Despite the snapped handlebar suffered by Mathieu van der Poel's Canyon Aeroad making all the headlines throughout recent weeks, it's not the only catastrophic cockpit failure suffered in the WorldTour this spring classics campaign.
A few days prior to Van der Poel's incident, Israel Start-Up Nation's Tom Van Asbroeck was forced to switch to his spare bike at Omloop het Niewsblad, after the failure of his Factor Ostro VAM which left his steerer tube snapped in two.
Given the uncertainties around the cause of the failure at the time, the team decided to shelve the Ostro altogether and have been using Factor's other bikes since. Meanwhile, Factor has been undertaking a thorough investigation in order to replicate the issue, so that it can be isolated and resolved.
Today, the British brand has announced its findings in a lengthy statement on its website. In which, the company has detailed its process for isolating the parts responsible, highlighted the issues found and announced a resolution for customers.
According to the statement, the failure came as a result of mechanics battling with the persistent loosening of the headset preload during classics races.
"We came to understand that the issue was the product of multiple smaller issues stacking up into a major potential problem. At its root, the primary issue the team was having was the struggle keeping preload on the headset during cobbled races," the statement read.
This helped Factor to isolate the compression plug as the culprit.
"On review of the parts the team had on hand, we found that the preload provided by their compression plug was lower than we expected. After looking at the part carefully, we determined there was a batch issue with the plug provided to the team. A batch of them received a clear anodizing treatment after sandblasting which then decreased the surface roughness and ultimately the pull-out strength."
With the pull-out strength reduced, this meant the compression plug would slip within the steerer, and the headset would loosen as a result. Combatting this, mechanics were forced to repeatedly tighten the headset at increasing torque levels.
It's here that a second problem aggravated the first because instead of a uniform expansion throughout the plug, an unexpected change in its taper meant that it expanded more at the bottom, putting uneven stress on the steerer.
In the pursuit of consistent preload security, mechanics finally took to permanently bonding the compression plug into place, tightening at the same time to ensure the headset remained secure. This compounded the stress onto a single area of the fork's steerer, in line with the over-expanded bottom portion of the compression plug.
Given the team has performed this 'fix' on all forks, Factor has been forced to replace the entire run of the team's Ostro forks before the team return to racing aboard the bike.
What does this mean for customers?
According to Factor, there have been reports of consumers suffering a similar issue with the preload, and their advice for anyone with the issue is to contact them.
"If you find yourself unable to keep preload on the headset of your OSTRO or VAM, please contact Factor for a replacement compression plug, but do not attempt to resolve the issue with over-torque."
You can do that by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
However, Factor is yet to address how customers who have already suffered this issue and attempted to resolve it by over-torquing should proceed.
In the days following Van der Poel's snapped handlebar, Canyon issued a stop-ride notice to all owners of the same handlebars while an investigation was underway.
Factor, however, chose to remain silent on the subject, and in the absence of a stop-ride notice between Van Asbroeck's incident and today, any number of additional customers may have damaged their bikes unwittingly.
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