The presumed demise of the 26er makes me wonder about bikes still under warranty. What happens if your 26er fails?
Most manufacturers today offer replacement warranties in some form or other on bikes they sell. For example: I have a 26-inch Trek Remedy 9.8 carbon I purchased Red Shield (extended warranty) coverage for. It has my back on pretty much everything for the next 3 years (I’ve used up 2 already).
But if my bike breaks, I won’t want Trek to replace it with a 26er. I’ll want a 27.5, or a 29. Something that can support component upgrades and new technology as it comes along.
While 26ers aren’t extinct, they’re pretty much dead meat. Breakthroughs in performance, geometry, accessories and just about everything aren’t being offered on the 26” platform. New forks… new tires… new shocks… new wheels like the fat-width carbons. They’re all 27.5 and 29.
Tires are a real key here. If 26-inch versions aren’t being manufactured, riders are SOL. Tire material has a pretty short half-life. Legacy 26-inch tires, even brand new, sitting in a warehouse or on a shelf will dry and degrade, losing their resiliency.
If you can’t get 26-inch tires, you can’t ride your 26-inch bike even if you love it — which the bike industry is making harder to do.
So what can be done about the warranty gap?
The logical thing seems to be: Offer the warranty claimant the platform of his or her choice.
Now, there might be an upcharge for the latest and greatest. That seems reasonable: Something to cover the manufacturer’s margins, while still being well under retail.
It would be a win all around: The manufacturer keeps the customer loyal to its brand. The manufacturer gets another rolling ad. The customer gets a great deal on the current state of art.
It seems like a no-brainer. But a friend just tested this scenario with less-than-desired results.
My friend’s Ibis Mojo — the original carbon-weave model — gave up the ghost after several years of faithful service. He contacted Ibis and was given the choice of an SL-R under warranty replacement.
My friend, figuring 26 is dead, asked if he could get a Ripley or Mojo HDR instead. (This was just before release of Ibis’ hot new HD makeover, the HD3.)
He told Ibis he’d be happy to pay a fair upgrade price to cover Ibis’ bottom line.
Surprisingly, Ibis — a small much-loved company with great customer support — told my friend no. Through several back-and-forths all the way to top management (i.e., Chuck), Ibis’ position stayed firm: The only bike my friend could get was a 26-incher.
We’ve told this story to a couple dozen mtb friends and associates, and the response is always the same: Whaaa???
It would make so much more sense from a customer-relations standpoint to offer more choice.
Not doing so not only ticks off a fan, it removes an easy on-the-trail commercial for Ibis. Customer loyalty is how boutique bikes get sold. My friend had converted 5 riders (he knew of) to Mojos (including me) over the years. He was like an unpaid evangelist for the company!
When Microsoft was a young company, Bill Gates liked to say if it didn’t make a deal, it lost twice. Not only did Microsoft not get the customer, it gifted a sale to a competitor.
Ibis’ explanation is that up-selling on warranty compromises its local dealer relationships. That would make sense if dealers knew the origin of every bike sale. In reality, a bike can be purchased so many ways these days — including online and used — a dealer is hardly going to know its sales origin.
No matter what you think of Ibis’ decision, it seems moving forward that the 26er warranty gap is going to be an increasing problem for manufacturers backing their brand. I’m wondering if my friend’s timing wasn’t just a little too early. A couple of years from now, manufacturers may not think twice about offering multi-platform warranty upgrades. The way things are going, they’ll have to. There won’t be any new 26ers left to offer up.