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Shimano to Recall 2.5 Million Bicycle Cranks

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In what is being called the bicycle industry’s largest-ever safety action, Shimano American Corp. and its Japanese parent company said Wednesday that they are recalling more than 2.5 million bicycle cranks installed on two-wheelers worldwide.

The voluntary recall, prompted by reports of rider injuries from broken cranks, includes 1 million bicycles in North America, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which will monitor those returns.

The defective cranks--the components that connect the bicycle pedals to the frame--have been installed in more than 200 models of mountain bikes sold under at least 49 brand names since 1994.

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Shimano American executives at the company’s Irvine headquarters said they have received at least 630 reports in North America of the cranks breaking while in use, resulting in at least 22 rider injuries ranging from cuts to fractures.

They also said the parent company, Shimano Inc. in Sakai City, south of Osaka, is voluntarily recalling more than 1.5 million of the faulty cranks in Europe.

Industry watchers calculate the North American recall alone could cost Shimano more than $15 million if all affected mountain bikers brought in their bicycles for repair.

Consumer response isn’t likely to be that high, consumer protection officials said. But a company spokesman acknowledged Wednesday that the safety action is nevertheless going to cost them a bundle.

“It’s going to be in the millions,” Shimano American spokesman John Bogler said. “We sold quite a few of those cranks.”

Shimano Inc. is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of bicycle components, including cranks, brakes, shifters and derailleurs. Last year, it reported net income of about $87.9 million on sales of about $1.2 billion, based on Wednesday’s yen-to-dollar exchange rate.

The 76-year-old firm has built a solid reputation for its high-quality parts and has captured more than 90% of the components market for mountain bikes, said Michael Gamstetter, editor of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News magazine. About 60% of the 12 million bicycles sold in the U.S. each year are mountain bikes.

Gamstetter said the recall is the biggest in the company’s history and the largest for the U.S. bicycle industry.

“In this industry, a recall of 50,000 units would be considered huge,” Gamstetter said. “We can’t remember anything bigger.”

The faulty cranks were manufactured from mid-1994 to mid-1995 and were installed mainly on low- to mid-priced mountain bikes sold under a host of well-known brands such as Trek, Cannondale, Huffy and Schwinn.

The company received a few complaints as early as 1995, he said, but wasn’t fully alerted to the problem until late last year and early this year when complaints began to pour in.

Consumer Product Safety Commission officials said Shimano came forward last month to report the defect and volunteered to perform the recall.

Bogler said Shimano is placing ads in a number of cycling magazines to spread word of the recall. In addition, he said, the company has contacted as many as 7,000 bicycle dealers throughout North America to instruct them how to participate in the process.

Bogler said Shimano American will reimburse bike shops $15 plus postage for each faulty crank that they remove and replace with new ones provided free of charge by Shimano.

The defective cranks are part of the Altus, Acera and Alivio groups of components and are numbered FC-CT90, FC-M290 and FC-MC12. The numbers are on the back or inner side of the right crank arm.

The product safety commission advises consumers owning bicycles with the defective cranks to stop using them immediately.

Bolger said consumers should contact their local bike shop to see whether the dealer has made arrangements with Shimano American to replace the part.


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