Augsburg/Munich - On Monday, Alex F. (22) rode on his bike down the lowered sidewalk onto the road. In order to overcome the bump, he lifted the front wheel. When the tire touched the ground again, the suspension fork broke. Alex F. hit the asphalt with his face. He's in a hospital in Augsburg now - with very serious head injuries.
The police investigates on why the fork of Alex' mountainbike broke. One thing is for sure: An accident due to material failure would not be an individual case. "The accidents caused by severe safety deficiencies of bikes are accumulating", says bike expert Ernst Brust. "The consequences reach up to paraplegia." The basic problem was, according to Brust's experience, the manufacturers' lacking safety tests: "They act according to the motto: The banana ripens at the customer's. The consumer therefore involuntarily becomes the testrider."
Broken suspension forks and handlebars are the biggest danger for life and limb. There is indeed a DIN-standard for bikes. Most bikes, however, are not tested accordingly as a whole unit, ie with all parts included. "Furthermore, the standardization is lagging behind the development", Brust says. "Legislators cannot react as quickly as new components are thrown on the market."
For bike expert Dirk Zedler the DIN standard is insufficient anyway: "As bad as it is, but there is no safety guaranty for bikes."
Zedler considers the manufacturers' lax dealing with appearing deficiencies to be just as dangerous as insufficient tests: "Recalls are uncommon in the bike sector. Many companies know their deficiencies very well, but do not react." Instead of starting expensive and reputation-damaging recalls, some manufacturers prefer coming to an agreement with individual victims. "There is no service-culture like the one customary in the car sector", Zedler says.
In the experts' opinion, there will be no changes as far as these life-endangering deficiencies are concerned as long as the customers do decide first of all based on the price. Zedler: "Safety tests have to be paid for and would make the bikes' prices rise."