Trek recalls handlebars from 2021/2022 Emonda SLR and Speed Concept SLR bikes

Trek has issued a 'stop ride' notice and recall for its Bontrager Aeolus RSL VC-R handlebar.

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In conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Trek has announced a recall of its 2021-2022 model year Emonda SLR bikes and/or aftermarket 2020/2021/2022 Bontrager Aeolus VR-C handlebar/stem. Additionally, the carbon base bars provided on 2022 Speed Concept SLR time trial bikes are involved in the recall, too. 

The recall is related to the possibility of the two different carbon handlebars cracking if overloaded. Trek Emonda bikes with separate two-piece handlebar and stems are not impacted by this recall.

A video shared by Raoul Luescher of Luescher Teknik has shown the issue related to the Bontrager Aeolus VR-C carbon handlebar/stem occurs on the corner of the handlebar bend, right where the bar top turns 90º toward the shifter. The just-released CPSC recall notice confirms this. 

Those impacted by the recall (about 4,700 sales in North America alone) are instructed to immediately stop riding the bikes (or handlebars in question) and contact their local Trek dealer to receive a replacement.

Owners of the affected Emonda SLR or aftermarket Bontrager Aeolus RSL VC-R handlebar/stem will receive a temporary aluminium handlebar and stem until an updated direct replacement is available. New bar tape and labour will be covered by Trek.

Meanwhile, owners of the 2022 Speed Concept SLR bikes will receive a new base bar, new bar tape, and installation.

For the hassle, Trek is also providing a US$100 / AU$150 credit that can be used toward Trek or Bontrager merchandise (and is only valid until the end of 2022). 

A slow public response 

While the official CPSC announcement is fresh today, rumours of this recall have been circling since late June. A discussion on WeightWeenies points to mixed experiences among those impacted by the ‘stop ride’ request or recall, with Trek having kept an extremely low profile on the issue.

Some countries, such as Australia – which was required to release the recall by the ACCC (Australia’s governing body for such recalls) – were seemingly quite proactive in having their dealers contact customers of the bikes in question well before that recall was even published. Those customers were kept rolling with a different handlebar and stem, and have been promised a proper replacement shortly. 

Meanwhile, the thread on WeightWeenies points to others impacted by this hush-hush stop ride notice (and now recall) being unaware of the issue until they stumbled upon the forum thread. Those customers were not contacted by their place of purchase or, in one case, not contacted by Trek for a bike bought directly from TrekBikes.com. These customers who reached out to Trek to enquire were then told there is indeed a stop ride notice in place.

Our efforts to contact Trek on this matter have gone mostly unanswered. The most recent communication we’ve had was Trek suggesting there was no recall, but rather that an investigation was underway. 

In the meantime, today it was announced that within North America (USA and Canada) alone, and of the approximately 4,700 affected products, Trek has received 37 reports of broken carbon handlebars, including one report of injury involving scrapes and bruises. Let’s compare that to Specialized’s hugely public Tarmac SL7 recall, where of its 6,900 affected units, it had two reported incidents and no reported injuries. 

The Australian voluntary recall has been out since the 28th of July. However, we weren’t made aware of it by Trek. Similarly, there has been no attempt from Trek Global to get the word out sooner, even after we reached out to confirm that the rumours were factual. From what we’re able to tell, it seems Trek was playing by the rules of the CPSC, which takes over control of all public communication while a recall investigation is underway. 

This image was taken from the CPSC’s recall. The delay certainly wasn’t related to waiting on a graphic designer to return from holiday.

Where things get a little murkier is that the CPSC has clauses that allow companies to fast-track a recall within the USA (within 20 days) and therefore skip the usual investigation process if they internally deem there to be a legitimate safety risk with the product. And while our questions to Trek have not yet been answered on this matter, it appears this faster path was not chosen. 

This may very well be a case of perception versus reality, where the perception is far worse than what has occurred behind the scenes. However, that perception is that Trek knew there was an issue, quietly told its dealers about it to rectify to the problem, and then made no further attempt to ensure the message was more widely received while it underwent the official process with the CPSC. 

This is an ongoing story. 

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