Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Plastic, electric OK, but hydraulic?

 Be careful who you buy from!

"Fausto" (shown above) has been a challenge, mostly due to issues with the brakes. We found a handlebar Heather likes along with the right-length stem. We've purchased a few other Bianchi bikes including two Rubino Spillo shopping bikes along with two E-Impulso Allroads, one in Piedmont and the other here in Sicily. The e-bikes were bought on-line from an authorized dealer. Other than some fiddling with the brake calipers to get them centered so they'd stop rubbing, they've been just fine.

We can't say the same about "Fausto" however. We tried to get an E-Aria from the same source but he had none but we found a slightly used one at another Bianchi dealer, Centro del Ciclismo in Pavia. They were listed on the Bianchi website so we assumed they'd be OK. What a mistake!

The bike arrived within a week of payment though the battery charger was not in the box. The seller swore up-and-down he'd packed it in the box but there was no evidence the box had been tampered with so we think he just forgot. We're still trying to get him to send it. Luckily the same charger for the other bike works but what if we didn't have another MAHLE X35 bike to borrow a charger from?

But worse, this bike's brakes were seriously screwed-up. The Shimano GRX brakes on the others have been just fine but this one with Ultegra had one problem after another! First, the rear brake simply didn't work, as in there was no stopping power but there WAS a lot of gawdawful noise. Zio Lorenzo found a fluid leak at the lever which explained why there was no braking power, then found the seals in the caliper blown out, which would explain the noise - from contaminated pads/rotor.

Zio hoped to go to his grave without ever having to delve into the world of bicycle hydraulics though he has plenty of experience with motorcycle brakes back-in-the-day. No luck, so various parts/tools were ordered.

The fluid leak at the lever seemed to be due to (how did that happen?) the hose connection not being secured properly. Luckily a few turns of a wrench seemed to take care of that, but the leak at the caliper turned out to be a stuck piston which then blew out the seals, despite having a bleed-block in place when the lever was actuated to test the now-secured hose connection.

New rear brake caliper + bleed kit + tools to cut the hose and install new fittings + new brake rotors and pads were ordered as the claims are contaminated rotors/pads can't be restored - they must be replaced. It turned out the rotors were mismatched with the rear having been replaced for some reason with a Made-in-Japan one vs the OEM Made-in-China rotor up front.

Another interesting discovery was the rear brake hardware. See that little black bracket under the caliper? The screw holding the front of that onto the frame was too short, meaning only a few threads engaged and they stripped out when things went back together. The dealer blamed all of this on Bianchi, claiming supply-chain issues meant they were building bikes with whatever parts they could source! He also said the brake noise would go away if she just kept riding. 

The bikes we got from the other Bianchi dealer, which would likely have been assembled during the same period were just fine. Hmmmm, seems like somebody who didn't know (or care?) what they were doing screwed-around with the brakes on this slightly-used bike before we got it and we find it hard to believe it was Bianchi.

Despite all this the rear brake is now centered with no leaks and no noise but WITH decent stopping power. What about the front? New rotor and pads but it drags and makes noise. GGRRrrrr! Piston seems stuck in this one too, did a leak cause contamination and noise? Just-in-case, a new caliper was ordered but in the meantime what can we do?

Cleaning the pistons to free them up seemed to work as did cleaning the pads and sanding the brand-new rotor's braking surface. No drag, no noise and it even stops now! Short test-rides are one thing, but will it work out on the road?

The dealer finally responded about the missing battery charger. He claimed he bought one for us, but now he wants us to pay for it! He never indicated the bike price didn't include the charger, how would you use the bike without one? Where's the one that came with the bike? These things sell for more than $100 online!

Perhaps the folks at Bianchi might want to have a talk with the shop owner - Alberto Riboni in Pavia? 0382 53904 is the phone number.

Zio has to admit being frustrated with this project. He prides himself on being a mechanic, someone able to figure out what the problem is, then fix it vs just throwing new parts in until the problem is solved one way or another. Back in his moto daze he used to joke about "parts-changers" with a vast arsenal of spares they could just keep changing until the problem went away. In his book they weren't very good mechanics.

But above you see more parts - this time aftermarket rotors and brake pads along with a jug of brake fluid and some shims. Shims, you ask? Swapping out brake rotors (all genuine Shimano so far) revealed not all of 'em meet the same specs. WTF? One brake rotor would end up slightly off-center between the brake pads while another would line up just fine. Zio at one point had a rotor that was noise-free installed but it dragged on one side vs another that sat squarely in the middle but squawked like mad!

So he bought a bag o'shims just-in-case he needs to reinstall the rotor that is quiet but a bit off vs the one that's centered. Sanding that one seemed (so far) to stop the noise but more just-in-case/parts-changer he now has two sets of new rotors on-hand (both genuine Shimano and aftermarket) along with brake pads (genuine and aftermarket) to match and the shims to make sure they sit exactly right in relation to the caliper.

Once the roads are dry/clean enough to take "Fausto" out for a real ride Zio will know what's next. He's hoping becoming a "parts-changer" is not it!

*Update: Zio eventually unstuck the piston in the front brake caliper and found a rotor that would sit centered between the brake pads. After bleeding the front brake both are fairly quiet and stop OK. Bianchi's customer service people responded to our complaints about the dealer and said they would look into them. 
A few days later we got a message from the dealer saying he had a charger for us and would send it. So far...nothing**. 

**Almost one year later - still nothing. We've since bought another charger at our own expense so f--k you Riboni! We noted this crook's no longer listed as a Bianchi dealer on their store-locator, so there's some justice in the world! Meanwhile, the bike works just fine with most of the spare parts collecting dust....for now.

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