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August 18, 2011
Many of us have done it. We walk into our LBS with a battered bike after we’ve driven into the garage while it was still on the roof rack and explain “I was just riding along and…”. The guys in the industry have heard it a thousand times before. They call it the “J.R.A.” – Just Riding Along.
Ask any one of the guys who work at a distributor or a dealer and they’ll tel you some of the funniest JRA stories. Many of us have attempted to get something covered on warranty that shouldn’t be. “How can they possibly tell?” you might think.
What is a Warranty?
A warranty is a contract between you, the original purchaser, and the bike company. It’s not between you and the dealer (or retailer) where you bought the bike. The dealer is actually caught in the middle. The retailer goes back with the claim to the importer, and the importer goes back to the bike company to validate the claim to see if they can replace the item.
If you purchase something on the internet and it legitimately breaks, you can’t necessarily go into your LBS and expect it to be covered under warranty. The supply chain varies with all products, but you may have bypassed the distributor in your purchase and it may not be their responsibility to cover it. It’s not anything you’ve done wrong, nor something the distributor is doing wrong. Processing warranties costs money (which is factored into the costs) and this might be an item that the distributor hadn’t accounted for. In order to get an internet purchase warrantied, you’ll often need to go back to the original online retailer so that they can deal with their supplier (which is sometimes too costly to bother with).
Things are changing however. In some instances the contract between the distributor and the manufacturer may specify that they provide warranty support for all of their products, no matter where they originated from. This varies between brands, so it never hurts to ask.
Some manufacturers are beginning to import and distribute directly into markets like Australia. Specialized, Shimano, Trek are some examples. In this case, they will sometimes process warranties on items purchased overseas since they’re not run as separate businesses like distributors are.
Finicky roducts like powermeters I always recommend buying from in-country. The amount of times I’ve needed to warranty my powertap or quark has made it well worthwhile.
What is Covered?
You’ll often see a statement on a bike such as “10 year warranty”. This means that the frame and fork are covered for 10 years against manufacturer defects. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the bike will last 10 years.
The parts and groupset on the bike will usually be covered for a specified time as well, but not 10 years. Shimano offers 3 years on Dura-ace and 2 years on their other groupsets. SRAM has a warranty of 2 years on their groupsets. Campy offers 3 year warranty with an option for extended warranty on their 11-speed groupsets.
Tyres, chains, cassettes, bottom brackets, and other consumables are covered by warranty, but normal wear and tear and operator error is not covered. A manufacturer defect has to be evident. The “39-11 or 53-26 syndrome” is a case that’s not always understood. This is when the whole drivetrain wears out in a matter of months because gears are massively crossed-up and the bike isn’t being used as designed. User error is not covered by warranty, but manufacturers have a hard time explaining this to new cyclists.
“Limited Lifetime Warranty” is an ambiguous term which refers to the lifespan of the product, not the life of the purchaser. It is basically saying that the product won’t last forever, but allows some room for negotiation. Keep your gear in good condition and it will increase your chances down the road.
Some products will issue “crash replacement” warranties. Some helmet brands will offer a crash replacement if you’ve knocked your head and the helmet has cracked (this better not turn into a helmet debate!). These are good deals and will offer a generous discount for your next lid (usually around 50% off).
My Lightweight wheels had an option to purchase crash replacement insurance. If I broke my wheels, they were replaced – no questions asked. Did I buy it? I should have…
From my understanding ENVE (or EDGE, same thing, different branding) offers a generous crash replacement discount of 50% off RRP for their wheels.
Most of the warrantied products are sent back to the manufacturer for R&D feedback, so they’re leveraging their customers as their product testing ground.
Making a Warranty Claim
Well, the first thing is, don’t think you can pull a J.R.A. over your LBS’s eyes. Also, don’t downplay the amount of kilometers you’ve used the product for. The industry is run by enthusiasts, they’ve seen it all before and you’ll come out looking like a goose if you try to pull a fast one on them. Even if you didn’t purchase an item from that particular LBS, as long as they’re an authorised dealer you should be able to come to them for warranty claims.
You’ll need the original proof of purchase to show that you are the original owner. This is the golden rule. If you’ve sold an item on eBay and the purchaser comes back asking you for the receipt to claim it on warranty, they might slip it by, but it’s a small industry and you could be surprised to see it come back and haunt you.
If you’ve bought the item over the internet, just be honest. There’s a chance that they’ll still help you out. It’s easy for them to track serial numbers back to it’s source, so you won’t get very far if you try to hide this. The bike industry is interested in keeping the goodwill of the cycling community and it’s getting more common that they’ll help you out.
When you bring you bike or item to your dealer it’s a good idea to clean it and show them you’ve taken care of it. No bikeshop mechanic likes getting a greasy mess thrown down on their bench to deal with. These are the guys who will relay your claim back to the distributor and it’s good to present your case in a positive light.
Don’t expect to get the item back right away. The LBS you’re dealing with will source the item and perform the necessary service, but they may not stock the parts and they need to be reimbursed by the distributor. This may take a while and they aren’t responsible for lending you a replacement.
Note that warranty only covers the part itself, not the service and shipping. If you’re getting something like a hub warrantied, you’ll probably need to pay for the wheel to be rebuild and any spokes that need replacing.
As you can see, warranties between brands vary widely and the situations are very subjective. The dealers are who you’ll be communicating with, so this is when a good relationship with your LBS is important. They are the ones communicating your claim onto the distributor and going to bat for you.