I recently had some dealings with a local bike shop and American Classic which in the end just felt sleazy.
After an obsessive amount of research in 2013 I thought I had found the ideal combination of wide, light and tubeless in a road wheel. It wasn’t carbon or anything, but I began lusting anyway. A few months later I was able to buy that wheelset and because it was February, after some short test rides I set them aside waiting for spring.
When spring came I was spending a lot of time riding on gravel and so my wheelset rested in my garage patiently waiting for me. By mid-summer I had been out on the wheels enough to get to know them and was generally pleased.
The wheels were well suited to the Volcano epic and I was glad to use them. On the third day of our adventure my driving shift was the last leg and when I loaded my bike up on the rack I noticed a dent in my rear rim. I had hit a pothole pretty hard an hour earlier and attributed the dent to that.
The dent was not where I would have expected. The dent was on the inside (hub side) of the rim. Typically a pothole would damage the outside of the rim. We had a spare wheel and I rode that the last day while I scratched my head.
I brought the damaged wheel to the bike shop where I bought it and showed it to them. With conviction bordering on arrogance they said they had seen this type of dent “a lot” and there was no doubt it was caused by the pothole. They said the wheel was unsafe and they would send it back to the manufacturer (American Classic) who would repair it for a “discounted” price.
I have been dealing with aluminum stress analysis, load paths, shear, bending, compression, tension, moment arms, and finite element analysis since Ronald Reagan was in the White House. I can’t claim to be an expert, but I do know more about aluminum failure than ninety-nine percent of everyone you know.
I left the shop feeling like I had no alternative, and despite the conviction of the folks at the shop, I didn’t have an answer that I could reconcile with my technical knowledge.
THIS IS WHERE IT GETS INTERESTING…
The next day I downloaded my photos from the trip and when I zoomed in on a photo of my bike taken the day BEFORE I hit the pothole I could see the rim was already dented. There goes the theory of the dent being caused by the pothole. Having descended 13,000 feet with top speeds approaching fifty miles an hour between when the photo was taken and when I noticed the dent I have to wonder just how “unsafe: the wheel was.
Based on the apparent indifference shown me by the shop I contacted American Classic directly via email and asked them what they thought happened.
I’ll spare you the back and forth but in the end American Classic said they had only seen something like this once before (my mind shot back to the guy at the shop who said he had seen it “a lot”) and that maybe I had gotten my wheel wedged in a storm drain or railroad track and twisted it. I assured them nothing like that had happened.
In any event, they (American Classic) admitted they weren’t really sure why their wheel failed, but they were (somehow) sure it wasn’t their fault and I would have to pay (how convenient for AC and the shop…) to get it fixed.
They didn’t know why their wheel failed yet somehow they knew it wasn’t their fault. Awkward pause… I thought the tie goes to the customer, but apparently not when it comes to American Classic’s gear.
As it stands now:
American Classic has a customer who feels shafted because the answers didn’t add up and I had to pay for it. Answers like "It doesn't make sense so it’s on us” would have been okay as it would have built some trust and goodwill between me (the consumer) and American Classic.
I have a local bike shop where the staff is either ignorant, dishonest, greedy, or lazy. None of those options inspires me to buy local.
Finally I have an American Classic wheelset that failed for no reason that anyone can explain so I don’t know what to do differently to prevent it from happening again. Oh joy.
You need to trust wheels. How do you trust wheels made by a company that seems to take no responsibility for the integrity of their product? I find that by nature companies with integrity make products you can trust. At this point, American Classic is the antithesis of that.
So how does American Classic demonstrate they understand my frustration? When they ship back the repaired wheel they include the bitchin bumper sticker you see pictured at the top of the post. Any suggestions on where I should put it ?
They don't get it. Zero of five Evos.