Monday, March 10, 2014

Project Orca - Episode 6 - Failure!

I would love to be able to continue saying good things about this bike. I did really enjoy riding it. But something happened to my dream machine that has put my faith in the bike - and even more so in the manufacturer - in the dog house.

Read about the build.

The sad twist to the story begins on a rather wet training ride in January this year during a momentary loss of balance on a slippery surface at around 15kph coming onto a bike path in the northeast of Singapore.

As I lost traction, I shifted my weight backwards against the saddle to counterbalance, miraculously managing to stay upright and rolling forwards, but the maneuver was greeted by a loud "crack!". My immediate thoughts were that I'd cracked the seat post, but on closer inspection the post was still intact. Then I noticed a serious rupture in the top of the top tube about 10cm in front of the junction with the seat tube. Bizarre!

Bearing in mind that at least 70% of my rides involve descending at speed through often hair-raising and technical sections, the fact that the failure occurred on some relatively quiet, flat Singapore backstreets was perhaps even more bizarre - and extremely fortuitous!

As the bike still seemed rideable I immediately diverted to the Orbea shop at Changi Road (it's origin) and explained what had happened. They took the bike off me and promised to sort it out with the manufacturer, all of us assuming at this point that it was a straightforward "lemon" scenario. They took detailed photos of the crack and sent them off to the Orbea head office. I waited, assuming my only obstacle to be the long-windedness of cumbersome corporate bureaucracy.

To my surprise I was called by the shop a week or so later with the news that Orbea were contesting the claim on warranty as they were suggesting the fracture was made by external impact. I quickly wrote to them assuring them that nothing had touched the frame, and that the only "impact" was my right buttock against the nose of the saddle - both of which had fared much better than their frame!

Orbea have refused to honour the warranty, insisting that there must have been some impact to cause the failure. I was on my own. I have no witnesses. It's my word against theirs. They suggest that the frame might have been put under some kind of pressure which weakened the structure previously.

I have tried to point out that the frame had never been subjected to any kind of mistreatment, and was set up and worked on only by the expert mechanics in their own outlet in Singapore. I have also pointed out that, regardless of what the fracture looks like, as the customer I should be given the benefit of the doubt (the actual production cost of another frame is only a matter of a couple of hundred dollars at most). They say I can send the frame to them for further analysis, but that if they still don't accept warranty cover, then I will have to pay all shipping charges - to Spain and back!

I have pushed this with the company as far as I can and they still won't budge. I'm a survivor. My instinct is to move on.

I paid more than I consider sensible to own this bike. I don't intend to have to buy another frame anytime soon, and I want to get the other components (especially power meter/cranks) back on the road, so I am working the assumption that it was a freak glitch in carbon layering or something, and getting it fixed in Singapore with a company called The Rebound Centre that specialise in carbon repairs. It won't be as pretty as a new frame, but they assure me that the repaired section will be strong. It won't be hurtling down hills with me and I'll probably retire it to shopping duties as soon as I can find a new mount for the good bits. I may paint over the name in the meantime though....

Those around me, however, insist that I should not let this go. That I have a right to demand compensation for having my life put at risk by dodgy equipment. The fact that the top-end frame you produce breaks under normal riding conditions is already forgivable only if you insist that it was a freak specimen. To then not be willing to cover it by warranty implies that this is normal or expected! I'd say this is borderline pathological behaviour by any company.

Unless of course you just squirm out of it by insisting that I broke the frame myself. Sorry but I was there at the time and I know that nothing came into contact with the frame. I can also make sure a lot of other people know it. Who do you think they are going to believe?

So I am writing this account as I consider it a duty to inform others to be wary of these frames. This is their flagship Orca Gold, as ridden to Olympic gold by Samuel Sanchez in Beijing. It doesn't come cheap, and if it can't even stand the pace with a duffer like me, I wouldn't rate it's chances with even a cat 3 rider. You'd stand at least an equal chance with a Chinarello!

This has been made extremely difficult, and my outspokenness has been tempered greatly, by the fact that I have a long and happy relationship with the bike shop in question, who just happen to be the main SEA distributors for Orbea. The shop themselves have always been exemplary in their standard of service and support, and they themselves feel enormously let-down by the company.

So I'm sorry if my exuberant blogging and bike-porn postings have led any of you to get one of these frames, and I can only hope that the same thing doesn't happen to you. The rest of the stuff involved in the build I still stand by - for the moment :p

The snake year was a pretty dismal year for me overall.

It can only get better though.....


  1. Nooo way... thought its life time warranty

    1. I have a Orbea orca gold been 12 weeks now still waiting to hear back on a frame Crack.

  2. That's what I thought too....

    It's a scam. All you do is say it wasn't due to a fault in manufacturing and you don't have to honour your "lifetime warranty".

    Should have bought a Trek......

  3. Greg, this is totally absurd. Trek replaced my high end hybrid FX7.7 without any questions. Took a while, 2 months, but its actually better than the previous frame (busted chainstay). I rode that sucker hard for 2 years in the mean streets in KL - about 10K km, they didn't even want to know the circumstances, but they took the frame back. Probably want to analyse it I suppose - looked like a Al fatigue crack to me. Although an evil empire, Trek does give lifetime warranties on their frames.

    I think you should go the Orbea blogs and let them known what you think. - jim b.

    1. Yeah Jim, I was thinking of you and that Trek story - you're not alone in that respect though as I've heard of many instances of Trek replacing frames for people numerous times after years of abuse. It works like Karma in the end doesn't it - you reap what you sow. It costs them so little to do that and they get this great reputation for after sales service.

      Orbea obviously think they gain something from being so tight-fisted and calculating.

    2. I wonder if this one has a life-time warranty? It should coming in at $13+ complete...but even if it the same machine as Spartacus' ride - still not worth this kind of dough unless you're out there on Paris-Roubaix with a chance to win.

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  5. Replies
    1. I posted a link to this article on their main fb page but it didn't get much reaction.

  6. Another friend just related an incident where Colnago replaced a frame at no cost after he was rear-ended by a car in an incident which broke one the chain stays!!! I'd say it's pretty clear that it wasn't a manufacturing defect. And The frame was already 2 years old. It seems the cost of top-end carbon frames includes potential replacement (which might help explain why they cost so much).

    I'm hearing more and more stories like this. My frame was barely 5 months old!

    DON'T BUY AN ORBEA! Almost any other reputable bike company is a safer bet.

  7. This is a pretty bias blogging. It is like bad mouthing till you get what you want.

  8. i don't think it bad mouthing. its more of venting off the anger.. if anyone buy a top end bike and the frame crack.. the person will of cos be upset.

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  10. Greg I just read this blog. I have long given up spending huge money on branded frames as most are built in the same or similar chinese factories as the unbranded chines frames I now buy. You need to know what you are looking for in terms of frame design and metrics, don't go too extreme, and wait for the reports to come in from the "innovators and early adapters" ( I'd like to consider myself a "conscious laggard"). But then for a few hundred dollars you will be sent a sensational frame within days by express mail. And you have the pleasure of building it up yourself and having a talking point. My FM105 went to France and did some of the major TdF cols, uphill like a mountain goat AND downhill like a madman.

    1. Thanks Rob. You raise the essential question: why bother paying for the branded item if there's no customer protection? In my view that is the ONLY reason to not buy a copy since, as you point out, they're made in the same molds.

      I would feel not one iota of guilt doing that now. I toed the line and got screwed. A friend of mine just had a similar experience with BMC.

      I will NEVER pay that kind of money for a frame again.

  11. I think your dealer is at fault here, they will inspect thte damage and relay their opinions of the damage and also the reason for it too.
    As an Orbea dealer we have had a couple of instances similar to this and Orbea have always asked for our opinion. In most cases they have replaced the frame, rapidly and often offering an upgrade if the frame is no longer available.

    your photo shows a single line of impact, carbon doesnt fail in this way, look at contadors frame that failed in the TDF, single line....

    I think your blog is a pretty dirty tactic, as another poster stated, wingeing until you get what you want.

    Man up, you broke your frame, if thats how you treat your frame then dont buy a thoroughbread bike like an orca gold, they are light and very stiff but wont be as strong, especially from impacts like you have sustained in a direction the carbon isnt designed to withstand.

    1. OK - at the risk of stating the obvious/repeating myself, and for the benefit of those who don't have the attention span to read the whole article, I'll answer these "bad-mouthing-til..." accusations:

      You missed a few crucial sentences:
      1) I DID NOT BREAK THIS FRAME. Or rather, Mr anonymous Orbea dealer: is it possible to cause the described failure by hitting one's butt on the nose of the saddle while regaining balance during a slide? If so, maybe I did break it. If was either faulty or had been weakened by being handled wrongly in packing, set up, or in shipping. My fault?
      2) Orbea were not even interested in my claims to innocence. They were only interested in not being responsible because, technically, the photo indicated an impact.
      3) I have no chance of getting "what I want", as I have already repaired the frame. I am just pointing out the failure of this company to offer protection to the consumer. It's information that should be shared.

      The bottom line here is that we pay large amounts of money for equipment from reputable companies for the precise reason that we expect A) the stuff to be up to a standard; and B) that they guarantee these standards and replace the stuff if it falls short.

      Otherwise we can find stuff for a 10th of the cost without the brand name, and if they don't honour the warranty, we buy another one from someone else. Luckily I didn't end up in a ditch or under a bus.