In the most recent case, the makers of the TV-show "Stern TV" and the host Guenter Jauch put the safety of mountain bikes under the microscope. The biggest safety risk was considered to be the bike fork, in order to prove it, four types of differently priced forks were tested on a test device at the Aachen university. Distant loser: the Rockshox SID SL, a model which is very successful in the field of roadcycling, has been on the market for three years and costs around 800 Euros. The winner was an inflexible department store fork for 15 Euros.
The sector screamed in the face of such injustice, followed by statements of the American manufacturer and other test institutes. The test was unrealistic, the assessment only for pushing the Nielsen rating and luring as many viewers as possible in front of the TV. It is understandable that many cyclists riding the devaluated fork have since become insecure if it is really fit for use. Is the verdict of Professor Doctor Engineer von der Osten-Sacken correct, who conducted the test for "Stern TV", or can you rely on the market-leader in the field of high-quality suspension forks? Can you entrust your life and health to bike products sold by dealers? In the course of the show, the professor bemoaned just as well the lack of engineers and skilled employees at manufacturers’ and (correctly) stated that after all everybody could build and sell bikes. Of course, many viewers of this show are now asking if there are certain criterions like test seals or the like which make a high-qualitiy and therefore safe product clearly recognizable.
Manufacturers of athletically used bikes have to construct difficile lightweight designs, but with immense costs arising and under enormous time pressure – the market demands it. Too often, in doing so, reliable quality controls fall by the wayside. For customers as well as for manufacturers it is a bad solution not to test products reliably. But if the manufacturer is willing to test, what standards will he be supposed to adhere to? It is indeed realistic that the test seal of one test institute is not worth a lot at another. It is just as well intolerable that the test conditions of some institutes are their corporate secret and are not made public.
The sector would do well to provide a budget for a motivated and competent council which develops tests and safety requirements on the basis of the DIN-standard. In these, the specific usage of the different bike types and already existing problems must be considered.
If, however, everything remains like it is, safety will continue to fall by the wayside and customers will become involuntary testriders for manufacturers. And there will still be the danger of making it easy for the sensation-eager media to denounce the bike sector. And such harm will probably cost it more dearly than engaging in generally accepted quality- and safety requirements.
Author: Graduate engineer Dirk Zedler, bike expert