Manufacturers selling internationally need a way to ensure their products conform to legal product safety requirements and quality criteria. Unified European standards will not only stimulate the EUmarket but also the global bicycle business.
The new European bicycle standards set minimum quality levels for bicycle products. The CEN Technical Committee (TC) 333 "Cycles" has already established five bicycle standards (for city/trekking bikes, kid bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes and carriers). Since January 1, 2007, a total of 30 countries (27 EUand 3 EFTA member states) were supposed to replace their existing country norms with these European EN norms leading to the overall CEN standard.
According to Siegfried Neuberger, technical GM of the German bicycle industry association ZIV and chairman of TC333, the majority of these countries have now done this: "The major markets have replaced their national norms and are now operating the CEN standards. Others are still working on it."
The TC333 Technical Committee is now working on further standards. CEN standards for e-bikes and a consistent terminology are on the way. "BMX and bicycle trailers will follow and are currently in an early stage of development," says Neuberger.
Are these CEN standards just the lowest level 30 nations are able to agree on? According to Dirk Zedler, GM of well-known German bicycle testing facility Ingenieur- und Sachverständigenbüro für Fahrradtechnik Zedler, it is important to note that "it is very positive to have some minimum requirements".
The only dilemma he sees is that norms are always behind the current state of development. And developments in the bicycle world are pretty fast. Moreover there are several problems with the current CEN norms, says Zedler. As an example he names the tests for road bike handlebars: "No road bike handlebar can pass the current standard."
Nevertheless Zedler does understand that TC333 has to initially set common requirements and norms before working on the details and weak points of the announced CEN standards. This has to be done when the general standards are all set.
Neuberger himself sees TC333 as an 'observer for the industry': "We recheck and come out with norms for the international market. Because there are no norms for the world market, our standards can be seen as ‘world norms’. Our norms are, for example, higher than the ones in the US."
Both Neuberger and Zedler note that several well-known US bicycle suppliers have their own testing facilities that are state of the art, not only in their home market but worldwide.
"No European manufacturer has the detailed testing facilities operated by some of the US premium brands," says Zedler.
This is due to tough product liability laws in the US. Americans are generally more focused on product liability rather than standards. Nevertheless the American industry is also very aware of the European CEN standards – and not only when selling their products to Europe.
And Fareast producers are already building up test facilities proving CEN requirements.
"It makes sense to test the products where they are produced," says Zedler.
But this is not a "free ticket" for importers. As soon as importers import something into the EU market they are seen as producers and also fully responsible for product liability.
Author: Jo Beckendorff