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How dangerous are e-bikes really, Mr Zedler?

Electric bicycles are experiencing an unprecedented boom - but their accident statistics are alarming for the experts. What do I have to bear in mind? We asked Dirk Zedler, graduate engineer and sworn in bicycle expert in Ludwigsburg

Every third bicycle sold in Germany is a pedelec, Mr Zedler...
It’s total madness! Demand has virtually exploded, especially in the Corona crisis, where there is nothing more reasonable than to switch to the bicycle. Any virologist will confirm that. Production cannot keep up with that development any longer, also due to the difficulties in China. They are already working for the market 2021. If you want to buy a bike in this crazy year, you often only get the absolute remainders.

The downsides of the boom: More fatal accidents happen with electric bikes than with conventional ones. What’s the reason for that?
Yes, that’s correct, but this is not only due to the speed of max. 25 kmh, but also due to the power of the motors. The torques of these motors allow a faster acceleration than the motors of a Porsche! Sometimes a crash occurs because the motor continues running or because the pedelec moves forward when the pedals are touched while standing. This happens in particular with very cheap pedelecs.

What does that mean for e-bike buyers?
You just don’t need such a powerful drive power. Many customers want to have the most powerful motor possible - I advise against it. Especially older people for whom pedelecs are particularly popular and some of whom are no longer as physically fit. The risk of medical injuries increases with age. As expert witness at accident court hearings I could sometimes throw my hands up in despair, when I see that people cycle with motors that were actually developed for hardcore e-mountain bikes with which you could climb the north face of the Eiger vertically. It’s like the big SUVs in the city: What person weighing sixty kilos needs three tons of steel and 350 HP under his bottom to buy four bread rolls from the bakery?

Is braking with the e-bike so difficult?
In fact, many cyclists are unable to do that. Actuate front and rear brakes, butt to the rear, support the body weight at the front, stand securely and that very quickly, but not in panic. This complex sequence of movements requires practice. Unfortunately, only a few people practise emergency braking with their bike.

Honestly: What do I have to pay for a really good and safe e-bike
It starts at 2,000 Euro, you don’t get a good one for less. But for 2,500 Euro you get a really great bike that leaves hardly anything to be desired. With a super regulated motor recognising flexibly the wishes of the respective riders during the tour. Of course, there are no upper price limits, as is the case with Swiss watches. You get one for 5,000 Euro and another one for 200,000 Euro. The one is as accurate as the other. Striving for a maximum range has become common practice. This costs a lot of money, makes the batteries heavier, but is often complete nonsense.

You have to explain that.
In your opinion your battery should have an enormous range. This fear originates psychologically from the automotive industry, where you don’t want to break down anywhere. Sure, if your electric car actually stops driving, you are out of luck. Then you have to call a roadside assistance with an emergency generator. But with the bicycle that’s complete rubbish. You just ride the last kilometres with muscle power. And, that’s the good thing: You can always switch off the motor. So: Everyone should think about how much they really ride in one go. Who cycles more than a hundred kilometres at a time? And: You can take the charger with you and charge your bike anywhere on the planet where there is a socket.

And during the tour?
Just ask the innkeeper for a charging option during your snack in the beer garden - within an hour the battery will be half charged again. After an extended lunch break it is fully recharged. I cannot at all understand this fear of discharging.

Your most important tip as expert witness?
Buy your electric bicycle in a specialist shop. Sometimes it's cheaper to mail-order, but these devices are high-quality technical products that need service - and it's simply easier to get help on the spot. As an expert witness in court I have made the experience that often poorly maintained bicycles from the mail-order business are involved.

Can you recommend us a model?
An exemplary good pedelec with a decent price-performance ratio is the Stevens E-Circle. Aluminium, suspension fork, hydraulic disc brakes. And a back-pedal brake, as many were used to in the past. (RRP: 2499 €)

The interview was held by: Thorsten Ehrenberg

 

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