Wednesday, May 1, 2013

More Fake and Counterfeit Bikes Than Ever

Fake Specialized with a sheared-off headtube. Photo:
I took this topic up a number of years ago and it is one of the more popular topics on the site. While I don't write about it often I do when I feel there is something interesting and important to report.

I've covered the topic here:
Online Bike Fraud (Oct. 2006)

More Buyer Beware (Jan. 2007)

Beware of Knock-Offs (Feb. 2009)

Online Fraud Again (Jul. 2009)

While I love bikes and good deals just as much as anyone else; there is a certain measure of "buyer beware" to be had when shopping for your next purchase. That deal that seems too good to be true - may be just that. And I would hate for you to be the one who finds out the hard way.

"Just how pervasive of an issue is this, Matt?"

Well, in my career I, with the help of inside tech support at the respective bike brands; have identified TWO counterfeit or grey-market bikes that have come through the shops I have worked in. Doesn't seem like a lot when you think of all the bikes a single bike shop sees in a year and with the relative small size of the bicycle industry. Even still - with the millions of bicycles in use currently and tens of thousands of bicycle shops globally (4,000 + in the U.S. alone); for two fake frames to make it into the hands of a single random mechanic in a decade is pretty significant.

Even worse - the owners had no clue and fully expected that their frames were real and carried full manufacturer warranty support - neither of which was true. just ran another feature on counterfeit frames featuring Specialized's Andrew Love who put it in perspective like this:
Love, whose full time job is to hunt forgeries, shut down US$20,000 of counterfeit business in 2007 but saw that figure escalate to a massive US$5.2m in 2012. “We’re already halfway there this year,” he said, adding that quality of the counterfeits was “all over the place” but the best was improving all the time, making it harder for consumers to spot fakes. (, May 1, 2013)
Fake Specialized Jerseys. Photo:
 The problem does not stop at frames either. Love has identified forged accessories as well. A simple Google search turns up many web stores - often Asian based, particularly in China - with bargain basement prices on popularly branded items; Specialized's "big red S" featuring prominently.

The dangers of this growing problem are pretty evident in the photo at top: lack of stringent quality testing mandated by safety organizations and the brands themselves result in low-quality and deathly dangerous components and accessories. The cost to the brands themselves is hard to measure because their integrity and public perception are on the line with items that aren't even coming out of their factories much less the bad taste left in a consumer's mouth when a tragic accident occurs involving the failure of an item with their name on it that never actually originated within their internal development, testing, production, or distribution channels.

So what is a consumer to do then? Trust that your local bike shop has sourced their inventory from the manufacturer and proper distributor and know that it has met safety standards and is authentic. Additionally a new item purchased from an official retailer will also carry the factory warranty - adding peace of mind should a catastrophic failure occur due to a manufacturing flaw.

Otherwise; purchase only from large, reliable, established sources. The small website in the corner of the internet with the bargain basement prices (whether they are shipping from China or not) may not be legitimate. Spend the extra dough for your personal safety and to help the good guys stay on top of this battle.

Your thoughts? Have you encountered fake merchandise before? What was the result?

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