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Cycling safely through the darker evenings: useful tips from a professional test rider

Virtually no one has ridden as many kilometres on all Riese & Müller bikes than he has: Uwe Hoffmann, the Riese & Müller Test Rider who works in the Development department. Does he have the ultimate dream job? He gives us the lowdown in an interview – while at the same time sharing some useful tips for riding during the colder and wetter months of the year.

Pre-ride safety check

  • #1 Choose the right clothes

    Cycling gear should be comfortable but not too loose to prevent sleeves or trousers from getting caught on the bike. Make sure that gloves are well insulated but still give you a good feel for the brake’s biting point.

  • #2 Getting on and off

    Make sure that the pedals are horizontal when getting on your bike. You might find it useful to press and hold a brake lever to keep the bike stable when getting on.
    When getting off, make sure that the pedal that is taking the weight of your body is pointing downwards and is not generating any forward movement. Well-dosed application of the rear brake can also help here.
    Pay attention to your choice of gear and level of assistance if you are just about to get moving again, for instance at traffic lights. You will struggle to get going again – even in Turbo mode – if you come to a stop with your derailleur gear in top gear. Conversely, be aware that the acceleration is quite strong with a high level of assistance in your lowest gear.

  • #3 Lighting

    The best possible visibility is crucial in wet conditions and in the dark. Therefore, use a cloth to regularly remove coarse dirt from your light and reflectors.
    Correct light cone setting: the end of the light cone should be within sight. Your visibility will be too restricted if it points too far down, particularly when riding at higher speeds. Rule of thumb: the light cone should extend up to approx. 10 metres in front of your front wheel. If your light is pointing higher, it will dazzle other road users and negatively impact safety instead of improving it.

  • #4 Air pressure

    Check your tire pressure every two to three weeks. Temperature differences can affect the air pressure in your tires especially during the shoulder seasons. It’s usually enough to feel the tire pressure by hand. A slightly reduced tire pressure can also increase your grip with poor road conditions. The recommended tire pressure can be found on the side of the tire (see diagram under “#Tires” in this article).

  • #5 Stability

    If possible, park slightly heavier bikes on flat ground. When manoeuvring on a gradient, you might find it useful to apply your rear brake so that it takes over some of the weight and gives you more control.
    Weight on the front wheel provides additional safety when loading Long John Cargo Bikes, like the Load or Packster. Therefore, place light loads as far forward in the box as possible. The following rule applies when you are transporting a large number of objects: first arrange them across the load surface, and only then stack them on top of each other.

Enhanced riding safety

  • #6 Riding style

    Always adapt your speed to the visibility, weather and road conditions. View snow, moisture, leaves, sand, gravel or tram tracks as potential hazards and adjust your speed as necessary.

  • #7 Bends

    Be aware of bends in advance and corner them at an appropriate speed. Slow down to an appropriate speed before entering the bend to avoid heavy braking in the bend itself.

  • #8 Obstacles

    A wet and smooth kerb or an unnoticed root can quickly become a hazard. You can easily avoid many obstacles – the safest way to do so is to ride at a slow speed with appropriate use of the rear brake. If you have no way of avoiding the obstacle, then consider the angle at which you need to cross it: the more directly you can approach the obstacle head-on, the better.

Safety begins in your head

  • #9 Ride aware

    The most important safety factor is the person sitting on the bike. You can usually avoid unexpected situations by riding attentively and anticipating whatever might come next. So any cyclist should always bear in mind – even when going at a leisurely pace: “I am now riding as an active road user.”

  • #10 Avoid distractions

    Never wear headphones when riding an E-Bike. Do not let yourself let the new display or the new smartphone app tempt you to play around with the cockpit when riding.

  • #11 Communication

    Who should have priority? We generally encounter other road users on most journeys. Clear, unambiguous and friendly communication helps all road users when they meet on the road.

  • #12 Responsibility

    You need to always be aware of your own responsibility when heading out on your bike. Riders who actively anticipate can even take on some responsibility for other road users: if you suspect that you might be overlooked at a crossing, ride attentively and be ready to brake instead of provocatively claiming your right of way. This will help to minimise danger for all concerned.

  • #13 Practise riding situations

    Especially if you’re a commuter or generally ride around a lot, it would be worth your time to take a professional riding safety and riding technique training course using your own E-Bike. A course will instruct you in important basics, such as safe riding posture, cornering and emergency braking. Cycling clubs, bike schools, associations and other institutions regularly offer such training courses.

Interview with Uwe Hoffmann, Riese & Müller Test Rider in the Development department

Hi Uwe! You have been working as a test rider in the Riese & Müller Development department for some six months. That sounds like a dream job for any cycling enthusiast. What do you do exactly and what does a typical working day look like?
I can’t really describe a typical working day, as every day is very different. But I would say that I spend around 80 percent of my working hours on a bike. I spend the rest of my time developing and writing test reports and discussing issues with my colleagues in the Development department.
It really does sound like a dream job. But I ride in all weather conditions, every day. And most of the time, the only communication involved is listening to how the bike sounds.

How exactly do you collaborate with the Development department?
At a regular weekly meeting, we initially discuss which bikes are to be tested and set my tasks. Often, the bikes to be tested are prototypes or components that will not be available on the market for two or three years. During the test rides, I pay particular attention to how the bike rides, its noise levels, the feel of the components, and the ergonomics of the bike.
A test ride can be up to 180 km and cover various profiles, for instance, different surfaces, such as gravel, a lot of cobblestones, or gradients. Overall, I ride around 700 km in a working week. I also perform long-term tests on bikes, which I ride for around 4,000 km over several months. Desk work comes at the end of the test rides, because I have to record my impressions of the test ride and share them with the Development department.

What did you do before you joined Riese & Müller?
Sport has always played an important role in my life: from youth football to skateboarding and BMX, martial arts to cycling. I took part in my first mountain bike race at the age of 23 and came in among the top 10. That’s when “I caught the bug”. I was crowned Hesse Champion multiple times and later turned my passion into my job: For about 10 years, I managed a cycling business with a partner and then worked in Sales for a large dealer. I already knew Riese & Müller at the time and was already very familiar with their products. So I didn’t hesitate for a second when I saw the Development Test Rider position advertised and applied immediately.

Many thanks for the informative interview, Uwe! And finally: do you still want to ride a bike after work?
(Laughs.) Of course – that’s when my real training starts!