A few days ago I noticed a bit of noise on the internet talking about a recall of some Surly bikes - Long Haul Truckers and Cross Checks to be precise. Since I own one of both I took more than a passing interest, it sounded serious. The recall seems to apply to complete bikes sold in Australia. something to do with brakes being unsafe.
I did a little research on what it's all about. There are no faulty brakes, despite what some are saying, just a lesson in what is wrong with the product recall system and the Australian Standards for bicycles.
It seems, there is concern that a bike fitted with cantilever brakes and knobby tyres, a snapped front brake cable could mean the suddenly free straddle cable drops and catches a knob and flings the rider over the bars. It has apparently happened once to someone riding a cheap bike with plastic brakes in the United States. The inevitable resulting lawsuit is here.
Such an incident can only happen on bikes without mudguards and with knobby tyres, and only on brakes set up with cantilever brakes which had straddle cables incorrectly set so short they could contact the tyre. Neither of these bikes was sold with knobby tyres. It would also only happen on bikes with no no mudguard or front reflector or light bracket, which would also deflect the cable.
In the real world, if this problem existed, it would apply to all bikes fitted with cantilever brakes. Somebody, somewhere, has decided a "brake cable catch hook" (never heard of it before) is the solution for these two bikes alone rather than correctly setting up and maintaining the bicycle. Keep in mind the only recorded case of a problem occurring happened on a completely different bike, with different tyres, and a roller pulley setup, which again neither of these bikes have.
The level of risk is so close to zero that nobody has seen fit to issue a general warning to the hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who may use cantilever brakes, despite the fact it's an easy problem to detect and remedy.
I'm told the Australian Standard now requires the hook for be fitted to all new bikes. As far as I know such a hook is not required in any other country, although the waning popularity of cantilever brakes may explain why it's not more of an issue. It's part of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission crackdown to make sure every bike sold has reflectors, a bell and two working brakes, regardless of whether the owner removes them on the way out of the shop. Surely they have more serious risks to public safety with which to occupy their time.