Warning: This story includes an image that some readers might find disturbing
In ads posted to YouTube, Echelon brands its stationary workout bikes as an “entirely new kind of fitness experience.”
For one Toronto customer, that experience wasn’t a very good one.
Devon Allistone says a faulty pedal on a six-month-old, $1,500 bike left him with a “giant gash” on his right leg, and his multiple attempts to discuss the injury with the U.S.-based company have been unsuccessful.
“I haven’t heard a thing back, not a peep,” Allistone told CBC Toronto. “I figured they would want to talk to me sooner than later.”
The trouble started when the 43-year-old was working out on his Echelon EX-3, the company’s mid-range model of smart bike. The bikes can connect to the internet with the help of an app, giving riders an option to stream spin classes live and compete with other users around the world. They are part of a popular fitness trend.
The bikes are delivered to consumers’ doorsteps and offer a chance to get in shape at home without going to a gym, something that was immediately enticing to Allistone.
“My wife and I actually really loved the bike,” he said.
But on January 22, he said, the bolt attaching the right-side pedal to the machine suddenly sheared off, leaving only a sharp nub of metal at its base. Allistone was standing, riding with his full weight on the pedals at the time (known to spin enthusiasts as being “out of the saddle”).
The sharp edge dug into the front of his right leg, leaving a cut that, according to Allistone, eventually required 10 stitches.
“It sort of carved a trough out of my leg,” he said. “I started rushing around trying to find something to start bandaging my leg because it started bleeding everywhere.”
The freelance video editor and graphic designer said the stitches and an infection of the wound resulted in some painful days and missed work.
“It was fairly difficult to walk and the doctor made it pretty clear that I just injured myself badly and I need to stay off my feet.”
Allistone said he assembled the bike when it came, attaching each of the pedals to the crankshafts. That’s a process he had completed before on previous bikes, and until last month, he had never had a problem with pedals.
He first emailed Viatek Consumer Products, the Tennessee-based parent company of Echelon, the same day that he was injured. He sent a message and photos but got no response. He followed up several times in subsequent weeks by both email and telephone, but no one ever got back to him to discuss the incident.
“I mean, even just an email saying, ‘Yes, we got your message. We’re working on it,’ would have been fine,” he said.
Multiple attempts by CBC Toronto to reach both Echelon and Viatek Consumer Products for comment went unanswered.
Ken Whitehurst, executive director of the Consumers Council of Canada, said Allistone’s struggle to get in touch with the manufacturer is not uncommon when dealing with some big companies.
“It’s not the case that every company is worried that a possible problem with their products will damage their brand,” he said.
Whitehurst added that, in a situation like this, consumers can register a complaint with Health Canada but there is little immediate recourse, financially speaking, short of a civil lawsuit.
As for Allistone, he wants Echelon to refund his money and take the bike off his hands.
“I don’t know what else to do with it. I’ll never use it again,” he said, adding that he wouldn’t feel right selling or donating the bike.
“I already gave them my trust once and got pretty badly injured for it.”