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Bietigheimer Zeitung 2016/10/20

From pneumatic tyres made of animal gut to carbon racing machines

Two wheels, one handlebar, a kind of saddle, the rough frame shape – apart from these core components Karl Drais’ first bicycle built 200 years ago hasn’t a lot in common with modern racing machines. Bicycle engineer Dirk Zedler (54) knows something about, not least because he collects old bicycles. The testing system developed by the Ludwigsburg entrepreneur for new bicycles 23 years ago, is being used today all over the world.

Dirk Zedler

What you notice first when strolling around the exhibition at the State Archives Ludwigsburg (...) is the loss of weight which concerns all devices to date. Zedler estimates the weight of the about 100 year old military bicycle fixed to a wall to 30 kilograms.

Meanwhile the lower limit, even for the road racers of the pros, has been determined at 6.8 kilograms by the International Cycling Union (UCI). “This is a weight you can put on the road at acceptable costs”, says Zedler. About 4000 Euro are to be paid for that. And when the cyclist is too fat, it doesn’t matter anyway. "The heaviest factor is still the cyclist."

For an average cyclist the tyre pressure is much more important than the weight of the bicycle. "For this group it is more effective to check the tyre pressure once a week than to reduce the bicycle’s weight by one kilogram", says Zedler. "For those who ride in the lower speed range, the air pressure makes for 80 percent of the propulsion."

The invention of the first air-filled tyre led to an enormous speed increase for the cycling population. In the middle of the 18th century it was the Scotsman Robert William Thomson who thought of it, he started by blowing air into the guts of animals.

The pneumatic tyres (without guts), however, did not establish successfully until the 1890s, a time where the bicycle had been already widespread. Prior to that the wheels were made of caoutchouc in general. "These raised the speed to about 15 kmh / 9 mph in the average", assumes Zedler.

Electric gear shifting

Today, every average cyclist who buys a bicycle for everyday use and who wants his bicycle to be state-of-the-art in all major fields of technology, must according to Zedler pay 1000 to 1500 Euro.

Modern racing machines including bells and whistles used by the pros cost between 8000 and 10000 Euro. According to Dirk Zedler, on these models nearly everything is made of the light, hard and durable synthetic material carbon; the machine is as aerodynamic as possible, from the rim to the saddle. In addition, these raching machines have an electric gear shifting and a power meter displaying the watts produced by the rider on the bicycle.

Author: Martin Tröster
Photo: Martin Kalb
Read the entire article here.