Daniel Berger – 53 years old, vice president products and at DT Swiss since 1995- is the personification of the e-bike boom. In this interview he explains his passion.
Daniel Berger, inside your company you have been given the nick name E-Berger. An honor or an offense?
Since I like to be the first to see and pick up trends in the field of mountain biking, I am more than okay with that nick name.
How did you come across e-bikes at all? After all, you have been mountain biking since 1980, a true veteran of the sport, and you are also a passionate roadie.
I had been observing the e-bike market for some time, but had never gotten into it for two reasons: For one, the existing e-bikes were not sportive enough for my liking. Also, back then we didn’t see much potential for DT Swiss in selling wheels or components, because our pricing model just would not work with the OE requirements of those bikes at the time.
In October 2014 I had a conversation with Thomas Pressl of KTM at Taichung Bike Week about e-MTBs in general and ended up spontaneously ordering a 125 mm full suspension bike from him. In February 2015 it was delivered and I have been riding this bike exclusively ever since.
What’s so fascinating to you about e-bikes?
My spare time (for riding bikes) besides my job and family is limited. Now I can make better use of the little time I have. With a healthy heart rate I have a much bigger range, including extended climbs. Climbs, preferably with some technical challenges, now are more enjoyable instead of a chore. No matter how I am feeling at the beginning of the ride, I can decide how much assistance I am getting. With a full 700 watts of extra power, I now can do my laps and for once feel like Nino Schurter.
What’s going on in the e-bike development? What kind of pedal assist bikes will we see in 5-10 years?
Due to my age I have gone through the entire evolution of mobile phones. With e-bikes I don’t see us all the way at the beginning when we still had telescoping antennas on the phones, but we are quite a few years from getting to the equivalent of a smart phone. Electronics are going to enter the cycling industry and since we already have a central battery on e-bikes, further integration is simply going to progress. More elegant bikes, which are launched from different brands for 2018, already leading the way. I think we will also see more integration in terms of drive train, suspension, and lighting, likely even some form of gearbox and many things we haven’t even thought about yet. Segmentation and specialization of bikes has already gone a long way, but I’d guess there will be even more, addressing very specific groups of riders.
What market share will electric and standard bikes eventually have? Will we be seeing a complete electrification of our performance bikes?
I tend to think so. Already now we see normal commuter / city and trekking bikes from 1500.- Euros and more being replaced by e-bike equivalents. In the more sportive segments like mountain bikes, I dare to guess that in about 3 years
from now about 80 % of the bikes priced 5.000.- Euro and higher will be e-MTBs.
Speaking of sport: How do you think the electrification is going to affect the competitive side of biking in general? Will we soon be dealing with things like «electro doping», hidden motors or could there even be an e-World Cup entertaining the masses?
That’s hard to say. E-MTB races are already happening and will become more mainstream, not only because the industry is pushing them. What format will establish itself is something to be seen. No doubt, these are exciting times. Part of the equation will be about your own power, smart allocation of how to use the battery’s limited capacity, raising the average speed, riding finesse and maybe
even the distance covered. Concerning hidden motors, their already is a heated discussion since a cross racer has been caught with one in Belgium.
What are the targets of e-bike specific product development at DT Swiss?
E-bikes put higher loads on many components, especially the chain, cassette and wheels, due to their increased mass, higher mileage and added torque. With our
existing portfolio, be it wheels or other components, we are already putting out high quality products, many of which are suitable for e-bikes. Nonetheless we are working
on even better components with their specific requirements. The booming market of e-bikes works well for us, since less reliable products reach their limits much sooner.
Do you see a pedal assist high-end road bike coming?
Yes, it is already launched, just now Pinarello has introduced the first model with a compact, relatively light engine. I have heard that the Italians are already quite euphoric. I am excited to test ride these concepts, after all, as an E-Berger I have a reputation on the line.
Your best experience ever on an e-bike?
It is hard to really narrow it down to only one. For me it definitely has been the various alpine trips I did this year – up into places, which without assistance I never would have reached in such frequency, due to my limited time resources.