Breaking Your Bicycle

AuthorCraig Forcese; Nicole LaViolette
Chapter 4
Breaking Your Bicycle
As consumers, we are becoming used to the scope of car recalls. Before the
year had even ended in 2014, North American automakers had recalled more
motor vehicles than in any other year on record. But if you look beyond the
automobile industry, you will discover that bicycles and bike equipment are
also the subject of recalls for a variety of manufacturing and design defects.
A quick visit to the website BicycleRetailers.com1 reveals the pace of
these recalls. In 2014 alone, a bicycle manufacturer recalled two of its
mountain bike models after receiving reports of broken hubs that could
cause the disc brakes to fail;2 a Canadian retail chain recalled bicycle hel-
mets because cracks were reported near the rivets securing the chinstrap;3
and 125,000 bikes were recalled by well-known bicycles makers because of
concerns about suspension forks used on the bikes.4 Nicole encountered a
manufacturing problem when, in her quest to counter the slowing effects
of aging, she invested in a very expensive set of aluminium alloy wheels
that promised her ride would be lighter, faster, and smoother. Within two
months, the rim was cracked on both sides of a spoke. The manufacturer
replaced both wheels, as it seemed this was a recurring problem with some
of their products.
Given that a top-end bike can be a pricey investment, it is understand-
able that cyclists fear faulty manufacturing. But more important, given the
kinetics of bicycle riding, cyclists need to be secure when riding their bikes:
their lives depend on it. Even the cheapest bicycle must be safe from defects
that could result in injuries, or even death. A cyclist relies enormously, there-
 » every cyclist’s guide to canadian law
this chapter’s takeaways
» Bicycles are a consumer product and bicycle sellers and manufacturers
owe duties to consumers. The government does not regulate bicycles and
bicycle equipment like it does cars, but there are some important consum-
er safety standards, especially for bicycle helmets.
» Bicycles often come with express warranties, which are contractual prom-
ises. These promises are binding when there is an immediate contractual
relationship between the seller and buyer (known as “privity of contract”).
Warranties offered by manufacturers (as opposed to sellers) to consum-
ers may or may not be legally binding — the law is a bit uncertain in some
jurisdictions — but at the very least consumer protection laws would likely
penalize deceptive warranties from manufacturers.
» Sellers retailing bicycles also sell with “implied warranties” that their prod-
ucts are reasonably f‌it for their purposes (that is, riding). Again, whether
an implied warranty exists depends on several considerations, including
whether a buyer relied on a bike seller’s advice and expertise in making
the purchasing decision.
» Whatever may be the case with these contractual rules, bicycle sellers and
manufacturers can be liable for negligent manufacture and design of bi-
cycles and their components.
» They also have a related duty to warn of any inherent dangers or dangers
associated with the use of their products, and since this duty is ongoing,
product recalls are relatively common (including with bicycle equipment).
fore, on the competence of bicycle and component manufacturers, and on
that of the retailers who sell and service these items. Cyclists may also ex-
pect (somewhat piously, as it turns out) that governments are regulating
safety standards for bicycle and cycling gear, and if not, that the cycling in-
dustry is at the very least setting voluntary safety standards that are widely
adhered to by manufacturers.
As we will outline in this chapter, the law says quite a bit about the dut-
ies of those who make and sell goods to consumers. The three key areas we
will focus on are: express contractual warranties; statutory “implied war-
ranties”; and product liability rules. But f‌irst, we will say a few words on the
regulation of cycling safety standards in Canada.

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