While bike brands make a lot of noise over their newest and coolest products, they neglect the issue of spare parts and service. These are unexciting topics, but they are vitally important. Imagine you own a Porsche 911 sports car or a Rolex Daytona watch, and five years after you buy it a part breaks or sustains minor damage. You wouldn’t be happy, of course. But what if you took your car or watch to the dealer for repairs, and the dealer just shrugged his shoulders and said there was nothing to be done. Be honest: You’d be more than just annoyed!
Yet this happens every day in the bike industry. Just try to find an original carbon fork for that expensive carbon frame you bought only two or three years ago. Or maybe you need a spare part for a first-generation Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 system; a carbon crank; a rim for a carbon wheelset; or an OE stem for your specific bike model in a different length.
These are not hypothetical questions. At the Zedler Institute, we know how real these are because we are aware of urgent requests all the time from consumers or dealers who are trying to find replacement parts for bikes that are not all that old.
And we also know, from making repeated requests to nearly all manufacturers, that the chance of successfully obtaining the right replacement part happens only in absolutely exceptional cases.
Paying the price. When there is a satisfactory solution, it is usually because a retailer stepped up to take care of the customer. Yet so many times, the retailer receives no benefit and may well take a financial hit.
Say a retailer replaces a stem, painted to match the color of the customer’s frame, with one that better fits that particular customer to the particular bike. It’s unfair to bill the customer for the new stem, because it’s the retailer’s responsibility to make sure the bike fits the customer properly in the first place. Yet the retailer may have paid for the new stem, and is now stuck with the original stem that will probably never be sold.
Yes, the industry is doing well right now, as more consumers buy bikes for transportation and invest in high-value products like pedelecs. Because bike makers and retailers are boosting sales and earning higher profits, they can invest some of that revenue into creating innovative new products. Such innovations often include unique, proprietary components, as brands look to set themselves apart on the market. But as more of these unique components come on the market, the harder it becomes for consumers to repair them or find replacements when something goes wrong.
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Author: Dirk Zelder