28 February, 2015

Disappointed - REI and Volkl

I'm truly disappointed in one of my long time favorite outdoor retailers - Recreational Equipment Incorporated, or REI as you likely know them. I've been an REI member for at least 20 years and have made many purchases. One of the things I really liked about them was how well they stand behind their products.

Until now...

In March of 2013, I purchased a pair of Volkl RTM 84 skis/bindings from REI. They were on sale at a very good price. I was told that a gentleman had purchased them, didn't like them and exchanged them for a different ski. Seems like his loss is my gain, right? So I picked them up.

Great ski. Very happy with them. Skied them out West and in Michigan in everything from hockey rink ice, to a foot of fresh powder at Vail. My only complaint is that I would have gotten a little longer ski. Mine are 171's and I've now learned that rockered skis tend to ski a bit shorter. A 176 or better still a 181 would give me some more stability at speed and power through crud better. Ah well.

Volkl RTM 84 damage don't buy from REI
Nice delamination, eh?
Then this year when I was taking the Summer wax off readying for my first trip, I noticed the scraper catching at the tail. On closer inspection, I find that one edge is delaminating from the ski. Well, that's not good. Sure, it's minor now, but these are expensive skis and I want to have them for a while.

So, off to the REI store I purchased them from (Ann Arbor, Michigan) to have a chat. I speak to  representative in the ski shop who takes my skis and my receipt and says he'll talk to Volkl.

About an hour later, I get a very frustrating call. I am informed that my skis were in the REI Garage Sale and are not eligible for warranty. Oh, but it gets better. He then proceeds to tell me that the skis were warranty returns and that's why they were in the Garage Sale! Whiskey Tango Foxtrot???? Are you kidding me???? If I'd have known either of these things, I'd have never purchased them!!!!

But later I get thinking about this. That's not possible. I worked in ski and bike shops growing up and I help out some friends with their fly shop. I know how these businesses work. Warranty items go back to the manufacturer who repairs or replaces them for return to the owner. They don't go out on the shop floor for sale! So, this is either highly unprofessional on REI's part, or a lazy employee who wants to get rid of me.

I know the owner of a local Volkl dealer (where I should have shopped) so I ask him for some help. Of course he gives me some good-natured hassle about why I didn't buy from him (deserved) but says if I send him a photo, he'll ask his rep about what they can do. A few weeks pass, so I send a follow-up e-mail. Still nothing. Again, this really isn't his problem, so I don't want to push him.

OK, but now I'm mad. I look on the Volkl website -- there's pretty much nowhere to contact them and speak to a human. So it occurs to me to write the president of REI a letter. That was in January. Curiously, he has not responded. I go to the Volkl website's Contact Us page and send them an e-mail. It's been over a week and no reply from them.

Seriously - someone should step up here. My skis are still within the three year warranty (and they certainly were when I started all this back in November of last year!) and this is a legitimate manufacturers defect. C'mon REI -- you're better than this. And Volkl, shame on you for your lack of response and letting a major national retailer do this.

The right thing to do here would be to replace these skis. Now. And for my time and trouble, you might as well bump me up to the larger size. I loved the skis. When I bought my fat skis at the end of last season, I would have considered the Volkl Mantra. Not now. I'm on Blizzard Bonafides. Didn't even consider Volkl.

My advice to you? If you buy Volkl, don't buy them from a big box. Buy them from a local dealer who will stand behind the product. And don't make major purchases from REI. Stick to socks and hats.


23 February, 2015

On A Roll

Well, it's official - I'm jumping to that next level of insanity in cycling. I always thought carbon wheelsets were excessive. Why spend all that money? Are they durable enough for a 200-pounder? Will I need to have them trued every other ride?

After watching my buddy Josh make the move - and seeing how much he enjoyed his - I started to consider this. And, when Josh decided it was time to upgrade to Zipp's, I scored a deal on a lightly used pair of Roval Rapide CLX 60's.

My current wheels are great, but they were built purely for strength with little thought given to weight. Aluminum rims, standard spokes, and Shimano 105 hubs. Not fancy, but functional.

The new hoops are LIGHT. I mean like REALLY light. Hand them to a non-cyclist and they're shocked at how little they weight. Aero spokes cut some more weight and some drag. And the hubs feature Roval shells, with proven, bulletproof DT Swiss internals and sealed ceramic bearings. Yeah, I with they were Chris King's, but they'd have been triple the price I paid to build up new ones with King hubs. One feature I really like? The LOUD clicker. That was one thing that bothered me about my Shimano hubs. Too quiet.

Oh yeah, and they look effing cool...

02 February, 2015

Review: Springfield Range Officer 1911 9mm

Took my new Springfield Armory 1911 Range Officer 9mm out to shoot at Firing Line on Saturday. As this was its first outing, I was eager to see how it shot.

The Range Officer series is a stroke of genius from Springfield. Take the features competitive shooters want, remove the "bling" and other features they don't and offer great performance at a modest price. Recognizing that most shooters will want to customize it to their preferences (which is one of the things I love about the 1911), this is a great way to get a tack-driver into the hands of the masses.

9mm 1911
Whoever made the first 1911 chambered in 9mm was a freakin' genius. You get the heft, accuracy, and reliability of the 1911 in a lower-cost, softer-shooting round. My only concern was would the lighter load cycle the heavier 1911? Turned out to be no problem - not a single misfeed.

With aging eyes, I'm finding a good, easy-to-acquire sight picture can make or break a handgun for me. The Range Officer succeeds admirably in this area. The target sights are large, visible, and seem to be dead-on accurate. Adjustment looks pretty simple, but at this point I don't think I'll need to do any tweaks. I do think I will pain the back of the front blade fluorescent orange - like my Kimber - to make it easier to pick up in low light situations.

The beauty of the 1911 is its intuitive operation. For me, everything is where it should be and works as you would expect. The Range Officer is a perfect interpretation. My only complaint is the slide stop. While it reliably locks open after shooting the last round, when doing it manually, it doesn't always catch without an assist. No matter - I love the Wilson Combat Extended Slide Release and was already planning to swap the stock part out for this much better aftermarket solution.

One Weird Observation
I did notice one odd quirk - nothing bad or detrimental to shooting - just weird. I could definitely feel the slide moving when shooting. I'm not sure if it was the reduced recoil, or perhaps the 9mm cycles more slowly, but I could definitely feel the slide travel throughout the cycle. Again, it didn't affect shootability or accuracy, it was just a funny sensation.

I learn more about a gun from the first tear-down than any other point in time. The Range Officer proved equally solid on tear-down. Key components like the bushing-barrel or the slide-frame interfaces were tight and smooth. While some parts were a bit more rough, they were in less critical locations where it didn't really matter. As expected, the factory rust preventative gunk was pretty serious. It took a little blast of my go-to cleaner, Remington's RemAction, to get it all off.

Regular readers know I usually can't leave well enough alone. Surprisingly, this one has relatively few planned or considered tweaks. The include:

  • Wilson Combat Extended Slide Release - to simplify and ease slide release and provide a more positive lock-back
  • Rubber Magazine Base Pads - I've been planning to do this for both this gun and the Kimber for a while; these should make mags easier to seat
  • Full-Length Guide Rod - read online forums and the GI Spec versus Full Length debate is like politics in the Middle east; I like it on the Kimber and will probably consider it here, but I want to shoot this one some more
The Springfield Range Officer 1911 9mm offers a tremendous value - match-level quality in critical systems, without cost-escalating bells-and-whistles. If you're seeking a target pistol with good competitive potential, this one's worth a closer look.