In some cases you don’t want to know what happened: The cycle industry’s cabinet of horrors is located in the cellar of the Zedler institute in Ludwigsburg. Every frame, handlebar or saddle somehow failed once, some accidents determined personal fates. The riders sued, the courts needed expert’s reports. These have been drawn up by bicycle expert Dirk Zedler since 25 years.
With a shiver the guests gaze at the high-end scrap during their tour through the building. Breakages, cracks, burnings; but even if you hung up on bicycle safety here, it would definitely be restored when looking at the polished, sturdy test machines. If there is some kind of technical inspection authority for bicycles, these are the experts of whom Dirk Zedler is among the most renowned in Germany.
Today, a sunny day in June, the Zedler-Group inaugurate their new company building. Daylight enters through floor-to-ceiling windows, the walls made of solid wood create a feel-good atmosphere. The building has reportedly been planned under ecological aspects, bees hum around the small orchard meadow, grass and flowers grow on the roof of the bicycle garage. It appears like a small-size Bullerby for bicycle enthusiastic employees in a region where everything is focussed on cars. It not only offers better working conditions than the old building, a former bicycle shop just across the street, but reportedly also meets ecological demands. While the guests meet on the terrace, the sausages burst on the barbecue and the fridge cools down the drinks, Bernhard Lange, Managing Partner of Paul Lange & Co., praises with sincere recognition: “This laboratory is one of the best and biggest bicycle laboratories worldwide.”
The range of guests shows the significance of these words: Apart from further prominent people from the world of bicycles and local politicians, Baden-Wuerttemberg’s Minister of Transport, Winfried Hermann, has come. He intends to promote bicycle traffic. It can be assumed that he is taking this seriously in particular because he is a green politician. Guests with less knowledge of the bicycle industry are amazed, when they hear about the economic importance of the bicycle industry. Dirk Zedler roughly estimates: The guests on the terrace represent a turnover of far more than one. Paul Lange & Co. or Merida-Centurion Germany are only the major ones. That makes you pause during eating.
The 1990s: Bicycle experts as curiosity
Maybe the astonishment of some politicians about that is an explanation for the difficulties that one had to face as bicycle expert many years ago. This makes Ulrich Lippmann smile gently. The customer service representative at Bosch Automotive, a friendly, middle-aged man, adjusts his spectacles, puts down his glass and reports: In former days, he had been a bicycle expert as well and thus one of Dirk Zedler’s first colleagues. As owner of a bicycle shop Lippmann had often been asked for advice by automotive experts. They also inspected bicycles that had been involved in accidents, because experts for bicycles alone appeared as curiosities in these days. In most cases, engineers therefore opted for a prestigious career in the automotive industry. With his automotive engineering studies Zedler’s way also seemed to lead into the automotive industry, his personal interest in cars would have helped the graduate engineer to become a successful automotive developer. But Lippmann and Zedler took the line of biggest resistance and became bicycle experts. In 1994 there were about half a dozen bicycle experts all over Germany including both of them. Following the road and mountain bike boom the material became more valuable in general, as a consequence of which the number of legal proceedings increased. For these proceedings the experts drew up their reports. The problem: The insurances and the courts usually called in automotive experts, because hardly anybody was aware of the bicycle experts. Another reason for that is the fact that the bicycle’s social reputation in the 1990s was inferior to its reputation in these days.
How come that Dirk Zedler gained acceptance in this difficult environment. Lippmann has a quick reply: In these days already, Zedler did the right thing. He not only drew up expert’s reports for the courts, but also went public. With articles for the special-interest magazine “TOUR” he became known, for example about the development of the stiffness measurements of bicycle frames or with critical articles about seat post clamps. He turned into a counsellor for the development of components and frames in the bicycle industry. And in doing so he had not only a correcting influence, but promoted future-oriented ideas by always investing all means.
Lippmann adds: Apart from Dirk’s entrepreneurship it was his extremely good memory and his perfectionism which had been standing out in these days already. All parts that he happened to obtain during his career as expert were stored by Zedler in his huge archive and he were still able to explain any respective problem and the causes. In these days there are less poor lightweight components, but more electric bicycles, a larger user group as well as the increased density of traffic and willingness to file a suit that would increase the number of lawsuits. At present, Zedler institute draws up more than 800 expert’s reports per year. Thanks to customers and manufacturers the demand remains unchanged.
Author: TilIman Lambert
IHK Magazin – Wirtschaft 11.2018