BIKE 04/2019

Play safe

Portrait / Dirk Zedler: His fight against the mess seemed hopeless, then he scribbled a test stand on a napkin in a bar. The amazing story of Dirk Zedler who stubbornly got wound up in his dream and who is owner of a worldwide renowned test institute for bicycle technology and safety now.

It is part of his job to always assume the worst. The possible disaster was even considered when planning the new company building.

“The walls inside are all made of wood”, moderates Dirk Zedler at the beginning of the tour through his test institute. “If the company will shut down at some time in the future, everything can be sawed and burnt.” Zedler pauses for a short moment to enjoy the shocked look of his opposite. Then he explains: “This was one of our ecological approaches during planning. The building could thus be used for anything else at any time.”

At the moment it does not look like Zedler would have to think in this direction. Outside, in front of the full-glazed façade of the foyer, the black of the remaining night only just changes into an early morning blue grey. Whereas the day starts in a leaden way between dawn and awakening, Zedler is wide awake already. His working day mostly starts before six o’clock in the morning. The flood of orders does not allow for a breather. Since his company has been restructured into a test institute in 2010, companies from Europe, Asia and America send prototype samples every day to have them tested for durability. Meanwhile about 500 frames and 1200 components are tested on the test stands per year. Not to forget the accident reports nearly 600 of which are drawn up per year. And last but not least the manuals for more than 60 brands translated in up to 40 languages. The print runs with millions of copies are something even bestselling authors like the German Sebastian Fitzek and T. C. Boyle can only dream of. The company grows and grows. Currently the team comprises 23 employees, further positions are vacant. The cycle industry have discovered the safety issue for themselves. And Zedler has undoubtedly taken an active part in it.

“The times of trial and error are over. The quality awareness has grown extremely over the past years”, Zedler explains the development hissing the words with an s as it is typical in the Swabian region.

The foyer is a kind of security zone. Whoever wants to go through the next door is obliged to sign a confidentiality obligation and to hand over his mobile phone. A sign indicates that taking photographs is strictly forbidden. The test methods and test labs are guarded like magic formulae; they are the company’s DNA. There is nothing Zedler fears more than intellectual theft. To give visitors an impression of the work nevertheless, an extra show lab was equipped and this one at least is open to visitors. (...)

Author/Photo: Henri Lesewitz


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