Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Wiggle - best avoided

I do roughly around 7 000 miles per year on my bike, with my main bike up to very recently having been a B'Twin Triban 500. My commute's 15 miles each way, unless I have time and take the long way, which I do from time to time. Sometimes I take the shortest route, in which case my commute drops to 12 miles.

Of those 15 miles, around 8 are on rough rural lanes, and the remainder on urban roads in Plymouth. As anyone who rides rural lanes would know, tyres do take a beating. Usually I'd ride on Bontrager Hard Case RaceLite tyres. They're tough, with decent puncture-resistance, but can struggle to grip in the wet.

With this in mind, I researched alternative tyres. Puncture-resistance is critical to me, and given that a tyre only lasts me around 2 000 to 3 000 miles (or far less, if I'm very unlucky, which sometimes happens), I also didn't want to spend a fortune.

I do almost all the maintenance on all my bikes, with the exception of replacing the bottom bracket on my Triban 500, as I don't have the tools to replace hollow-tech bottom brackets. I do replace square-taper BB's on my other bikes.
I also hand-built the wheels on my Triban 500. Given the mileage I do, and the average lifespan of a tyre on my bike, it becomes obvious that I fit new tyres several times per year, per wheel, and it's been a very long time since I thought there was anything tricky to fitting a tyre properly.
I'm no pro-tour bike mechanic, but I like to think I know how to fit a tyre correctly!

I'd done my research and decided to try a Continental Grand Prix 4000S II as all the reviews I've seen were great. Wiggle had the lowest price, so I ordered one online, and it soon arrived.

Fitting the tyre presented no issues at all, and soon it was inflated correctly and the wheel was back on the bike. Now once I put a wheel back on the bike, I always first spin it by hand to ensure it's free-spinning, while at the same time checking that the wheel is still true. I expect most people do the same. When I do this, with the wheel on the bike, I find the easiest way is to check the gap between the rim and the brake pads. Obviously if I found any issues, I'd rectify it there and then, but in this case I found no problems at all.

The following work day I cycled to work, same as usual, except that I took the shorter 12-mile route. The bike was fine, brakes worked and there were no odd noises, nor the trademark drag you get if a tyre was rubbing against the frame.

I was just over a mile from work when the rear wheel (the new Continental tyre) suddenly blew. Although I was doing around 25mph, very fortunately I was on a flat section of road (very rare on my commute!) and it was also dead straight.

Obviously you don't go from 25mph to 0mph instantly, and I rode for a short bit on a completely flat rear wheel before I managed to stop and get off the bike. The sound of the blow-out meant it wasn't a simple puncture and I started examining the tyre, to find that it had torn on the sidewall, quite close to the rim. I knew I couldn't repair that by the road side and walked my bike the last mile to work. And yes, I was wheeling the bike on the flat wheel.

I contacted Wiggle soon after and they said that subject to an examination they'd refund me, so some time later I posted the tyre to them.

When I next heard back from Wiggle, they said they would NOT refund me as they felt the tyre was incorrectly fitted! They claimed the tyre was rubbing, and that caused it to fail.

I know that tyre was properly fitted and not rubbing anywhere at all. Indeed it would be impossible for the part of the tyre that failed to touch the frame, even if the wheel was badly warped (which it wasn't!). When I pointed this out to Wiggle, they suggested the rubbing may have been caused by a mudguard. They didn't respond to me having pointed out that my bike doesn't have mudguards.

I hadn't adjusted the brakes before, or after fitting the failed tyre, nor have I adjusted them since fitting another Bontrager tyre afterwards. This simply means the brakes didn't touch the tyre at all and so wasn't responsible for any failure.

And STILL Wiggle blamed me and refuse to exchange the failed tyre!

My advice to you is simple: avoid doing business with Wiggle. A company that won't refund a defective product doesn't deserve your custom!