The Golden Wrench

A blog about bicycle repair and maintenance by the mechanics at Freewheel Bike.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Big Blue S

Earlier this season one of our customers brought in a Shimano RS10 wheel that had begun doing this:

More precisely, that was happening on every one of the push spokes on the non-drive side. Push spokes, non-drive side. Nope, not a disc brake, it's a road wheel. It was rather mysterious and we immediately suspected a conspiracy. It's the Martians, we all thought, they're at it again.

Providentially, Andrew the Shimano Rep happened to be at the shop at that very moment. He was scheduled to sabotage all the bikes in our showroom with Avid Elixir brakes and was between acts of treachery when our poor customer came in. It was one of those rare moments when you truly see that the Big Blue S is made up of a bunch of people who have souls.

First, the wheels were RS10's. They weren't Shimano's top-of-the-line offerings, they were more or less mid-level units designed to hold up rather than be impressive on the gram scale. Think 105 but wearing jeans and a sweater instead of a suit.

Second, the wheel was right on the sunset of its warranty. In fact the sun had already gone down a bit by our records, and furthermore, the wheels were already a model year old when the customer bought them. In other words, Shimano had no obligation to our customer.

The customer was taking it all in stride as we covered these bases, even though it was going to be a few hundred bucks he didn't necessarily want to spend right then. We were going to cut him a deal on a new set of wheels, but Andrew the Shimano Rep beat us to the punch.

"Ooo, 'eck. Bloomin' great cracks in that'n, wot? Crack's woid enough to droive a canoe innit, or I'm a monkey's bum. Not even SP41 grease'l shift that."

Roughly translated, he said "Call the inside rep and tell him what happened. I think we can work something out because this is truly an abnormal situation."

So I called the inside rep. To make a long story short, The Big Blue S made right by our customer, and then some. Our part of the bargain was that we had to send in the offending wheelset so that their engineers could gather around it, poke at it, learn from their mistakes, and leak those mistakes (cleverly disguised as trade secrets) to Chinese companies.

Shimano's part of the bargain was to replace the wheels. Remember the out-of-warranty part? You'd think they would offer a crash replacement, but no, they offered to replace the wheels. And instead of another set of RS20 wheels (or R500, or whatever they replaced the RS10's with), they promised a set of Ultegra WH-6600 Tubeless wheels! And they didn't even ask for his soul, first-born, DNA sample, or SSN in exchange for them!

That's pretty impressive. The phantom valve stem means that they're tubeless compatible if he ever wants to get some Hutchinson tires and go that route, and they're roughly 200 grams lighter than his old set of wheels. The fellow at The Big Blue S said they're "pretty sturdy" and do not have a weight restriction, so we're hopeful that they will last a while.

Bottom line: kudos to Shimano for making our customer's day/week/month! And for getting rid of Dual Control and Rapid Rise.