Bicycles get lighter and lighter. Is there an increase in safety, as well?
DZ: As a matter of principle bicycle technology has developed all in all for the better. The level has increased for everything compared to the status ten years ago. The product and all bicycle components have become safer, but: what the user and the mechanic make of it that can turn a safe bicycle into a hazardous one. Trying to handle formula 1 parts with tools from the budget supermarket will not work. A high-tech product requires high-tech handling.
How can the user make out a safe bicycle? What should he look for?
DZ: It is always recommendable to buy a bicycle in a specialist shop, instead of somewhere in the open countryside. Well-known manufacturers deliver good products. It is important that a bicycle is delivered to the user ready for use and completely assembled. Another important point is to bring the bicycle to a qualified workshop for its first inspection shortly after the purchase, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. And finally, the bicycle should be delivered with the appropriate accompanying documents. Grandma’s 3-speed bicycle still worked without operating instructions, but today’s bicycles come with sophisticated components and your detailed manual will make you familiar with all major facts related to them. Apart from that a closer inspection is very difficult for a non-professional. But providing good care is easy for him.
But what can the cyclist actually do by himself?
DZ: Checking the bicycle at regular intervals does already a lot in terms of safety. The user manual will tell him which routines to carry out regularly or before every ride. It often includes a check list including ten or fifteen points. By following these points the cyclist eliminates already 90 percent of the possible sources of defect. Often today’s trekking bikes come with carbon components and they have to withstand quite a lot of shocks and impacts.
Is it reasonable to use high-tech material on these bicycles?
DZ: Carbon is an outstanding material, but in my opinion it is not generally suitable for trekking bicycles. It’s true that carbon fibre reinforced material shows hardly any fatigue problems, it is however very sensitive to shocks and impacts. If you leave a bicycle often on its own kickstand or lock it to a bicycle rack, it may topple over or suffer from heavy impacts. An aluminium or steel frame may then show a dent which is rather unsightly. Carbon, however, can brake. For this reason it goes better with a sports trekking or road bike than with a city or touring bike. Furthermore, carbon is very sensitive to environmental influences. Therefore, a carbon bike should not be left outside for weeks.
Is there actually such a thing as - the - classic bicycle material?
DZ: Steel has been used from the very beginning of cycling and bicycle building. In the nineteen-thirties one started to take aluminium for bicycle building as well. Still today you find very good bicycles suitable for daily use that are made of either material. In the high-performance sport carbon fibre structures still topped it. The properties of the often praised titanium are not much better than that of aluminium, but titanium is much more expensive and requires a more time-consuming processing.
Looking at a folding bike makes some people fear that the bicycle could fold up while cycling. What is the answer of the expert to these cowards?
DZ: I’ve been cycling on my folding bike for years. If you go to a specialist shop and buy a high-quality folding bike, you need not be afraid. These bikes are absolutely safe. These concerns originate from a time where bicycle industry hit the rocks in Germany, i.e. in the early nineteen-seventeens. In these years the bicycle market experienced an unfortunate folding bike, called “Klapprad” in German. Today’s folding bikes are very reasonable items ensuring mobility on two wheels, i.e. you make a long way by train or car and have your bike in a handy carrier bag for the short ways.
There is a much-heralded trend towards E-bikes or Pedelecs. They are heavier and in general moved faster. What about their safety?
DZ: This is a broad field. At present, strict regulations are being established in the standardisation sector. It also applies here that renowned manufacturers deliver very good bicycles made of compatible components, as every component, i.e. frame, fork and gear system, is basically made for this purpose. I advise, however, against re-building the bike or changing components after the purchase, which is also offered here and there. In this case components designed to withstand rather low loads are exposed to excessive forces. In my opinion the most reasonable drive is the central drive. Since not everybody can get along with a hub drive located in the front wheel that jerks the steering.
And how much time do you spend on your bike?
DZ: Last year I cycled 9500 kilometres on my road bike, 2500 on my city and folding bike and, unfortunately, oly 300 on my mountain bike.
Author: Lorenz Koch