Confidence and customer service

This story was first published on my cycling blog, The Big Ring.

Confidence is the cornerstone of athletic achievement.

Gold medals aren’t won by the timid or meek.

When an athlete steps up to the starting line, climbs on the block, straps into their seat, clips into their pedals, they have to believe in their ability to compete with their rivals, to win.

They also have to have confidence in their equipment, that it will perform as they’ve come to expect, that it will hold up to the most vigorous demands, that it will enable their best performance rather than disable it. In fact, their confidence in their equipment has to be so strong, they don’t even question its capability.

At the end of August, when a spoke on my rear wheel snapped during a speedy descent the damage went beyond the wobbly wheel and the carbon fibre stay that had been pierced by the flailing spoke. My confidence in my equipment had been compromised.

Mario Bartel cyclist storyteller photographer blogger communicator
Damage to carbon fibre like a crack or puncture can be fatal. Repairing it is specialized work.

The spoke was quickly replaced.

And thanks to the specialized craftsmanship of Robert Mulder of Roberts Composites in North Vancouver, the stay looks as good as new, even if it is missing a Lapierre decal.

Mario Bartel cyclist storyteller photographer blogger
If it wasn’t for the missing decal, it would be hard to discern the chain stay had ever been damaged.

Mulder guarantees his work. His reputation for excellence has been built on years of minor miracle repairs to shattered frames, broken seat posts and well as custom building handlebars, rudders for sailboats, oars for paddlers.

The wheel was a longer journey.

When I was researching the Easton EA70s as a possible replacement for my worn Fulcrum 5s, I came across a few posts in forums and reviews that detailed dismay about broken and popped spokes. But almost all of those were from four or five years ago. The current model, according to the shop where I bought them, and Easton’s website, is a new design.

I laid down my credit card. With confidence.

And frankly, until the spoke issue first presented itself , the wheels had performed admirably. They rolled smoothly. They were relatively light. They seemed strong.

But the spoke failure shook my faith. Perhaps the wheels had something to do with the frequent flats I endured this season? Would other spokes fail? Could I count on the wheels to hold up during speedy descents?

My ears listened for every tell-tale click or pop that might indicate another spoke exploding.

To its credit, Easton stood behind its product.

Shortly after I posted my story of the Fondon’t failure, and promoted it on social media, they reached out and offered a deal I’d be hard-pressed to refuse; send back my EA70s, plus a little money, and they’d upgrade me to their top aluminum wheelset, EA90SLs.

The new wheels are a revelation. They’re extremely quiet and beautifully smooth. Their lightness, 200 grams less than the 70s, was immediately apparent the first time I hoisted the Lapierre.  That seemed to translate to the road as well.

Mario Bartel cyclist storyteller photographer communicator blogger
New wheels and renewed confidence in my equipment.

As for their durability; only time will tell. For now my confidence in my equipment has been fully restored.

Of course now that Easton customer service has whetted my appetite for $1200 wheels, my upgrade path just got a whole lot more complicated. And expensive. First World problems…

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