All about bicycles, electric-assisted bikes, technology and safety in the press

The most common safety risks that we come across in our daily work around bicycle safety, technology and operating instructions are also published by us in articles in the leading German special-interest magazines TOUR (Europe's road bike magazine no. 1), BIKE (Europe's mountain bike magazine no. 1), MYBIKE and EMTB in order to make this information, which is important for the industry, available to a wider public.

For many years now, the Eurobike Show Daily, trade fair magazine of the annual Eurobike Show, has also given us the opportunity to publish our view of major developments in the cycle industry in full-page articles.

We also speak regularly in independent expert presentations about all areas of bicycle technology and the bicycle market. In addition, we are quoted by further special-interest magazines of the industry and the trade as well as increasingly by radio and television in their media reports, which shows us that we are spot on with our advice. The section "News" informs you about the latest news from our specialist areas. The reports and publications of this section are listed chronologically or according to areas of interest.

SAZbike 14/2014
Reading time 6:40 minutes

Tester sees "fatal inconsistencies": Harsh criticism of StiWa-test

Although the results of the 2014 test of e-bikes conducted by the German foundation for comparative product testing (Stiftung Warentest) were clearly better, the sector is stirred up once again. The test not only generated a lot of discussions among the bicycle manufacturers concerned, but also among various test institutes. Just shortly after the publication some well known individuals from the bicycle sector expressed their criticism of the test. Some of these statements have not been welcomed by everyone. Renowned branch associations also commented the test and did not hold back their criticism. We’ve collected the most important controversial statements for you.

Dirk Zedler  Zedler institute

This time the general tenor of the article is absolutely positive. According to Stiftung Warentest, the bicycle sector has finally woken up and improved the products. When reading through the article, it seems that the sector was electrified to such an extent that even all brands pulled ahead the test winner of 2013. The benchmark in 2013 is thus the loser in 2014.

To make it clear from the beginning: None of the products created with our assistance was rated poor or with apparent shortcomings. On the contrary: Both "our" user manuals as well as the components tested by us were among the top rated in the fields supported by us. That means that we can be content with our customers once again. But as in the previous year, we would highly appreciate a fair assessment of the pedelec quality. And this time again, we find some fatal inconsistencies.

In general: It is not correct that e-bike manufacturers and the German Bicycle Association (ZIV) had recommended in their function as participants of the board of the advisory committee of the German product testers not to continue testing as in the previous year. This is simply a wrong statement. Not a single word about the fact that the test results 2014 could be due to test setups which had been changed considerably in terms of mechanics. Instead, it’s the according to the German product testers realistic test forces which are praised mantra-like, whereas the second base of a serious test which is not less important is kept completely dead. The test in 2013 had shown an outrageous setup of the test stand. This putting the boot in is an act on too thin ice and all the more it’s very unfair.

Read further below what we actually criticise of the test:

The test field

In general, nothing speaks again testing low step through pedelecs. As this type of bicycle addresses a very big target group and is therefore seen very often on public roads. However, it can in our opinion not be the job of the German product testers to choose a small (price) segment. This makes sense in special interest magazines which conduct continuous tests during the season and in doing so depict all market-relevant groups. The test conducted by Stiftung Warentest once a year must in our opinion reflect the market. This includes pedelecs at 699 Euro. This is how Stiftung Warentest produces in our opinion "losers" which are verifiably held in high esteem by the absolutely critical users and dealers by giving them poor marks which should actually and in fairness be reserved to really poor cheap products on the market. And all that against the background of last years’ broad test.

The perception is comparable to the evaluation of absolute school marks without the information that the marks were given in different school types. So this is not an objective basis for advice for the consumers.

Under item "better, stronger, safer" you read that all tested bicycles were equipped with high-quality hydraulic brakes. This is correct. But why? After all it’s only due to the selection, as the product range of some manufacturers in the test also included models with significantly weaker roller brakes or side-pull rim brakes. But the reader is kept in ignorance of that and therefore often chooses the lower priced model equipped with the weaker brakes.

Conclusion: In our opinion Stiftung Warentest has made a selection in view of masking own mistakes. Furthermore, Siftung Warentest accept that reputed manufacturers of comparably good products are rated poorly, because they do not set the standard to the realities of the market.

The devaluation criteria

Once again Stiftung Warentest set their heart on breaking load, this is nothing new. Digital results are easy to interpret. That’s what you think. This positions the assessment of component failure always above other criteria. Frames instable during the ride for example are an annoyance for cyclists on roads everyday and often result in dangerous riding situations. In particular, frame wobbles often provoke wrong reactions, such as panic braking of the cyclist which can result in a fall. Nevertheless, material failure which occurs, if at all, only after a long running performance in form of a fatigue damage, gets for some inexplicable reason a significantly more negative rating.

Another striking point is the test mark of the Raleigh and Kalkhoff bikes: Both models were manufactured at the Derby-Cycle facilities.  Typically, these bicycles are fitted with many identical, up to 100 percent identical components. Therefore, according to our comprehension, the results should be mostly congruent. The fact that both pedelecs are identical twins is not only proved by the comparison of the pictures, but also by the comparison of the parts lists on the websites. Both pedelecs are assembled with identical components, both pedelecs are available with the identical frame options Diamant and Wave. The Wave frame is available with a 26”-wheel and a 28”-wheel variant.

Therefore, the only difference consists in the smaller wheel sizes in the case of the Raleigh bike. Nevertheless, Stiftung Warentest states for models which are absolutely identical in design:

  • Gear shifting with the Kalkhoff bike is less convenient.
  • Less convenient riding of the Kalkhoff bike without motor assistance.
  • CE-marking of the Raleigh bike is poor.
  • The Raleigh bike shows cracks in the seat post, the Kalkhoff shows cracks in the frame.
  • The lighting system of the Raleigh bike is better.
  • The Kalkhoff bike shows a poor processing.

Conclusion: We had a very close look at the results and found out that the test results of Stiftung Warentest show significantly different results on identical components where most probably are no differences.

Dangerous interpretation

The statement that the crack in the frame of the Kalkhoff bike can result in a total loss of the frame is in our opinion correct. Depending on the independent promise of guarantee, this may however entail only a complaint. But the frame shows the crack in the area of the seat tube and this may typically not result in a safety-relevant damage, as experience has shown. Why therefore such a severe devaluation?

And the final touch: Whereas a frame breakage almost negligible in terms of safety is emphasized once again, cracks in the seat posts are rated down. Our experience from thousands of experts’ reports about bicycle accidents has shown that the incidents resulting from broken seat posts are among the most dangerous losses at all.

Conclusion: In our opinion Stiftung Warentest lack expert knowledge and therefore the capability to classify damage in a practice-oriented way.

Bosch component

The objected battery holder on the Stevens pedelec seems to be a Bosch component. This component is presumably mounted on all pedelecs using this Bosch drive system. As the holders of the other Bosch drive systems have overcome the hopping on the roller test stand, this cannot be a system fault. This should be therefore due to production spread. As a result, the next weak holder could be mounted on the, e.g. well-rated Pegasus and Kreidler pedelecs or the Batavus and Sinus pedelecs rated satisfying. In our opinion there are only two correct approaches to the ratings: Either all six pedelecs with Bosch rack battery are rated down or the Stevens pedelec must not be rated down and brought into disrepute.

Conclusion: In our opinion, Stiftung Warentest is not able to question and appropriately classify occurring defects. In doing so they approve that individual manufacturers suffer from economic damage. All in all, Stiftung Warentest have in my opinion proved again that they do not consider sufficiently the market structure, rely upon test institutes and test partners that do not apply reproducible test methods or that have difficulties in interpreting test results correctly and to put them into the proper context. For years now, this has led to strongly distorted test results. Such procedure harms the manufacturers, irritates the cyclists unnecessarily and is far away from being target-aimed for the bicycle as future-oriented, sustainable contribution to mobility.

Author: Dirk Zedler

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