Bicycles break down. Parts wear down. Accidents happen. Whereas fractured bones, bruised balls of hands and skinned knees of cyclists do cure, broken frames, compressed forks and indented rims often mean the death of individual components, and sometimes even of the bicycle as a whole.
Repairs have become more expensive. There are two reasons for that. On the one hand there is no spare part available for defective frames and forks, even not for relatively new ones, on the other hand there was a severe increase in mounting standards over the past years. “Both is due to the bike manufacturer’s wish to work out features intended to provide incentive effects”, believes graduate engineer Dirk Zedler. He belongs to the leading experts for bicycles and e-bikes in Germany. “As an expert, I had already been forced to declare bicycles as total loss, because the frame or fork for a bike damaged in an accident was not available”, he reports.
His testing institute in Ludwigsburg close to Stuttgart draws up expert’s reports on accidented bicycles for the courts, insurers, manufacturers and private individuals. If the still sound parts of the averaged bike are not compatible with the spare part, because the latter has new axle and seat tube dimensions in the case of the frame as well as other inner and head tube bearing mounts, the domino effect starts. “At that point the rebuilding becomes uneconomical, says Zedler. In former days, bicycles of different categories were technically much more similar than today, as a consequence of which it was easier to change the parts. If you would multiply the number of axle sizes available today with the number of bottom bracket standards, you would obtain a nearly absurd figure. “This theoretical calculation is reality for bicycle retailers”, considers Zedler, “because all these dimensions are mixed up just like that”. With that he mentions another fact which makes repairs always more expensive. The number of dimensions would mean much more time-consuming research for the retailers. “And as a matter of fact this time should actually be paid”, he demands. Which leads to the question, who shall pay for it.
TOTAL LOSS FORK
According to Dirk Zedler, it often happens that manufacturers were no longer able to supply identical replacement for frames and forks, even in the case of current bicycles. In spite of system integration and visually sound overall design there were hardly any spare parts available on stock. With a fork that is no longer available in the suitable colour, it becomes dramatic. Especially among the customers of sporty high-end bikes, such as aero racers bursting with technical solutions there is a lack of understanding for that. Discussions granted.
As regards the home brands Bixs, Mustang and Wheeler of Intercycle AG, the frames and frame parts for current models on stock were actually small and reasonable, states Manuel Meier, Head of Marketing Department. “For this reason, we alternatively offer a new bicycle to the customers concerned.”
NO LEGAL CLAIM
The customers are only entitled to replacement, if the manufacturer is liable for the loss. According to the so-called guarantee obligation, in colloquial speech erroneously called “warranty”, manufacturers or importers are liable for defective products for two years from the date of purchase. It is, however, not stipulated by law that the replaced part must be identical. Whereas for example in the automotive industry manufacturers had worked out processes with their suppliers to ensure the supply of spare parts for even ten years following the end of production of a model series, this is definitely not the case in the bicycle industry, says Martin Mayer, Head of Sales of bike parts of Amsler & Co. AG.
And what about the availability at Bosch E-Bike Systems as market leader among the drive suppliers and as business branch of the worldwide biggest supplier of the automotive industry? “Bosch aims to achieve an availability of spare parts of six years at least after having delivered the respective products for the last time to the bicycle manufacturers. That means, the period does not start with the purchase of the bicycle. The customer can count instead much longer on the availability of spare parts depending on the date of purchase”, says Tamara Winograd, Head of Marketing and Communication.
QUESTION OF COSTS
The availability of frames and frame parts differs a lot depending on the manufacturer. Most manufacturers and importers are absolutely aware of the problem and expand their after-sales and information services. Bicycle manufacturers extend for example the warranty or provide Crash-Replacement offers on condition that the bicycles are registered at the manufacturer and maintained regularly by bicycle retailers. According to Philippe Albertano, Managing Director of Scott Switzerland, Scott provide replacement for frames and rear frames for five years from the date of production. At Flyer the period is eight years for frame and motor parts.
Although the extended supply of spare parts increases the customer satisfaction, it also represents a cost factor for the manufacturers. Today, the lifespan of their models were around four years, says Anja Knaus, Head of Company Communication at Biketec. “This is shorter compared to former days, but also driven by the system suppliers”, she explains. A trend towards shorter production cycles is also confirmed by Amsler and Fuchs-Movesa. The model cycle with about three years at Santa Cruz is comparable, says Chris Leuzinger in the name of Trailworks, importer for Santa Cruz and Ibis. There were however an annual change in colour, but after the end of production the frames were still available for about one year. However, frame parts, such as derailleur hangers, axles as well as swing links were available ex stock for models from 2000 to 2018 by Trailworks. “It was important to us to provide the customers with spare parts, so that the time without their bicycles is not too long,” he states. Santa Cruz, Ibis, Bixs and Wheeler do have a Crash-Replacement program. This program intends to provide replacement for customers in case of loss arising through their own fault.
The production cycle of DT Swiss lasts three years at least. According to marketing specialist Friso Lorscheider, the company provides a Crash-Replacement-service. In addition, spare parts or an equivalent replacement were available five years at least following the end of production.
Amsler and Fuchs-Movesa as general importer of the two biggest component manufacturers worldwide confirmed that spare part availability ex stock were their primary objective. For this objective they also run the risk of a higher capital commitment. Binding product life cycles were not communicated by Sram and Shimano. “In connection with the tendency towards shorter life cycles this would make the long-term planning and stocktaking more difficult”, mentions Nicole Haenz, Head of Marketing Services of Fuchs-Movesa. If a part were not on stock, the customer would have to deal with a longer delivery time of two to three weeks. The production at Sram runs continously, but only upon order, says Martin Mayer. The delivery time is seven to eight weeks. Most goods of the Magura product range were supplied within three weeks ex works in Germany.
When it comes to find solutions for parts that are no longer available, the Zurich company Nusshold AG is an insider’s tip. The company has more than 130 years of experience in the field of spare part procurement and is regarded as a specialist. The wholesaler has among other things more than 200 derailleur hangers and a huge range of Sturmey-Archer-parts on stock. But sometimes we retailers deliver a simple cone for a Shimano hub only, says Deputy General Manager, Markus Dennler. That’s for sure: The sensitive materials, the trends towards integration and special solutions of the manufacturers, the sophisticated technology and the short product cycles make modern bicycles age more quickly. “To bring this misery to an end the retailers must partner with one another and exert influence on spare parts availability. We should see to it that the model cycles will lengthen, that the products will become more sophisticated and that the spare parts availability will improve”, believes Dirk Zedler.
Author: Dominic Redli
Photo: Dominic Redli/ZVG