BicycleSource Newsletter

No frame builders come to mind who get up in the morning and go to work without realizing the magnitude of their responsibility to engineer and craft the best bicycle frames possible. I discard the fear of losing advertising or disenfranchising frame makers; again, the framebuilders I associate with are on a quest to build the best they can and they take great pride in their work.

I had the idea of return deposits, "like on a beer can, to promote recycling." However, the reasons for it not being popular or viable are many: A used frame would have to be stripped of all paint and decals and degreased before recycling, not an inexpensive process. Thermoplastic is the most viable for recycling, but even thermoplastic is not a practical option at this time (Winter '96).

In many frame failures, the major part of the problem was that the frame was used. I do not know of any company that extends its warranties beyond a bicycle's original owner. Remember, folks, our industry is plagued with warranty issues and lawsuits brought on by consumers and lawyers suffering from the the "JRA" syndrome: "I was Just Riding Along when the damn bike snapped in two," I think the "young jasper" at Tremblay's local bike shop needs a big-world reality-check.

"Builder X" cannot be held accountable for whatever use, wear and abuse the second-hand frame went through prior to its second owner.

In the very technical bicycle market, the press has had a difficult time conveying to the consumer how the different frame materials work and how long they should last. Yeti Cycles offers a one-year warranty on parts and workmanship, but after the warranty's expiration we deal with each customer on a case-by-case basis and extend coverage to a bike's original owner at our discretion. The owner of a used, second-hand bicycle has no legal right to coverage under an unexpired warranty, unlike a used-car owner. You can get a brand new frame from most manufacturers if yours fails under warrenty.

All consumers need to understand how "Builder X" arrives at his $300 estimate to repair and repaint the bike. When the bike was constructed out of new materials, theoretically no contamination or corrosion had set in, it was built in a clean work area, and it was welded with an inert gas like argon or using the heliarc welding process also known as TIG (tungsten inert gas). Only with these methods can quality assemblage be achieved.

To do a quality repair on a used bike, the frame must be stripped of its paint or anodizing and of its stickers so that a non-contaminated joint can be prepared. There are numerous environmental issues to be addressed at this level. In California, for example, the sand used to strip bicycle paint with any trace of lead in it must be properly and responsibly disposed of at an additional cost. Some powdercoat materials cannot be removed by sandblasting but need to be stripped with chemicals or other environmentally hazardous products. Yeti operates our own stripper vat with a non-chemical, citrus-based solution that can be re-refined by the manufacturer rather than just used and discarded. Once the frame is free of all contaminants, the builder can replace the tube or reweld the affected area, then complete the repair with a new paint job, realignment and chasing and facing (all the steps required in building a new frame). Ultimately, repairs are costly for framebuilders because they require a custom, one-off process and so do not benefit from the cost-efficient production process.

At Yeti, repairs are conducted in as aggressive and timely a manner as possible, recognizing that the consumer has already paid for his or her bicycle and now must wait for us to fix and return it. While in the warranty and repair process, we also try to do any available upgrades (e.g., cable guides, water bottle bosses, the like).

Slagmatically yours,
John Parker, Yeti
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