Do you want a Forever Bike?

November, 2012

What you don't know can cost you thousands

In our repair shop, we see several expensive bikes each year rendered useless! When I say expensive, I mean bikes that sold new for over $5,000. Sometimes they remain in the repair shop waiting for parts for most of the riding season, and sometimes they are off the road forever. That seems unacceptable to me for bikes this expensive, and less than five years old. It's amazing to me that the customers were unaware that the bike they purchased for such a large sum of money was designed to become obsolete after a few years. This is due to the use of proprietary parts, or parts that don't comply with ISO standards.

Chart of complicated modern bottom bracket varieties
We used to have just one or two bottom bracket 'standards', but now we have a full page of phony 'standards'
Several pages of modern headset types
It takes 6 pages to list the 250 phony 'standards' of integrated head sets.
Proprietary parts are parts designed specifically for use with that particular bike. They are only made by that manufacturer, and they only sell them to dealers that carry that brand of bike. We're seeing more and more of this in our industry. What this means to you, the customer, is that if you purchase a bicycle that uses proprietary parts, you are trusting that bicycle company will always manufacture the special parts for your specific bicycle. It also means that you have to take your bike to a dealer that sells that brand of bike in order to have the special parts serviced or replaced.

Part standards that are non-ISO compliant are phony 'standards' that are really just new designs issued by companies wanting to say that their bikes use standard parts. Examples of phony standards are things like BB30 bottom brackets, or integrated head set standards. The difference between proprietary parts and these phony 'standard' parts is that they allow anyone to use the new 'standard' if they want that makes it a standard. This is just another way to build planned obsolescence into an expensive bicycle.

Most people think that if they are paying thousands of dollars for a bicycle, it will last more than a few years. They are also under the impression that they can have the bike repaired in just about any bike shop. For most high-end bikes manufactured today, this is not true.

The Real Standards: For those of you who want to buy an expensive bike that will last forever, this article is a must read. ISO, or International Standards Organization, is a term that you need to familiarize yourself with before laying out the big dollars. I've written an article about ISO called Chaos that can be read here. If you want a bike that can be repaired by any bike shop around the world, for as long as you own it, then there are areas of the bike that need to comply with ISO standards. Otherwise, it will become obsolete and may do so in just a year or two.

First, one real life example of what I'm talking about:
Can you imagine purchasing a $5,000+ bike and then just a few years later, having to purchase a new frame to replace it? Not because of a wreck, but because the frame broke at the bottom bracket under normal use. This is an actual case that happened last summer in our shop.

Repaired Carbon Fiber Derailleur Hanger

A high end carbon fiber frame was brought in because the customer had shifted into the spokes and broke the derailleur hanger off of the bike. He was told by the manufacturer that his warranty would be void if he had it repaired. The local shop where he bought the bike told him he was S.O.L. Well, he had to have it repaired in order to ride the bike, so he hired us to machine an aluminum hanger and attach it to the frame (see picture to the right).

A few months later, the frame broke at the seat tube, completely unrelated to the new derailleur hanger. The break was at the point where the seat tube meets the bottom bracket 18 inches away from the derailleur hanger. The manufacturer said 'no warranty because the frame has been modified'. This is a common theme among big manufacturers these days. Really, these expensive carbon bikes are designed to last about 5 years. The trend is to design an expensive frame that is not repairable in any way, and then deny warranty because of some technicality. Can you believe that exposure to sunlight can void your warranty on some carbon frames?

The customer in this story now owns a Rodriguez lifetime bike that complies with ISO standards. He brought the carbon fiber frame in for us to cut to pieces and dispose of in our dumpster. He loves his new Rodriguez S3 frame, and says it rides even better than the other bike ever did. Another pleasant surprise was that his S3 steel Rodriguez is also lighter than his carbon bike!

I'm trying very hard to get the word out about proprietary parts, and what they mean to you as a cyclist. The noise of cycling magazines filled with 'experts' telling people the benefits of XXXX company and their new design seems to drown out common sense.

So why are companies using non-standard parts?

I can't read their minds, but I can think of several reasons that manufacturers can benefit by deviating from ISO standards.

no Planned Obsolescence Avoid the chaos of non-ISO compliant parts! At Rodriguez Bicycles, we go out of our way to make life easy for our customers, and build them a bicycle that will last them a lifetime. We use ISO compliant parts so that you'll be able to get your Rodriguez repaired at any shop just about anywhere. We love our customers, and they love their Rodriguez Bikes!