You are here

South Carolina group buying, relocating German carbon rim maker

Published April 17, 2024
Company is moving Munich Composite's manufacturing equipment to South Carolina.

SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. (BRAIN) — Two supporters of domestic manufacturing are teaming up to begin U.S. production of carbon fiber rims for the original equipment market.

Boyd Johnson and Tony Karklins are part of a group of investors that has acquired Munich Composites GmbH, a 10-year-old carbon fiber rim maker that supplies several European brands. The buyer group, called Munich Composites SC, is moving Munich's production equipment from Germany to Landrum, South Carolina. The U.S. group bought the company from its founding group, which was led by CEO Christian Lichtenberg. 

Munich has produced more than 10,000 rims per year historically and the U.S. factory will be set up to triple that capacity initially, the partners said.

Karklins was a co-founder and is the former CEO of Arkansas' Allied Cycle Works. Allied, now owned by a Walton family investment group, makes carbon frames and forks in Arkansas. Karklins is now co-owner and CEO of Cardinal Cycling Group, which owns Time and Detroit Bikes.

Boyd is co-founder of Boyd Cycling, a wheel brand. He also co-owns Olive Manufacturing Group, which began producing aluminum rims in the U.S. last year. 

In a phone interview with BRAIN last week, the partners emphasized that they do not envision Munich Composites SC as a supplier or house brand for Boyd and Time. Instead they plan to sell carbon rims produced with Munich's proprietary braided carbon technology to customers including other wheel brands, bike brands and distributors. That would put the company in the same space as CSS Composites, a Utah company that makes thermoplastic carbon rims for customers including Chris King, Revel and others, as well as its own brand, Forge+Bond.

Munich uses a braided yarn technology that is similar to the technology that Time uses to make carbon frame tubes in-house. The technology produces rims that are "aesthetically perfect" Karklins said, requiring little machining or finishing and resulting in a continuous fiber visible on the entire rim surface. The process also is highly automated, unlike the pre-preg process used by most carbon rim makers, which requires manual labor to cut and place sheets of carbon fiber into molds.

Munich has supplied European high-end brands including aerycs, Flechtwerk and Schmolke. Munich also has been developing a rim with the U.K. brand Hunt Wheels.

Karklins said Munich will supply rims for the "mid-premium" price point. "In the U.S., Munich would be selling wheels in the $2,000-$2,5000 range (retail)," he told BRAIN.

The South Carolina production is being done in collaboration with Clemson University, Cardinal Cycling Group and the SC Fraunhofer Alliance. Karklins said they are development partners but not part of the acquisition. 

The ownership group is led by Boyd and Nicole Johnson, Cardinal Cycling Group and several other local private investors and government entities. "Cardinal Cycling Group is focused on localized production of composite cycling products and it is natural that we wanted to support and participate in Munich Composites," said Karklins, who said Munich is not a Time project. 

Besides the technical advantages of the technology touted by Karklins and Johnson, they noted that the current tariff situation favors domestic manufacturing. Most carbon rims sold in the U.S. are made in China and are subject to a 25% Section 301 tariff, Johnson said. Domestic manufacturing also reduces lead times and allows just-in-time delivery, while eliminating shipping costs from Asia, he said.

"Our goal is to provide a competitive solution to cycling brands for high performance, domestically produced, carbon fiber rims on both sides of the Atlantic and at very competitive pricing as compared to landed cost pricing from Asia," Boyd Johnson said.

Tom Marchment, the co-founder of Hunt / TheRiderFirm, said Hunt will be showing a rim made by Munich at the Sea Otter Classic, which opens Thursday in Monterey, California. "We have been developing and testing rims with Munich Composites in Europe for several years now and are pleased to be a customer partner for Munich Composite's European production already," Marchement said in a statement provided by Munich. " ... We are also very positive about being a customer of Munich Composites SC in the future." Hunt is at booth P96 at the Sea Otter Expo. 


Boyd Cycling will also have a prototype mountain bike rim made by Munich at its Sea Otter Expo booth this week. Boyd Cycling is at booth S347 at the Expo. Boyd will leverage the Munich connection to release some new carbon offerings this year, he said. 

"We are in the process now of starting tooling and transitioning all of the Boyd carbon wheels. It will come gradually with the first models being available this summer," Boyd Johnson said Wednesday. "The equipment from Munich just got loaded on containers and is in transit to South Carolina now. It will arrive in mid-May and then we begin on installation and setting up production."

Karklins announced last March that Time would open a factory in South Carolina to supplement its long-standing facility in Slovakia. Karklins said Time has produced frames and forks in South Carolina for testing and will begin real production in the second half of this year.

Munich continues to operate a facility in Poland that will supply European customers. Karklins said the European facility is owned by a third party and will operate under an exclusive agreement to use the intellectual property now owned by Munich Composite SC. 

More information:

Photo of Munich's European factory provided by Munich.
Topics associated with this article: Tariffs, Sea Otter Classic

Join the Conversation