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Class-action lawsuit filed against Shimano for "inadequate" cranksets that put "cyclists nationwide at risk of injury"

The USA lawsuit alleges that Shimano, Specialized and Trek were aware “for years” that the bonded components of certain Shimano cranksets could break, yet the components giant waited until just last month to issue a recall and inspection program

Following Shimano's recall program for 760,000 Dura-Ace and Ultegra bonded 11-Speed road cranksets in North America, a class action lawsuit has been filed in the USA against Shimano, the world's biggest manufacturer of cycling components, for providing "inadequate cranksets" which have put cyclists across the country at risk of injuries. The bike brands Specialized and Trek are also included in the class action, accused of describing its bikes as "perfect" and "the world's best" which was not accurate due to the "defective cranksets", alleges the lawsuit. 

The 72-page lawsuit claims that the defective cranksets can break without warning, often when a cyclist is riding at high speed, and could cause a crash that can easily injure a cyclist or worse, prove fatal.

The case also alleges that Shimano, Specialized and Trek were aware "for years" that the bonded components of Shimano Hollowtech II cranksets could break, yet waited until 21 September 2023 to announce a voluntary recall of the cranksets, produced between 2012 and 2019, citing a "possible bonding separation issue" in North America.

According to the lawsuit, Shimano has admitted that it was aware of at least 4,519 incidents of the bonded cranks breaking, some of which reportedly caused "significant personal injuries."

> "About time": Cyclists react to Shimano crank recall after more than 4,500 incidents

The Hollowtech II cranks includes two generations of the popular Ultegra and Dura-Ace groupsets, usually found in the higher and more expensive end of the cycling spectrum. There are estimated to be over 2.8 million bikes worldwide fitted with these cranks.

While in North America, Shimano has invoked the recall for its possibly defective cranks, in Europe, Shimano has instead issued an "inspection and replacement program" rather than a full recall.

In the UK, and since our most recent investigation and news coverage on this issue was published, the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) has published a product safety report that concluded the affected Shimano cranksets "do not meet the requirements of the General Product Safety Regulations 2005."

2023 Shimano Ultegra Broken crank delamination 3

The US class action argues that the recall is ineffective as it allows only for the replacement of Shimano cranksets that have shown "signs of bonding separation or delamination" during an inspection, leaving riders whose cranksets have not begun to fail with no solution, and potentially at risk of a crash if their crankset later breaks during use.

The case accuses Shimano of "working hard to limit the cost of fixing the issue at the expense of consumers". According to the filing, cyclists who own bikes with the recalled cranksets have been "injured financially" as they purchased bikes that "are of a lesser standard, grade, and quality than represented" and nowhere near as safe as what should be the norm.

The lawsuit reads: "Plaintiffs and the other Class members were deprived of having a safe, defect-free crankset installed on their bicycles, and Defendants unjustly benefited from the sale of these products and from the unconscionable limitations on the recall remedy now offered."

> 10 of Shimano and Campagnolo's worst ideas

The case also argues that cyclists will be deprived of their bikes for unknown periods of time, while trying to schedule an inspection alongside hundreds of thousands of other impacted cyclists.

Further, it says that Shimano has left the inspections of its "sophisticated" cranksets to local bike mechanics who "should not be put in the position of making complicated engineering judgements related to a critical safety issue".

2023 Shimano Ultegra Broken crank delamination 2

road.cc has been hearing stories of cyclists whose Shimano Hollowtech cranksets were snapping underneath them for many years now, and had previously sent out a request for those affected to email us with pictures and stories about their crank failures.

In addition, road.cc sent some of the broken cranksets to Dr Mark Bingley, the Principal Lecturer and Programme Leader for Mechanical Engineering at the University of Greenwich, for further investigation and to better understand the issue.

Early findings indicated that a critical initial stage in the failure of the cranksets involves the partial separation of the inner and outer U-shaped channels, which together form the rectangular tube section of the crank arm. Despite wear and corrosion being cited as possible causes of the failure, no evidence of significant corrosion was found in the two failed cranksets that were inspected. 

> Investigating Shimano’s snapping cranksets: What happened, unanswered questions and an engineer's report

Shimano crank recall

The replacement 11-speed cranksets Shimano is offering to affected customers, that appear to be modelled on the new 12-speed versions

When road.cc asked Shimano why there was a difference between the recall in North America and inspection program elsewhere, the Japanese company said: "Shimano has been working closely with both the American Safety Authorities  and their counterparts in Europe (specifically in the Netherlands), however we are unable able to provide specifics on the processes.

"This is due to the regional differences between safety authorities and their own risk assessment processes of the affected products. We were required to adhere to their respective requirements."

Shimano also said this when asked why the cranks were breaking: "Cranksets can and do break for a variety of reasons. The affected bonded cranksets have been reported to separate and break on rare occasions, thus posing a crash hazard to consumers.

"While it is difficult to draw firm conclusions from a small sample, Shimano has made numerous changes, improvements, and enhancements in response to the market information we are receiving. This is standard practice at Shimano."

2023 Shimano Ultegra Broken crank delamination 4

However, in 2021, Shimano told us there isn't a design problem with its Hollowtech cranks despite reports of a pattern of failures, and despite the photos and tales of many misfortunes rolling ever so frequently in our inbox.

As of now, Shimano has pointed out that not all 11-speed Hollowtech II road cranksets are part of the recall and that only those produced during the specified period need to be inspected. "We expect only a very small percentage of these cranksets will need to be replaced," Shimano said.

> Shimano bike component sales fall by 18% as company cites “weak” demand for products

The recall allegedly provides for free inspections at participating retailers, and if a crankset shows "signs of bonding separation or delamination during the inspection," Shimano will provide a free replacement.

The company also said that "the replaced crankset will be a special version, which may feature a different cosmetic appearance while maintaining the same level of performance."

Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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21 comments

Avatar
mctrials23 | 4 months ago
6 likes

I mean, there is a known issue with the cranks and they are still not doing a complete replacement program. If a wheel on a car could spontaneously fall off they wouldn't be saying "just make sure you check your wheels before every drive". 

They should be recalling every crankset that could be affected. They have simply handled this awfully. 

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RobD | 4 months ago
5 likes

I agree with the decision to take them to court over it, it feels like they could have done a lot more a lot sooner with regards to this, and even now the response isn't exactly wholeheartedly apologising to fix the issue. And as for not issuing a recall in Europe, basically because they're less legally obliged to do so is pretty poor, if you're issuing a recall in one country/region, and they were the same parts worldwide, then you should be recalling worldwide.

I'm hoping this doesn't mean that they'll put their prices up even further to cover the losses, as I think that'll act as a reason for Sram, Campag etc to raise their prices too, which is the last thing the bike industry needs right now.

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peasantpigfarmer | 4 months ago
4 likes

Unfortunately a lawsuit is the only way companies are forced to react.
Shimano quality has diminished over the years. Working in the repair and service side of bicycle industry. I have experienced regular failures of ,hub gears, mechanical sti levers and the most worrying, hydraulic brake caliper leaks/weeping. This results in oil contamination of the pads and discs,and loss of braking performance with vibration,juddering and squealing a common indication of the problem. I personally have queried Shimano UK about it and they deny there is a problem. Check forums and it is a common problem. I have replaced 6 calipers on 4 bikes over 5 years. 3 of which were replaced this year on my personal bikes.
Unacceptable in the car or motorcycle industry,why is it acceptable in the cycle industry?

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Jakrayan replied to peasantpigfarmer | 4 months ago
1 like

I had Shimano for the 1st time on a new bike less than 2 years ago, DuraAce Di2 so not cheap. Both shifters replaced as they leaked internally, front brake squeals terribly within a couple of weeks of replacing pads and the caliper's been replaced, I have to bleed the front brake every time I fly. Broken 2 rear mechs in exactly the same place without bending the hanger - bike was knocked over once and blew over in a strong wind the other time while in a bike stand outside a cafe, no rider on it so seems to be a design weakness. 

Never again, going back to Campy, though the new groupset has been on order for 5 months already so I may be forced to change my mind!

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ktache replied to Jakrayan | 4 months ago
0 likes

Mate, you have my sympathies, but...

Are there any hydraulic brake systems that take flying well, the set up could be in any orientation and there is the low pressure to consider?

There is often a bit of squealing, try different pads, swisstop can be quieter, definitely than my hope's.

You are using high end racing components, they are not meant to handle drops. Anything that is will be far heavier, perhaps mid level downhill mountain bike derailleurs...

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Jakrayan replied to ktache | 4 months ago
2 likes

The brake hose connectors are torqued to the maximum recommended settings, the rear brake doesn't squeal (same pads etc), and new front pads don't squeal. I'm convinced there's a slow leak around the pistons of the front caliper, as PPF has experienced above. 

Contrary to popular opinion, although there is relatively low pressure in the hold of an aircraft it's not actually that low - equivalent to around 2500 metres ASL - so about the same as the Galibier. A sealed hydraulic system really shouldn't leak like this under such circumstances or all the Tour riders would face major issues in the Alps, not to mention all the support vehicles and publicity caravan. Plus all the campervans parked up there often for several days ahead of the race. 

As for the rear mechs, the hanger is supposed to be a sacrificial part to protect mostly the frame, but also the mech itself. I've crashed with Campy Super Record on more than 1 occasion and bent the hanger, but only (badly) scratched the mech. For 2 to fail with such minor trauma (bike fell sideways with no-one on it) in exactly the same place strongly suggests that it's just too weak and an extra few grams of metal would make all the difference. 

The saying goes: Light. Strong. Cheap. Pick any 2. Shimano seem to have forgotten the Strong part when making it light and expensive. 

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Matthewgwelsh | 4 months ago
3 likes

I ran a shimano ultegra crank from 2013 until a couple of years ago when it delaminated whilst I was out riding.

a google at the time suggested it was a widely known problem back then.

I wouldn't complain if shimano offered me some compensation as I bought ANOTHER shimano crank off the back of this, so they benefited directly from their design flaw.

but then, it lasted 8 years. If they knew it was substandard then yeah, I think it's fair.

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kil0ran | 4 months ago
2 likes

For once I wholeheartedly agree with the class action. The tricky thing is that it's a component, so the claim regarding loss of use is on shaky ground. If you think about the diesel emissions scandal the claim was against VW, not Bosch who supplied the faulty component. Same goes for cluster failures and a host of other electronics in cars. Potentially that part of the action needs to be against the manufacturer installing the cranks.

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rct replied to kil0ran | 4 months ago
0 likes

Bosch didn't supply a faulty component though VAG and others misused that component to mislead reulators and customers.

In this instance for the EU/ UK whoever placed that component on the market would be liable, so accoridng to the EU Blue Guide; manufacturers who import complete bikes and Shimano/ distibutors who import the cranks and sell them to the retail/ manufacturing customers in the EU / UK.

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Trevor Anderson | 4 months ago
2 likes

I was musing this morning on the thought: What if Shimano became bankrupt and ceased production?

Initially there would be a mad rush to buy remaining components, similar to the buy-up of the world's supply of turbo trainers in 2020.

Then there would be a massive increase in bikejackings to supply a black market in spare components.  There would be swarms of black hooded, machete wielding, muggers on mopeds like midges in a Scottish summer.  You wouldn't be able to cycle outside, not unless you were with a large group cyclists for protection.

Just musing...

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mark1a replied to Trevor Anderson | 4 months ago
2 likes
Trevor Anderson wrote:

I was musing this morning on the thought: What if Shimano became bankrupt and ceased production?

Can't see an event like this causing that. Let's say Shimano has to replace every single crank, estimated at 2.8m. Apply a notional cost of say £150 per unit, including fees to Shimano service centres and LBS. That's £420m, which is less than half of last year's net profit from the cycling division, plus I would imagine the accounts wouldn't take that charge in one hit, it would be amortised over a few years (if only there was an accountant in this forum, they could confirm or deny this). 

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kil0ran replied to mark1a | 4 months ago
2 likes

Will be listed as an exceptional item in accounts so it doesn't affect metrics like operating income or revenue (which matter more to shareholders than cock ups). VAG have recovered from dieselgate despite a multi $bn hit.

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RoubaixCube replied to Trevor Anderson | 4 months ago
0 likes

I dont think it would be possible to bankrupt them entirely. They operate in many different markets and industries and manufacture more than just bicycle parts.

If youre extremely lucky, (alternate universe 'lucky'...) you could get them to pull out of the cycling industry.

But them pulling out would probably collapse the entire market. They are too well established. No to mention the market becoming a monopoly for manufacturers like Sram.

And when there is a lack of competition. Its the consumer that suffers with inflated prices, and manufacturers pouring less into R&D to develop the next generation of technologies.

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Rendel Harris replied to Trevor Anderson | 4 months ago
1 like
Trevor Anderson wrote:

I was musing this morning on the thought: What if Shimano became bankrupt and ceased production?

I'd consider buying some shares in Microshift, almost all their road stuff is Shimano compatible so their sales would rocket amongst those who don't care about labels.

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wtjs replied to Rendel Harris | 4 months ago
1 like

I'd consider buying some shares in Microshift...

A useful prompt to look up Microshift, which I haven't studied before because all my Shimano stuff (starting from before the days of DA, when it was Crane) has been excellent. However, I am now hopeful that 9-speed stuff will remain even when DA has moved to 15

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Jimmy Ray Will | 4 months ago
2 likes

I for one support this action. I think Shimano's approach to this is particuarly cynical... do a snap (pun intended) inspection of cranks to show willing, whilst all the while knowing that failure is generally sudden and immediate.. i.e. cranks will look fine and pass inspection right up to the day they fail.

No wonder they are saying they expect to replace very low numbers of cranks! 

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joules1975 replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 4 months ago
1 like

From what I've read and listened to, the failure is not sudden, and often follows creaking etc. The problem is that how would the rider know that they should check their crank if their bike is creaking. Most shops should be aware now, but that assumes the person takes the creaking bike to a shop. Also, how many people just ignore creaks - sure, many of us find creaks annoying, know it's likely an indicator of a problem and try to find the cause, but I've come across plenty who just shrug and say 'but it's all working OK'.

The final actual crank fail/snap though can be fairly sudden.

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. . replied to joules1975 | 4 months ago
1 like

I had a 2016 Ultegra FC-6800 that broke in March 2022 after about 20k miles.  One Sunday I had done an 80-miler in the Peak District including a failed attempt at the 35% Bamford Clough. I do recall some creaking on that climb but I treated that as normal, and got home no problem at all.

Next ride, I immediately felt the right crank twisting on every downstroke.  Only one side had delaminated. I had a very short walk home.

Sadly I binned them.

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Matthew Acton-Varian | 4 months ago
1 like

One issue that hasn't been mentioned much is how aesthetically different the replacement cranks are, especially to the earlier generation of cranks (R-6800 and R-9000) especially if you had silver compnents.

Shimano's current generation entry level tiers (Claris, Sora and Tiagra) use the same crank shape as these older generations, and the later affected cranks used the same shape as used in 105 R-7000, the company still had tools to make the cranks, even though these were forged 1-piece crank arms. Shimano were aware of the problem early enough and surely had to have a contingency process started, because as much as they buried their heads in the sand they would not have had the resources to act suddenly on such a scale out of nowhere.

If I had an affected crank, I would be tempted to send it off to be replaced, sell the replacement and use the money to buy an equivalent designed current crankset from the lower tiers and slap on 11 speed chainrings. Paint/Polish to make it look like the old one. It would not look as out-of-place.

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HiFi replied to Matthew Acton-Varian | 4 months ago
3 likes

Or you could/should buy campagnolo.

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matthewn5 replied to Matthew Acton-Varian | 4 months ago
0 likes

Yeah putting a black crankset on a silver bike with a silver group is quite upsetting...

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