Mountain Biking - How to tell a good frame from a bad frame
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How could one go about determining whether a bike's frame is good or bad?
The reason I'm asking is because I was recently given a bike, and I have no idea of its quality.
The frame is unpainted aluminum with fairly large, visible welds. Are there any distinguishing features a well mad frame might have? a poorly made frame?
09-15-02, 06:41 AM
Usually the easiest place to see quality is in the rear dropouts (where the wheel is held).
Next time you are in a bike shop, check out the detail on the dropouts in different price ranges.
The seatpost clamp is another good sign.
The really important things, like alignment and facing of the tubes is very difficult to see, and often overlooked by bike tests. Its really easy to make a cheap frame which looks good but is badly finished inside.
09-15-02, 03:27 PM
visible welds are ok. Just look for uniformity in shape, thickness, etc. Isn't Al suppose to be painted though??
09-15-02, 09:28 PM
check to see if the beads of the welds are uniform...i believe a good weld would look like 'a string of pearls'. also check to see if the bottom bracket is clean and not sharp or rough..the surfaces of the tubes (ie: for headset/seatpost/bottombracket) should be smooth and the seatpost shouldn't scratch up going in and out.
I'm bringing it to a reputable local bike shop to get it checked out.
I dont even know what kind of bike it is:eek:
09-16-02, 07:05 PM
Get a piece of string and make sure stuff isn't ben't and all the lengths add up. Look for cracks and dings too.
the beads are very uniform, and everything seems to be perfectly straight. I didn't really bother measuring, because I don't know what the correct lengths are. Where is the serial # usually located? I need that to find out what kind of bike it is.
Every bicycle that I've owned or serviced has the serial number stamped into the lower side of the bottom bracket (BB) housing. However the some instruction manuals I’ve reviewed indicate that the rear dropouts may have the serial number stamped on the inside of it. The front fork (if a shock fork) may also have it's own serial number.
An important issue with Aluminum Frames is their design life. Unlike steel and titanium, Aluminum will only take a finite number of stress cycles. While the manufacturing engineers design "extra" strength into Aluminum Frames to accommodate this, it least one major US bicycle builder is on record for stating a five-year design life for their Aluminum Frames.
Ask the mechanics at your Local Bike Shop (LBS) about Aluminum and frame failures and there is a high likelihood you will be told to "check the welded areas carefully for any signs of cracks” Although without "calibrated eyeballs" you might miss these sure signs of structural concerns. As for paint, Aluminum is sometimes "clear coated" with a polymer that makes it appear "unpainted".
If you are intent on extreme sports use, then please do have a skilled veteran mechanic look the frame over before you attempt any maneuvers that would challenge the integrity of the machine. Today I’m replacing a font fork (Shock absorbing variety) that sheared off at the steerer tube weld during a high impact-loading maneuver. In speaking with several LBS mechanics they indicated that the evolution of the shock absorbing front fork has now moved completely away from welds on the steerer tube, they are all now force fitted into the fork crown.
Extremely important resources are the “Recalls” listed on the Consumer Safety Commission’s Web Site http://www.consumeraffairs.com/recalls/arecalls_sport.htm
Products are listed by year and vendor, also you can use it’s search engine with the serial number and find if there known significant issues with your product. There are many different bicycle vendors and models comprising thousands and thousands of individual bicycles currently on recall! The Front Fork unit that I’m replacing was on recall, which affected “24,800 mountain bikes” and was shipped to me at no charge by the vendor. Side Note: I had to request the replacement, it was not volunteered without solicitation.
Sadly the LBS community doesn’t endeavor to contact the folks to whom they sold the faulty equipment (it is the bicycle Vendor’s responsibility I was informed), however they do post the “Recalls” on their service departments bulletin boards, which is good.
And please always wear a helmet, ride within your known abilities especially in remote terrain and never ride at night. Thank you…
thanks, faith. Some good info there.
To get the most out of my trip to the LBS, what sort of questions should I ask about the frame/bike?
09-17-02, 12:55 PM
Hey Seth, do you have a digital camera or scanner capabilities. I'm sure if you post a picture here, the exhorbinant wealth of knowledge here will possibly turn out a manufacturer, just from the design of the frame.
does it look something like this? http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?s=&threadid=14099&pagenumber=3
thats my frame, its cut at the toptube and welded back together. serial # found inside of the dropout not on the bb shell.
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