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SRAM says brake recall is 'disruptive' and 'painful'

Published December 17, 2013
President says latest recall ‘cost will be high’

CHICAGO, IL (BRAIN) — On a new website, SRAM president Stan Day has published a message to the cycling community explaining the company's most recent hydraulic brake recall and acknowledging the “disruption” it has created among cyclists and the industry.

On Friday SRAM urged all cyclists with SRAM Red or s-700 hydraulic brakes on road or cyclocross bikes to stop using the bikes immediately, because the company had identified a problem that could cause the brakes to stop working, especially in cold conditions. The recall affects rim and disc brakes. 

The recall affects 38,000 “systems” (19,000 pairs of brakes) manufactured. The company is estimating that consumers have bought about 5,000 bikes with the affected brakes.

"The cost will be high. There will also need to be compensation throughout the channel for the disruption. We don’t yet know how this will play out." — SRAM president Stan Day

Day said a “seal material we were using for the brake lever lost its performance characteristics in the extreme cold. We were able to duplicate the failure mode through testing.”

Although the problem came to light at below-freezing cyclocross races recently, elsewhere on the new site SRAM said that its engineers believe the seal could fail at normal temperatures with repeated use.

SRAM has not said exactly how it will replace the faulty brakes. No solution is cheap or simple because it will require replacing the hydraulic brake/shift lever and the brake system. SRAM does not make another hydraulic brake system that could be substituted, so the short term solution is probably to replace the lever and caliper with a cable-pull disc or rim brake, Day said.

“This is a particularly tough recall because many consumers bought these bikes with the Hydraulic as a primary feature and unlike say a wheel recall, they just can’t pop the quick release, stick another set of wheels on the bike and get back at it,” Day wrote. “Their investment in their new bike and their sport is essentially out of commission until we get them a replacement. The replacement plan may first be a mechanical disc followed by improved hydraulics. This scenario is extremely disruptive to cyclists, dealers and bike brands, and of course the new installs will have their own compatibility frustrations and potential for mistakes.”

“The cost will be high. There will also need to be compensation throughout the channel for the disruption. We don’t yet know how this will play out. We need to go over the top here in order to preserve our Brand and our Relationships."

Day also clarified that the latest recall, affecting the full production run of the brake systems, is not directly related to a smaller recall announced in November, although it involved the same brake models. The October recall was due to “a bad part that was generated from an unapproved process change by one of our part suppliers.” That recall involved 4,000 systems, most of which were caught before they got into consumer use.

Day said the company will post new information about the recall to the site as it becomes available, with updates every Tuesday morning for the next few weeks.

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