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Old 02-09-08, 03:51 PM   #1
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Are my bikes junk?

I know they're not, but it seems like I'm always working on them. In fact, I need two bikes because it seems like one is always down for repairs. I've been thinking of getting a third but then that would be just one more thing to take care of.

I own a Trek 820 mtb that cost me around $275 and a Raleigh Passage that cost $400. I ride an average of 14 miles/day - 4 on pavement and 10 on gravel. From what I remember in the last 2 years I've had a broken axel, several sets a wheel bearings, cables, a new brake, an upgrade from freewheel to freehub, and recently I retorqued the spokes on the rear wheel - just on the Trek. That does not include daily maintenance like chain cleaning/lube, brake adjustment, etc.
I've had the Raleigh for a year and I just found a broken spoke on it this morning. Other than that it's been pretty much free from breakdowns. I've only done daily maintenance and tire changes on it. I feel like I'm pretty good to my bikes. Except once the Trek got completely submerged in water for a very short time.
Its nice that I'm learning to work on bikes, but it seems like I do an awful lot of that. I have one question; If I get something expensive like a Hurly Long Haul Trucker or a Trek 520 would there be a noticeable difference in quality?
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Old 02-09-08, 03:56 PM   #2
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That's a lot of stuff to go wrong. Bearings should last for years and I've never broken an axle. New cables are a fact of life every few years. Truing wheels you just have to do sometimes.

What part of the brake did you replace?

I gotta tell you, though, for $675, you could have a Specialized Sirrus or other nice, practical hybrid, which sounds like what you need. You could probably get a pretty mighty bike used, too.
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Old 02-09-08, 03:58 PM   #3
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Take a photo of both bikes.

You are right in that there is a certain point where a bike isn't worth throwing any money into. Can't tell from your description of repairs. Brake adjustmens shouldn't need to be daily maintanence Cables should be normal to have to replace, wheel bearings as well.

Brake - maybe if you've used it for a long time. Wheels shouldn't be losing tension or going out of true frequently enough to be a problem.
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Old 02-09-08, 05:30 PM   #4
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How heavy are you? If you're a Clyde, minor wheel truing may be necessary unless you invest in a set of heavy duty wheels. Even then.....
Gravel roads may be a bit tougher on wheel bearings, due the constant "rattle". When you replace bearings, you do ALL of them, don't you? Mixing isn't recommended.
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Old 02-09-08, 07:05 PM   #5
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All bikes require maintenance regardless of price or they will eventually ride like crap. You can do the work yourself or pay someone to do it. That's the way it goes.
Your bikes are at the bottom of the range in price and quality but if you like them and ride them that's all that matters. What it does seem is that you have the wrong type of bikes for the riding you do. Your mix of gravel and pavement really calls for a cross or touring bike with thin cross tire which would give you good traction on the gravel and won't slow you too much on the pavement. + you would get drop bars which are more comfortable on pavement. If money is tight look for one used. The nice thing about buying used is that you can try the bike and sell it without loosing money if it doesn't work for you.
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Old 02-09-08, 09:46 PM   #6
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I am just over 200lbs. I think that spoke has been broken for quite some time. I only just now looked closely at it because I only recently learned how to true a wheel.
The Raleigh has been a good, dependable bike for me so far. It is also a very comfortable ride. The Trek has been nickel and diming me to death. And, I'm only good for 20-30 mile rides on it before it just gets too uncomfortable.
I've been thinking of a cross or touring bike but I don't know what's all out there. I would like a bike that I could take out on overnight trips to places about 35 miles away. And I would like that bike to be a good ride on gravel as well as pavement.
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Old 02-09-08, 10:19 PM   #7
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Part of the problem could be your style.

I've ridden with guys that could break nearly any bike they sat on. It wasn't the weight because a few of them were more than 50 lbs less than me, and riding a very similar quality level bike. They just seem to ride the bike harder.

I'm not talking about riding more, riding rougher trails or even them pulling away from me, it is just technique and style that's different.

Let's say two riders are riding right next to one another down a trail. There's a log across the trail, and the rider on the left preloads the tires, rebounds and bunnyhops his weight upwards to clear the log, then on the way down relaxes legs and arms to cushion the landing, taking the impact up in his limbs instead of letting the bike take all the force.

The rider on the right side also preloads, but hesitates a bit longer, smacks the rear tire on the log to get more loft, and on the way down stiffens arms and legs letting the tires, wheels, cranks and frame take up the impact of the landing.

Which rider do you think will experience more mechanical failures?

I'm not accusing you of any bad technique, just pointing out that perceptions vary and that some riders are very smooth, others ride very hard on the bike. The additional stresses can and will lead to more failures.
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Old 02-10-08, 04:35 AM   #8
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From what I remember in the last 2 years I've had a broken axel, several sets a wheel bearings, cables, a new brake, an upgrade from freewheel to freehub, and recently I retorqued the spokes on the rear wheel - just on the Trek. That does not include daily maintenance like chain cleaning/lube, brake adjustment, etc.
Replaced several sets of wheel bearings? Something ain't right. Dat's fo sho.
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Old 02-10-08, 07:37 AM   #9
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When a bike manufacturer designs a bike they start with what they want the retail price to be and work backward to decide what they can afford to give you for that much money. As a general rule they upgrade the rear derailleur because that's the first part most customers look at and downgrade the parts that people don't notice.

If you want a reliable smooth operating commuter bike you have to reverse that thinking.

To me wheels, brakes and bottom brackets are the 3 biggies.

A Shimano hub laced to a Velocity Aero Heat rim in 26" or Dyad in 700c by a competant wheel builder will be very reliable. Put your money into the rim. Lower end Shimano hubs are fine. Every time you move up through the Shimano groups, the price basically doubles. Straight 14 gauge spokes are also fine for 1/2 the price of DB. The most important thing is build quality and that's not rocket science so much as attention to detail.

ProMax linear pull brakes SUCK. The lower end Shimano V-brakes are soooo much nicer to keep adjusted and are priced so low that I wonder why the bike manufacturers don't use them.

Square taper cartridge bottom brackets are gradually going away. This is a good place to step up in quality because the better ones last much longer. The mid-range Shimano cartridge bottom brackets are getting progressively difficult to source. If your bike has one and you can find a replacement, buy two so you'll have a spare when you need it.

If you keep your bike reasonably clean, everything will work better and last a lot longer.
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Old 02-10-08, 08:52 AM   #10
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When a bike manufacturer designs a bike they start with what they want the retail price to be and work backward to decide what they can afford to give you for that much money. As a general rule they upgrade the rear derailleur because that's the first part most customers look at and downgrade the parts that people don't notice.

If you want a reliable smooth operating commuter bike you have to reverse that thinking.

To me wheels, brakes and bottom brackets are the 3 biggies.

A Shimano hub laced to a Velocity Aero Heat rim in 26" or Dyad in 700c by a competant wheel builder will be very reliable. Put your money into the rim. Lower end Shimano hubs are fine. Every time you move up through the Shimano groups, the price basically doubles. Straight 14 gauge spokes are also fine for 1/2 the price of DB. The most important thing is build quality and that's not rocket science so much as attention to detail.

ProMax linear pull brakes SUCK. The lower end Shimano V-brakes are soooo much nicer to keep adjusted and are priced so low that I wonder why the bike manufacturers don't use them.

Square taper cartridge bottom brackets are gradually going away. This is a good place to step up in quality because the better ones last much longer. The mid-range Shimano cartridge bottom brackets are getting progressively difficult to source. If your bike has one and you can find a replacement, buy two so you'll have a spare when you need it.

If you keep your bike reasonably clean, everything will work better and last a lot longer.
All of this is good advise but the OP is breaking thing way too often to explain it by just inferior parts on low-level bikes. Something in his riding style or mechanical skill level is making the situation far worse than it should be. Wordbiker makes some excellent points.
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Old 02-10-08, 04:25 PM   #11
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I never touched the front axel and bearings. One day I noticed some wobble. I removed the wheel and there was way too much play in the bearings so I took them apart and cleaned them (the locknuts that lock the cones had come loose). I noticed a small crater in one of the cones so I ordered a new axel, bearings, and cones from my lbs. That accounts for one set of bearings.
Before that, I was riding along one day and noticed some wobble in the rear axel. Took it apart and the axel came out in two pieces. I had never serviced it, so neither one of these failures could have been caused by my wrenching.
I put a new axel, bearings, cones in the rear. About a year later I took that apart to clean it and noticed that some of the bearings were dark and pitted. That is when I upgraded to a freehub. After a couple of days riding my new rear wheel with freehub I noticed some bad wobble and many loose spokes.
That's the wheel I learned wheel truing on.
I am very stocky and muscular. I'm thinking maybe the Trek just wasn't built for someone my size.
Other than the spoke on the Raleigh, it has been trouble free.
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Old 02-10-08, 04:33 PM   #12
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I never touched the front axel and bearings. One day I noticed some wobble. I removed the wheel and there was way too much play in the bearings so I took them apart and cleaned them (the locknuts that lock the cones had come loose). I noticed a small crater in one of the cones so I ordered a new axel, bearings, and cones from my lbs. That accounts for one set of bearings.
Before that, I was riding along one day and noticed some wobble in the rear axel. Took it apart and the axel came out in two pieces. I had never serviced it, so neither one of these failures could have been caused by my wrenching.
I put a new axel, bearings, cones in the rear. About a year later I took that apart to clean it and noticed that some of the bearings were dark and pitted. That is when I upgraded to a freehub. After a couple of days riding my new rear wheel with freehub I noticed some bad wobble and many loose spokes.
That's the wheel I learned wheel truing on.
I am very stocky and muscular. I'm thinking maybe the Trek just wasn't built for someone my size.
Other than the spoke on the Raleigh, it has been trouble free.
So Hillrider's comment not-with-standing, those problems all sound to me like marginal quality wheel woes. Thanks for your response.
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Old 02-10-08, 07:07 PM   #13
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So Hillrider's comment not-with-standing, those problems all sound to me like marginal quality wheel woes. Thanks for your response.
True, if the problems occured on as-received wheels that had not been worked on, then yes, something was really poor quality to begin with.

It may come down to the cheap tool rule; "buy cheap, buy twice." However, given that the bikes were Trek and Raleigh, even to low part of their lines, I'm surprised they have been so much trouble. Wal-Mart or Target? No question, but Trek and Raleigh surprise me.
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Old 02-10-08, 07:54 PM   #14
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However, given that the bikes were Trek and Raleigh, even to low part of their lines, I'm surprised they have been so much trouble. Wal-Mart or Target? No question, but Trek and Raleigh surprise me.
Yeah. Right. I'm not surprised at all.
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Old 02-10-08, 08:27 PM   #15
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Most of the problems you listed are based in tuning. When your wheels have too much bearing play, they allow the forces of riding to become impacts on a much smaller ammount of ball contact area. When a bearing is tight the force is distributed evenly and will not harm itself other than routine wear, which can need as much as monthly or twice monthly regreasing per wheel due to the gravel at your mileage level. The same principle applies to the bottom bracket as well, assuming it is an open-ball type instead of the cartridge type.
Wheel spoke tension is critical as well. The spokes should be evenly tensioned and fairly tight when held. My wheels make somewhat of a resonance when they are tensioned propperly and I have had no spoke failures in almost 9 years of mountain bike racing and playing around. This is something that also requires an occasional check up. Ideally, once the tension is set right, the wheel is good for a long time. The reality however is that it should be checked when the problems are minor and not allowed to be major. The bikes you have are not junk by themselves, but they could use a good makeover tuneup. I used to do them as a service to my neighborhood all the time for 20 bucks a bike because they are so easy.
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Old 02-10-08, 09:08 PM   #16
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Most of the problems you listed are based in tuning.
I disagree, at least to a point.

I suppose the loose front axle cones could have happened on any hub, but it's much more common at the low end.

The broken rear axle was due to the inferior design inherent to a 7-speed freewheel.

The discolored rear bearings are caused by water intrusion due to inferior hub seals.

A semi-common thread is somebody asking what the real differences are between low end bike store bikes or even department store bikes and the more expensive ones. To me that's a difficult question because all bikes have essentially the same features. The differences are related to quality and they pop up for somebody who's trying to maintain a smoothly operating bike. I think that's what's happening here.
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