A coroner in Canberra has recommended that Standards Australia investigate a mandatory safe life for bicycles components after the alloy steerer tube in a man’s bicycle "unexpectedly and catastrophically failed" in January 2015 resulting in his death.
Lisbeth Campbell made the call after investigating the death of Richard Stanton.
The Age reports that Stanton had been riding with a friend at about 35km/h on Kent Street in Deakin when the carbon fork of his 10-year-old Trek 2000 failed and he fell from his bike. He suffered head, facial and neck injuries and died three days later in hospital.
Campbell said that Stanton's riding, maintenance of the bike and any previous minor prangs had no bearing on the crash and said the failure had most likely been caused by a fatigue fracture in the aluminium steering tube.
She said the crack could not have been picked up by Stanton or the mechanics who had serviced his bike less than two months earlier and deemed it an "inclusion flaw" from the manufacturing process.
Campbell pointed to upper safe life limits in the aerospace industry, which uses many of the same materials found in high-end bikes and recommended that Standards Australia look into this.
Peter Bourke of Bicycle Industries Australia said there would be difficulties in imposing the same standards for bikes, pointing out that it would be difficult to guarantee the integrity of an ageing bike without subjecting it to x-rays and other expensive tests. "It is certainly one of the risks associated with buying a second-hand bike, especially of certain materials,” he added.
Stanton’s widow, Sonia, agreed there were issues but hoped there could be some sort of solution.
"A bike doesn't have a speedometer, so the age of a bike can mean so many different things,” she said. “If someone parks a bike in a garage and rides it twice a year for the first five years, then clearly at the end of the first five years it hasn't got anything nearly like the metal fatigue of a bike someone rides 6,000 kilometres a year. So it is difficult but I still am hopeful that difficulty can be gotten around in some way."
Jason Pye, general manager of Trek Australia and New Zealand said: "Whilst we may differ on the coroner's conclusions as the ultimate cause of the accident in this case, Trek is committed to rider safety and education and we're therefore more than happy to work with the coroner to put forward consumer and regulatory outreach on the importance of regular bicycle and safety maintenance."
In 2014, Gravesend cyclist Joseph Love launched a £1 million lawsuit against Halfords after suffering permanent facial disfigurement as a result of a crash he claimed had been caused by a faulty steerer tube.
After hearing from expert witnesses, Judge Sir Colin Mackay dismissed the claim. He found that it was probable there was nothing wrong with the bike when it was bought in May 2008.
The judge said he believed the steerer tube snapped after the cyclist hit a row of posts after he lost concentration while “riding too fast” to make up ground on his friend.