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Old 06-06-07, 07:19 AM   #1
mattface
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Beat Cannondale frame at the bike coop. what would you have done?

I;ve been working at my local bike coop as a head mechanic for a couple hours each week. A couple weeks ago at the bike coop, a guy brought in his old Cannondale MTB that he's been using and abusing as a beater commuter for years. The rear wheel keeps popping out of the dropouts, and at first I thought it was because the rear wheel bearings were pretty much seizes, so we gave him a used wheel and sent him on his way.

Last night he came back, and said it works much better now, but the wheel is still popping out on steep hills. So I put the rear wheel in real tight, put it in the lowest gear with the front wheel against the wall, stepped on a pedal and proceeded to watch the frame flex like a noodle as the rear wheel popped out. Inspecting the frame I discovered a hole in the non drive side chainstay right where it's welded to the Bottom bracket, and both vertical dropouts have the front edge ground down from the wheel sliding forward so many times. He said that hole has been there as long as he's had that bike.

My diagnosis was "This frame is shot you shouldn't ride it any more", but I was also on my way out, and the next head mechanic was taking over, so I asked his opinion. Then he started trying to jerry rig an old Derailer hanger to capture the axle on the drive side so it couldn't pull forward. Now this plan might work to keep the axle from pulling out, but even if it does I don't feel comfortable suggesting there is anything that can be done to make this frame rideable again.

The primary purpose of the bike coop is to help people make sure their bikes are safe, and to help make biking affordable to all. I tried to make it clear I didn't feel that frame was safe, but other mechanics were more concerned with trying to make it work for this guy. I would have rather move his parts to another frame. He felt like he didn't want a "downgrade" now this once was a nice frame, but with all that flex, and the wheel popping out, and the potential for catastrophic failure, I feel like a gaspipe huffy would be an upgrade.

I tried to make it clear I felt that this bike was due unsafe, and that solving the wheel slipping problem would only serve to put a bandaid on a broken bone. But everyone else seemed determined to make it work for him. Now the guy is a hammerhead who apparently thinks nothing of pounding around on seized up wheelbearings, I'm thinking that the wheel slipping was just another sign of failure that he's choosing to ignore. He'll keep riding that thing until he can't. He'll ride that frame until it breaks, and I wouldn't dream of trying to stop him, but ethically I think it's wrong to help him do it.

I realize no professional shop would have touched that with a ten foot pole, but bike coops have a sort of a make-do attitude, which I think is great up to a point. We fix a lot of bikes for $15 or $20 worth of used parts that the bike shop would turn away, because the cost of new parts was prhibitive. In the end I guess I did the best I could in trying to explain why an aluminum frame in that kind of condition was not worth jerry rigging, but how would you have handled it.
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Old 06-06-07, 07:22 AM   #2
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I feel you should bring the co-op coridinator/facilitator in to the loop and respect his opinion.
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Old 06-06-07, 07:34 AM   #3
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I feel you should bring the co-op coridinator/facilitator in to the loop and respect his opinion.
Well he was right there, and he was the one who came up with the idea to use the old derailer hanger. The thing is I'm a better mechanic than he is, and he usually asks MY opinion on stuff. The other head mechanic who was actually helping the guy do this is as good a mechanic as I am, but all his experience is with old steel. He's really got no experience with Aluminum frames, and I guess he doesn't have the same feeling that I do that an aluminum frame with a hole in it, and the dropouts ground down is not something you want to puck around with. Once again I think the "make it work attitude" was clouding common sense judgement on this one.

I suppose you could say I DID respect their judgement. I didn't chain myself to the bike and refuse to let them fix it, but I did make it clear that in my opinion this frame was due for failure. Thing is even though members sign a release, that doesn't really free us from liability, and furthermore I think helping someone fix a frame that likely to break just seems ethically irresponsible.
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Old 06-06-07, 08:07 AM   #4
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Then document the incident and go on record as it being AMA to ride the bike. What more can you do?
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Old 06-06-07, 08:17 AM   #5
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Then document the incident and go on record as it being AMA to ride the bike. What more can you do?
+1. As long as the guy knows your opinion (and that you're the most knowledgeable mechanic at the co-op) that's the most you can do. You could even tell him that you don't think it's ethical for you to work on the bike because you're only enabling something dangerous. (Although that's a comparable argument to why religious people favor abstinence-only sex-ed and think it unethical to hand out condoms.)
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Old 06-06-07, 08:21 AM   #6
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If you've made your opinion clear to the owner you've done what you can do.
Edit: Didn't see timcupery's post above.
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Old 06-06-07, 08:25 AM   #7
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If you've made your opinion clear to the owner you've done what you can do.
Edit: Didn't see timcupery's post above.
Yeah you're right. Sometimes stuff like this sticks in my head.
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Old 06-06-07, 08:31 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by timcupery
+1. As long as the guy knows your opinion (and that you're the most knowledgeable mechanic at the co-op) that's the most you can do. You could even tell him that you don't think it's ethical for you to work on the bike because you're only enabling something dangerous. (Although that's a comparable argument to why religious people favor abstinence-only sex-ed and think it unethical to hand out condoms.)
Sometimes you have to stand for what you believe in, wether or not others share the same view.
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Old 06-06-07, 08:49 AM   #9
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(Although that's a comparable argument to why religious people favor abstinence-only sex-ed and think it unethical to hand out condoms.)
Actually I think the comparable argument would be refusing to help him put the condom on

In this case though I feel it's more like refusing to help him put on a leaky condom so he can go have sex with a prostitute.
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Old 06-06-07, 01:06 PM   #10
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I think you were right in your judgement. I'm on an old Cdale, and it doesn't flex like a noodle, ever.
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Old 06-06-07, 01:11 PM   #11
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Does the co-op have liability insurance?
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Old 06-06-07, 01:14 PM   #12
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Does the co-op have liability insurance?
We're working on it. The liability waiver only goes so far.
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Old 06-06-07, 01:19 PM   #13
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I'm guessing an insurer would prefer you not "fix" an unsafe frame.
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Old 06-06-07, 07:34 PM   #14
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Have you checked that the axle isnt too long for the dropouts?
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Old 06-06-07, 07:39 PM   #15
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Have you checked that the axle isnt too long for the dropouts?

Yup, and the previous wheel was a nutted solid axel. the dropouts are all ground down.
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Old 06-06-07, 09:26 PM   #16
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We're working on it. The liability waiver only goes so far.
Personally, I would not have touched the bike and let him on his way. Its a lose lose situation and even with liability insurance, its pretty dicy.

I know the whole philosophy behind a bike co-op but in that case of trying to make a cheap fix could cost him his life.

Toss the frame and help him swap parts onto a new one
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