You do not need to be psychic to risk the forecast that you might well look in vain for mechanical gearshifts in new bicycles ten years from now. Shimano is going to launch further groups after Dura Ace and Ultegra. Nuvinci has already committed itself to a step further with automatic gear shifting for pedelecs and in the best case it selects the ratio that offers a high level of efficiency for the drive system and the rider. The rider becomes little more than a passenger, but on the other hand this lengthens the life of the battery.
There is no holding back progress – the need for manufacturers and dealers to take action
An electronic motor and electronic gear change are just the start. In future a multiplicity of sensors will monitor the rider and the bicycle. Performance measurement, up to now almost exclusively the preserve of the professional due to its high price, will be offered as standard almost as a by-product of torque measurement to control the electric motor, just like altitude measurement and GPS. Instead of a number of different displays for tachos, pulse meters and navigation devices on the handlebars, a Smartphone will be clicked into the handlebars, which at the same time starts the code-locked drive unit in the case of pedelecs.
Dealers will be able to read the error memory of the customer’s bicycle with their Smartphone and the appropriate app so that they can pinpoint the location for adjustment or repair before they even unnecessarily get their fingers dirty on the bicycle.
Something that sounds like a pipe dream is in fact a huge danger for the skills and hence the business of all who work in this sector. The current mastery of knowledge of frame geometry, suspension kinematics, stiffness, material and design by the manufacturers and the trade will only be a small part of a larger whole. With Global Players such as Bosch, Panasonic, Magna (BionX), Sanyo and others, for the first the big companies are entering the fray and taking a serious interest in this plan.
Bicycle makers and dealers must prepare themselves now for this attack. Anyone who does not constantly keep up to date will not be able to maintain the pace and will be irrevocably left behind. It can hardly be in the interest of manufacturers and many thousand dealers that fault analysis and the inspections of bicycles and pedelecs will be carried out in car workshops in future. Because in such a case the bicycle sector would soon only be a detour. If the car makers no longer regarded bicycles as a part number within their own internal Lifestyle Portfolio but instead developed a serious interest, then they would quickly cooperate with automotive suppliers and the dealer network on an equal footing.
Biotope at risk
Currently there is already a danger from another direction. Because of the motor and the battery, organisations that had formerly shown little interest in bicycles have suddenly woken up and eyed the bicycle sector. Organisations such as TÜV and Dekra scent vast new fields of business through tests for the granting of a general permit for use or also for individual cases.
The crux of the matter is not just the greater costs that arise and which that make pedelecs more expensive but also that many an organisation is holding up examples of legislation that it feels is needed.
Due to a lack of legal requirements that have been fully thought and formulated and will need to be made uniform at the European level, currently there are various Electrical Directives, Machinery Directives, preconditions for approval and Hazardous Materials ordinances to be applied – and to some extent, to taste.
The organisations that organise testing do not always have the bicycle and the rapidly growing trend towards meaningful electro-mobility in sight. In some cases there is a lack of proportion due to a lack of knowledge of this sector and its products. Not infrequently the result is a literal interpretation of the law and absurd demands are made.
This kind of action finds a fertile breeding ground in headlines about bad products or threatening hazards, such as not long ago from Stiftung Warentest with “Frame breaks, brakes fail” or the UDV/GDV on accident behaviour a few weeks ago.
The sector can only tackle this by taking the profits from the pedelecs and E-bikes that still command good process from end users and committing themselves to using this money for lobbying and PR work, development, testing and training measures. It is almost certain that there will not be much time to prepare for this adequately.