All about bicycles, pedelecs, technology and safety in the press

In our daily work as we deal with bicycle safety, technology and user manuals we come across lots of safety risks. The most frequent ones are published in articles of the leading German special-interest magazines TOUR – Europas Rennrad-Magazin Nr. 1, BIKE – Das Mountainbike Magazin Europas Nr. 1 and E-Bike – Das Pedelec-Magazin to make this information important for the sector accessible to a wider public.

For many years now the Eurobike Show Daily accompanying the annual international Eurobike Show has given us the opportunity to publish our perspective on major developments in the cycle industry in full-page articles.

We also speak regularly in independent lectures about all topics relating to bicycle technology and bicycle market. In addition, we are regularly cited by further special-interest magazines or trade journals as well as more and more by radio and television and in their media reports, which shows us that we are completely right with our information. The section NEWS informs you about the latest news from our specialist fields. The reports and publications of this section are listed chronologically or according to topics of interest.

Eurobike Show Daily 2011 - day 2

Fast and dangerous?

Fast pedelecs are a lot of fun and will reach new target groups. A few thoughts on what bicycles will need to have so as to be able to meet the growing requirements.

The more ambitious cyclists have little interest in pedelecs because normal ones are no fun at all for a fit and trained sportsman. Admittedly they are somewhat amusing to ride when accelerating up to 25 km/h or going uphill, but they become distinctly tiresome on the flat or when going downhill. Overall, it is simply faster to get there without the motor.

Things will change dramatically with more power – good drive units will offer 500 watts of additional power, so that speed pedelecs will be of interest as well to keen cyclists who want to have more fun, for example, freeriders who could go up the hill by themselves instead of being towed, or commuters who want to be able to get to work quickly but without breaking into a sweat.

Load-carrying bicycles could enjoy a veritable renaissance if they had more power, and companies in fields such as postal, express and courier delivery would increasingly go over to speed pedelecs, and the same would apply to craftsmen and tradesmen.

More powerful motors are already available, and it would therefore be very simple to incorporate them into current pedelecs. More power, more speed, more load capacity and a more demanding load profile call for considerably more from a speed pedelec than from a normal pedelec. Compared to a normal bicycle, the stresses and loads can be many times greater.

Trekking bike frame sets are too weak

Currently pedelecs are mainly based on city bikes or trekking bikes. Traditionally this has been the variety of bicycle that had the least demanding requirements. The DIN-EN standard is too lax if anything, and is incomplete to boot. For that reason breakages of frames and forks that can lead to severe accidents are the most frequent among this class of bicycle.

Consumer magazines, which often have a corrective function when it comes to mountain bikes and racing bikes, almost exclusively restrict themselves to riding tests with these bicycles. No measurements are taken or checks carried out. If valid measurements are not taken then these tests remain at the level of a simple riding report with sanitised text due to a lack of hard facts. Since there are only winners, this pleases both the manufacturers and the dealers but has done nothing to raise the level of the technology of this breed of bicycle to one that is comparable for sporting bikes. For that reason the current city bike and trekking bike frame sets are a poor basis for fast pedelecs.

Goodbye to cable brakes

If you travel fast you also need to brake strongly and frequently. But this is not the only reason to insist that there can be no compromises at this point. The drive unit and motor increase the base weight compared to that of a normal bicycle. The extra mass requires more braking power and above all, the ability to withstand heat.

This means without any further ado that the current collection of back-pedal brakes, roller brakes and cable-operated rim brakes will have to go. Hydraulic rim brakes are better in certain areas than their cable-operated counterparts, but they still have the inherent weakness that their braking performance is reduced in the wet and the wheel rims suffer wear.
All that we are left with are disk brakes, which are standard not only in the case of mountain bikes but also for almost all motor vehicles.

Suspension a must

Fast bicycles require suspension. This applies without any restriction to speed pedelecs as well. You might think that racing bikes are very fast and yet have no suspension. The reason why speed pedelecs need one is due to the higher weight of the bicycle. If the rider hits a bump in the road or a  protruding drain cover while speeding along at 40 km/h, if the bike jumps into the air he has not just 7 or 8 kilograms to contend with, but at least 20. Even experienced riders have difficulty in handling  such a situation. If the rider is not concentrating, then he can quickly lose control.

Controls at the handlebars

Someone who rides his speed pedelec at 45 km/h covers around 12.5 metres per second. Many control units for pedelecs are placed in an unfavourable position on the handlebars and are therefore difficult to operate or else require a longer period of close attention due to poorly implemented menu control.
This is if anything an intolerable situation, because while the rider is occupied with the control unit he is distracted, under certain circumstances pedalling with only one hand holding the handlebars, and so there is most definitely a risk. For that reason it must be a basic requirement that the control units can be operated intuitively, and directly from the handlebars with the thumb.

Approval requirements in flux

At the end of the day a fast pedelec or E-bike requires the equipment that is stipulated by the road traffic approval regulations, depending on the country. For example, in Germany that means a rear view mirror, a holder for an insurance plate, special tyres with a minimum depth of tread, and if applicable, a parking stand that either folds up by itself when the bike moves away or else one that makes it impossible to move if it is extended, and a lighting system to meet the relevant traffic regulations.

However, these preconditions are still very much in a state of flux, they are specified in a variety of different ways, and ought to be regulated across Europe within a relatively short time.

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