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Cyclist suing Halfords £1million for sale of 'defective' bike

Posted on in Business News , Cycles News

A cyclist is suing Halfords for £1 million after bike bought at the retailer snapped in two, causing severe facial injuries.


Joseph Love, then aged 19, suffered severe injuries to his face in the incident in Gravesend in February 2009 which he says have "wrecked" his life.

Gerald Martin QC, acting for Mr Love, told the High Court that the steerer tube of Mr Love's £250 Saracen Raw 2 bike had sustained a "sudden and catastrophic failure," with the cyclist hitting a crash barrier head-first.

Mr Love, who was 19 at the time of the accident, says Halfords assembled and inspected the bike. It was later put through a full service which did not show up any faults. Gerard Martin QC, for Mr Love, said: ‘We ask the court to bear in mind that marketing literature for the Saracen Raw 2 bicycle would lead an ordinary person to assume that fairly robust riding is to be expected - as it says, "give the trails a kicking".'

He argued the bike was ‘defective at the point of sale' and refuted Halfords' claims that Mr Love had damaged the model by adding lights and mudguards after purchasing it in May 2008.

James Medd, acting for Halfords, described expert evidence prepared on behalf of Mr Love as "deeply flawed."

The case continues, but in the meantime, will cases like this be enough to bring the importance of purchasing a bike from a qualified, experienced bike shop to the attention of consumers?

It is well documented that larger chain stores don't always have the best reputation, but for cost-conscious consumers, it may still take more than the risk of an accident to put them off buying cheaply, rather than go to a local IBD.

Subsequent to this incident the Saracen brand was purchased by Sportline, a division of the H Young Group and the brand is no longer distributed via Halfords and no models or factories or any products were carried over to Sportline. However, the responsibility of assembling and ensuring a bike is fit for purpose still rests with Halfords.

Consumers should be encouraged to purchase from a qualified retailer who are able to source quality products and deliver a quality and safe experience, fitting the bike to the customer's needs, supported by quality build and after sales service. Cytech qualified shops meet this requirement, and by using the Cycling Experts shop search, customers can find their local qualified retailer.

To build the Cytech brand and encourage customers to visit your shop, you should ensure that your listing is as comprehensive and up to date as possible by including information such as brands stocked, opening hours, company information or even staff photos. Search for your shop now to see what your listing looks like to consumers, or click here to add or edit your listing.

You could also add the Cytech logo to your website, marketing literature, advertising or company vehicle. To display the Cytech logo you must have at least one member of staff with a Cytech Technical Two qualification or higher. Email us to request the logo.

You should be promoting Cytech in store too. Many Cytech accredited stores either do not display certificates or hide them away where customers cannot see them. To get maximum benefit from your investment in Cytech, display certificates behind the sales counter or elsewhere on the shop floor. Customers can recognise that you have invested in people and service and you can refer to them when talking about the service you offer.If you need to order a new certificate, click here.

What next?

Find out more about becoming Cytech accredited or getting your business listed on the Cytech Retail directory


Reader Comments (5)

While I hold no brief for Halfords, and their defence of fitting mudguards and lights causing damage is ludicrous, I don't see how anyone could have detected a crack in the steerer tube. At the very least this would have required removing the forks and subjecting them to some form of crack detection, as it is highly unlikely that the defect would have been visible to the naked eye. While Halfords staff may not be the most highly qualified, in this instance, I can't see that they were at fault.

Richard Burton, 27 Mar 2014

Although I am no fan of Halfords I fail to see how they can be held liable for a "sudden and catastrophic failure" of a steerer tube on a bike that is almost a year old. Halfords clearly do not know how the bike has been used and whether there were any warning signs that the rider ignored. If it really is a catastrophic failure then it is more likely to be a manufacturing fault and he should be suing the manufacturer.

Andy Young, 27 Mar 2014

This is a very difficult story to respond to, as there is alot of detail that we don't have, however, some general points can be made: 1. There is nothing in this story to describe the reason for the "sudden and catastrophic" failure of the forks - so we can't begin to say whether this was a long term problem that might have allowed some evidence to show before the failure, or if it was a case of a component stressed beyond it's design limits in a one-time only occurrence. 2. We don't know, and there is no standard industry description, of what constitutes "a full service" - a good many stores, chain and otherwise, perform a "full service" without disturbing the headset area if the forks have full and free rotation and no tendency to settle. We would recommend doing so but whether early indications of failure would even have been naked-eye visible had the fork column been dropped out, cleaned and inspected is a moot point. We don't know at what point the forks failed - if it was under the fork crown race, even a fairly careful service would not have spotted it as very few services conducted on a fairly low-cost bike involve removing the fork crown race. 3. The service issue in itself is probably a red herring - maybe the bike was used predominantly on road, or for soft trail riding prior to the service, then was subject to repeated abuse afterwards - there is no way to prove that any early indication of failure, even were it readily detectable given the points made above, was even present at the service. 4. Halfords defence might work if, say, a mudguard could have been shown to have stopped the front wheel revolving suddenly and completely, or ditto, say, the front light had been mounted on a fork blade and this had, at some point prior swung round into the wheel and stopped it suddenly and completely resulting in a crash and initial damage was done to the fork at that point - but otherwise it's hard to envisage how lights and a mudguard might bring about any kind of failure of the fork. 5. The story does not state whether any examination of the fork was undertaken to determine whether the crash resulting in injury came before the crash, causing it, or after the crash, as a result of it. The fracture pattern and discolouration of the material at the fracture point might be valuable in determining the point at which the damage occurred and the life-span of the damage - see 1 and 2 above. 6. It might sound odd coming from a company that is involved at the very highest level in training cycle mechanics and in delivery of mechanical services including warranty to high-end cycle component manufacturers but it has to be accepted that even the best trained and most careful mechanics are not omniscient, there are things that can't be seen, there are factors which the mechanic may not know about and so not be able to take into account - and even the most carefully manufactured items in the world *do* fail occasionally - the Hubble Space Telescope, famously, had a partial mechanical failure and had to be repaired by one of the Challenger shuttle missions - so it *can* happen. Sometimes there isn't anyone to blame, sometimes it just *is*. We should absolutely not be complacent on this basis - but equally it should be acknowledged as being the case. 7. Again, we don't know how well documented the bicycle service was but the defence in these cases is to document everything that is done during the course of a service, every action taken, all the findings, good, bad and ugly, and to carefully and in writing advise the owner of the bicycle of any deficiencies or possible problems found. It won't stop your company being sued but it is away of at least indicating that care has been taken and that a proper procedure is followed rather than having a legal professional second-guessing you with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight afterwards. In this case a statement such as "fork crown race removed and fork column examined - condition found to be good to the naked eye" would indicate that at the point of servicing, a reasonable degree of care had been taken. In the same way, a statement such as "headset rotation tested and bearing play assessed as OK, forks not removed from the frame indicates the limits of the work undertaken in the service and sets an expectation of what the mechanic might have been expected to uncover during the service. Graeme Head tech & MD Velotech Cycling Ltd Cycle Mechanics Training | Main UK factory-approved Service Centre, Campagnolo SRL

Graeme Freestone King, 27 Mar 2014

Interesting that they don't mention (in any of the articles) whether or not the claimant was wearing a helmet...

John Taylor, 29 Mar 2014

While I am not a fan of Halfords, or their like but I think this may be a little unfair, I am 57 and never seen a fork fail from fitting lights and mudguards. Where was the crack? When did it start? Under what circumstances did the fork fail? Was the crack even there when the service took place? Not enough information to condemn in this article. However always buy your cycle from a real cycle shop not a discount store or a grocer!

Steve, 30 Mar 2014

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