Cyclists at risk with faulty components
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Cyclists at risk with faulty components

The death last month of a Canberra cyclist due to mechanical failure has left a question mark over the durability of bikes and their components.

According to police Richard Stanton was not riding recklessly, was wearing a helmet and suffered serious head injuries when his bike malfunctioned in Kent Street. Reports have been prepared for the ACT Coroner. A decision has not yet been made on whether to conduct an inquest hearing.

Cycling components are coming under closer scrutiny.

Cycling components are coming under closer scrutiny.

Cycling industry spokesmen say few crashes occur due to mechanical failure, but faulty components, product recalls and incorrect assembly of bikes are not uncommon.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers public safety lawyer Dimi Ioannou says her firm is investigating cases in Victoria of cyclists suffering serious injuries, including when handlebars fell off a bike, and a bolt securing a seat fractured on another bike.

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The firm is investigating tyres coming off bikes, and faulty gear changes. Ms Ioannou said, "Most involve an expert report that we need, that's why we encourage our clients to keep the faulty product." The rise in faulty product injuries was due to more people riding to work.

Canberra cyclist Warrick Maddocks was about to ride in a triathlon at Huskisson when an official showed him a press release about his bike model, pointing out a faulty bolt in the handlebars, and recommended not to ride it.

Mr Maddocks said his $3000 bike was a well-known brand, He rode the 83 km journey, travelling at more than 30 km/h, confident his six-monthly checks by a professional mechanic would safeguard him. "Not everyone is going to have the same sort of passion [for safety]," he said.

Bicycle Network, which has 50,000 members, began posting on its website product recalls in 2010. A spokesman Garry Brennan established the recalls page after industry people kept telling him not enough testing was being done on components. High-end road bike front wheels, wrongly fitted brakes and forks that can crack are among the recalled parts.

Mr Brennan said Chinese or Taiwanese factories would win a contract to build a part, test them when they came off the production line in the beginning, but six months later, they would change something to cut costs.

"These days so many bikes are sourced internationally from numerous factories and bike brands have a challenge ensuring all component manufacturers consistently meet specification of bike components," Mr Brennan said.

He said problems also arose when people incorrectly assembled bikes they bought from big box retailers, bought damaged second -hand bikes, or rode inappropriate bikes.

"Especially with carbon-fibre bikes, in the early days of carbon fibre the manufacturing was not quite as good. One way to go faster is to borrow a $2000 set of wheels and some of these wheels have weight limits and they are not that high; 79 kilos and you get draughthorses riding them, big overweight blokes with plenty of money who want the latest bike and the flashest gear and they weigh 90 kilos. Components have failed for that reason."

Bicycle Industries Australia general manager Peter Bourke said about 1.38 million bikes were sold in Australia last year, 200,000 more than the number of cars sold. Brand recalls were not uncommon, but often it was because of a component on the bike.

BIA represents people who import, manufacture and sell bikes. Mr Bourke said the safest way to buy and maintain a bike was to establish a good relationship with a bike shop and qualified mechanics. He does not believe a more formal maintenance regime is needed.

'We don't want to limit the number of people riding. Would registration help the maintenance of a bicycle? That's not really the case, because it will come down to the individual."

John Thistleton is a reporter for The Canberra Times.

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