Garmin - really doesn't care.

Thu, Dec 29, 2022 15-minute read

This is possibly one of the most disappointing tech business rants I’ve had to write because I’ve always genuinely liked Garmin as a company. Their products are generally (a) very well built and (b) work really well, it didn’t seem too much of a stretch to extend that to the company. I’ve had a load of Garmin products over the years… satnavs (including, for a time, a backup camera!), car head units with Garmin GPS built-in, a variety of sportwatches in preference to Apple Watch1, cycle GPS and assorted accessories.

Cycle trainer

I had become such a fan that even when they got hacked in 2020 and were offline ages, I cut them some slack. And so when I wanted to invest in an indoor cycle trainer, for some winter training ahead of Aconcagua and to make amends for the abortive 2022 triathlon season that despite the abundance of similarly specced and usually cheaper trainers on the market, I ruled them all out in favour of a Garmin. Which specific model was up for grabs, but I did know it would be a Garmin.

I think this is exactly the sort of brand-loyal buyer mentality that big businesses set out to acquire, and Garmin had literally grabbed me hook, line and sinker. I had the feeling that through the creation of products designed for e.g., athletes, that they genuinely cared about how and why their customers use them.

And then it sank

Given that I had no experience of an indoor trainer, I opted to buy a reasonably basic model - the Garmin Tacx Flux 2, not cheap by any standards but not all the singing-machine. I also had a theory that cycle trainers are the sort of thing that are bought by two sorts of people:

  1. Hardcore athletes who get them and absolutely rag the arse off it as part of a dedicated training plan
  2. Casual users who think it sounds like a good idea, but then barely use it all

Concerned that I would possibly (almost certainly) fit in to the second category, I also spied this as an opportunity. A secondhand model from one of those types would probably represent a decent bargain and give me a reasonably risk-free way of trying it out. And as luck would have it, I found one such individual who freely admitted they had bought one, set it up, used it twice, and then it had sat gathering dust in the garage ever since (and when I met them, they were definitely not a hardcore athlete!)

Jackpot… or so I thought.

The machine was in great condition but there was a slight issue. It came with an 11-speed Ultegra cassette and thru-axle adaptors, but I wanted to use my TT bike on it, which has a 12-speed SRAM cassette and “normal” axles. So in addition to the price of the machine I had to get a new cassette, a spare set of adaptors to allow for the different axle and the special Tacx HD-R hub (to fit the SRAM cassette.)

This however was mostly just configuration and relatively simple to do, it just took a few weeks to actually gather the bits.

Except that when all set up, and even after running the calibration on the Tacx app, the machine was just not responding as I might have expected. For starters, there was a noticeable ‘grinding’ coming from the main hub inside the trainer, but then the speed (particularl hill simulation) just did not tally up with what was going on. I spent weeks trying to adjust and recalibrate / configure with little success. I tried my other bike (which is an 11-speeed Ultegra with thru axles) and it did the same. It even got to the point where a friend loaned me his virtually identical (slightly older, and very well used trainer) - and on that, none of this behaviour was exhibited - both of my bikes were fine.

So after a few weeks of frustrating trial and error we had moreorless zeroed in on it being an issue with the trainer. What I probably should have done at this point was to just get back in touch with the seller and explain the situation. But by now it had been at least 6 weeks and, given I hadn’t entirely ruled out it being an issue of my incompetence, I felt a shot at Garmin product service was worth a go to try and get it sorted.

A sniff of a chance

I headed to and found their product support contact details and fired off an email…

I have been trying to diagnose a different problem with the trainer itself.

I have it all setup on a Tacx HD-R hub with a SRAM Eagle 12-speed cassette. It becomes very noisy as you go in to the lower gears - anywhere from 9 onwards becoming worst in 12. Elsewhere in the range seems OK.

The noise is not the classic noise of the derailleur failing to change gears; changing gear itself seems to be OK. Instead it’s more of a grinding sound.

I have tried all sorts of things to try and fix (i.e. indexing gears and adjusting and so on and nothing is helping.) I have also put a completely different bike on it (11-speed Ultregra cassette) which has the same issue.

I have then put my original 12-speed cassette and bike on a friend’s Tacx Flux S and the issue/noise is not there.

I am now clutching at straws a bit and starting to fear that it might be a problem with the trainer itself. I have a video of it happening which shows the noise - is there some way for me to send this to you so that you can hear it and offer some help or advice?

Many thanks!

They responded very quickly and helpfully and we danced back and forth with some advice / suggestions from them. Eventually it got down to them wanting to see it, which I was very happy to do…

If that does not seem to resolve the issue the trainer will need to be exchanged.
There are 2 options for the exchange.

Standard: You ship your device to us, once received we send you the replacement; this usually takes 10-14 business days.

Immediate:   With a deposit given by you, we can send the replacement device first; then once you receive the replacement device you send in your old device and the deposit is refunded within 7-10 business days. We provide free ground shipping. Expedited shipping costs vary and are an additional fee not covered by Garmin.

At this point I’m thinking - this is great! - they realise it’s an issue with the trainer so they’re going to resolve it!

Well, that was silly

Of course from here it (virtually) goes down hill. The first thing they realised was where I am, and that I am in touch with US product support - I will of course need to speak to Europe support. They promise to hand all my details over and Europe support will be in touch.

Unsurprisingly - this doesn’t happen, so I reach out to Europe support directly via their webchat. Also unsurprisingly - none of the details of my original request have been shared, so I have to go through the whole saga again (despite the fact the email address being used is still the same.) We nevertheless arrive at the same situation - they will need to replace the unit. Happy days, I think. They request all the usual stuff, proof of purchase etc. which fortunately I was able to get from the person I bought from and all seems fine.

Until the inevitable - “it’s out of warranty” rejection. This unsurprisingly not made any better by the fact it was literally days out. They can still help but I’ll need to pay £218 to receive a refurbished unit. So this is a catch-22 situation. Do nothing and have a non-working unit and be out the cost of what I paid for it. Or pay another £218 to have a hopefully working unit (but that cost would now put it at more than a brand new one.)

I decided the way out of this rock and hard place was to pay the amount, and then in theory at least I should have an as new machine. I phoned them, forked over the cash, and was told all was good. They would send me the RMA labels so that I could return the old machine and that the new machine would then be shipped out to me. (So this was the opposite of the ‘deposit’ scheme mentioned above but hey.)

Days pass and there is no contact from anyone about how to return the faulty machine. Eventually I call, and then eventually they send me the details. Boxing up an awkwardly shaped 25kg+ cycle trainer is not the easiest thing in the world but I somehow cobble it together and get it sent back that day.

Weeks pass

Three weeks pass and there is still no word from Garmin. I email them to ask for an update. No response. I contact them via webchat to be told:

[17:05:25] Alex: I have looked into this for you now, and stock for your replacement is due to arrive with us today, and we will dispatch the replacement to you as soon as possible.
[17:07:19] Matt: OK. Do you know when by chance?
[17:08:21] Alex: Should be in the next few days
[17:08:41] Matt: Will I get email confirmation?
[17:09:38] Alex: You will receive a shipping and tracking notification

A week later and still nothing. Another webchat and another ’there was a delay in the warehouse, I’ll check now and email you with what they say!’. Guess what? No email.

Shortly after, though, I receive an RMA notification, this time with a completely different amount on it - £182, telling me how I need to ship the item back to them and that once received, they will ship the replacement within 10-14 days. So despite the fact, they’ve already received the old machine back (at this point around 2 weeks previously) they’re asking me again to return it? Have they only just booked this thing in and it was me contacting them that reminded them?

Time for webchat, again

So to webchat I went (back)… my growing frustration starting to pore out.

[10:37:29] Matt: Connor - we spoke yesterday. I received the various emails you sent which are more confusing
[10:37:48] Matt: It has different prices on there about stuff and the RMA process. Fact is you've already received the trainer back.
[10:38:35] Connor : Hello, thanks for contacting Garmin. You're speaking to Connor . In order to help you further, please can I grab your serial number? Please follow the FAQ How do I identify my Product Information? if you need assistance with finding this information.
[10:40:18] Matt: xxx
[10:40:31] Connor : Thanks, what emails are you receiving? 
[10:41:00] Matt: do you recall speaking yesterday afternoon?
[10:41:09] Connor : Yes
[10:42:04] Matt: so after that, i received various emails to do with RMA / commercial invoice, instructions on how to return etc. and something saying order total of £182
[10:42:09] Matt: so i'm just totally confused about what is going on
[10:42:25] Matt: i've already paid £218
[10:42:27] Connor : As the order has a slight delay/issue I had to get it re-booked so ignore those details for now 
[10:43:45] Matt: ok. so did you get confirmation from the warehouse on when it would ship?
[10:44:52] Connor : Yes I just got an email this morning, it was directed to our old warehouse but this will ship hopefully this week 
[10:46:47] Matt: "hopefully this week" ?
[10:46:56] Connor : If not, next week 
[10:49:57] Matt: so when they told me it would ship last week, that was just... ?
[10:50:11] Connor : This was due to stock delay 
[10:55:20] Matt: OK, so why is not possible to be more specific about when it will ship? if it's now in stock etc.
[10:56:25] Matt: i'm assuming if i ordered the fancy new Neo Bike Plus or another trainer directly from the webstore it would ship quickly
[10:56:28] Connor : I have not been given a specific date when it has been shipped 
[10:56:34] Matt: "Ready to ship in 1–3 business days."
[10:56:42] Matt: but you're saying it hasn't even shipped
[10:57:15] Connor : That is correct 
[11:01:07] Matt: So there's nothing that can be done to get any clarity?
[11:01:41] Connor : Unfortunately there is no date they can provide yet other than hopefully this week.
[11:04:44] Matt: if you were in my position, do you think that would sound ok?
[11:05:11] Connor : I do apologise but this is getting processed now so it should ship this week. 
[11:05:23] Connor : I am unable to guarantee any date this week
[11:09:52] Matt: it's not great though, is it? this whole process kicked off more than a month ago. all the major suppliers have these in stock. i've got a major event in the 1st week of January and i'm so far behind on training now it's untrue.
[11:11:43] Connor : Again, I do apologise but the logistics need to be completed before the replacement can ship. This has been resolved so all that needs to be done is the trainer leaving our warehouse and that will be done hopefully this week if not, next week. 
[11:17:08] Matt: yeah, i get that but it's a bike trainer, not a nuclear weapon.
[11:17:28] Matt: so there's nothing to be done but sit here and cross my fingers?
[11:17:42] Connor : That is all I have been provided with
[11:18:02] Connor : It could ship today or tomorrow, I just can't guarantee anything sadly. 
[11:20:47] Matt: astonishing.
[11:21:08] Matt: well, see what happens. hopefully i won't have to chase it up again, but i'm sadly not going to hold my breath.

A day or so passes and then

We have been unsuccessful in processing your credit card payment for your Garmin Order or Repair. Please contact Garmin's Customer Care team at the relevant number below and reference number xxx.

What? You’ve already taken payment! Why are you taking it again? Having no time for webchat, I go back to Connor via email, and he reassures me all is fine:

Hi Matt,

Thank you for your email,

No, you will not need to as you already took payment over the phone.

Kind regards,


Garmin Europe


Subject: Re: Transcript of conversation which took place on 29/11/2022 << Ref: 23431917K1 >> 
Sent: Tue, 29 Nov 2022 07:52:26 -0600

Dear Connor

I don’t know if you’ll see this and I’m not going to start a new chat but I’ve just received another confusing email from you, saying that you have been unable to charge my credit card, which again makes no real sense.

Please advise if I do actually need to contact you about this.

Two days later…

We have been unsuccessful in processing your credit card payment for your Garmin Order or Repair. Please contact Garmin's Customer Care team at the relevant number below and reference number xxx.

This time I call, and there is no record of taking the payment, which my statement backed up, so I end up paying again on a Thursday, and was told it would ship the next day. A full week later and still no dispatch notice. I contact them again and get told there are new delays due to the holiday season (this is early December.)

It finally shipped the next day. And took 2 weeks to arrive. So now a week before Christmas and not quite 3 weeks before I’m due to leave for Argentina, I’m completely over this whole thing. If I want to do this again I’ll just get an all-in-one static bike combo. I resolved to just immediately sell this unit on, reckoning that an unopened refurbished unit would sell pretty well and just take the hit.

My fault or?

On the one hand, this tale is entirely of my own doing. Buying anything secondhand is fraught with risk, your rights as a consumer are immediately impacted and your right to redress is very limited. This is all understood.

Could I have expected Garmin to replace the faulty unit at their expense? No.

Did I expect Garmin to replace the faulty unit at their expense? Also no.

The issue here is that I had a problem with a Garmin product and I asked them for help. That brand loyalty they had won from me fooled me in to thinking that they would actually work really hard to sort it out. And whilst the whole issue was, eventually - some 2.5 months later - resolved, at no point did I get any sense that they actually cared about the fact that I had this particular issue. From the usual issues of support not talking to the warehouse, orders not getting processed, the sense that sometimes things only get chased up by them when you have chased them up, it all just boiled down to an experience that did not tally with my impression of them as a company.

Or to put it another way, if I do consider purchasing a static bike style indoor trainer in the future, whereas previously the Tacx New Bike would have been the shoe-in no-brainer, I will definitely instead consider all the options on the market.

  1. Until now that is. I now use an Apple Watch Ultra, in preference to my Fenix, for virtually all sports activities other than triathlon, and even that is under threat given the way the Watch ‘figures out’ transition, which the Fenix does not (you have to push buttons, which I invariably forget to do.) ↩︎

Posts in this Series