By Matt Wiebe
WATERLOO, WI—While Europe is fast becoming the dominant market for U.S. suppliers, most have taken a back seat when it comes to influencing European bicycle standards that determine what they sell. But that’s changing.
The European Committee for Standardization (CEN) is in the process of revising its standards for a range of goods—from toys, pesticides and equipment in nuclear installations to bicycles. And U.S. suppliers are counting on playing a bigger role in the revision of current bicycle standards.
Suppliers consider CEN a global standard because it is the most comprehensive set of technical standards at this time, and the European bike market is the largest global market.
CEN released most of the current bicycle standards in 2005, and the governing body is required to review them every five years. Based on this review, it determines whether revisions are in order. For this round, CEN is revising EN 14781 (racing bikes), EN 14766 (mountain bikes), EN 14765 (kids bikes), EN 14764 (city and trekking bikes) and EN 14872 (bike accessories, luggage racks).
One of the key areas of revision is the treatment of composites, including carbon fiber, as well as various component tests.
“The standards are OK for the most part, but some specific standards need tweaking and review of testing protocol,” said Stefan Berggren, who heads Trek’s global standards and compliance department.
Since he’s an ISO (International Standards Organization) member, Berggren is allowed to be a member of CEN’s TC333 Cycles committee, an umbrella for all cycling. But he’s the sole U.S. representative on a CEN committee. Generally, U.S. suppliers are able to influence standards through a petition process.
Sam Pickman, who spearheads CEN issues for Specialized, and Berggren agree that specific areas like road seatpost and handlebar testing require changes, but that composite testing remains the single largest area that needs substantial revision.
“Carbon fiber is found on bikes of all kinds, but the current standards don’t really address its use. CEN developed a very rigorous composite fork standard and that has been hugely positive,” Pickman said. “But composite frames haven’t received similar attention. For example, there is a very good fork front impact test but nothing corresponding for a frame, like a headtube impact test,” Pickman added.
Berggren expects the revised standards to be published sometime in 2012 or 2013, and many components that pass the current standards will mostly likely pass the revisions, he said.
Berggren doesn’t expect changes to the standards to greatly impact the way bikes and components are manufactured or disrupt the flow of supply.
“There is a composite working group, WG8, which I am part of that provides suggestions and information to the CEN working groups that will revise and update the standards,” Trek’s Berggren said. “There will be additional tests and some specific to composite materials. The biggest ones to be reviewed are wheels and forks.”
Composites behave quite differently than metal components. For example, it’s possible for a carbon part to survive an ultimate strength test but have torn internal layers that are impossible to see. A metal component would show external cracking. The revised standards will address differences between metal and composites behavior.
Beyond the U.S. market, CEN standards impact bicycle makers worldwide. China defers to CEN as its standard and the global International Standards Organization (ISO) is using CEN standards as it creates international bike standards.
“With CEN, ISO, ASTM and possibly CPSC—fingers crossed—working to mirror each other, a global standard may become a reality in the next five to 10 years,” Berggren said.