Ask Uncle Dave – Breaking Bikes

Words Dave Tolnai
Date Mar 30, 2015

Dear Uncle Dave,

After reading and watching some reviews of bikes recently where frames cracked during testing (I won’t mention which ones…) what is your take on the pre-production excuses or any other excuses that get tossed around by manufacturers? Are they to be believed?

Sincerely,
This isn’t an issue to crack up about


Dear TIAITCUA:

My first thought with all of these bikes breaking was around how embarrassing it must be for all the organizations that tested these bikes and didn’t end up breaking a swingarm. Pete and Cam need to up their game, I think. And I’ve got a few chainstays to hit with a 2×4.

Let’s have a little talk about ‘bike testing.’ For a bike company, bike tests exist for one purpose: to generate hype for their new product so that you poor suckers get super excited and plunk down deposits on expensive objects that you’ve never even seen in person, let alone taken for a lap in a parking lot. Bike tests are a necessary evil and, for the majority of bicycle companies, they create inner turmoil.

On one hand, you have some marketing guy, yelling at the Engineers to stop screwing around and trying to get bikes into the hands of journalists as quickly as possible.

On the other hand, you have the engineers, who just want to be locked in their windowless offices so that people will stop bothering them and they can work in peace without marketing guys constantly asking them when the bike will be ready – or journalists e-mailing them ridiculous questions.

Engineers always want more time and marketing guys always want less. Marketing guys want to please journalists and engineers don’t give a shit what some stupid journalist has to say about anything because they won’t understand it and they’ll probably get it wrong anyways. This is the world in which “bike testing” operates.

Now, on to what Yeti has to say about their little bike breakage problem. From Bike mag… which incidentally is the exact same wording as in the Pinkbike article… but I’ll give credit to Bike who had the earlier posting:

“CHRIS CONROY (President, Yeti Cycles): The rear triangle(s) you tested came out of an original “press” run of 20 frames. After burning the frame down to confirm the lay-up, we discovered it was not made to our specifications. This resulted in the wall thickness being thinner and could explain why it didn’t handle the impact as well as we would have liked.

We have updated our process controls with the vendor to ensure our production parts meet our specifications. Additionally, we added material to our seatstays/chainstays for better impact resistance. This increased the weight of the rear triangle 45 grams.

It’s important to note, the SB6c was tested to our gravity standard, so impact aside, it is the strongest frame we’ve made to date.”

The impacts your team encountered could have been just bad luck and would have damaged any frame. That said, we’re committed to producing the best bikes on the market and have made improvements to ensure it is bombproof.”

To break this down into simpler language:

We rushed to get bikes into the hands of journalists and we screwed up. We think we know what the problem was and we think we’ve fixed it.

I actually have no problem with this statement. I think it’s truthful and it doesn’t steer me away from buying a Yeti product (probably because I’ve never considered buying a Yeti because I can’t afford one). They explain the problem, take ownership of it and talk about how they plan on fixing it. Quite frankly, that is an awesome response. And for some reason, people have a huge problem with it.

Why would anybody doubt that this is actually what happened? If I’m a bike company, and I’m looking to manufacture a reason for broken bikes during a test, I’m probably going to come up with something a whole lot better than this. Accept responsibility? Admit to a flaw on quality control? No way. I’d blame leaking gamma radiation from a medical apparatus that was in the shipping container next to ours on the boat ride over. Or ISIS. Or something. I certainly wouldn’t put a bunch of effort into making something up that portrays my company in a somewhat negative light.

To show how awesome this response truly is, let’s look at how these things are typically handled in the bike industry.

  1. Deny any problem, make no changes, continue to stress that this is the best product ever…and release a re-designed model next year that is now the best product ever.
  2. Deny any responsibility, place the blame entirely on the supplier who is staffed entirely by incompetent assholes who don’t know anything about bicycles.
  3. Threaten to pull advertising if people insist on publishing this misleading garbage.

This would be an amazing time for Yeti to kick their social media into overdrive. Hey, why not some videos showing the changes that have been made? Or of some gorilla hammering on the chainstay with a large hunk of pipe? Or better yet…ahem…maybe fly some uninvolved journalist down to have a look at what is going on and write a story about it? Spring is coming to Colorado soon, no?

Uncle Dave


 

TIAITCUA – yours is the Ask Uncle Dave letter of the week. Congrats You have scored a pair of  Ryders Loops Polarized shades

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Have a question for Uncle Dave? Send it here…


Would you buy a bike that broke during testing?

Comments

Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - April 2, 2015, 7:28 a.m.

I don't want to ride a mountain bike that couldn't be broken by anyone under any riding situation. The thing would be a tank.

Give me a reasonably strong lightweight bike and support it with a decent warranty + no fault program and I'm happy!

Santa Cruz has the best post-sales support program that I am aware of:

  • lifetime free bearings
  • 5yr warranty
  • lifetime no fault crash replacement

Reply

murdoch
0
Murdoch  - March 31, 2015, 5:46 p.m.

Does any major frame builder make frames that don't break? People want stiff, big travel bikes for this newfangled "enduro" business that must also be sub 7 pounds with shock. People huck them into rock gardens and rootballs, then guess what? They break. Santa cruz, Yeti, Intense, YT, Giant etc etc. Don't worry about it, just make sure you buy from a company where the distributor/service guy will get your replacement frame to you quickly. Or get a steel hardtail. Oh, and notice how nobody serious is riding carbon wheels?

Reply

guest
0
guest  - March 31, 2015, 2:46 p.m.

I'd buy a $9k bike if there was some assurance of near-perfection. It might be their clever marketing but the only companies I trust to deliver that are Specialized and Santa Cruz.

Reply

qduffy
0
qduffy  - March 31, 2015, 9:46 a.m.

But…don't Yetis have a bit of a reputation for fragility?

I haven't done any research on this statement and it may entirely lack credence but I'm still going to continue the internet tradition of spurious rumour, possible bullshit, and lack of fact-based consideration. Unless it's true.

Reply

BlackPeakCycles.com
0
Facebook User  - March 31, 2015, 2:10 a.m.

The fact that Yeti didn't take the time to properly batch test their swingarms, gives enough doubt that other parts of the frame are not QC'ed properly either or are under designed for their stated purpose. There are other bike manufactures that will not release their bikes or frames until they have been through a complete fatigue test that is double what the minimum European standards are now requiring.

Be careful how you spend your money and don't be a crash test dummy for slack bike companies. There is way to much of this going on in the bike industry.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - March 31, 2015, 10:29 a.m.

Doug, everyone has their chance to get it wrong and most brands have had it happen. Extrapolating from this that Yeti is a slack bike company is a pretty serious leap. Of course you should be careful and skeptical with your opinions and money, but be equally careful about which brands you dismiss - especially the ones that don't gloss over a misjudgment with PR spin and instead give it to you straight. Yeti has a good track record, and the continued fanatical devotion of their owners at the Tribe events they organize annually is a pretty good indicator that they have a history of getting it right.

Exceeding or doubling 'minimum European standards' is never a bad thing, however I can tell you from experience that a lot of CE standards are complete bullshit, which is why many companies have their own testing standards.

Reply

BlackPeakCycles.com
0
Facebook User  - April 8, 2015, 2:51 a.m.

Hi Pete, I didn't say Yeti was a slack company. Please don't put words in peoples mouths. They admitted in their reply that their 'Vendor' didn't make the part properly to their spec's. That's a QC problem with who ever it is that makes the swingarms. You do have to ask yourself how many times dose this happen with all bike companies, seeing that so much is made off shore by who know's who in some factory in Asia. Yes there are some great factories out there that make great bike frames for their off shore customers and there are a bunch that don't have the tech or skills to do the job needed. Bike company warehouses are full of busted frames and swingarms, increasingly carbon fibre, which can't be recycled. It's just dumped in a land fill somewhere. Life time warranty, at what cost?

If you are aware of the current European frame fatigue testing standards Pete, then you would know that for a frame to pass, it needs to do 500,000 cycles in a test with out failure. That's a lot of beating up. To double that to make shore your frames don't fail is something to be admired. Commencal do this so you the customer don't have to worry that your bike will fail before it's time. All the V3 and V4 frames are built to these standards. How many other bike companies out there do this? I had 5 frames in a row fail on me in one way or another. All had life time warranties and from one of the biggest producers in the premium bike market. Just a waste of my time and money.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - April 8, 2015, 11:25 a.m.

Doug, "don't be a crash test dummy for slack bike companies" didn't leave much doubt about what you were saying. I didn't put the words in your mouth - you did. But if that's not what you meant, I'll consider that retracted. I do agree that it's not important who made the actual mistake - it says Yeti on the downtube and it's their responsibility in the end.

Any affiliations you'd like to be up front about? Do you own a shop that sells Commencal? (why yes, yes you do: ). Did you know that Commencals were breaking left and right just a few years ago? Whistler is littered with splinters of Commencal carbon. Bikes break, just like the windows in glass houses.

Every reputable company out there tests well in excess of CE standards, because "500,000 cycles" are only telling if they are useful cycles and a lot of CE test standards are not all that useful. For example handlebar tests that don't replicate the way that bars are pulled and pushed in a rider's hands. Does that still test for durability? Yes, just not in the right way. This is shaping up to be an article in the future. Thank you for getting me to think about it.

It's unfortunate you had so many breakage issues, and there's no doubt that riders like yourself who took a chance on carbon when it was still relatively new in an MTB application often paid a price (that includes me - my original Ibis Mojo fell prey to a similar issue). And let's face it - it's still fairly new tech. However the carbon manufacturing overseas is not only the cheapest - it's also the best. Ask any product manager or designer/engineer and they'll tell you that the "who know's who"s in Asia are doing it better than the "who know's who"s elsewhere.

Reply

BlackPeakCycles.com
0
Facebook User  - April 13, 2015, 3:27 a.m.

Hi Pete, I'm guessing you really can't read what is written. Again I didn't say Yeti was a slack bike company. You did.

Yes I own a bike business and yes I sell Commencals, for one good reason, that they cleaned up their act when they had major frame failure issues and now make frames that don't fail. That was nearly 5 years ago anyway Pete. Old news and well past bitching about. As I wrote the V3 and V4's have the latest testing standards.

Don't be ignorant Pete. You just harm yourself.

Reply

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