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.....