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EDITORIAL

We're Still Buying Rear Derailleurs Instead Of Mountain Bikes

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major (Unless Noted)
Date Apr 25, 2022
Reading time

Dog Shit Tiara

We're stood in a gravel parking lot at Whistler. Currently it's dressed up as the pit area for Crankworx. Arranged behind us is a bustling camp of heavily-branded Sprinter vans and large tents shading tired technicians. In front of us there's a carbon full suspension bike, brand new, displayed on a pedestal. Gucci build. The hex interfaces on all the frame hardware are pre-rounded from the factory. I'm thinking about asking the company rep about it, but he's busy trying to explain to a very frustrated customer why they've been waiting months for a frame warranty and the conversation doesn't sound like it's going to be wrapping up anytime soon. I let out a long sigh and look down at my camera, then over at Bikeroom-Jeff standing next to me. He shrugs in a way that says "what do you want me to do about it?" I mutter something a little more 'blue' than "thanks for your help."

We've come up for a long day of finding interesting stuff at Crankworx. Hopefully stuff that a lot of other folks doing the media rounds have missed. I'm calling the series 'Sweating The Small Stuff' and we've already bagged some nifty finds. But this, this is a dilemma. You see, it is my first in-person impression of a bike from a brand that is being trumpeted all over the bikernet for incredible value. As I told Jeff at the time, I could take a shit and stack an XTR drivetrain on top of it and that too would be cheaper that most other companies SLX builds. Even with Kashima coating and plastic wheels most riders are going to be smart enough not to sit on my turds and call them high value. After a few more minutes I decide to walk away. We spend a great day talking to brands and riders, getting insights on stuff that's new but also stuff that's been around a while that deserves another look.

I think the coverage was well received. The best bit is that my article wasn't overshadowed by the derision of a bunch of fanboys who are convinced that the reason they're getting a banger deal on a top end parts package is that the direct sale model cuts out those massive independent bike shop margins. I didn't forget the moment though and I watch as the young company grows to employ more talented designers and visibly better manufacturing while at the same time eroding much of their competitive pricing advantage. I read and hear about the low rent customer service and after sale support nightmares (pre-pandemic, sorry no Covid-cover for you) and calculate that the remaining difference in price comes down to a failure to stock adequate spares or staff the phones.

*Title Image: Deniz Merdano

SR Suntour Edge  NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

The Yeti SB series of bikes, like my previous SB104 BBR, is my favourite multi-pivot bike to service. Every once in a while a neglectful bike abuser has a beyond-seized main pivot bolt or the tube-in-tube internal routing gets so full of crap it's a PIA to get the cables out, but usually it's a uniquely nice process to fully tear one down and build it back up. Their after sale support is also top tier and fast. I think that adds value over what chain comes spec at a certain price point.

9point8 Slack-R Angleset NSMB AndrewM (7).JPG

When you buy a Yeti, one of the reasons they come with a premium price tag is that they don't use an assembly line to build bikes - overseas or in house. Every bike is built from the frame up at the bike shop that sells it. That includes pressing in the bottom bracket, cutting the fork steerer tube, bleeding the brakes, etc. I'd like to think anyone riding one that I built up received an extra level of care that's not obvious when comparing bike spec.

Working in bike shops, I used to badger sales reps consistently about the bike brands they represented treating customers like idiots. But the truth is, back then, a bike with a few throw-away components and an upgraded XTR rear derailleur was absolutely easier to sell than a full XT bike with decent everything, and the bike companies' margins would be better to boot. I think it's fair to say that in general, the mountain bike customer, at least here on the North Shore, has become more educated. If you call your bike an 'X0 spec' and then hang a bunch of GX parts on it, folks are much more likely to take notice, and comment on it.

But even if folks generally are no longer looking at two similarly-equipped bikes and buying the one with the nicest rear derailleur, there's still an obvious disconnect when talking about value and I see it regularly in the comments on NSMB. That's despite the fact that I think it's fair to say most folks around here know not to drink battery acid. I'm not telling you what bike to buy or the best rig within your budget. For a lot of riders there is a significant, potential, extra value in buying a bike from a good bike shop (bike setup, trail support, local jobs, after sale support) in exchange for the margin they make but if you disagree that's okay. Here I'm just talking about what you get in terms of frame, parts, and support for a given amount of money.

And yet you can have two identically-equipped carbon-framed full suspension mountain bikes, one that is notably more expensive than the other, and the more expensive one can be the better value. Take away looks, take away the race results of sponsored riders, take away how cool their branding is, and there are many factors that can make a more expensive bike the better purchase. Raw materials, quality assurance, manufacturing geography, where is the bike assembled (in-house or outsourced) and what level of care goes into the process are all factors. It takes a lot longer to build a bike properly than to slap it together. What is the after sale support like? Do they answer the phones or e-mail and follow through. Do they invest in inventory to make timely warranty and crash replacement decisions or are they stalling you because they have no idea when the chainstays you need are arriving? How long after the warranty period do they actually support the bike with spare parts, especially if the frame has proprietary suspension parts?

AMajor_XFusion_NSMB_KazYamamura-12.jpg?resize=1600%2C1067

I loved the 2016 Cannondale Jekyll, especially running it as a mullet. I thought the DYAD pull shock worked brilliantly. I even tried to buy a large frame-only for myself when the review wrapped. Just six years later this frame is completely worthless because the shock is no longer available or supported. Contrast that with, say, a totally rideable 2009 Kona Stinky and it begs the question of whether resale should be part of the purchase value consideration? Photo: Kaz Yamamura

DYAD-Shock-NSMB-Andrew-4.original.jpg

If companies as massive as Fox Racing Shox and Cannondale (Dorel Sports and now PON) won't support an otherwise irreplaceable proprietary suspension part (no shocks, no hard parts, no seal kits available) for more than five years after the last one was made, what are the chances any other brand will? I’ve lost sleep over the idea that my review may have been even a small factor in someone choosing to purchase one of these bikes.

The cheaper bike, even if it's just a catalogue frame hung with nice parts, may be the better value to you. It may be the better value for the vast majority of riders. Same goes for the company that's just been tweaking their design for a decade rather than investing in new molds every couple of years. But I think it's flippant to say one bike is a bargain compared to another because they're different prices and have the same rear derailleur, and that logic extends to the whole mountain bike parts list.

The median bike has gotten ever better and I'm not saying that you can even buy the extreme of dog shit with an XTR tiara on it these days, but there are still obvious quality differences between frames. Sometimes that quality difference boils down to cosmetics or a few grams, and sometimes that quality difference boils down to how many hundreds of dollars a year you'll spend repairing mangled rear shocks over the life of the bike. How much extra is it worth to have a rear triangle in the air the day after you crack your frame versus months from now? Are you paying extra for properly shielded, properly-sized bearings that will last a long time in a properly aligned frame, or are you frequently going to be buying bearing kits and potentially paying a shop to install them? What about ride quality? Even in 2022, not all frames perform equally within any travel category.

I sometimes wonder if some brands have fully lost the plot on high-end mountain bike pricing but I don't personally need to drive or ride a fresh Ferrari. Take a solid aluminum frame, Deore drivetrain, great brakes, good suspension, and a nice rear hub and I'm a happy camper. But if your next bike is going to have wireless shifting, boutique suspension, and a carbon frame (with or without an ashtray) do yourself a favour and dig a little deeper than the parts list and geometry chart. If you can afford to ride the best parts, you should afford yourself the time to take frame performance, reliability, and customer support into the value equation as well.

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Comments

cornedbeef
cornedbeef
2 months ago
+37 Andrew Major Bikeryder85 Jimothy.benson Metacomet Vincent Edwards Lu Kz SilentG Cr4w hugebiff Sjwagner75 trumpstinyhands shenzhe gregster77 Suns_PSD silverbansheebike Todd Hellinga imnotdanny Mammal Andy Eunson Dr.Flow Pete Roggeman Nick Coulter 4Runner1 bishopsmike okiecalvin Velocipedestrian HughJass Mike McArthur IslandLife Lynx . khai Paul Lindsay Martin mrbrett lewis collins Dan Mike Bergen

Andrew, this article embodies why I respect NSMB more than any other cycling publication.

Reply

andy-eunson
Andy Eunson
2 months ago
+3 Cr4w taprider Lynx .

Andrew is our marketing sieve. Marketing bullshit goes in and the truth comes out. Manufacturers seem to all follow each other around sniffing each others butt’s to see what they are doing. They are doing X? Well do x and a bit and be better. Oh yeah well do x and a bit more and be more better. 

Like when bar ends first hit the waves."Gives you more power!" Really? My legs look to be the same size. After years of bar ends and finding my hands always hard against them, I ditched them for a tiny bit more width. Then bars starting getting wider. I was ahead of the curve I suppose (ask Kim Steed he’ll back me up) but soon it became if wide is good, wider is gooder. Only recently have good riders determined that really wide isn’t necessarily better for all things. 

Don’t get me going on bike geometry. I’m no expert but I see parallels there with reach, seat tube angles and rear centre length.

Reply

Vikb
Vik Banerjee
2 months ago
+10 Andrew Major cornedbeef Andeh silverbansheebike Mammal Pete Roggeman Nick Coulter MTB_THETOWN Velocipedestrian Mike McArthur

Not that I needed a lot of extra motivation to ride a nice metal frame, but the way carbon frame pricing is going it makes a quality production AL frame or even a custom steel frame seem like a great deal. I almost always buy a frame and then hang parts from it so I am not seduced by the XTR turd burger ploy. A quality frame from a company with proven ride quality/performance and customer service is worth a lot. 

Ignoring the latest bling doesn't cost you much if anything, but can save you a lot of $$. Although there is a lot of Kray Kray going on in the MTB industry at the moment there are also lots of great bikes and parts to be had if you can shift through the marketing spew and you don't need to impress anyone at the trailhead.

Thanks for pointing out some great tips on the min-maxing side of things Andrew. It's very satisfying to put together a machine that runs really well at a fraction of the cost of some of the top end bikes being dropped these days.

Reply

silverbansheebike
silverbansheebike
2 months ago
+10 Andrew Major Vik Banerjee pedalhound taprider MTB_THETOWN Velocipedestrian IslandLife Lynx . Martin slimchances57

If you know what you want/are doing I agree that buying a frame and putting parts on is the best way forward. Throw in a few pre-loved parts, skip the flashy bits, and avoid the cheap-out parts that sometimes come on complete bikes, and you have a hell of a machine for under MSRP.

Reply

MTB_THETOWN
MTB_THETOWN
2 months ago
+5 Timer silverbansheebike Martin Andrew Major slimchances57

That's also my preference and another advantage of building it yourself is you know that it's done right and not pre rounded. It's more expensive than a full build but cheaper in the long run if you're the type who replaces parts til it's just right.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
0

It’s often cheaper in the mid-to-long run and at least leaves you holding less crap you have to store or sell used.

Reply

monsieurgage
Gage Wright
2 months ago
+7 Nick Coulter solar_evolution DanL MTB_THETOWN IslandLife Lynx . Martin

Speaking of bling and min-max can we add a dimension to the conversation.  I saw SC prices on the new megatower surpass even a locally (Kamloops) made carbon bike with AXS, carbon hoops and bling hubs/brakes; we're talking WR1.  

I have an easier time shelling out extra money to a company that takes steps to source local, overbuilds, have post-purchase support, is willing to repair frames and values paying back to their employees rather than making a profit for the CO.  This is based on multiple interviews with Dustin Adams.  If what is says is true then WR1 is a company to support for 3/4 the price of SC.

Point: we are seeing inflation of bikes that, for the most part, function really well.  When all else is similar I'd like to see some added value based on company culture, community building/support and some environmentalism (this can mean a whole lot or little).

XTR tiara is a great term for the lipstick on a pig service some companies do.  Bike companies and their product developers should hold themselves to a higher standard.

Reply

DanL
DanL
2 months ago
+5 olaa IslandLife Todd Hellinga Martin doodersonmcbroseph

The Arrival was one of the first things I though of whilst reading this.

I was looking at their SP2 and thinking about the price, most of the reviews mention that it is a great bike to ride but unfortunately, very expensive. But there seemed like a bit of cognitive dissonance going on there for me....

When you take out the wheelset and frame and bars - which are the WR1 handbuilt items, you're still left with high tier suspension, drivetrain and then a decent set of brake and tyres added on. 

Then you include the company story, the background, the handbuiltedness, the beautifulosity and all the other groundbreaking things that they're doing and I can't get past how good a pricepoint it comes in at.

Reply

pedalhound
pedalhound
2 months ago
+10 silverbansheebike Jimothy.benson Vik Banerjee Pete Roggeman Mark Larson solar_evolution bishopsmike HughJass Lynx . Martin

Great post Andrew. I just got a Banshee Prime V3.2 for a lot of the reasons listed...while kind of on the expensive side for Alu bikes and not light, they are so well built and I know I can trust the bike...and if I have any questions I just send an email off to Keith and he is fast to respond. I just wish they had a good Canadian distributor as bringing things up from the states kinda sucks....but, at least they have taken ownership of their own distribution now...so that's a step in the right direction!

Bikes are very personal and people get very attached to brands...they look at my SR Suntour forks, microshift drivetrain and a frame that they have never heard of and kinda give me weird looks...lol. I love it...this stuff works great and is a great value! Of course I have my things I like to go bigger on...but for the most part I do my research and find parts that mix that good value, strength to weight ratio...I am a bigger dude so I don't worry about weight that much. It helps that I have been riding MTB since the mid 80's and have a good feel for what will work for me and love trying new shit too...lol. I have also learned to not give a shit about what other people ride...you do you and I'll do me..lol. Let's go ride bikes and have fun!

Reply

silverbansheebike
silverbansheebike
2 months ago
+4 Andrew Major Mark Larson sanjay.carterrau@gmail.com IslandLife

I bought my V2 Banshee for the same reasons! Everything listed is worth the weight penalty.

Newer stuff from SR and microshift is great, too! The brand-driven looks from people sure can be funny, though. In one day I had one guy who was stoked to see another Banshee, and then someone else ask if I was a new rider because it was not a new bike... hahahahaha. Like you say, lets just go ride bikes and have fun!

Reply

Timer
Timer
2 months ago
+8 Tjaard Breeuwer earle.b Lu Kz whotookit Andrew Major Briain IslandLife Martin

I'd add that internationally, the local distributor, and his approach to service, is often more important than the brand itself.

But getting reliable information about distributors is often much harder than about brands.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
0

There are still a few big bike brands in Canada where shops are dealing with a distributor rather than directly with a manufacturer - Scott, Specialized, Pivot. As with my other comments here about asking the right questions / listening between the lines I’ve heard many folks working in shops recommend one brand over another on their floor because of the after sale support they get. 

If a rider is genuinely open minded about what bike they’re going to buy I don’t think it’s that hard to pick the most likely customer support winners, even when there’s a extra level of distribution.

Reply

araz
araz
2 months ago
+8 Andrew Major silverbansheebike Pete Roggeman Dr.Flow Velocipedestrian Lynx . Martin slimchances57

Does the calculus change if your budget means that you are deciding between a "value" brand with decent mid-level parts and a "premium" brand with subpar components? Below a certain price point (still pretty high for most people) it seems hard to get a premium, bike store stocked brand that has good suspension and brakes, decent wheels etc. I don't care much about xtr vs slx, but a shock and fork that work well and have some adjustability is another thing.

Looking at my choices for my latest bike, I decided to get an aluminum frame and build it up. The adaptability of the frame was a huge reason why I got it -- I could use my existing, non-boost wheels, which made the build affordable for me (yes, another Banshee owner chiming in). It works with my outdated parts, and will work with newer standards when I want to upgrade. As someone who keeps my bikes for a long time, this kind of cross compatibility is important to me. This was my first time not buying a complete bike, and I'll say that I'm pretty hooked on building up from the frame. Maybe not the absolute cheapest way to go, but I can splurge where I want and skimp where I want. I've also really enjoyed learning how to build and maintain my own bike. Very satisfying!

On the topic of good customer support, I did get a poorly aligned frame which was eating bearings, and I was well taken care of by my bike shop and by Banshee, who sent out a new frame, not instantly, but as soon as they could in Covid constrained times. Good support definitely makes me more inclined to keep my business with a shop or a brand, even if it means spending a little more.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
+5 SomeBikeGuy Lu Kz Vik Banerjee IslandLife Martin

A couple thoughts.

1) Banshee is a premium brand. Aluminum frames yes, but lots of fancy forged frame members, high end finishes etc. I do think building a bike from a frame-up with a high value aluminum starting point can make lots of sense.

That’s a great example of shit happens - what did a company do to resolve it. Thanks. 

2) No, I want to have my cake and eat it too. Marin is a high value brand and I think their aluminum FS bikes have solid frames (certainly not the fanciest or most manufacturing-forward) that ride well with good builds and they have a great reputation for customer service.

Reply

araz
araz
2 months ago
+4 Andrew Major Vik Banerjee IslandLife Lynx .

Banshee is definitely a premium brand. I bought one because it let me have my cake and eat it too -- well made AL frame that was $1000ish less than most carbon frame only options, and their modular dropouts meant I didn't have to pony up for a new wheel set at the same time I got the frame. An 11 speed Shimano drivetrain, a take-off fork from the buy/sell, and some Andrew Major approved min-max parts and I have a primo ride that fit within my budget, and can be upgraded and adapted to my needs over time.

And yeah, Marin makes some great looking bikes that look to be very high value. I was also eyeing an AL Ibis -- a boutique company that seems to be fairly committed to making some affordable but quality options.

Reply

martin
Martin
2 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

I can vouch for Marin's aluminium FS bikes quality too. I had a Rift Zone too for 2 seasons (sold it to a friend who loves it) and I had tore it down to do an alignment check, regrease, etc. and everything was straight, well welded, nice paint, great attention to detail, etc. This was on the lowest end model too that I bought complete for 2100$ cdn. I wrote Marin Canada asking if I could buy a jersey and a few small things because I loved the bike and a week later, they had mailed me, without me asking, a jersey, a water bottle, a stainless glass, stickers, and other stuff that I don't remember.

I bought my latest aluminum frame only (without shock) for the same price as the complete Marin and had alignment issues with the 1st frame, a dent in the headtube on the 2nd one, and paint defects and peeling off clear coat on the 3rd one. I kept it and they refunded me a a fair amount for the defects, but at least it's pretty much straight. Not quite Rift Zone straight (!)  but close.

This made me re-think what a high-end aluminium frame was, and how much I ha to pay to receive a quality frame, well aligned and finished. I don't care about paint, just make it raw please and make it straight!

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
0

My Rifty went to a very deserving home, but it's the only full suspension bike I've owned that I've missed after it was gone. It's sort of funny to me - as I've owned some much fancier bikes and ridden some truly boujee bikes - but I loved that thing (even if my 120mm build weighed as much as most my friends' 6-7" travel super bikes).

Reply

velocipedestrian
Velocipedestrian
2 months ago
0

As often happens, Steve has covered this. Cut the o-ring off and tune for the ride you want, not to get all the millimetres you payed for.

Reply

mammal
Mammal
2 months ago
+4 araz Pete Roggeman IslandLife Martin

I like your criteria (suspension bits, customer support etc.). In the past 12 years, I've been the guy buying used frames, so when it was time to purchase my first complete in over a decade, I used a similar criteria. I ended up with an entry level Ibis Ripmo AF, because it had DVO suspension that seemed to offer a level of performance, adjustability and user serviceability that I couldn't find on other low-spec bikes. 7 year warranty on the aluminum frame, and lots of good things said about customer support. The apparent downsides were NX components and Guide-T brakes. In the end, I think I hit it out of the park with that decision. I did need a Cascade Link to get the suspension feel right, Saint brakes to get from "no braking at all" to "Champion of stopping", and an SLX shifter/derailleur grafted onto the rest of the super long-lasting NX system. Those swaps are definitely not nothing, but I'd likely swap some things on most of the options I was looking at. I'm now on the 3rd season, have done all my own suspension servicing, still on the super long wearing NX cassette/CR, and the bushing wear on 4/6 pivot locations seem much lower than bearings if maintenance is kept up. The bike is amortizing EXTREMELY well, and I'm sure I'll keep it the full 7 years.

Reply

OwenFoster
OwenFoster
2 months ago
+5 Andrew Major Lu Kz hugebiff Martin Dan

Great points Andrew. 

The value of responsive customer support resonates more every year for me.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
+3 Vik Banerjee Metacomet Lu Kz

Thanks! 

I'm always amazed at how big the gap is between the companies that do a great job of after-sale support and the companies that are abysmal and how the former don't seem to get appreciated for it and the latter don't seem to really get punished for it.

Reply

andyf
andyf
2 months ago
+4 Andrew Major Lu Kz Pete Roggeman Dan

After sales service/support from a good shop is big for me.  If the shop guys love Magura brakes, then I'm going to run Magura brakes.  They know how to work on them and they're going to have small parts in stock.  Hopefully a really good supply of those $16 pad contact adjuster knobs.

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
2 months ago
+4 silverbansheebike Tjaard Breeuwer Timer Dan

"Even in 2022, not all frames perform equally within any travel category."

This is good, otherwise my job moonlighting as a bike reviewer wouldn't be very exciting.

Reply

blackhat
blackhat
2 months ago
+3 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman Dr.Flow

Andrew, your “assholes guide to buying used forks” (or something similar) on meat engines taught me a ton about what to look for and how to look after my own suspension to keep it fresh.  One of my favorite all time articles anywhere.

Unfortunately, there are a LOT of concepts alluded to in the article that are similar to saying “don’t get suckered on a used fork” without any of the practical examples and tips found in that article.  They’re somewhat covered in the comments, but it would be great to see “an assholes guide to shopping for a new FS” or something similar at some point. 

A few pictures showing how to check frame alignment and what sort of shoddy work should be a deal breaker would be a good start.  What constitutes an undersized or exposed bearing?  Is there a decent way to test for a creaking BB/HS in the store?  What standards/components should give pause, and which are cause for celebration?  What questions should you ask the salesman?

Hope this doesn’t come across as a battery acid warning request.  Obviously your thoughts on this stuff are well documented in your overall body of work and quite a few good tips are found in these comments, but they’re widely scattered and sometimes a bit cryptic.  As a rider who recently bought a new bike I would have loved to go through your checklist before making the purchase.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
+3 cheapondirt blackhat lewis collins

Hahahahaha, thank you. It’s here if anyone is interested. Photo I was going to share isn't loading right, but it was fun coming up with images for that piece.

———

I think yours is a very fair comment, this piece was vague. It was directed more towards riders buying bikes than the bikes themselves but maybe a follow up showing real examples of things like bearing shields would be interesting.

I have another related piece started already talking to a couple of brands about the de facto v. de jure way they support bikes. Companies I think support bikes very well (including legacy bikes) and attempting to drill down to what is just done and what’s actually internal policy. Man, it sounds dry when I think it could be interesting.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
+3 silverbansheebike Niels van Kampenhout blackhat

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blackhat
blackhat
2 months ago
+2 Andrew Major Martin

One of your core talents is making banal topics like a brake rebuild or buying the cheapest derailleur that gets the job done into an interesting and thought provoking discussion.

Right now that new bike has been in the shop for the past three weeks - and was already in for a week and a half - because the Yari damper was leaking it’s oil into the lower leg and causing it to hydro lock at mid stroke.  Quite the sensation actually.  Anyway, Rockshox obviously F-ed up at the factory somehow but instead of letting the shop just replace it with the Yari they had on hand they demanded we ship it back for analysis and repair/replacement.  They seem quite committed to get me a working product, but entirely unphased by the fact that I’ve missed the past three weeks of April weather riding on it.  

So I’ll be very interested to read that article to understand the intricacies of how companies view warranty situations.  In particular, how they weigh getting the rider rolling vs warranty cost.  Because I don’t know if I’m just experiencing SOP in the industry or if Rockshox is screwing me.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
+1 blackhat

Thank you. 

I think a lot of good shops are victims of how many bad shops are out there maybe? Diagnosing and sorting a basic damper issue should be in every MTB shops’ wheelhouse (even just send a new damper and get it swapped) but if I’m RockShox I probably want to see the fork back to make sure it’s dialled for you. 

Put a different way, I’ve seen multiple riders asking for warranty support from manufacturers after their local shop did a poor service or, worse, damaged a product.

Clearly what you’re missing here, even more than having a rideable bike, is some communication. Are they waiting for dampers to come in? Are they short techs? Did your shop wait two weeks to ship the fork? 

I think communication is the number one place shops and manufacturers routinely fail customers. Not saying it’s easy.

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CB750R
CB750R
2 months ago
+3 SomeBikeGuy solar_evolution Martin

Just walked into my LBS with a Maxxis tire that looked like an early 90s Mavic rim ridden on the shore... it was doing the drunkin weeble wobble...In and out in no time with a fresh tire in hand. 

Oh and that 27.5 tire I bought an paid for a year ago as a spare for a trip... when I only ride 26 or 29" bikes... exchanged no questions asked for the right size... 

I might not have the flashiest brand of wheels, (yes they're plastic) but every time I've had an issue I've been given a new rim/wheel/hub. so maybe my 195lbs doesn't belong on a carbon hoop but I'll continue to ride them as long as the excellent after sales support continues!

Support your LBS and they support you! I could NOT afford to go to a direct to consumer brand of bike, and not have a LBS support it!

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lkubica
lkubica
2 months ago
+2 olaa Tjaard Breeuwer

Cool story, but where can I find this knowledge about particular brands or particular bikes? On sites which earn money by displaying bike commercials and publish sponsored texts? From internet forums, full of bullshit? How can I be sure that paying $2k extra for let's say Santa Cruz is really worth it (can you imagine, that the worst frame I ever had in terms of alignment was a Knolly)? This are the real questions bike sites should be trying to answer, but they generally fall short ... So if you see a good build you can at least be sure that it has a good suspension with standard mounting dimensions. Man, there are so many layers of bullshit in the bike industry and bike media also. You say about ride quality, but the ride quality could be measured quite well just using some telemetry and suspension tune analysis on dyno, but which site does it? None. So when you read bike reviews the best you can get are some feelings about one particular model, but you know what, that other model with RS suspension will ride differently from the one using Fox... So I agree with your diagnosis, but I cannot see any treatment to this disease.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
+3 cornedbeef imnotdanny Paul Lindsay

I guess two things come to mind reading your post.

Specifically, I think that, like many a resource, bike forums are a great tool with lots of good information but you have to be thoughtful about asking the right questions if you have a specific goal you’re trying to achieve or question you’re trying to answer.

Other riders are, for example, happy to share their great customer service experiences if you ask for them. Looking for companies that have great customer service/support I’d post a query like “give me an example of a bad experience with a product (failure, etc) where you’d buy from the brand again because of your customer service experience.” I’ve learned lots of great stuff from bike forums over the years just have your fanboy meter turned up high - you’re looking for actual experience not love letters to the bike designer from folks who’ve never had an issue.

Put a different way. Everything breaks - I want to know what companies do when their shit fails.

———

Generally, and this is absolutely not directed at any specific brand, (one you listed or otherwise), deep manufacturing-based-marketing always raises my eyebrow. I once had a rep from a bike brand tell me I should believe all his company’s bullshit because “they are a manufacturing company not a marketing company.” Hahahahaha. Hyperbolic marketing trying to differentiate a product around design, manufacturing tolerances, materials, etc should draw more not less scrutiny.

I hear you, nice words but how about a real world example of how to action any of this on the next bike purchase?

Buying a multi-thousand bike? Ask the shop to throw it in a stand, remove the rear wheel, and unbolt the top shock mount. Now you cycle the back end. Then do the same with the shock bolted in and the air out of the shock (or coil removed). If the bike’s really out of alignment you can often (certainly not always) see and feel it through the stroke just with this simple process.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
+4 olaa Lu Kz Tjaard Breeuwer imnotdanny

I’ll also note that, I think, relationships matter and from every side of the desk (customer, distributor/manufacturer, shop) I’ve seen great shops really step up to keep folks riding. Most folks can’t have a face-to-face relationship with the brand of bike they buy, but you can have one with a solid local shop. 

I’ll note I’m not talking about beer, or doughnuts or any wheel greasing. Just “I bought this bike here and this happened, what can you do to help me?”

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olaa
olaa
2 months ago
+5 Timer Metacomet kcy4130 Andrew Major Tjaard Breeuwer

For those of us that live where there are no good bike shops serviceability, solid construction and a good distributor for a brand becomes really important. Unless you are really nerdy about bikes it can become a bit daunting to buy something very expensive, that when it breaks results in a long turn-around where you are without a bike. An example og this is when Specialized, a few years back, were speccing undersized bearings for weight or packaging reasons. Changing a bearing in a frame is not easy if you don't have the tools or the confidence to do that. So even with the very good CS that Spesh do have here, it still resulted in issues for customers.

The point being that buying a bike from a main brand might seem like a safe bet, but when the whole ecosystem isn't in place it still is a gamble. And if the frame or bike isn't set up for easy servicing at home then you might be without your bike for a long time. 

I have friends that ride quite a bit, but aren't as nerdy about bikes, for them to find info on forums and such is really not easy. They don't even know what end to begin asking in.

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kcy4130
kcy4130
2 months ago
+5 olaa Andrew Major Timer Cr4w Velocipedestrian

I'm in the same situation, nearest bike shop is an hour away. But it's just kids hardtails and hybrids kind of thing. Nearest real shop is 2.5 hours away. I don't mind it for bike and parts. But for cloths, helmets, etc it's annoying. I just buy when I travel so I can try on.

Anyways, another thing to consider if your aim is reliability is not buying a newly redesigned just released bike. Buy one that's in it's second year of production, that way you'll have more online/forum info and any major flaws in the design should have been found/changed by then.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
+1 olaa

In this situation I’d be doubling down on reliability and ease of service. Back to being frustrated that there are no good, budget, simple single pivot (SSP) frames with great geo. 

Add some cut outs in the bearing sleeve a la Guerrilla Gravity for easy removal with a punch and a basic press tool (home made, or Boca, or otherwise) has you covered for install.  

I guess once you’re into Specialized money an Orange isn’t that expensive but it still seems like a hole in the market to me.

———

I mean, assuming you can’t be happy with a hardtail where you are. Modern hardtail with great geo rocks.

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Jotegir
Lu Kz
2 months ago
+3 Andrew Major Mammal Martin

Shout out to Alt-Alt (Alt Alt? Alt/Alt?) affordable at-home bearing press/puller for bringing suspension bearing services on many bikes down from the realm of hundreds and hundreds of dollars in tools to about 99 bucks if you don't have any pivots that require a blind puller (like Rockys).

olaa
olaa
2 months ago
+2 Andrew Major kcy4130

My own FS bike is built like a tank with easily replaceable oversized bearings :) It is not from a well-known brand, but they seemed to have a good ethos about how they built the frames. A bit of a gamble, but so far it seems to have worked out.

And of course, there is the hardtail as second bike! Gotta have one of those to keep the skills sharp :) Also all of the parts on the hardtail fit in the FS, for maximum uptime.

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
+2 olaa Tjaard Breeuwer

Love the hot-swapibility between the bikes. Especially with the peak season down time for things like full fork service (I mean, or you can get them serviced when suspension places are slow).

LoamtoHome
Jerry Willows
2 months ago
+1 Mammal

you did say "Specialized Money"....  the comp alloy evo is probably the best bang for the buck in the industry.  You should have said "Santa Cruz money"....  nothing cheap there.

LoamtoHome
Jerry Willows
2 months ago
0

not sure why the digs on Specialized but they have some great value bikes.  Status and SJ EVO alloy to name a few.  Don't hate the player....

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
0

What digs on Specialized JW? Their Gucci stuff is eye watering like most Gucci stuff, that’s not a dig.

Talking builds, they have some okay values on some levels of aluminum bikes maybe, nothing stands out to me as worthy of being singled out over other brands though. The manufacturing quality of their aluminum stuff is very high and in my experience the after sale support is very good, so certainly there is value in those things that make the bikes recommendable.

DogVet
Hugo Williamson
2 months ago
0

Try that with an E bike, 19 bearings including wheels, shock, fork services, brake pads, full chainset on an annual basis, cost £750 pa 1500 km UK riding!!!and that’s with a shop owners discount!!

My other bike is a single pivot… ha ha

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just6979
Justin White
2 months ago
+2 Paul Lindsay Neil Carnegie

Is that e-specific? Wouldn't any bike ridden hard for 1500 km in the UK need all that? Wouldn't the single-pivot, after 1500 km of UK riding, also need all that minus the frame bearings (except the main 2)?

fartymarty
fartymarty
2 months ago
+3 Andrew Major kcy4130 4Runner1

lkubica - Or just buy a hardtail.... There are a ton of good ones around that wont cost you the world and wont break.

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monsieurgage
Gage Wright
2 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

I second the first point.  Go to the horse's mouth.  I talk to LBS techs who handle warranties, people in parking lots who are just riding around and cold call (PB message) folks from the bulletin boards on their specific experiences.  It is still anecdotal evidence but it starts to give you a feeling for a bike/company after receiving multiple data points.

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Jotegir
Lu Kz
2 months ago
+3 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman Dr.Flow

I've worked at a local bike store with three brands that all produce truly excellent riding bikes. Closer to the end of my tenure working the sales floor (I'm wrenching primarily now), customers would be cross shopping bikes in the same category from our sales floor, and this would come in to what I'll tell them. I'll say stuff like sure, brand X's geometry is slightly more "modern" by media standards, but brand Y's bike is going to be slightly more naturally playful and their suspension design tends to be easier for riders to get used to right away. Now, this might be me growing cynical after the better part of a decade at least part-timing the sales floor, but I'd say something along the lines of "you'll get used to riding either one's geometry and suspension design in a couple rides and the differences in ride will be near-meaningless, however Brand X offers a lifetime warranty and the best aftermarket care of any company I've ever worked with in my 10 year bike industry career".

I suppose the issue to some of your earlier points is by now you're already in our shop. You've already made the decision to come down and chat with me. In COVID days, it probably means you're ready to buy something from us because we're one of the 3 shops in this half of the country with product in stock (another story, obviously). You aren't going to hear about experiences buying online, or from brands at other shops (I'll speak to other brands I've dealt with, with the caveat that the information is many years old at this point).

With respect to Santa Cruz specifically (we do not sell them), I think there's a lot of value in knowing you'll be able to find frame parts for at least ten years beyond sales, and if you invest in some hand tools and time, a bearing set a year. Contrast this with a brand who last week told me they're sending out my customer a new frame because they no longer carry replacement chainstays.... for his 2019 bike... and if you're someone who plans on keeping and maintaining your bikes beyond a year or two of heavy riding and then passing the clapped bike to some schmuck over Pinkbike Buy & Sell, the buying decision between those two is at least pretty obvious in my books. Regarding a Knolly with the "worst rear alignment you've ever seen"? Well, I've seen bad, bad shit out of the box from every brand in existence. It sucks that the stars aligned for you to get that bad shit that day. 

I'll echo Mr. Major where this is where a solid shop relationship comes in. My first full suspension bike ownership experience (where I paid full price, before working at the shop) was badly out of rear end alignment, and the small polish brand I got the frame from stepped up and got a frame out, probably much to do with how the shop I purchased stuff from phrased their warranty emails. 

I guess if you're adverse to sniffing out the gems in the bullshit of internet forums, then find someone who you trust who's been in industry for a long time, split a 6 pack, and hear what brands they think you should buy. The knowledge is there, you just have to get to it.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
+2 Lu Kz JVP

I guess at least they replaced the frame instead of claiming the issue wasn’t a defect in manufacturing/materials and offering a crash replacement instead? But this does speak to a bigger issue with resale value/used value. Stuff brakes, I would never buy a three year old frame if I knew there was zero support for frame parts.

I actually had an ugly discussion with someone from a bike brand once about the failure rate of a chainstay assembly on one generation of one model of their frames (high failure rate - the specific model of bikes were ubiquitous locally but I haven’t seen an example for years) where they told me they’d moved on from the bikes. High end machines. And I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t do a run of beefed up chainstays - even to sell at cost to stranded customers. Not just customers with used bikes but original owners too.

It’s just not that hard?! But what do I know?

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DogVet
Hugo Williamson
2 months ago
+2 pedalhound Martin

A mate of mine was at Sea otter this year, speaking to the engineers, they expect 1 in 5 to 1 in 10 frame failures, very often Bb carbon interface. The R and D on most carbon bikes is done by the punter as it’s too expensive to make a mold then test a frame, alloy mules aren’t quite up to the speed. 

The engineers are getting a hard on for the Atherton bikes as they are so much easier to make multiple frame sizes without resort to molds, winner !!

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LWK
LWK
2 months ago
+2 pedalhound Martin

so a 10 - 20% failure rate.  that is depressing.

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velocipedestrian
Velocipedestrian
2 months ago
0

2005/06 Specialized Enduro? My partners chainstay cracked at the weld, and when I went down the forum rabbit holes there were so many versions of the same, sad story.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
0

No, I’ve never known Specialized not to support their frames. I’ve seen a few broken chainstays and they’ve always been replaced.

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just6979
Justin White
2 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

It's always interesting how people handle frame issues and the support they receive from them. I have a friend that has gone thru 2 chainstays and one whole frame (with 3rd chainstay) in maybe 2 years, from a direct-to-consumer brand, but he won't say anything bad about them because the original price was so "good", and the replacements came without much hassle.

I'm like, well, the money you "saved" was kinda spent on not riding while you're taking your bike apart, waiting for replacement parts, reassembling your bike, and possibly constant worry about whether the new chainstays would hold up.

I spent a bit more on my "big brand" bike at about the same time, but I have had zero issues with the frame. Maybe that's due to overall quality, maybe it's just QA thoroughness. And maybe the D2C brand has improved on one or both since, but since their prices haven't really increased in the intervening time, I'm not going to bet on it.

In the end, I could recommend for anyone to buy my bike's brand from a local shop, and enjoy the support that comes with the slightly higher price; while my friend would only recommend his brand to someone very comfortable doing all their own work and maybe waiting for replacement parts to cross the ocean. And I think that's the point of this article, eh?

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
+1 Justin White

Justin, that's a brutal amount of downtime. Some people are bike killers regardless of the brand or where it's from though.

I didn't set out to make any shop v. DTC argument. There are enough service-forward shops out there now that I think there's no reason that DTC brands couldn't form partnerships and be right on top of the after-sale-support game. But I don't know if there's an example yet of any company that's figured it out. 

Maybe Commencal? They build beefy rigs with big bearings, keep models a while, use common parts, and I've heard they're on it with customer service. But then, as good as the bikes are, they're not trying to compete for the highest-end carbon-frame/Gucci build dollars really so it's a little different scenario than comparing the values in different super bikes.

just6979
Justin White
2 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

That's the weird thing, he's not a bike killer, I am! 

Sorry, I also didn't mean to derail this into shop/dealer vs direct. Just trying to compare the bonus of available local support, or lack there-of, with raw initial purchase price.

My whole crew is pretty frugal* and very mechanical, so for a long time it was quite rare to see a brand-new off-the-rack rig in the group, but as we've all grown families and time becomes more precious, most of us have snagged new builds (still customized within months, usually) to take advantage of strong original-owner warranties, shop/brand support, and even the aforementioned service-forward shops for the guys who went direct sales.

It's like, sure I could do final tensioning on my custom wheel build with lifetime warranted rims by myself in the basement, as has been done many times, but I could also spend $50 at the friendly shop were I got my complete bike, and take my kids to the playground in the meantime. I'll still do many interesting things myself, like swap a fork or dropper just because, upgrade a brake lever assembly, or min-max brake pads (MTX Red so good!), but nice to know I have the support available when needed/wanted.

AH, I think I might have lost the thread again, haha, but suffice to say, I agree with the article. ;-) Bikes are much more than the sum of the labels on the parts, and strong support and warranties can be worth the extra price for many folks.

*(though it is always interesting to see the frugality taken to the extreme, like when you see a $4K USD bike with tires worn enough to see the base compound on a 3C MaxxTerra, because they don't want to spend MaxxDollars on an exact replacement until absolutely necessary and are also unwilling to try a less expensive option that has even been proven by fellow local riders, but that's a different article, hehe.)

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
+1 Justin White

No worries ever about “derailment” Justin. The conversations/comments are often (usually?) the best part of anything with my name in the byline. I just wanted to clarify that wasn’t what I was saying, even though in principle I agree that for most riders a good shop adds value (or at least potential value) for the difference in price. 

Tires is an interesting conversation as well. I don’t understand why Maxxis or Schwable doesn’t cut 2/3 of their SKU count and deliver better inventory certainty in their most relevant tires for less money while making more profit?! Clearly I’m missing something. 

But it is cool to see folks repairing tires (sewing up sidewalls, vulcanizing patches, etc) rather than just tossing them.

pedalhound
pedalhound
2 months ago
0

I have a Specialized story from around 2001 that made me want to never buy one of their bikes again...I was a HUGE big S fanboy at the time too....I hear the Canadian distributor is better now...thankfully.

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
+1 Lu Kz

One note LK, Ikubica wasn’t talking about Santa Cruz re. “worst alignment ever.”

Great post otherwise. Totally agree the knowledge is out there and not that hard to access, but I’ll say that mirrors my experience as well (as a customer and working in the industry) but I will yield that we’re in a very well supported market, we’re both relatively bike savvy, and we’re comfortable navigating bike forums. I can appreciate that’s other folks may have had a very different experience trying to research what bike to buy.

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Jotegir
Lu Kz
2 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Whoops, fixed. Thanks. I totally read that before, but in the minutes I took typing up the post, flipped the script in my head. This is why Ikubica can't trust internet forums! Full of morons.

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silverbansheebike
silverbansheebike
2 months ago
0

Wow, what I would give to see suspension dyno data to compare between popular brands. Combine that with a simple kinematic model and you could really nail down what you want in a bike. Having worked at a suspension company, dyno data is collected from other brands for benchmarking purposes, but for obvious reasons not shared. And those who could share it (ie media outlets), likely don't have the access to a dyno. Frustrating! I would really love to see a quantitative comparison from an older shock like the cane creek DB air to something newer like an X2, see how much difference in tune-ability you're getting for your buck.

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jason
jason
2 months ago
+2 SomeBikeGuy Briain

Is this the appropriate place to say that putting an XTR derailleur on a bike does not make a bike better as the Shimano derailleurs snap like potato chips (thin plastic on a knuckle is inherently weak.  as are really thin metal jockey pully holders).  Deore is the same as XTR.   :(

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callahancurley@gmail.com
Cal Curley
2 months ago
+2 Niels van Kampenhout Andrew Major

Great content here on NSMB as usual. Thank you Andrew and crew!

The DYAD shocks... At our Fox service center in Sparks we have NEW seal kits still! Over 50 seal kits left I think..  Then they're dead forever.. Just did a DYAD service last week and I still enjoy them. They are so simple and bomb proof.

Keep up the content. It's great reading.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
0

Thank you!

Those might be the last 50 kits anywhere?! I’m sure they’ll be gone quick. It’s too bad, great bike & shock I thought.

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mrbrett
mrbrett
2 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

“Loam Shelf” = ashtray? Cause I like ashtray better.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
+1 cornedbeef

Hahaha, the 'ashtray' is one of the things I've taken to calling in-frame storage (SWAT, Glove Box, BITS Bag Holder, whatever). 

I also like 'Black Holes' as I've heard some funny tales of lost stuff (like pumps) being found inside frame down tubes.

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Vikb
Vik Banerjee
2 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

This comment has been removed.

just6979
Justin White
2 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Very agree on the final statement, paraphrased as thus: If you want the shiniest bits, it might also be worth it to also pay even more for the after-purchase support.

However,

"2016 Cannondale Jekyll... Just six years later this frame is completely worthless because the shock is no longer available or supported. ...and it begs the question of whether resale should be part of the purchase value consideration?"

I don't even think you need to take it as far as resale. Partly because big companies will almost never put any consideration into resale, because they get literally nothing* from any sale after the initial sale. What we might see as potential resale value from durability, they just see as "tough enough to take you anywhere!" marketing taglines.

But mostly because loss of support after just a handful of years hurts actual value just as much, if not more, than resale value. I didn't get bit by the Dyad situation*, but knowing how fast brands can switch from promoting something as the coolest shit ever to basically forgetting it ever existed, really puts things into perspective. Not only can a Dyad-equipped Jekyll owner probably not easily sell their 6 year old bike no matter the condition, they won't even be able to fix it to ride themselves.

*(Ok, maybe a tiny bit considering continued visibility of the brand vs that product going in the bin.)

*(Nor even know anybody who got bit by it. Closest match is that I do know some guys with DRCV shocks that had to do some finagling to replace them with conventionally sized shocks. But I think DRCV is still technically supported; they just hated it, which is probably justified.)

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Jotegir
Lu Kz
2 months ago
+3 Tjaard Breeuwer Andrew Major Justin White

Unknown tidbit regarding DRCV (which yes, is technically still supported): the little internal pin/piston device that "activates" the upper air chamber can simply be removed in a full rebuild, giving the rider a linear higher volume rear shock experience. SRNV rebuild? (single rate no valve)

Edit: I'm not convinced Trek and Specialized put almost no value into resale. They both offer limited transferrable warranties, and the crash replacement deal (at least from Trek) can be very generous even to second owners. I think Trek really values creating lifelong Trek customers by hooking shit up for anyone, in the chance that a used Trek buyer will consider them if they ever make the jump to new, or at least keep them coming back to their (increasingly corporate owned) Trek/Specialized dealer.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
+1 Justin White

Good point re. Actual Value. In my example everyone loses (including shops having to tell their customers that their few year old bike in beautiful condition is ride-into-the-ground garbage).

DRCV is a very different case. Trek sells hardware to bolt in any number of conventional shocks and seal kits are still available for folks who have stayed on top of service over the years. No Treks are being retired simply because the shock is toast.

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LWK
LWK
2 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Your Yeti comments are interesting.  My LBS sells Trek and Yeti and I ride a Trek. 

Yeti gets slagged for "dentist prices" but if you look at their spec and the comparable Trek (never mind SC as of last week... lol), they're actually less expensive and their spec is very straightforward and no nonsense.  The "turq" models all have Fox Factory suspension.  And an XT bike is complete XT - they dont swap in lower level brakes, chain, cassette or whatever.  Good tires, Fox Transfer dropper, etc. 

You have to buy the 9.9 level Trek (Slash) to get Fox Factory suspension and that appears to be about $1500US more than the T1 model Yeti (165).  The Trek does have other "goodies" so maybe not apples to apples but if top level suspension is important (it is to me) then its worth noting.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
+3 Lu Kz Chad K kcy4130

Let’s not forget - as great a design as they are, and I love how the bikes ride - when you buy an SB130/150/etc those are very mature designs. I’d be surprised if the next generation of Yeti, whenever they come out, aren’t being sold at a premium over the current ones.

The product cycles for some of the biggest brands are a bit insane actually, and the rider is paying for that.

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LoamtoHome
Jerry Willows
2 months ago
+2 Andrew Major leon-forfar

I talked to an industry insider and the prices that Santa Cruz just put out will be inline with what the industry is ramping up to.

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Briain
Briain
2 months ago
+6 Andrew Major Timer 4Runner1 bishopsmike Martin Dr.Flow

The real question is, have the big brands pushed things too far. For my money it's now cheaper to buy a small in house made bike like a Last, Kavenz or a geometron etc rather then the new megatower and that appeals way more to me. There will be a point where customers say no more, it's already happened with phones everyone used to get the latest smartphone every year and now I don't know anyone who changes that often most people I know now use them till they break so over 2 years before replacing

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xy9ine
Perry Schebel
2 months ago
+8 Jerry Willows pedalhound Timer Briain 4Runner1 Todd Hellinga bishopsmike DanL

exactly. when something like the WAO arrival comes in cheaper than an offshore factory built SC... perhaps there's viability in a return to domestic (relatively) small scale manufacturing?

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Briain
Briain
2 months ago
+1 bishopsmike

I picked European brands in my comment but WAO are a great example of brands trying to minimize their environmental impacts. They are trying to source everything for their bike within 500miles of their factory which again appeals to me. Hope is another brand that's really interesting because they make nearly every component in house, buy one of their bikes and everything except the suspension and gears are made in the same place. I know Ibis have built a factory in the U.S. so they might be slowly on-shoring their production. I do think we as consumers need to start thinking about our environment impact aswell as supporting brands that pay real wages to their staff and shortening supply chains should benefit us the consumer because you won't have to wait months for a small piece like a pivot bolt to be shipped from the far East.

Jotegir
Lu Kz
2 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

@Andrew, the finish on the arrival feels literally less polished compared to other brands due to the use of cerakote - it's rough enough that it pulls fibers off of shop towels! haha.

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
+1 Lu Kz

You knew what I meant LK! 

(Hahahaha)

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
0

Is the Arrival polished to the extent of a top end Santa Cruz, Specialized S-Works, Trek, etc? I haven’t had a chance to really check one out in person yet. Just curious in the context of this piece (comparing one complete package against another).

Certainly Dustin has done a beautiful job of disrupting many narratives about domestic manufacturing in general and carbon manufacturing specifically. Looking forward being back pedaling so I can check an Arrival out.

Timer
Timer
2 months ago
+2 Briain Lu Kz

It will be interesting to see where things are going.

A few years ago, if I needed a new bike, Santa, Specialized or Rocky would have been high on the list. Now, I wouldn't even consider anything they make. I'd rather get an Unno, Last or WR1.

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Ceecee
Ceecee
2 months ago
0

Best of luck getting a Last sent to North America. GG has bikes

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
0

I don’t know. Nice frame, great geo, good brakes and tires, upgradeable fork, NX drivetrain for $5300 CAD. It’s certainly not a bad choice combined with solid after sale support and the frame being very upgradeable.

Anyway, it wasn’t intended as a dig, I was responding to a comment that referenced a Specialized and I assumed it was a carbon bike. Insert whatever premium brands’ carbon super sled that you like.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
0

As I understand it, Santa Cruz has a geopolitical disadvantage as they own their own factory in China and so don’t have the manufacturing flexibility to shift production to work around US and EU tariffs. Whereas, for example, companies using Giant can split their manufacturing and assembly between various countries depending on the final destination. 

This is arguably a value add (owning your own factory) but at a fluctuating cost (tariffs on Chinese goods).

They also have their own bike assembly in the states and consistently deliver some of the nicest out of the box builds at any price point. I think this is also a value add, but at what cost?

I think it’s impossibly to really know until we see all the price increases pending. A lot of bicycles aren’t even available right now.

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Chickenmilker
Chickenmilker
2 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

I bought my Bronson (paid my LBS) in January for a potential delivery in April. Last week’s price increase hits me as well, then add another two month wait…but I’m convinced it will be worth it. We have 3 bike shops within a ten minute walk that carry SC, Specialized, Scott, Rocky Mtn, Trek, Norco, Kona and they are all experiencing supply issues. I did my own research, talked with lots of local gearheads and made my choice concerning what I thought was my best option. In the grand scheme of things any part can be a lemon.

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SpencerN
Spencer Nelson
2 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Can you clarify what you mean by the product cycle length comment? Are you saying Yeti is good value, in that their cycle length is long? Or that brands that have short cycles (in the name of always being able to present "NEW AND IMPROVED!" to the consumer) represent an unnecessary cost to the consumer (even though it's demanded by the consumer).

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
0

Both, but I note in this case, looking at Yeti pricing relative to peers, that’s because Yeti is passing on some of the value of sticking with their design longer term. 

Do consumers demand the product cycle as it is now? I mean, how many more bikes could Yeti sell (if they had bikes to sell) if all the people holding onto their SB150 waiting for the new-new we’re buying bikes? I don’t know.

Sometimes I think the big companies churn bikes over like they do specifically because they can and it creates a sense that smaller companies that can’t are selling stagnant bikes. But that’s just my feeling, I have nothing to back it up.

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Timer
Timer
2 months ago
+2 Andrew Major shenzhe

Some customers certainly demand short product cycles. On the more mainstream forums there are often comments along the lines of: "this bike is 3 years old, it is due for a relaunch", or "they released a new bike X, then there will be a new bike Y soon".

Personally, i see long product cycles as a sign of quality. It shows that the bike is good enough to not need constant updates. And it means that, by the time this company releases a new bike, they had enough time for proper design, testing and polish.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
0

I just wonder how much that is customer-driven, and how much it's an expectation driven by the industry itself. For my own experience, I'd love a brand - like Yeti for example - to give a timeline for the next model. "We'll be releasing the new SB152 to replace the current SB150 in May 2024" or the like. Take away the guessing and suspense.

shenzhe
shenzhe
2 months ago
0

I'm a fan of long product cycles and think they can often be a sign that the company is putting thought into their products and not simply replacing them because new sells better than old.

Having said that, if I'm looking at a bike from a company that tends to produce a model for 3 years before a refresh, I may well wait for another 1 - 1.5 years for the new model to come out. Often that first year will see deals on used bikes from previous models (if I'm after used) and by the second year of the model hopefully they've fixed any QC issues that may well have occurred on the first year of the new model.

That's not to say that I want a new bike every 3 years (my last bike was old enough to drink in the US before I replaced it), but if that's what a company does I'll be adjusting my buying decision around that idea. Assuming that I have the luxury of waiting for the purchase.

Ceecee
Ceecee
2 months ago
0

SB165 T2 X01 $9800

Nomad CC coil X01 $9049

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
0

Can’t argue with your specific example, but generally in Canada (and it looks like the USA) the most common Yeti bikes (SB130 / SB150) are a bit less money than the equivalent Santa Cruz despite (and this is the important part I think) having a reputation as being super expensive ‘Dentist Bikes.’

I’ll note that in my dealings with both brands there is a lot of ‘hidden’ value in the price tags in terms of quality and support (whether that makes them worth the price of entry is an individual decision of course).

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4Runner1
4Runner1
2 months ago
+1 bishopsmike

The other under appreciated value when buying SC, Yeti, etc, is resale. 

I had a SC Bronson CC X01 and enjoyed it for two years. Before I sold it, I made sure to have a set of new bearings ready and waiting for the new owner. That was a big plus for potential buyers. 

Also, SC have legion fans, despite their high entry fee. Their well deserved reputation for top notch quality makes them very sought after.

They are crazy $$$ to get into, but I found it’s kinda like buying a Toyota. Super high quality, awesome resale value and overall very competitive actual cost of ownership.

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Ceecee
Ceecee
2 months ago
0

SB150 T2 C$12800  Bicicletta

Hightower CC X01 C$11199  Dunbar

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
+1 bishopsmike

I was going to say we clearly have different views on what qualifies as a more “common” bike (I was thinking C1/C2 builds, definitely sub 10K CAD) but apparently Yeti has had a price increase because even apples/apples (SB150 / Hightower / GX + Fox) the Yetis are a bit more money.

I know you’re just trolling as usual, but I appreciate being held accountable. Cheers!

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
+1 bishopsmike

Hahahaha wishful thinking JW. Just like high gas prices get people to take the bus.

Now you’ll just get to hear people whining to each other loudly about bike prices when they blow by you shredding your trails in perfect peanut butter (extra salty!) conditions while you’re working on them.

LoamtoHome
Jerry Willows
2 months ago
0

a good thing with the high prices is it's going to help with the growth.

Tjaardbreeuwer
Tjaard Breeuwer
2 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Andrew, I think you are right that is much value in the customer support, durability, serviceability and proper assembly of bikes, and also in the value a good shop can bring to that.

I think the problem for even highly knowledgeable customers, let alone the average customer, is that those things are hard, or impossible to know.

So I think for most customers, it does come down to aspects that you might call less critical: looks, availability, price, component spec level, the sales person they are dealing with, etc, etc.

I just don’t see how we can avoid that.

Some things work, like Santa Cruz calling out their lifetime bearing replacements. But for the rest, how does one know?

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
+2 Lu Kz Pete Roggeman

I know this isn’t universal, but I don’t think those things are generally that hard to know. Go into a good shop and ask the staff person helping you which brand they sell gives the best after sale support. Then ask for an example. Then ask which brand comes second and what they see as the difference. 

It was always crazy to me, working in shops, how few people ask real questions like that when shopping for a bike. I also was always surprised how few folks asked me what I ride and why, or which bike I’d choose for the riding they were doing. Not because I’m some oracle of bike wisdom but because it’s the fastest way to gauge if the person selling you a bike is on the same page as you are. 

I think an expert would say retail psychology really comes down to emotional v. rational decision making but that doesn’t mean the information isn’t fairly accessible if you want it?

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Ncoulter
Nick Coulter
2 months ago
0

Do you think any writers would be willing to do customer service round-up style reviews? It would be real interesting to see how brands stack up, and if such reviews might change the industry for the better.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
0

I’m maybe not 100% what you’re asking. Like get (anonymous?) feedback from shops about their back-end brand experiences or try and collect consumer feedback?

Have to say the thought of doing either sounds about as fun to me as walking barefoot across a shop floor littered with shifter cable trimmings but I could be misunderstanding.

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Ncoulter
Nick Coulter
2 months ago
0

It regrettably wouldn’t be particularly enjoyable, on your end, but neither of those is precisely what I had in mind. 

I was thinking that a writer might choose a common warranty issue amongst most brands, then try to get it resolved, and review the process. Essentially, it would be Yelp crossed with investigative journalism. The article would then be presented in a more digestible manner, where you would be comparing like to like, and giving examples of how each brand did. 

I’m picturing something that looks like a helmet or trailbike round-up, where there are some criteria, and each company gets a score. 

Although gathering anonymous feedback from shops and presenting it in organized detailed form (perhaps with a graphic rating) would also make for a good article, I am slightly more interested in seeing whether some brands might go above and beyond to get you back on your bike, where as, some might leave you high and dry. 

Regardless of the exact form such an article takes, I think readers would be stoked to see that their bike brand is dope or have some catharsis in knowing that they aren’t alone in going through the bs their brand put them through.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
+1 Nick Coulter

Phew, that sounds unwieldy in terms of trying to collect untainted data. Especially since warranty can be heavily influenced by a lot of factors other than just A) Customer and B) Manufacturer. 

I'd certainly give it a glance if someone else put it together, but it does sound like a worse undertaking than walking barefoot across a floor of cable trimmings. Writing about bikes is supposed to be fun?!?!?!!?????

DanL
DanL
2 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

Is one of the elephants in the room here the terms of warranties that manufacturers apply to any of their equipment?
I get time limited warranties and manufacturing error, that makes sense. What I don't get and would like to see change is the 'original owner' terms of any warranty in spite of any time limit.

How is this a thing - I'm not being rhetorical here - is there a compelling argument to be made that this is a reasonable warranty condition : you have to be the original owner.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
+1 DanL

There are certainly many things bicycle companies cover de facto under warranties that are for defects in manufacturing and materials, which clearly are not defects in manufacturing and materials. The way this varies by manufacturer and even sometimes experience v experience with the same manufacturer certainly creates confusion.

I do think, starting with frames and then suspension (or maybe carbon hoops) we’re going to see more transferable warranties sooner than later.

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DanL
DanL
2 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

That's really, in my eyes, a glaring consumer rights issue right there. Warranties that don't transfer across users even when they are based on time of usage, like the drivetrain etc on a car is.

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UFO
UFO
2 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

I totally get this point, and it makes absolute sense.

To play devil's advocate however, the counterpoint I would like to make is why are warranties any longer than a year, or two years maximum. Given the nature of the sport, things get subject to use and abuse. If there was a manufacturing flaw or issue, these will arise within that 1-2 year time frame. If you crack a weld or snap a chainstay 5 or 7 years down the road, is that really a manufacturing flaw at that point?

Imo warranty in and of itself is a marketing exercise. Brand A offers a longer warranty, lifetime even, which gives it a competitive advantage (all things being equal, would you rather a bike with an SLX or XTR rear derailleur). Brand B not wanting to get left behind want needs to catch up, or even offer something even more enticing. Because at the end of the day people will pay more for that piece of mind of increased perceived value

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months ago
0

Most warranties cover defects, and I agree calling a cracked weld a defect years down the road is a bit suspect.

More than warranty I’d like to see product supported better/longer. I should absolutely be able to buy a chainstay 5-7 years down the road. 

In terms of warranty itself, more realistic terms (actual defects in manufacturing and materials) and making warranty transferable works for me. It’s criminal some of the things I’ve seen covered by brands under “warranty” which clearly everyone is paying for. Certainly though, for riders with a history or breaking stuff or wearing frames out, so brands present a much better value than others through their generosity.

But, regardless, I agree with Dan. I don’t see why what you extend to the original owner shouldn’t apply to subsequent owners within the terms of the actual warranty at least (not the marketing exercise).

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dan
Dan
2 months ago
+1 Andrew Major

“ I watch as the young company grows to employ more talented designers” 😆

Great post, Andrew, and dang! the discussion in the comments! Gotta pour a cup of coffee and look through ‘em, I’m interested to know what others think here. 

Me, I’ve been a pretty consistent customer of one specific brand as it’s taken care of me whenever problems come up. And problems come up - I break everything. One thing about this brand is that it - unlike many - reliably offers a full-XT bike across several of its different model lines. No bullsh*t XTR candy dangling off the hanger. That said, I do wish this brand would go full batshit and spec a long travel 29er with high-end suspension, and full-on Deore, including the group’s excellent four-pot stoppers. Call me a dreamer. I’ve shared this feedback with the brand via Twitter DMs (which they always respond to!) and I have no doubt I give the marketing folks a chuckle. But again, I write stuff, they respond, and I inevitably buy another bike with the same name on the downtube.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
1 month, 4 weeks ago
0

HAHAHAHAhahahahaha, 105 comments in? Cheers.

And thank you, and yes there are - as usual - lots of great comments in this thread. I think a lot of the time (most of the time even) the comments are more interesting than the piece above them.

I'd love to see Deore-level bikes with top even suspension and fantastic rear hubs out of the box. I'd also love to see min-maxed value bikes with the best suspension at a price point, regardless of the brand name on the shocks. There are so many interesting opportunities out there for brands to differentiate themselves, I think.

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