Bicycle: It Depends on the Braking Power

Show consideration, follow the rules and be attentive – this is how we avoid accidents. A bike in good technical condition also ensures greater safety. DEKRA carried out a brake test and tested various systems on wet and dry roads.

DEKRA Experts conducted a number of measurements during the brake tests at the Lausitzring race tack in Klettwitz, Germany. Photo: DEKRA

DEKRA Experts conducted a number of measurements during the brake tests at the Lausitzring race track in Klettwitz, Germany. Photo: DEKRA

No matter what form of transport you choose, the braking distance is often the deciding factor in whether or not an accident occurs – and whether it results in minor, severe, or even fatal injuries if it does. This applies especially to unprotected road users such as cyclists. Among other things, the various European standards that govern safety requirements and test procedures for bicycles focus on well-modulated braking power that, regardless of the conditions, enables both cyclist and bicycle to be slowed down or brought to a stop according to the situation at hand. Bicycle brakes also need to reliably guarantee steady deceleration, even in wet conditions.

In Germany, for example, Section 65 of the Road Traffic Permit Act (StVZO) states that all bicycles must have two independently functioning brakes. The design and character of the brakes are not important as long as they are permanently installed on the vehicle and enable the rider to adequately reduce the speed of the bicycle and hold it in place. Similar regulations apply to e-scooters.

But what is the situation with regard to the braking power of modern bicycles, pedelecs, and speed pedelecs? DEKRA conducted brake tests at its Technology Center at the DEKRA Lausitzring race track in Klettwitz, Germany, to find out. Up until the test, the six test bicycles had been subjected to everyday use. No changes were made to their technical condition before conducting the tests. The test team simply checked the tire pressure and adjusted it where necessary. They also checked that the braking systems were in good condition and fully functional.

When selecting the test bicycles, care was taken to ensure that they all had a similar tire contact area. This made mountain, touring, and trekking bikes particularly well suited to the test. “Fat bikes” and road bikes were not included in the test. The objective of the brake tests was to demonstrate the differences in the braking power of different brake systems, to illustrate the effects of different weather conditions (dry/wet road surfaces), and to highlight the specific advantages and disadvantages of each brake system. The following systems were installed on the test bicycles:

City bike: Caliper brake at front/coaster brake at rear

Trekking bike: Caliper brake at front/caliper brake at rear

Mountain bike 1: Caliper brake at front/caliper brake at rear

Mountain bike 2: Disc brake at front/disc brake at rear

Speed pedelec: Disc brake at front/disc brake at rear

Pedelec: Disc brake with Bosch ABS at front/disc brake at rear

Bicyles in Endposition. Foto: DEKRAStart and Destination in Klettwitz. Photo: DEKRACaliper brake. Photo: DEKRADEKRA brake test: Hub gear with coaster brake. Photo: DEKRA - Thomas KüppersFront disc brake. Photo: DEKRABicyles with rear disc brake. Photo: DEKRAPedelec with ABS. Photo: DEKRADEKRA brake test on wet road. Photo: DEKRATest with a pedelec with ABS on wet road. Photo: DEKRATest with a S-Pedelec with rear disk brake on wet road. Photo: DEKRATest on dry road. Photo: DEKRA

Pedelec ABS Provides Significant Advantages on Wet Surfaces

The test scenario required the testing rider to carry out multiple braking procedures on each of the test bicycles, both on a surface with a high adhesion coefficient (dry) and on a surface with a reduced adhesion coefficient (wet). All the braking procedures were initiated at a speed of 25 km/h with the maximum deceleration possible, by an experienced test rider. For the wet-surface braking procedures, large quantities of water were applied to the entire run-up and travel surface, the braking area, and the test bicycles and their braking systems. The measurements were taken using a tape measure, and the measuring point was the axle of the front wheel. The tests produced the following results:

The disc brakes demonstrated good modulation overall. On the dry surface, all the test bicycles demonstrated appropriate braking power; there was no significant drop-off in any of the braking systems. The longest braking distance on the dry surface was recorded by the bicycle with the caliper brake at the front and the coaster brake at the rear. The mean braking distance for this bicycle was 4.55 meters. The speed pedelec recorded the shortest mean braking distance on the dry surface, with 3.66 meters. The difference between the shortest and longest mean braking distances on the dry surface was thus 89 centimeters.

With Rim Brakes: Almost 30 Percent Longer Braking Distance on Wet Roads

On the wet surface, however, the differences were much bigger: In this scenario, the braking distance increased by over 20 percent for all of the test bicycles except the pedelec with ABS. The biggest difference was recorded for the test bicycles with caliper brakes at the front and rear. The braking distance for these bicycles increased by almost 30 percent on the wet surface. Overall, the ABS brake on the pedelec demonstrated the best performance on the wet surface, recording a braking distance that was only just under ten percent longer than its braking distance on the dry surface. On the wet surface, the longest braking distance was again recorded by the bicycle with the caliper brake at the front and the coaster brake at the rear. The mean braking distance for this bicycle was 5.53 meters. The pedelec with ABS recorded the shortest mean braking distance on the wet surface, with 4.15 meters. The difference between the shortest and longest braking distances on the wet surface was 1.38 meters.

Deceleration values of between 5.3 and 6.6 m/s²­ were achieved during the braking procedures conducted in dry conditions, while the deceleration values in wet conditions were between 4.4 and 5.8 m/s². As such, all the bicycles achieved the minimum deceleration for motor vehicles of 5.0 m/s2 in the dry braking test. One model even exceeded this value on the wet surface: The ABS bicycle achieved a mean fully developed deceleration of 5.8 m/s².

You can find the complete DEKRA Road Safety Report 2020 here.

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