Counterfeits. The word conjures up images of guys on the street with trench coats full of fake Rolex watches, or trunk fulls of knock off designer handbags, not something to do with bikes. But, as Thomson recently found out, there are counterfeit bike parts out there that to the untrained eye can look the part.
This particular stem was bought online, but Thomson is quick to point out they aren’t bashing internet sales, just cautioning would be buyers. The stem in question was purchased from a dubious Ebay store with literally no contact information – no address, no email, no phone.
More details after the break.
How good was the counterfeit? Good enough to fool most people, but not without some glaring issues according to Thomson. Dave had this to say:
A couple of clues. We don’t make a stem that looks like this. The bolts are not genuine. The job number is wrong (only we would know that), the instructions have a lot of mis-spellings. The bag is the wrong weight material, the string is wrong as well. Honestly, the machining and laser marking are not bad. We don’t know what alloy it is and the anodized finish is not good.
Most LBS’s would not have a counterfeit item. Items like this are made in China and only shipped into countries with lax customs. This stem was purchased by the eBay store owner in Taiwan and brought back in luggage. That you can still get away with.
American LBS’s have good inventory. The issue with eBay or Amazon is anonymity. if you don’t know who you are dealing with and you can’t contact them, you have little leverage.
We swapped the guy who bought this for the real thing. We did not have to do that. Would Gucci, Coach, Ralph Lauren or for that matter other bike brands swap and make you whole? I would not bet large amounts of money on that. Just be smart.
Sticking to their guns, as soon as Thomson had documented the forgery, they put their money where their mouth is and mounted the stem up to their test rig to see how it compares. When asked about the test, Dave said, “the part failed after 25,788 cycles in a standard fatigue test. That would have been about 2 hours. The test is 60 pounds of force out of phase. (left/right) Our requirements are a minimum of 180,000 cycles, although our stems will run much longer than that. This is a stem that would have failed had it been ridden for very long.”
So essentially, just be smart about where you are purchasing your parts. If you aren’t supporting your LBS, at least purchase online through a reputable dealer. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.