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  1. #1
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    Problems with my Lefty and Cannondale's customer service

    Hi everyone,
    I'm a new member here seeking advice on what to do about my surprisingly unreliable Cannondale. It's a long story, and I'd really appreciate any help you can give me.

    Back in March, I bought a 2009 Cannondale 29'er 2 that a local shop had as a demo the previous year, supposedly with around 200 miles on it. I'm a 160 lb guy that does mostly casual riding (dirt roads, rails-to-trails, and other wussy stuff) and didn't need anything that fancy, but having the handbuilt frame and the Lefty was too good to pass up for the price, especially since it still had the warranty.

    Since buying it however, I've had nothing but problems. The Lefty was leaking oil from the bottom and around the boot, and the lockout wasn't working, so the LBS sent it back to Cannondale before I picked it up for rebuild #1, which took 2 weeks. The Lefty continued to leak oil immediately after getting it back, this time from the bottom, around the boot, and around the rebound adjustment knob. That held up for about 350 miles of riding, at which point the lockout stopped working again. Back to Cannondale for rebuild #2, which took another 2 weeks. That rebuild looked and felt good for two weeks and 250 miles, at which point the lockout quit working yet again. It sounded like there was air in the cartridge, so I decided to take it to another LBS that supposedly services Leftys, and they told me that it sounded like the cartridge needed bled. So, another week waiting for warranty repair #3. I wasn't able to speak with the mechanic who worked on it, so I'm not sure what they did, but the lockout still didn't work when I picked it up (something I should have checked before I drove an hour home). The suspension works fine, but when I turn on the lockout, there's about 1/4" of play with no resistance and a clunking sound when it stops.

    The rear brake has also been giving me horrible noise and vibration issues, and has been worked on by the original LBS at least three times. Cannondale has had them change the pads, face the mounts, and bleed the brakes, none of which helped. I ended up getting a new Avid G3 rotor at "warranty cost" (whatever that is) that has made it better, but it's still giving me way too much vibration for a bike of this caliber.

    Not getting any satisfaction from the LBS, who seems to be at Cannondale's mercy, I've called their 800 number 3 times in an attempt to discuss my problems with someone there. Each time, I've spoken with a nice lady who knows nothing about bicycles and tells me that I'll have to take it to a Cannondale dealer. Failing in that regard, I sent an email to Cannondale using the form on their website, outlining the problems and asking them to contact me directly to discuss a solution. That was a week ago, and the only reply that I've received is from "no-reply@dorel.com" telling me that they've forwarded the email to the Cannondale Sales Rep for my area and that they appreciate my patience.

    The small LBS has been great to deal with, but can't seem to do anything without Cannondale's permission. Cannondale doesn't seem to want to deal with them (and apparently is ignoring me), and I'm out riding on my '96 Nishiki Manitoba because my Cannondale doesn't work right. So, my question to you all is: what more can I do?
    Last edited by 96Nishiki; 07-19-2010 at 08:59 PM.

  2. #2
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    Based on what you've said, there's a problem with your damper cartridge, and the LBS and the sales rep need to better communicate to understand that a rebuild won't cut it in this case. And the rep needs to respond to the forwarded message from Cannondale. Getting you a new cartridge should be the goal of the rep and the shop working together.

    The lockout won't work if the Lefty's oil is all (or partly) leaked out of the cartridge. Mendon can better explain.

    What can you do? I'd probably suggest the LBS call the rep with you there.
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  3. #3
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    Follow-up to previous post

    Follow-up to the previous post: I still have not been able to speak with anyone at Cannondale regarding my defective Lefty, although the rep did call the LBS a week after I sent my first email. According to the LBS, I'll be receiving a replacement in 4-6 weeks, making the total down time for this blowout approximately 2 months! Hopefully it will be a 2011 model after waiting this long. While the Lefty has been sitting, unridden, it's developed yet another oil leak (bottom and top of boot again) and the cartridge sounds like there's air in it (the sucky-squishy sound when I press on it).

    I sent a second, politely worded email to Dorel ten days ago (August 5), again asking for a Cannondale rep to call me directly to discuss my problems and the warranty period on my replacement Lefty. As of yet, I have received no response at all from either Dorel or Cannondale.

    Just curious if anyone else has dealt with Dorel/Cannondale lately and what their experiences have been...

  4. #4
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    I have a 2008 F2 29er and my Lefty took a dump after 5 weeks and my bike was new. My LBS did a "service" and nothing changed to it went back to Cannondale for 6 weeks! I got it back and it lasted about 6 months before it was leaking again, at which time a had another local Cannondale dealer send it back to the factory again, with the original RMA code, etc. I don't know if they replaced it or rebuilt it, again, but it lasted another 6 months before I had to park the bike (beginning of this VERY HOT AZ Summer) and I just not rebuilt it myself.

    I'm a pretty good wrench, so I feel good rebuilding it myself now. When the bearings take a dump I'll dump the Lefty and get a fox and a new front wheel. The Lefty might be a great race part, with a trained mechanic on hand, but for a daily rider it's a nightmare and a maintenance hog, IMHO.

    Be sure to rear the service guide, clean the air filter and grease the bearings regularly as well as reset them regularly. Rebuilding the damper isn't hard, just takes the right tools and some time.

  5. #5
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    visit mendoncyclesmith.com

    craig is fast and excellent at repairing all types of headshoks.

  6. #6
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    Your brake vibration issues sound like the dredded Avid turkey gooble/vibration issue. It is legendary in its actual cause (no one seems to really know) and even more legendary are the lengths at which people try to fix it! Go the brake forum and check things out there.

    Most people end up replacing the brakes if its really bad on their bikes. Some have it, some don't.
    Lead by my Lefty............... right down the trail, no brakes.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the comments guys. If the Lefty were out of warranty, I'd definitely be sending it up to Craig to get it repaired; however, I've only had mine for 5 months and it's never worked properly for more than a month at a time since I've had it.

    Follow-up on the Lefty: I called the LBS on Monday and spoke with the owner. He told me that shortly after promising to send a replacement Lefty, Dorel tried to change their mind and have my Lefty sent back to Bedford for it's 4th(!) rebuild. LBS refused and insisted that they send the entire replacement as originally promised. Cannondale rep said that they weren't currently producing Leftys (?) but would see if they could find enough parts to build one. Within a couple of days, LBS starts receiving Lefty internals even though they don't have the tools or knowledge to rebuild a Lefty and three previous rebuilds failed to solve the problem. So, I'm still waiting on Dorel to send out a new Lefty...

    And yes, I've figured out that I have the infamous turkey gobble (and read every post I could find trying to get rid of it): everything has been replaced except for the brakes themselves, and yet the turkeys are still there. Maybe I'm asking too much, but I'd think that a bike with an $1800 MSRP should come with brakes that work, and that Dorel should hook me up with another set (or a certain amount toward a better set) if they do not.

    One final note: LBS owner told me that someone brought in an '05 Headshok and that Cannondale will not work on it, referring him instead to "a guy in New York who likes to tinker with them". He tells me that Cannondale's customer service has gotten to the point where he's seriously considering dropping Cannondale and has offered to work with me on getting rid of my Caffeine and getting me on something else. It's such a shame ... I live two hours from Bedford and really love that frame, but it's just not worth the hassle anymore.

    I'll keep following up on what I find out from Dorel for anyone out there who's interested.

  8. #8
    All Lefty's, all the time Moderator
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    Quote Originally Posted by 96Nishiki
    Cannondale rep said that they weren't currently producing Leftys (?) but would see if they could find enough parts to build one. Within a couple of days, LBS starts receiving Lefty internals even though they don't have the tools or knowledge to rebuild a Lefty and three previous rebuilds failed to solve the problem......

    LBS owner told me that someone brought in an '05 Headshok and that Cannondale will not work on it, referring him instead to "a guy in New York who likes to tinker with them"....


    I'll keep following up on what I find out from Dorel for anyone out there who's interested.
    Producing simply implies they aren't building any right now, and have none to ship. They build in batches, not one continuous stream of forks, all the time.

    These forks need to be thought of in sections. No point in replacing the telescope if the cartridge is blowing up. Replace what's bad, otherwise you throw the baby out with the bath water.

    Age old gripe, but that your LBS doesn't know how to plug a new cartridge into a Lefty that they sold you, is part of why Cannondale does it all in house now, dealers don't want to learn, or get their hands dirty, just sell shiny new things.

    Keep in mind, product cycles are a lot faster in bikes, than cars, but an '05 fork to Cannondale is like someone taking my 57 F100 into a Ford dealership, and expecting them to have someone on hand who's an expert in the quirks particular to that vehicle

    Signed, "the guy who likes to tinker"
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  9. #9
    YB1
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    My two cents...

    Your Lefty CAN be fixed. I had a leak with mine (lockout stopped working) and took it to 88+ in Switzerland since I'm in Europe visiting in-laws and watched Silvio tear it down, replace damper oil, and change out a good chunk of the o-rings on the fork in about an hour and a half. He found one ring that had been damaged by its retaining clip. Bonus... my fork got thoroughly checked out, cleaned out, and is set to go for a solid year of riding after that initially run in 20 hours of use. These are finely engineered pieces of equipment; if it was a fork or shock on a MX bike Cannondales maintanance schedule would be totally in the norm, It was a very eye opening experience after having studied the .PDF tech manuals a few times and looked over illustrated "bearing re-set" threads here a bit. Just get to see one opened up once by a pro and you'll be a Lefty convert for life!

    As for the Avid turkeys, the fact is these brakes will do that. Moisture can cause it but I've found "touch" and the WAY you use the brakes can prevent/eliminate 98%-95% of the time. What I mean is if they start to howl vary the way you're applying the brake, go from progressive to more abrupt application or vice versa. You can find a combo that's going to take care of this BUT it takes sensitivity. It's like Campy shifting, once you get the feel, nothing shifts better, but if you're ham fisted about it... then no fun at all.
    Emory Kalahari Kruiser

  10. #10
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    You shouldn't be calling Dorel, they are the holding company.

    The business group for Cannondale is CSG - Cycling Sports Group, in Bethel, CT.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by 96Nishiki
    And yes, I've figured out that I have the infamous turkey gobble (and read every post I could find trying to get rid of it): everything has been replaced except for the brakes themselves, and yet the turkeys are still there. Maybe I'm asking too much, but I'd think that a bike with an $1800 MSRP should come with brakes that work, and that Dorel should hook me up with another set (or a certain amount toward a better set) if they do not.
    I believe the root cause is the rotor vents. They're stamped, and not perfectly perpendicular to the braking surface, so the trailing edge that one pad sees is at a slightly steeper angle than what the other pad sees. This casues the amount of force on one pad to be slightly different than the other side as the vents pass the pads, and this results in a back and forth twisting force on the caliper.

    If you run your fingers or a spare set of pads along the two sides of the rotor, you will be able to feel this - the vents on one side have more bite than the other (even though the pads seem rigid and flat, all materials deform under force, thus the vent edge will grab the pad slightly when the brakes are applied).

    If you look at the Avid rotor page on Universal Cycles web site, you will see this verbiage:

    "G3 SolidSweep rotors are designed to help eliminate resonance/vibration in certain frame/wheel/brake configurations by removing cutouts in the rotor braking surface "

    Without going into the complex topic of resonance, some bikes will feel this vibration much worse than other bikes; it depends on dozens of factors and therefore is unpredictable.

    I was able to banish the turkeys by filing down the trailing edge of the vents on the outboard side of the rotor. It didn't take much - just enough so the two sides of the rotor present the same amount of force to both pads as the vents pass thru the pads.

    Also, if your caliper is not properly centered over the rotor, this problem could result. Once again, you're presenting a different amount of force to each pad and twisting the caliper. If the rotor is moving to either side as the brakes are applied, your caliper is not centered.

    I believe softer pads are more prone to this than harder ones because they'll deform slightly more under braking and thus be affected more by the asymmetry of the rotors. When I switched to organic pads, I had to file my rotors a bit more - they were smooth and quiet with the semi-metalics, but the softer pads demanded a more symmetrical rotor. Additional filing and careful centering got the brakes smooth and quiet with the organics (more powerful than the semi-metallics, too).

    Good luck,
    Pete
    I can barely get my mouth around it.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by 96Nishiki
    Thanks for the comments guys. If the Lefty were out of warranty, I'd definitely be sending it up to Craig to get it repaired; however, I've only had mine for 5 months and it's never worked properly for more than a month at a time since I've had it.
    Quit whining you cheap bastard and just send it to mendon cyclesmith he will get it working and you’ll be out riding rather than waiting for your lame bike shop and lamer cannondale rep to get around to you.

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