Saris Thelma 3 Bike rack.

The Thelma Story

Fleet Feet Little Rock
Saris Thelma 3 Bike rack.
Saris Thelma 3 Bike rack.

I don’t do product reviews at ArkansasOutside.com…yet. But I do sing the praises of companies who step up and back up their products. Having extensive retail experience and a light wallet, I know the value of good customer service and I cherish great customer service.

A few weeks ago I was returning from a mountain bike festival in Northwest Arkansas. It was late, rain was threatening and it had been a very long day. I had taken my mountain bike (both of them actually) so that I could get some riding in. I stopped at a convenience store to fuel up what Lisa calls, the mobile Arkansas Outside office, my truck, and to get a cup of coffee. After starting the gas filling process, I went inside to get my much needed coffee.

As I came strolling out of the store, ready to get back on the road and headed home a guy in a greasy beat-up shirt jumped out of an equally greasy beat-up truck and came toward me pointing at my truck and asking if I was the owner. I immediately figured that I was going to be asked for money. Then he said that he hit my bike. He said it like three times before it sunk in and I looked at the backend of my truck. I had my Saris Thelma 3 rack on the back with two bikes on it. My Giant NRS was on the first slot closest to the truck bed and my 1998 Gary Fisher Tassajara was on the last spot leaving the middle empty. But something didn’t look right. The handlebars were at a weird angle, I couldn’t see the saddle, something was wrong.

What's wrong with this picture?
What's wrong with this picture? Just to the right of the bent wheel you can see the broken rear tire holder.

As I walked around to the back of the truck my jaw dropped. The guy who had pointed it out stopped talking, I think he sensed that I was in shock and that it was best to let me get all the neurons in my head rerouted before he said anything else. The Gary Fisher was intact but the rear tire was sitting on the ground, the rear tire holder of the Thelma was busted in half, the back wheel was tacoed. Tacoed is a technical term used by cyclists for describing the folding of a wheel making it only usable as a delivery device for spiced hamburger, lettuce, sour cream and hot sauce. Also the front tire holder on the rack was cracked in three places.

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The guy had started talking again. He was apologizing and offering to pay for the damage. I said something about the wheel being irreplaceable (for you bike nerds, it’s a Mavic Crossride 26″ rim brake wheel, no longer made). He asked me for my phone number and address so he could pay for it. I told it would be better if he gave me his phone number, I also wrote down his license plate number. I don’t think he had insurance, or didn’t want to report it and I seriously doubt he could afford any of the repairs. It was refreshing to meet someone in that situation who could have driven off, stay and take responsibility.

I headed home telling myself that one of my bike wrench friends in a local bike shop could do some truing magic and straighten the wheel out. This made my drive home a little easier to handle. the next morning I went out to examine the damage and was greeted with not only a bent wheel but a cracked one. No fix for that. Good news was that Lisa’s old bike has a very similar wheel on it so after switching out tires the bike was back in working order. The bad news,  the Saris Thelma 3 was now a long Thelma 2.

Not easily fixed.
Not easily fixed.

I’ve had this bike rack for several years using it to carry bikes to Florida, Alabama and North Carolina plus all over Arkansas. It is way past any warranty period. I emailed customer service expecting to have to do it again the next day. Just a couple of hours later I got an email from Cassandra at Saris. She sent me a list of what parts I would need to replace the broken pieces. Since the rack was older, it was not designed to handle 29″ mountain bike wheels which are all the rage now. The new pieces would allow the larger wheels. The email included an approximate cost….$45…..really? This is a $400 rack with a third of it being inoperable. Only $45?

Cassandra had given me her direct number and said to give her a call if I’d like to place the order. I think I pulled something in my lunge for the phone. She picked up immediately and pulled up the list she had sent. There were three plastic pieces that I would need to replace but she had included some other hardware at no cost just in case I needed it or wanted to replace some of the older parts. Yes, I said she voluntarily offered “some other hardware at no cost” just to make sure I had everything I needed when the parts arrived.

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This was great but I was waiting for the bad news. I know this stuff is made overseas somewhere and that it would probably take a few months to actually get these parts plus of course there would be a shipping and handling charge that would make me consider just going down to the local bike shop and buying a new rack. This was Monday, she said I should have it by Friday and that they would only charge the cost of the shipping no handling charges or other costs. I gave her my credit card number and expected to have to call the following Monday asking where the parts were.

UPDATE!: Saris just told me this…”Thelma racks are manufactured in our facility in Madison, the plastic molded wheel holders come from Oconomowoc, WI.” So it’s made in the USA to boot!

Shift Frequent Shifters Club

On Thursday Lisa tells me I got a package from Saris….WOW! I mean Freakin’ WOW! All the parts were there, the repair was straight forward and took me all of about 15 minutes. I now have a new and improved Thelma 3 bike rack. I’m trying to convince Lisa that this is a sure sign that I need a new 29r mountain bike. I don’t think she believes in signs.

I’ve owned Thule, Yakima and Saris racks of various types over the years. All have worked at or above expectation and I’ve never had to contact customer service at the other manufacturers so this is in no way a hit on them but I believe that if someone asks me about a bike rack I will have to let them know about my wonderful experience with Saris customer service. Oh, and thanks again Cassandra.

The Community Bicyclist

3 Responses

  1. I’ve been looking for a nice bike rack and there were so many brands to choose from – you just made it easier for me!

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