My Specialized Camber FSR, last year.
The ride was a fun jaunt , a blessing as it was a beautiful day to ride with good trail conditions, something we don’t get much of in late December here in northern Illinois. I was riding with Greg and Ernesto, two talented riders and friends. They had been joking about how I don’t shift — my preference is to muscle over the tough stuff. It slows me down. Greg especially likes to bust my chops, his way of teaching me a few things about riding a mountain bike. The guy is very good on a bike and each time I ride with him, my skills improve as he shows me something else to help me out. During the ride, I was intentionally shifting before hitting a steep section or roots. The shifting didn’t seem quite right.
We were about done with our ride, riding a semi technical trail called Wildcat on our way back to the parking lot. I shifted to an easier gear to get up and over a large root, a frightful clunk from my rear derailleur as I pushed to get over the root. I braked immediately and hoped that the derailleur hadn’t been bent or sucked into the rear spokes. Nothing of that sort had happened, but the chain had slipped over the rear cassette (the gear cluster). I pulled the chain out and back in place, but noticed that the derailleur wasn’t aligned right. Sure enough, I climbed back on the bike and turned the pedals, only to have the chain slip over the rear cogs again. I had no choice but to heft the Camber over my shoulder and tote it back the short walk to the parking lot.
My friends looked my bike over, were puzzled over the position of the derailleur. It wasn’t bent nor did the hanger look bent, but it was clearly positioned too far inward, almost in the spokes. Normally, I would have dropped the bike off at the shop on the way home, but I was severely cash strapped at the time and my credit card was screaming from a recent expensive repair (as I am accustomed to) on my VW. The mountain bike would have to wait until I could give it attention or I had the money to have the shop repair it. My gut told me that it was real possible this was going to be bad.
January came with new snow and the fat bike purchase, a deal so good I could not pass it up. While my friend sold me that bike with the understanding that I would pay him as I could, it meant that extra money would go towards that bike and not towards fixing my Specialized Camber FSR mountain bike. I rode the fat bike with the idea I would replace the shifting components on my mountain bike in time for Spring single track. That is what I did. I ordered new 36T chain ring (it’s a 2 x 10 set up), chain, cassette, SRAM GX medium cage derailleur, derailleur hanger. The chain ring was replaced first, bottom bracket cleaned and inspected. I installed the new derailleur hanger, then the derailleur.
The new derailleur wouldn’t align, hung the same way the old one had the day the bike broke down. Uh oh. I set the bike aside. When my friend, Jeremy, came over last Saturday for a ride, he took a look at the bike… and saw the issue immediately. Jeremy is a good wrench, an experienced bike mechanic. The frame on my Specialized was cracked at the chainstay, twisted enough so that the derailleur would not align. I took my bike to the shop that afternoon (two weeks ago), hoping that the lifetime frame warranty that the manufacturer advertises would be honored. I needed it to be. I can’t afford to have it fixed right now, or worse need to buy a new bike. Recent news of a $4000 federal tax debt, coupled with upcoming property taxes and other expenses have me financially challenged. I don’t need another debt.
The shop manager didn’t paint a rosy picture when he looked at my bike. He inspected it to see if a frame pivot bearing had seized and had caused the frame to stress. The bearing wasn’t seized, but he prepared me for possible bad news from the manufacturer. They may not honor the warranty.
No news from the shop on Monday. I waited until late Tuesday afternoon, then called the shop. They told me the warranty claim had been submitted. The Specialized rep had not responded on the warranty claim yet. I was worried. My bike model has been discontinued, so frame parts may not be available. Would they replace the entire frame?
I received an email from the shop yesterday afternoon, with news that the frame section could not be replaced, as I had expected. Specialized had to send a whole new frame as a warranty replacement. I would be responsible to pay $200 for the labor to put the bike together.
This was a pic taken not too long after I bought my Camber. The small fit should be obvious.
Good news! There was one concern, however. I wished the shop had called to get my OK. Why? My bike is a medium frame, has always been too small for my 6’1″ body. When I bought the bike, I was too excited to finally have my first new bicycle, my first new “expensive” bicycle. It was my baby, the bike I had waited decades to be able to buy. Even though it felt too small from the first day I rode it, I didn’t take it back because I was too much of a weenie to wait (or have to pay more money) to get a large frame. So, when I received the email from the shop yesterday about the replacement frame, I immediately replied and asked if the replacement frame could be a large instead of medium.
When I didn’t get a reply back, I called. The shop told me that Specialized would not give me a large frame. It had to be the same size as the frame it was replacing.
Rather than make a stink, I thanked them and ended the call. I am disappointed. Instead of feeling 100% satisfied, I am feeling a little disrespected. At the moment, I feel like I just had my hand slapped for making the request, like I was asking too much of them. I shouldn’t feel that way. Why not try to make me 100% satisfied? I am a loyal customer and one who will eventually buy more bikes — but I am not feeling so good right now, when I should be ecstatic. Instead, it’s a let down. I am contemplating selling the replacement bike as soon as I get it (hopefully, next week), use the money from the sale to buy a bike I will be happier with. One that fits me and allows me to fully enjoy my rides. I don’t like the idea of making payments on another bike right now, as it will stretch my budget beyond what I am comfortable with. Heck, I don’t even have the $200 for the labor charge I am going to have to pay!
I have needed to replace my Camber due to the fit problem. The seat tube has to be extended so far that it often falls during the course of a ride, taxing my knees and affecting performance. Maybe this is the push I needed to get my cheap butt out to buy a new bike, despite whether I can afford it or not. Specialized is fantastic, but there are other manufacturers out there who will want my business. We shall see. Santa Cruz, maybe? Salsa? Trek? Pivot? Ibis?