After portraying the Czechoslovakia’s recently reinvented “Favorit“, the second part of our series about bike brands from the former Eastern Bloc is dedicated to the “Diamant”. Founded in 1895 near Chemnitz, the city later to be known as Karl-Marx-Stadt in the GDR, this happens to be the oldest existing bicycle producing company in Germany. Since 2003 it is a part of the famous Trek Bicycle Corporation based in Waterloo, Wisconsin.
“From the ruins risen newly / Towards the future turned, we stand.” The initial verses of the East German national anthem could as well serve as a slogan for the Diamant bicycles. Hardly any German bike manufacturer mirrors the tribulations of its country’s modern history closely than this one. Diamant survived a number of economic crises, two world wars and half a dozen states or political systems, while still focusing on one main product: bicycles.
In the centrally planned economy of the GDR, there was no real market competition. The production of bikes, be it for transportation, recreation or sports, was delegated to just two companies: Diamant and Mifa. Other traditional brands, like Möve or Samson had to either merge with the two big players or move on to motorcycles. Within the politically monitored division of work, it was the Diamant’s part to provide sporting and racing bikes, along with ordinary vehicles (and knitting machines).
It was on machines made by Diamant that legendary cyclists like Gustav-Adolf „Täve“ Schur won the Peace Race, which was considered the most prestigious amateur stage race in 1955 and once more in 1959. In the GDR, there was no better road bike good connections could find and money buy. Today, some of the Diamant racers from before 1990, usually equipped with Campagnolo groups, are sought after objects for collectors and sell for little less than the Italian bikes from the Golden Age of steel frames.
Even though the reputation of Diamant is closely linked to racing bikes, today’s production focuses on city and touring bikes, with pedelecs playing an increasingly important role. However, there are still some high-end road bikes among the 150.000 units leaving the Chemnitz factory every year: but these custom made vehicles, selling from 3000 to 15000 Euro a piece, are branded Trek instead of Diamant.
Next week we will move to Hungary to take a closer look at the Csepel bikes, which history dates back to 1928.