LUDWIGSBURG. Zedler-Institut guests are lucky: At the open house day last Saturday, the company specialising in bicycle technology and safety opened its building inaugurated in Ludwigsburg West in 2018 to the general public as an exception. Outsiders who have not yet found out more about the institute and take part in one of the hourly guided tours are likely to be amazed above all by the state-of-the-art technology used to test bicycles these days. Philipp Kipker for example, test engineer at Zedler-Institut, leads around 20 visitors into the test laboratory in the basement of the headquarters. In one of the many laboratories alone, more than half a dozen test robots are at work.
The machines have been designed for highly specialised test procedures and record, among other things, the load acting on frames, forks, handlebars or brakes. Zedler-Institut works for bicycle manufacturers from all over the world that want to bring new products to the market. The test procedures are part of the approval process.
All of the machines were developed by Zedler employees themselves; about half of the employees at the headquarters are engineers and mechanics.
Former engineers also interested
The measuring technology itself goes through a complex certification process and may only be used after it has been approved by the German Employers' Liability Insurance Association (Berufsgenossenschaft), explains Kipker. At the open house day, some former employees of large Swabian corporations are also interested in the modern technology and show themselves impressed. The much younger colleague takes note of the suggestions of the experienced engineers with an open mind. After all, Kipker is constantly asking himself how to perfect the robots. At the moment, for example, he is improving the further development of a huge falling mass device. “Unfortunately, I have not yet found an affordable solution,” he says at the end of his guided tour.
Initially, Dirk Zedler had not founded his institute on April 1, 1993, in order to wind up orders for the industry. Bicycle sales had only just soared. The demand for mountain bikes exploded, and so did the number of bicycle accidents. But experts who were able to assess the values of bicycles following accidents, reconstruct the failure of individual parts or classify the damage from accidents were missing.
“Initially, we were working for the courts and insurers”, says the managing director of the Zedler-Group in looking back at the beginnings. “On this occasion we learned a lot. What we are is based on practical experience, we use our own technology and are very familiar with the legal situation - there is no triad in this form elsewhere." Today, the institute works for the global market and cooperates with manufacturers on four continents. It is fair to say that in Eglosheim the cycle world is on the test stand.
He has been supporting the establishment of binding standards in the two-wheeler sector since the mid-1990s. At that time, there were only a few legal requirements, such as in the automotive sector. Today, on the other hand, the regulations for bicycle traffic are also formulated down to the last detail. At least as far as bicycle technology is concerned, Germany occupies a top position in an international comparison, according to Zedler. Ten of the approximately 100 test labs worldwide are located in Germany.
In Ludwigsburg there is also room for improvement
“Germany is extremely good at bicycle technology”, praises Zedler. The situation is quite different when it comes to bicycle infrastructure. On the international level, but also on the national level, as a look at Freiburg shows. “In Germany, a lot still has to happen,” says the managing director. “This also applies to Ludwigsburg which is not a particularly bicycle-friendly city. At least some things have already been realised. When I came here, there were still cars on the market square.”
Ultimately, there must grow the awareness that cycling is not a problem but a contribution to a more liveable city. Zedler: “This affects many different areas, from traffic congestion to health and safety to emissions and noise pollution.”
Author: Frank Klein
Photos: Andreas Becker