Earlier this Spring, we had a customer bring in what appeared to be a frame failure. It was such an odd spot on the bike. We couldn’t see how an impact could create the fissure, and there were no other signs of damage on the bike.
The bike wasn’t safe to ride anymore, so our customer, who we’ll call “Bob”, was without a bike for the moment.
This was the first bummer.
We submitted a claim to Trek and expected their typically fantastic warranty to cover it.
But the image was nothing new to Trek’s warranty department – in fact, they see a few of these each Spring. The bulging shape and uneven tearing of the aluminum was indicative of ice expansion within the frame.
When we heard this, we were incredulous. I kept thinking, “but water is so… soft… path of least resistance… it’s METAL“. But it was a perfect case – the bike was stored in an unheated garage with water inside the chain-stay behind the bottom bracket. The tubes of the frame are designed to withstand torsion, flex, and impact, but not expansion.
This was the second bummer.
And to the surprise of everyone here and a few people at Trek, it’s actually written in the Owner’s Manual to drain your bicycle frame before storage, so Trek had no responsibility to fulfill the warranty claim.
This was the third and biggest bummer.
At this point, “Bob” didn’t really have a claim. But he bought a good bike from a good store, so we wanted to do what we could to get him rolling again. We talked to Trek and he talked to Trek.
A few phone calls later, we again confirmed why we as a shop, and he as a customer, like to do business with a company like Trek. Trek agreed it was a huge bummer that this happened, and although they didn’t have to, they worked hard to find “Bob” a replacement frame at an extremely agreeable price. In the end, Trek was willing to go above and beyond their responsibility to help out a customer.
So let’s all learn from this situation and take a minute to drain our frames before it gets cold every year. All bikes have port holes at the end of the stays near the rear hub. You can see them here, on this deliciously peach-colored Electra Townie.
You can drain the water by tilting the bike up and/or riding wheelies down the street.
It’s a simple thing that could save your bike.
Thanks, “Bob” for helping us learn a new lesson this Spring. And thank you Trek for being awesome to people.