Customer Service

A couple of days before my trip back to the UK, I went out for a ride on the bike. Because of summer temperatures and level of traffic, I try to be out by 4.15am, just before dawn. Not only does it make for a cooler and more peaceful ride, it gives you a feeling of moral superiority. However, as I set off that fine summer morning, I noticed a twinge in my right knee. Since I’m not as young as I used to be, I eased up a bit to give the body a bit of time to warm up.

The twinge stopped, but the bike started making an intermittent pinging sound which sent shock waves reverberating along the frame diagonals. But I’m a patient kind of chap and figured, like my knee, the bike would settle down after a mile or two.

It was on the first climb of the day that I realized that all was not well. Even allowing for the hour, the humidity, the pollution, the temperature and my age, I realized I wasn’t achieving the apex at my usual rate. At the top I pulled over to review the situation and a spin of the pedals revealed the problem; the crankset wasn’t turning, even with all my strength I couldn’t move it by hand, which went a long way to explaining the slight twinge I was experiencing.

I’d often wondered about this ‘seized up bottom bracket’ scenario after I arrived in China. I have an extensive set of bike tools, but not extensive enough to encompass the hollow bottom bracket that is a feature of this particular bike (by hollow, I mean the axis has a great big hole through the middle to save weight). Even after cleaning off the crap I couldn’t see an elegant way to remove the pedal crank to get to the axle and because I couldn’t get the crank off, I couldn’t see the bottom bracket properly to read the part number. Because I couldn’t read the part number I didn’t know what tool I needed to remove the bottom bracket. There a hole in my bottom bracket dear Lisa, a hole.

A trip to the two local mountain bike shops was unsuccessful, they’d never seen anything like it in their lives (I’ve been from Liverpool to Istanbul!- Istanbul!- I’m no fool!) and wiggled their finger in the hole as if to convince themselves it wasn’t an optical illusion.

I tried checking the Trek website that was full of data on Lance and beautifully crafted photographs of their product line but short on useful information about the components comprising their bikes and I finally resorted to up calling the shop in the USA where I originally bought the bike.

In these days of smartphones, websites, voice recognition software and oversea call centres it was quite a shock to hear a human voice at the other end of the line who wasn’t carefully following some script that management had prepared some years earlier. When I explained my problem there was none of this “My name is Stacy, we apologize for your inconvenience and look forward to resolving your product issue” but a rather sympathetic “shit dude, that sucks’

Of course, the first suggestion was to bring in the bike so they could take a look, but the logistics of this operation quickly laid that option to rest and, despite my assurances the call from China really wasn’t costing me very much, the guys in the repair shop quickly kicked into overdrive. A 2010 Trek Fuel was hurriedly wheeled in from the shop floor by another guy in the repair shop, and wheeled back out just as quickly with an exasperated “The Fuel, the rear suspension one; up there!”

There was a sound of a bicycle falling over and a spanner being dropped followed by the sound of the receiver being put down on a work surface and then it all went muffled. I could hear an animated discussion involving several participants that lasted several minutes. It was way better than being put on hold and listening to soft rock or corporate advertisements on a 60 second loop.

Finally the receiver was picked up again and the first guy came back on the line to announce that they were pretty sure they knew which part I needed and they even had one in stock. When I told him I was coming over to the US in a couple of weeks he offered to put it on hold in my name, no deposit required. Now that’s what I call service.


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