Ludwigsburg - His passion for cycling is something that has not been passed on to him. On the contrary. Dirk Zedler grew up with an automotive master mechanic as father who had a driving school, in addition. Therefore, driving cars was great fun for the sun and driving motorcycles still more. He had petrol running in his veins. It has been a long time.
Today, the 53-year old engineer takes the bus or the train to see his customers. Occasionally, he’s forced to go by plane, as some of this customers are located quite far away. But what he likes most is taking one of his numerous bicycles. In his leisure time the former triathlete is also an enthusiastic cyclist together with his family, his buddies or sometimes alone. Year by year he cycles 10,000 kilometres, he says.
Dirk Zedler is one of the few publicly appointed and sworn in experts for bicycles and e-bikes. In Ludwigsburg he has his own experts office for bicycle technology, employs meanwhile nearly two dozens of experts and has customers all over the world. Everyone who visits his company located in a former bicycle shop at Teinacher Strasse must promise faithfully to keep a secret the name of the manufacturers of the bicycles which are put through the test stands. The reputed manufacturers coming from Taiwan, Canada and from all over Europe would not have the test results of their bicycles being released to the outside.
His incentive: "making bicycles better"
What happened to Dirk Zedler? How come that the man who used to take the car even for shortest tracks became a cycle fetichist?
He lounges is a leather chair in his office with a few sophisticated bicycles decorating the walls and has a grin in his face. Then he starts talking about his time at the German army before he took up his studies. During his service at the army there he could choose between: "Running or guzzling". Zedler became a sportsman, made the acquaintance of triathletes and took part in his first competitions only a little later. As a student of his automotive engineering studies in Karlsruhe he had ascertained quite fast that cyclists in the city where much faster than car drivers. A little later Zedler took up a job in his buddy’s cycle shop in Ludwigsburg. In these days, he left Karlsruhe on early Saturday, worked from 9.00 a.m. on in the baroque city in the shop or behind a work bench. And in the afternoon he returned on his bike to Karlsruhe.
Long before he finished his studies he knew: "It’s the cycle industry where I want to work". He became managing director of a bicycle shop, but it didn’t take long before it was clear to him that he was not a dealer. Zedler declares that he wanted to improve bicycles. And that’s what he’s doing since 1993 as an expert for bicycles. In these days, lots of people let him know that this was something that no one needed. And indeed, the first years as a self-employed lone fighter were reportedly hard. Much work, few money. He would have failed without the help of his parents. Until 1998 they supported him. The turning point was in 1999. He became independent and could make a good living from his job as expert and writer for bicycle magazines. In 2011 he recruited his first employee.
Renowned expert in court
The business is booming, says Zedler on this uncomfortable day at the end of February. Did he come to work by bike, in spite of the bad weather? What for a question, sure. Year by year, the company turnover is reportedly increasing by about 20 percent. Last year all in all 875 accident reports were prepared, often with insurers as principals.
In these expert’s reports it is for example determined whether a bicycle frame actually broke just like that, as alleged by the biker, or whether the cyclist bumped possibly at full speed into an obstacle. The Ludwigsburg bicycle expert regularly attends legal proceedings. Often it is about a lot of money, sometimes it is about injuries after severe accidents.
According to Zedler the reports of the past decades were real sources of knowledge. He could explain why something would fail and he were therefore in a position to build instruments which would deliver valuable test results. Zedler has collected numerous catalogues. He knows nearly all bicycles of the past three decades. His staff writes user manuals in more than two dozens of languages. The engineers and technicians of his team develop company-own test machines, i.e. the company is broadly positioned.
Many hours worked, great satisfaction
Zedler estimates that he works about 65 hours. Although he is not having a highly paid job in the automotive industry like many of his former fellow students, he is very happy. In 2014 his company was awarded with the "Medium-Sized Company Award for Social Responsibility in Baden-Wuerttemberg", among others for his commitment in a school for children with special needs in Marbach. In addition, the bicycle guru was elected "Hero of sustainable mobility" by the state Ministry of Transport, because he motivated his team members to take the bicycle as often as possible.
Dirk Zedler says: "We live in an exciting time, as we must move away from a mobility promoted by petrol." The bicycle, which had been means of transport 100 years ago were experiencing a renaissance, also due to the increasingly popular pedelecs, the bicycles equipped with electric motor. "The sector is growing up" and the expert from Ludwigsburg is playing a major role.
His next big goal is the move of the company into an ecologically advanced new building in 2017, i.e. just in time for the 200th birthday of the bicycle which was invented by karl Drais in 1817. Such a draisine, a wooden running machine dated 1820, is the oldest of 300 bicycles which are in the possession of the selfmademan together with a friend. The most beautiful and rarest of these bicycles are planned to be exhibited in a showroom of the new domicile.
Author: Martin Tschepe