Ahh, spring. You’ve finally done some good rides and now just when the weather starts to be nice, your bike starts to be naughty.
In this review, I will not cover how good or bad a product functions, but instead analyze which companies stand behind their stuff.
- Which company responds the quickest?
- Which company hassles you with requests for documents and procedures but doesn’t really give a $*@(# about real-world customer feedback?
- Which company is the most interested in hearing feedback about their product?
- Which company replaces the product the fastest to get you back on the bike?
- Which company recognizes technical issues with current or order models?
Sit back and hold on to your RMA#’s, it’s time for Part 1 (Introduction of the Cast and 1st Customer Service Contact)!
First, I must say that I hardly break anything, really! I’ve had very good luck… until this spring. Just this weekend, I had 3 parts fail, no crashes, no home-mechanic catastrophes or goofs, no nothing… although it seems like everyone says this, but I really was “just riding along” and most of the time I did not notice the failure until I got home for close inspection. Here we go:
Chicago, Illinois USA
SRAM Force DoubleTap Shifter Paddle (rear):
Some of you may have remembered the blog post on this one where the paddle broke off and I climbed 4,500 more feet with my chain stuck in the 11T. Basically the shifter paddle just broke off unceremoniously while riding along.
- Ease of Finding Warranty Info on WWW: Poor
- Customer Service Email Response Time: 1 minute!
- Ease of Warranty Replacement/Repair: Good
- Customer Service Decision: Send broken item (for repair)
- Total Turn-around Time: About 2 weeks
- Additional Costs: none
- Final Result: Shifter fixed, but with lesser quality parts
A PDF in 5 languages does show what is not covered but there is no contact email, form, or instructions on what to do. I used the “Distributor Locator” to find the distributor for my area and emailed them. Only problem is that there could be a language barrier as they may not speak english as well as a global or European support department. Amazingly I got an email back within 1 minute, no problems. I was instructed to send the shifter to their address and the female representative even informed me of the mechanic’s name who will operate on the lever. They will probably just replace the little broken piece, but sometimes these things flatline on the operating table so it’s tough to say. Extremely high points for this distributor / bike shop, they made up for the initial frustration with SRAM’s global website.
West Jordan, Utah
Reynolds Assault Wheel – carbon rim possibly melted or warped
I’ve heard of carbon rims melting and warping from excessive heat while descending big mountain passes but I’ve never had a problem with my Assaults, until the other day. Not sure what caused it but the sidewall is also warped outwards just a little.
- Ease of Finding Warranty Info on WWW: Great
- Customer Service Email Response Time: 2 Days (over weekend)
- Ease of Warranty Replacement/Repair: Fair
- Customer Service Decision: Send broken item to original retailer
- Total Turn-around Time: 3 weeks
- Additional Costs: none
- Final verdict Communication with Reynolds was great and they replaced the wheel, no problem. Fantastic!
Schwalbe (Bohle international)
Schwalbe Ultremo R.1 Strangeness
These guys had a big recall last year and came through with flying colors. Great service, no questions asked, and you can tell they care about making reliable tires. The R.1’s have been great, until I noticed this bulge on the sidewall. The bulging issue was the reason for the original recall so I decided to contact them just to see if there are any known issues with the improved R.1. I’m hoping they will be just as good with communication and follow through as with the R.
[UPDATE]:Customer service response was pretty quick. I expected they might think the sidewall cut was due to misaligned brake pads or something (understandable, that would be my guess too, but it’s localized to one spot, and my pads are nicely aligned ;) Took some additional photos but in the process discovered even more weirdness… an area that was “ok” had a very funky seam that joined the bead to the sidewall and out of my 3 Ultremo R.1 tires, the weights were 175 grams (the torn one), 173 grams (the currently installed tire, after one 85km ride), and a 189 gram!! brand new tire! The target weight for these is 180 grams.
- Ease of Finding Warranty Info on WWW: Great
- Customer Service Email Response Time: [update] 21 hours!
- Ease of Warranty Replacement/Repair: none
- Customer Service Decision: [update: requested additional photos, send 12 more :), now waiting 5 days for response. (update) They think it was caused by a brake pad rubbing or… something else… but not their fault.
- Total Turn-around Time: 2 weeks
- Additional Costs: retail price to replace
Rotor Bike Components
Rotor S2 Stem – Cracked
I’ve had this stem since last July. It is a big, tough, and beautiful aluminum stem. I’ve never cracked a stem (or anything else on the front end of a bike before) but I heard some annoying clicking while riding this weekend. I checked the aluminum cable housing first (to see if they were banging together) but then decided it must be the handlebar/stem interface or the headset. I got home and took off the stem to discover it was actually a crack near the steerer, not the handlebar. The specs for this stem are 5nm (using T25 Torx bolts) and I actually bought a torque wrench at the same time just so I’d always have it right (along with torquing other pricey carbon goodies to spec). Nevertheless, this crack appeared over the weekend without a crash, incident, or maintenance of any kind to the headset. I actually bought it in Spain so maybe I’ll get some points for my 100% support of the Spanish economy!
- Ease of Finding Warranty Info on WWW: Good
- Customer Service Email Response Time: More than 1 week… and still no response…sent second email to all 3 email addresses listed on their website… maybe I need to write it in Spanish??? (update, finally got the local distributor’s email and got lightning quick response. Sent in broken stem, new one arrived 5 days later (he even asked if I wanted it faster that we could meet in person!)
- Ease of Warranty Replacement/Repair: Extremely Easy
- Customer Service Decision: Replace broken item
- Total Turn-around Time: Couple weeks, but just 5 days once I got in touch with the right person.
- Additional Costs: $3 or $4 for shipping the broken item to them.
Easton – Bell Sports
Van Nuys, CA, USA
Easton EC90 Crankset – Failure
I’ve been sitting on this one a while as I just haven’t gotten around to it. But I’ll be needing a new crank for my backup bike this fall and it would be great if I could use a (functional) EC90. The problem is that the steel BB axel connects to a hexagonal “nut” that is bonded to the carbon spider. The carbon has deformed and results in tons of play when pedaling. You can rotate the crank arms independently a good 5°! Easton touted this as the strongest crankset available and has a lifetime warranty if I remember correctly.
- Ease of Finding Warranty Info on WWW: Average, just a customer service email
- Customer Service Email Response Time: More than 1 week… and still no response…UPDATE!! Do not email “Europe Customer Service” (email@example.com) since she does not respond. Just sent an email to the European distributor email and got nearly an immediate reply.
- Ease of Warranty Replacement/Repair: Ok, but you have to be persistant
- Customer Service Decision: First Customer Service response wanted receipts, boxes, dates, names and my biological passport to confirm that the defect was not caused by blood doping. They didn’t care about the crank at all. Second Customer Service rep was much better, no problems. Replace defected item
- Total Turn-around Time: 3-4 weeks
- Additional Costs: $5-7 to ship defective crank back.