The fact that Bosch’s rechargeable battery became ready for series production within three years, was launched on the market in 2011 and is meanwhile built in more than 50 bicycle brands, has set the standards - all the more in a sector which had long since the reputation to treat their customers as involuntary product testers. "Earlier the saying went that bananas ripen at the customer", mocks Dirk Zedler operating an independent institute for bicycle technology and safety in Ludwigsburg. "When I started testing in the 90ies, I came to the point where I actually didn’t want to cycle any more", remembers the automotive engineer.
Slipping through dynamos, unsafe brakes, broken forks and handlebars were part of the day-to-day business in these days. Nowadays, you hardly find such kind of shortcomings any more and Zedler together with a handful safety pioneers made a quite significant contribution to that. In the special interest magazines Zedler tirelessly pointed out the safety risks to the annoyance of other interested parties. But he finally succeeded: With the tailwind generated by jurisdiction the tide is turning. Safety and quality standards were developed and extended. This also included the designation of the publicly appointed and sworn expert for bicycles, a title that Zedler was allowed to use as one of the first ones.
Today, Zedler tests together with his 21 employees in Ludwigsburg bicycles, e-bikes and components of many German and international manufacturer on test stands most of which his institute has developed inhouse. And as expert and author for special interest magazines the 53-year-old is in demand, as well. "Half a century belonged to the car alone," explains Zedler the deep value from which the bicycle industry had to rise back by pedalling hard. "Once, the bicycle was a means for people who couldn’t afford anything else. For this reason it had to be cheap, in the first place." Saddles, hubs, cables, brakes, wheels - everything was built in a more and more simple way, with less effort by using poor material. Bicycle technology highly developed before passed into oblivion, or as Zedler states pointedly: "The wheel was turned back."
The consequences of this development did not only concern comfort and safety for the remaining cyclists. The industry had herewith digged their own grave. Because they could not win the price competition with the still cheaper Asian rivals. Once proud German bicycle manufacturers had to shut down or owners changed. This included brands like Kynast, Hercules, Kettler - or in the region: Staiger and Fuchs. Companies like Bosch, Porsche or Miele hung up bicycle production completely.
Thanks to the amateur and fun athletes who rediscovered the bicycle in the 80ies bicycle industry runs smoothly again. In particular, the BMX and mountain bikes released the bicycle’s "first revolution". All of a sudden, investing in innovative technology paid. Although many of these innovations were rediscoveries, as Zedler states. Aluminium frames, frame suspension, hub brakes and saddles with holes had already been features of the heyday of the bicycle before the War. As a matter of fact, the bicycle’s "first revolution" was actually a restoration.
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