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Anyone been told to replace parts, like handlebars?(34 posts)

Anyone been told to replace parts, like handlebars?DougSloan
Jun 9, 2003 2:04 PM
Has anyone actually been told directly by a shop, verbally or in writing (something provided by manufacturer?) to replace anything such as handlebars, stem, etc., after a certain period of time or mileage?

As some may know, I'm representing a rider who had his handlebars (TTT Prima 220, 1998 model year) break (photo below), which caused a crash and a broken neck - very serious. He was never provided or told anything about replacement. Since then, I have located a disclosure from TTT from another shop that discusses replacement of stems and handlebars after every so many kilometers, depending upon use.

I've probably bought at least 10 road handlebars, including a Prima 199 and 215, and never saw anything or was told anything about replacement.

I'm curious, both professionally and as a rider, whether anyone has been told this. I'm not really interested in second hand "rumors" of needing to do so from riding buddies, but more along "official" channels. I'm particularly curious to hear from those who have worked in bike shops.


Yes, I was once told to replace the beam on a softridechopper
Jun 9, 2003 2:08 PM
after a certain amount of time, it was a few years ago and I've since sold the bike but I was told to replace it and I was also told not to ride it if I got over 220lbs. I was 180 at the time so not a problem there. It was a verbal warning from the lbs.
I believe every couple of seasonsColnagoFE
Jun 9, 2003 2:22 PM
Personally I use a ITM 260 and have had it for 4 seasons now. If I had a stupid light bar I think I'd swap it out by now.
Jun 9, 2003 2:34 PM
Did you receive anything, like a manual, with your 260? Thanks.

Jun 9, 2003 2:41 PM
I also ride a 260 on one of my bikes.
As I recall, it didn't have a manual. Instead it came with a sticker on the bar which said to sand down the rough surfaces of the stem/bar interface.
I don't have the sticker anymore.
not that i recall...will look when i get home though (nm)ColnagoFE
Jun 9, 2003 2:46 PM
not in writing, butlaffeaux
Jun 9, 2003 2:48 PM
I'm not sure that's ever seen it in writing. It fits more into the thre realm of "common knowledge." That said, when the recommemdation to replace bars regularly appears on, most people give examples of how their bar has lasted frever, and conclude that the need to replace bars is a recommendation of parts manufacturers used to sell more parts.

Also, I've also never been seen it in writing that a frame might brake, or that a tire might blow out, or that I need to drink water when I ride, or that a broken chain can cause all of my weight to fly forward. It's unfortunate that parts break, but they do.
What if the bars have a lifetime warranty?Lon Norder
Jun 9, 2003 3:01 PM
Like my Kestrel EMS Pro. It seems to me Kestrel is implying that they don't need to be replaced.
Kestrel goodDougSloan
Jun 9, 2003 7:23 PM
From my research and asking a lot of people, the Kestrel seems to be the overwhelming choice for the lighter weight crowd. It's around 225 grams, but is pretty beefy in the center; since they permit aerobars, that must tell you something. Also, carbon doesn't have the same fatigue characteristics as aluminum, so it may well last a lifetime.

Risk and personal liabilityAaronL
Jun 9, 2003 2:57 PM
Hey Doug,

First, I don't know if you made it to Andre's memorial ride a few weeks back, but I missed it. Mike C and Dave B said it was great. I'll not miss next year.

Anyway... I'm a bit perplexed here, because you are looking for a double-set of standards from a company. If a company states "hey, you should change these bars every few years because they could fail" only a a CYA statement to keep the lawyers at bay (present company excluded :)). But I'm getting the feeling that you want to turn that into a way of making it look as if the company knew the bars were going to fail and that they should be responsible. IOW, how can a company ever win? If they take the high road and say, "lightweight parts can break, replace them ever X years" then if some yahoo does break them the company is now "admitting" the parts are faulty. Don't get me wrong, I support hitting any company that screws over people. But, it sure sounds like this poor fella is trying to go for a deep pocket becuase he had some terrible luck. But, is it REALLY the fault of 3T?

My thoughts and prayers are with the rider, because I know it could be me or any of us in the situation. However, unless there is a rash of the bars breaking (which I've not heard of) I don't see it as anything other than plain bad luck.

Just wanted to give you my view.

Take Care
product liability lawsDougSloan
Jun 9, 2003 7:37 PM
Product liability laws make manufacturers strictly liable (need not prove negligence) for products that are defective and cause injury. They can also be liable for failure to warn of a characteristic or use limitation, if the product carries risk, but the risk can be lessened (speed ratings on tires, for example).

Here, there may be a combination of both. Handlebars should not catastrophically break. If there is a degree of risk associated with some of them, the lighter ones, then the manufacturer must warn of the limitation (be it weight, time, type of use, etc.).

Here, there was no warning, at least to this purchaser. If there were warnings given by the manufacturer about this product at the time this was purchased, but not to this purchaser, then indeed that may be evidence of the manufactuer's consciousness of the risk -- however, note from my initial discussion about product liability that the maker's knowledge is not important, except possibly for punitive damages. If it broke, it is liable. Now, if there had been an adequate warning, and it was ignored, then possibly the manufacturer could prove assumption of risk or comparative fault.

Product liability laws were specifically designed to shift the "bad luck" from the consumer back to the manufacturer, so that it encourages safer products, particularly when the failures are like this that can come with no warning whatsoever (unlike tires going bald then blowing out, for example).

If people were dropping dead all over from handlebar breakage, then it might well become "common knowledge" that light ones need to be replaced or avoided -- like cigarettes. But, I've never heard of any others, and I'm fairly well exposed to lots of riders. Of course, shop and industry people would have much more exposure and data to work from. They would know how often they break, I assume.

Interestingly, TTT posts warnings on it's website about replacing the bolts in it's stems every so often. Nothing about handlebar issues, though. I would assume from this they don't believe there is a problem, or they are consciously avoid acknowledgement of any problem.

I'm asking here because I'd like to know the general prevalence of warnings in the industry, that's all. If they were more frequent or strong, then I could accept that it is somewhat more likely that customers are "on notice" of potential risks. I'm finding they are fairly rare, though.

LOL. You haven't taken the bar in a while, eh Doug?Zonic Man
Jun 9, 2003 8:49 PM
Product liability laws make manufacturers strictly liable (need not prove negligence) for products that are defective and cause injury. They can also be liable for failure to warn of a characteristic or use limitation, if the product carries risk, but the risk can be lessened (speed ratings on tires, for example).

The essay would have failed right there given your inaccurate first sentence. LOL. (That was a joke.)

Sounds like you have quite a few theories of which to base your claim on defect, manufacturing defect (only one it happened to?), warning defect, negligence, blah blah blah.

Being a lawyer AND a bike shop employee, I have never seen a warning from a manufacturer to "replace" a part after a certain period of time. I though I would find it with Easton and their EC90 post or Moneylite SL mtb bar, but nope, they say "Lifetime warranty" if you break it, they'll replace it.

At the shop, we sell 3T too, and I haven't read anything on a single part, nor any recall information, nor any press releases in any of the insider magazines.

As a matter of fact, come to think of it, I've never actually heard of any company EVER telling a customer that the product they are about to buy has a finite life expectancy, and I've talked to quite a few reps!

On another note, if you care to drop me a line, I think you're in Fresno, and I'm in Sacramento...I've got a good potential expert in your case, the shop manager at Steve Larsen's Wheelworks up here in Davis....he's got a degree in Mechanical Engineering, he's worked in bike shops for 15+ years, has been one of the MTB volvo/cannondale mechanics, the Charles Schwab D3 Women's Lead Mechanic and Team Director, and this year is the Webcor team director.
Jed Peters
well, thanksDougSloan
Jun 10, 2003 6:41 AM
While I wasn't attempting a bar-worthy essay, I think what I stated as the essence of product liabilty law in lay terms (that "inspection for defects" part is irrelevent here and in most cases):

"In California, "[a] manufacturer is strictly liable in tort when an article he places on the market, knowing that it is to be used without inspection for defects, proves to have a defect that causes injury to a human being." ( Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc. (1963) 59 Cal. 2d 57, 62 [27 Cal. Rptr. 697, 377 P.2d 897, 13 A.L.R.3d 1049].) "The purpose of such liability is to insure that the costs of injuries resulting from defective products are borne by the manufacturers that put such products on the market rather than by the injured persons who are powerless to protect themselves." n7 ( Id. at p. 63.)" 56 Cal. App. 4th 618.

Thanks for the lead on the expert. I'll check it out and e-mail you.

I was just kidding around with ya, Doug.Zonic Man
Jun 10, 2003 7:01 AM
The examiners insist that there is no such thing as "products liabilty" or "strict products liability" but there is "strict liability in tort".

(God I'm a dork.)

I learned it as you did, though..."strict products liabilty"....I was just joshin' with ya.

All the best for your case, and let me know if I can help out any (seriously), Jed.
I get itDougSloan
Jun 10, 2003 7:10 AM
Got it. I took my first bar (3 total -- all passing ;-) 16 years ago, so I'm a little out of date on the latest terminology.

I e-mailed you.


So when does liability end?AaronL
Jun 10, 2003 8:03 AM
So you mean to say that a co is held responsible forever for a product, that bars are never supposed to fail? That's just downright silly.

I'm only bringing up my layman's view here, so forgive me with my ignorance wrt liability laws. I just don't understand people wanting to place blame where there is no blame. You said these bars were nearly 5 years old? Can you document their history wrt previous crashes or misues?

My ITM Tomahawk stem snapped without warning 3 years ago. Luckily, I was JRA and only skinned my knee, but I had just finished a screaming descent so it could have been much worse. The product did fail prematurely. However, I accept the fact that parts break and there is tremendous risk in this sport. Risk that I assume. Should I have sued ITM? I've broken two sets of bars over the years as well, maybe i missed out on some big bucks.

BTW, do you know Kendall Sunserian? He heads the bicycle coalition in Fresno, is an avid rider and an attorney.

Jun 10, 2003 8:24 AM
These are always sensitive issues. Your views might be different had you not just skinned your knee, but rather had broken your neck and might not ever enjoy riding again. You didn't "miss out on big bucks" unless you were severely injured. Doesn't sound like you were.

Manufacturers can protect themselves several ways. 1. They can overbuild a product so that it is less likely to break; 2. They can clearly warn buyers that the product has a finite life of x, so that they can effectively disclaim responsibility after that; 3. The could offer an inspection.

Further, the states have made an intentional decision to shift the risk of loss for defective products from the injured people to the manufacturers. It is no longer "buyer beware." This should encourage the making of safer products, or at least better testing and warnings.

This bar was never crashed before. Don't know how you would "document" that, other than the rider's testimony and maybe some forensic testing. That would be a potential defense available to the maker, but up to it to prove.

I'd bet there are thousands and thousands, maybe even millions, of bikes existing with handlebars over 5 years old, many of which are in the lightweight class. If it is clear that they should be replaced before any defect is apparent, where are the warnings from the people who should really know about this to do so? The problem for manufacturers is that adequate warnings would probably scare a few people away from buying products that need a warning -- so they might be reluctant to do so and accept whatever few injuries and lawsuits that might result. I'd bet my bar license that this topic is discussed and consciously decided by manufacturers.

Don't know Kendall.

re: Anyone been told to replace parts, like handlebars?gtx
Jun 9, 2003 3:08 PM
When I worked in shops I used to tell people all the time, especially with mtbs. Whenever I saw a bar that was even slightly bent on a bike we had taken into the shop, I'd recommend replacing it. That was up to 1995 and I'd be even more inclined to do it now, with all the silly lightweight stuff out there. I even told a friend of mine to replace the (brand new!) bars on his road bike today cause he'd crashed 'em and they seemed a tad off. On my road bikes I use super heavy old school Cinelli bars and I only use ti bars on my mtb.
not from 3T but might be useful....divve
Jun 9, 2003 3:12 PM
This is from Cannondale:

Check out section D page 84 and specifically page 92 for handle bars.
USE Products clearly state in directions...pedalpete
Jun 9, 2003 3:49 PM
I just got a USE seatpost and it clearly states the seatpost should be replaced after 1 year (if you ride regularily) 2 -3 years for weekend warriors.

They now make handlebars so I wouldn't be surprised to find the same warning.
Yes . . .mja
Jun 9, 2003 3:59 PM
I ordered a TTT Forgie XL stem. (I also have the matching handlebar.) Included with the stem was a tiny! generic TTT handlebar instruction booklet. In this booklet, recommended replacement interval for bar/stem was every 4 years, sooner if used in competition. And small parts -- nuts and bolts -- were to be replaced every 2 years.
re: Anyone been told to replace parts, like handlebars?russw19
Jun 9, 2003 4:10 PM
Doug, in 15 years of working in bike shops, I have never seen an official statement from a bar maker that says to replace the bars after x years. I have seen recommendations that you should replace any bar after a crash, regardless of if there is noticeable damage or not, but never after a certain amount of time or miles.

I personally have told a few people to replace stuff for their own safety, and most of the time I was looked at like I was putting on the hustle on them. I have even gone so far as to refuse to service one guy's bike because it was so bad and he refused to buy new parts, so I told him I wouldn't touch it because I wouldn't send an unsafe bike out the door after we serviced it, so he needed to take it elsewhere. That guy cussed and screamed to high heaven, but it never sunk in that we were not just trying to cover our own butts, but to make sure his own bike was safe to ride.

Anyways, that's sort of off topic, but you asked if I knew of shops telling people to replace stuff. I think the problem you are going to run into is that advice is most likely going to come from the shop, not the manufacturer. And hypothetically, what happens when it does come from the shop, but the person doesn't listen? Can you still hold fault to the manufacturer? I think the negligence would then fall onto the shoulders of the customer who didn't listen to the expert advice of the bike shop. But if the shop warns them, is the shop still insulated from suit? Didn't they do everything possible to prevent the injury? They didn't manufacture the failing part in that case, can they be held responsible? And can the manufacturer who didn't see the product at the shop also be responsible? They had no knowledge of the condition of the bar in that case... only the shop and the customer. And if the customer was warned... what more can anyone do? They certainly can not confiscate the bike in that case. I am sure that line of argument is nothing like the case you are involved in, but I am just wondering what the story would be there.

Anyways, if you need anymore info about this, and if I can help, let me know.

re: Anyone been told to replace parts, like handlebars?268generation
Jun 9, 2003 4:56 PM
What about torque ? Generally road bike handlebars can break if its too tight.
re: Anyone been told to replace parts, like handlebars?rogue_CT1
Jun 9, 2003 8:10 PM
Yes, my TTT XL stem came with an owners manual that advised when to replace the bar and stem. If I recall, the bars were supposed to be replaced about every two years for competitive use and they are supposed to be re-taped at certain intervals because the glue and sweat can cause it to fatigue. I will look for the manual to see exactly what it says. But, I'm afraid I may have pitched it after my TTT Zepp stem broke, causing me to crash.

I would strongly suggest that anyone using a TTT Zepp stem seriously consider not using it. IMO and experience, the stem is extremely dangerous. Switch to a 4 bolt stem with steel screws for your safety!
2002 TdFWalter
Jun 10, 2003 4:37 AM
Didn't one of the teams (I want to say ONCE but don't recall for sure) have a rash of handlebar breakage during a stage? Have no idea of their equipment brands but might provide some precedence. Of course Rumsas had problems but not outright failure with his bars on the last ITT though that might have been a mechanic's error. Anyways, I do remember conversation and commentary about bar failure in last year's Tour.

I know this is anecdotal but in the retro bike "community" there are some very knowledgable people who will always replace bar/stems on any older bike even a "classic" that they'll actually ride. (I ride the oldies and so far w/o problems)
I have been told verbally......Ligon
Jun 10, 2003 5:07 AM
I have not seen anything in writing but my local bike shop has told me that after a certain period of time I need to replace the bars and the stem. If I remember right I think they said about every two years, but the time length can vary depending on use. They have also told me that when I replace one I should usally always replace the other.

haven't you broken one or two? nmDougSloan
Jun 10, 2003 6:45 AM
I've never broken bars or stem, knock on wood:)(nm)Ligon
Jun 10, 2003 7:17 AM
re: Anyone been told to replace parts, like handlebars?brian n
Jun 10, 2003 6:08 AM
I seem to remember a warning coming with my Ritchey WCS mountain bike handlebar stating that it was intended for 1 racing season. I bought it 10 years ago, so I don't remember too clearly or have the documentation still. It was a 120 gram bar, and it did last for 3 or 4 seasons before I replaced it with an answer hyperlite.

re: Anyone been told to replace parts, like handlebars?brider
Jun 10, 2003 8:44 AM
I remember reading many years ago in bike maintenance books about replacement intervals for things like handle bars (3 years seems to stick out in my mind, but I could be wrong). Was not brand-specific, and noting produced now even comes close, materials-wise, to what they were commenting on.

That being said, I haven't replaced a bar in MANY years. Raced for 3-4 years on the ones I'm riding now, including clip-ons for TTs and such. They're not light weight by any means, but even so, I may be on borrowed time with them.
Easton recommends periodic replacementPdxMark
Jun 10, 2003 11:48 AM

Hmmm... this all has me seriously thinking of replacing my Al bars. I find that I'm tugging on the bars on my fixie much more than my regular bike.
does carbon fiber fatigue? nmDougSloan
Jun 10, 2003 12:24 PM
Not in the same way as aluminum, I think...PdxMark
Jun 10, 2003 1:19 PM
The materials guys will be able to say better, but my recollection is that carbon is like steel & Ti in that so long as the stress/strain is below a [don't know the word] threshold, fatigue alone will not result in failure. The magic of Al is that fatigue is cumulative regardless. Good design can make Al last a very long time, but material properties have their limits.

The Easton sheet looks like it relates to all Easton bars. Al bars have a 5 yr warranty, carbon bars are warrantied for life...
does carbon fiber fatigue? nmSteve98501
Jun 10, 2003 2:39 PM
I've read that carbon has tensile strength greater than steel. It wears from flexing, but takes nearly forever to do so. Perhaps that's why some carbon fiber products have lifetime warrantys.

BTW, I've got a stem or two that came with an installation sheet that mentioned replacement every 2 years for racers and bike pros, proportionately less often for us mortals. Not sure what brand; it's Italian. I'll see if I can find it.