Primer to the article I wrote RE marin bikes. A coulple magazines have offered to publish a article I wrote about this which I will greenlight if it does not resolve quickly. In the mean time for anyone considering buying a Marin. Ever since they were sold they have been changing they way they do business.
Cautionary Bike Warranty Tale
Being involved with cycling since 1993, I have seen all sorts of trends come and go. After a short hiatus, I became active in the sport again around 2007. After a four year break it was amazing how much had changed. Needing an every day training bike for the times I did not have time to participate in group rides, I started researching in preparation to purchase a new bike. Knowing the marketing gimmicks that manufactures play, warranty and reputation were important to me. I say reputation, because even the best warranty is worthless if the manufacture does not want to honor it. After a few hours of research I settled on a Marin. At the time the warranty was:
All Marin Bikes Frames, (Except QUAD XC, QUAD Trail, Quad XLT, and carbon fiber Road frames as covered below) shall be free from defects in workmanship and materials for the lifetime of the bicycle purchased for the original owner.
It then went on with an entire list of caveats but was a fairly traditional warranty. I know that there are always loopholes and subtle language in any warranty, but that is reason why I felt that the second part of my earlier comment about warranty AND reputation were important. Marin at this point had a long history of being a stand up company.
Approximately two weeks after I purchased the bike, when I took the bike on a short ride the rear hub started to bind in a way I had not noticed before. Not sure what the problem was, I suspected it was a problem with the bearings. I returned to the shop where I purchased the bike. They confirmed there was indeed an issue with the bearings and stated that the wheel would be covered under warranty as they were bad. The wheel was still in perfect dish, round and true. After waiting over two weeks, I became impatient and decided to build a new wheelset, as my old ones were 7-8 speed not 9-10. After $426.35 out of pocket I had a nice new XTR wheel set that I would use for off road and just figured I would use the OEM wheels for on road with slicks when they came back. Long story short, even though the original wheels were covered under warranty, I never received the wheels back. At this time, I was not that upset as I had no real faith in the quality of the original wheelset since they failed in such a short period of time. However, I was a little annoyed by the lack of follow through by Marin. Shortly after this event, I began taking part time contract work for the local shop as a mechanic since I was spending so much time there and was a certified bike mechanic.
Some time later, approximately 8 months, the front end started to develop some slop on a ride. Upon returning home I checked the headset to find that the crown on the fork had cracked and the stanchion had lash in its seat. Knowing this was unsafe, I contacted Marin immediately. They agreed that this was covered by the warranty, but was told that there was a problem with their inventory and I was told it would be a few weeks before they could send me a replacement part. Knowing from the previous history, I purchased an upgraded replacement for $475.60 out of pocket. My plan was to sell the new/warrantied part on ebay whenever it came in. Needless to say, after several calls, and days growing into weeks, I filed this away as “I'll get taken care of next time.” In retrospect, I should have stayed on them over the wheels and fork, but working 50+ hours a week, plus additional hours in a bike shop as a hobby, you tend to let things slide. Between this point and the 12 month ownership date, the seatpost cracked, and I had a bottom bracket fail. The seatpost fix was just the cheap 5 dollar one that almost every sub two grand bike comes with, so again I thought no big deal. The bottom bracket is considered a wear item and I wanted to upgrade the crank anyway so this also was never mentioned to Marin, but was annoying to have a bottom bracket fail so early. So at just under $400 for the crank and the seat post, I had spent close to $1300 dollars on repairs, most of which should have been covered under the one wear warranty period.
Since this was my personal bike, and money was not a major problem, I never pushed these issues for myself, but did fight vehemently on a few occasions to obtain warranties for customers of the shop. Even with all of these challenges up to this point, I still believed in the Marin bike at its core, the frame. Ironically, it was at this point that Marin changed their warranty from lifetime on the frame to:
10 years for all Marin® Bikes frames, including pivot hardware and bearings of Marin® QUAD Linkage Full suspension frames. (Excluding all bikes or parts listed in this table as 5, 3 or 1 years)
What was even more shocking to me was this caveat:
3 year warranty one Marin® Team CXR and Team HT hardtail, Titanium Frames, pivot hardware and bearings of Marin® FRS 120 Full suspension frames.
Three years on titanium frames... Owning several titanium bikes and also being a Litespeed dealer this made no sense to me. Was Marin simply following industry trends? Upon checking Trek, Cannondale, and Felt frames, I found they still offered lifetime warranties on their higher end frames as they always had.
While all this was a little strange, it did not shake my trust in the quality of the frames from this company. In all these years, I had never seen a single frame crack. That was until mine cracked. Not at a weld as aluminum usually does, but right in the middle of the top tube. At this point, I have been selling and working on Marin's for over 5 years. Having a strong background in automotive engineering, I knew the questions they were going to ask. Is it at the seat tube indicating an impact? Are there any dents? Does the frame show signs of a major impact? In this case it was none of those. The frame simple cracked in the tubing not at a weld where it is butted. So the calls are made and Marin immediately agrees that is a defect in the frame and covered under the warranty. That was not so bad was it? Was it...
Not expecting much, I asked if I would be able to upgrade the frame so it would not be 2k in components on a frame that probably cost around $250. I was told no problem, I could get a 2009/2010 Scandium Team Frame or the newer designed hydro frame and this was confirmed via email from the national sales manager:
Would rather him get a 2011 Hawk Hill frame. Jason, our product designer says that 2011 Hydro-formed A6 aluminum frame is lighter and stronger than the 2009 Scandium model was anyway. The Hawk hill would be no charge, the Scandium frame would be $250.00 to upgrade. Keep in mind both frames are integrated head tubes so you would need a different headset and we changed sizing measurements since 2007 to "center to top" so he would now be a 19". Barry will be back tomorrow so you can decide what you want to do and give him a call to place the order.
Unless their top tube is 4” diameter I am not sure I ride a 2” larger bike but whatever. So it looked like for ~$120 for a new Cane Creek headset, I can be on an upgraded frame. Or even better for $370 I can be on a Team Scandium frame. Keep in mind at this point that I am on retainer for two websites that specialize in bike reviews. Prior to making my decision, I make am inquiry through the shop to see what Marin would most like to see reviewed as both are still current generation frames. If its the scandium, are they willing to discount the upgrade price in exchange for a full review? At this point, I have not even mentioned the wheels, the fork, the seatpost... I never hear back, so an email is placed to Barry (our Marin sales representative), whom I believe got caught by surprise by all of this. I am then told I am getting a 2008 frame. But wait? I thought the 2011+ frame was so much stronger per the “product designer”. That aside, I was leaning towards the scandium frame anyways. So here I sit. Two weeks later with no bike or a resolution. In total, I have been sidelined over 2 months dealing with warranty issues. Had I not paid out of pocket to fix them, who knows how much longer that would have been. Will I ever get a new frame? I am hoping Marin will come through, but will it also be a lesson in futility. If I plan on riding any time soon, I may have to buy a Felt or Litespeed? At a certain point you have to step back from a brand you are attached to and take a hard look. I am taking a hard look at Marin.
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