechanism?
M.W. Christoph Muthers is the original inventor of the hydraulic shifting system and introduced it in 2006 under the name 5Rot (meaning 5 Red). We told him right from that start that we were highly interested in working with him on this project. Christoph tried to do everything on his own and made 40 sets in 3 years. During this time we stayed in touch and helped him sourcing parts, and supplied bearings and seals for his system. In 2009 Christoph decided to work for us and we completely redesigned the shifting system and launched the new A-GE at Sea Otter 2011. We have seen that our engineering power and the state-of-the-art CNC workshop with precision high-end measuring tools and machines are perfectly designed to match the needs of an ambitious project like the hydraulic shifting system A-GE.
Q. Is the A-GE system aimed strictly at racers, or do you expect it to be embraced by non-competitive enthusiasts as well? What are the immediate advantages of switching to a hydraulic system?
M.W. The weight savings (200g less than XTR) is of course outstanding and clearly addresses racers who like to save every gram they can. But the main advantages are not the weight savings, but the superior function of the hydraulics:
- There is no wear on the system and therefore no need to change cables anymore
- Temperature does not effect the system, so there is no need of re-adjusting
- There is no contamination and therefore no decrease in function by time
- It has super-light action because you are not pushing against springs
Besides these most important advantages the system is very flexible and meant to stay on the cyclist’s bike – even though the bike might change. Various front derailleur mounts can be used and adopted, and the rear derailleur is 8x, 9x and 10x compatible by just changing the caliper. By just switching the cables you can switch from top-normal to low-normal (inverted shifting). Therefore I clearly state that the A-GE system is for any biker who likes to use superior technology.
Q. Other than the potential (however minimal) for fluid loss, is there any function within the shifting process where a cable system can trump your hydraulic system?
M.W. In case of a fluid loss the shifting function will be gone – like on a cable system.
However, the A-GE system is indexed at the derailleurs instead at the shifters. Therefore it will keep its gear if you lose fluid, and you can manually push or pull the derailleur to another gear which is pretty nice emergency function – even this case is pretty unlike to happen.
The only trump we could name at the moment would be that you can have parts for a cable system all over the world. But with all new and revolutionary systems it will take some time to get penetration into the markets.
Q. Is the A-GE system designed to be setup and maintained by the end-user, or does it require specific tools and/or knowledge of hydraulics?
M.W. First of all the system is different than everything else on the market. It needs specific knowledge, which is provided in the manual and addresses end-users as well as bike mechanics. Generally spoken the system is very easy to handle when you understand how it works. This is explained in the manual and therefore we ALWAYS recommend to EVERYBODY to read the manual instead of saying to yourself you have seen enough shifting systems…
The setup can therefore been made by everybody who is technically versatile and reads the instructions.
Q. I understand the A-GE system is not for everyone, but do you foresee a point at which volume will bring the price down, or is the machinery and skill required to assemble each component always going to be a huge factor in pricing?
M.W. It needs high skills machinery and assembly wise. But of course there is potential to save cost when quantity is raised. We are working on that issue and it is our goal to make this technology available to a wider range of people.
Q. You’ve obviously got some skilled R&D people. What’s next for ACROS?
M.W. Yes we are proud to have people onboard with good ideas and the opportunity to let these ideas come true through our CNC machinery in Germany. We have lots of ideas at hand, from small to large – but at this time I cannot give you a clear name of a project…
Q. On a more personal note, what/where would be your ideal bike vacation?
M.W. Regarding WHERE I have a couple ideas: Alps (Austria and Switzerland), Finale Ligure, British Columbia, Utah and Colorado.
The most important thing is to be out there with people you like to ride with. Riding the bike is quality time and I like to spend this quality time with people I trust and like.
Q. Thanks for taking time to answer our questions. Anything you’d like to add?
M.W. Thanks very much for this opportunity
For more info on the A-GE system, as well as their other components, check out the Acros website.