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Old 09-26-04, 04:42 PM   #1
barndog
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frame lifespan

Hello,

Recently purchased a Trek 820 steel frame and was wondering if could get some experienced opinion on how long this thing might last. Most likely, I'll probably upgrade to an aluminum frame when $ permits but was thinking about keeping this bike as a secondary for friends and relatives who might want to ride with me. Its not a high end steel by any means (just high tensile), but if I keep the paint pretty much on this thing and keep it clean, how long can a person expect it to last? I don't live in a salt air environment and probably won't be exposing it to too much hard elemant riding. Any info is most appreciated. Thx.
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Old 09-26-04, 05:16 PM   #2
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Steel is a life time frame. Its primary enemies are rust, both internal and external, and
accidental injuries such as Tboning the bike into an immovable object and bending
the frame/fork. Steel frames do break but it is really hard to do so. They prefer to
bend, and in theory, though not practical, the tubing can be replaced. For inexpensive frames it is not worth it. The important difference is that it takes major trauma for a steel frame to fail and
they do so gracefully. On the other hand Al frames are a bit more fragile and frame failure is not unheard of.
They have a limited though high tolerance for repetitive stress, but unlike steel Al
does crack. Lifespan of an Al frame is indeterminate but limited. The average rider
(3-5kmiles/yr) will probably not run into a frame failure more often than every 7-15
yrs. Riders I ride with have had two frames fail, one the head tube cracked in a run
of the mill fall down at 18mph, frame was 1-2yrs old. The other, at 7yrs and 30k+mi
got squishy in the BB and investigation showed a crack around the downtube at the
BB. Neither of these are expected failures, many Al frames will probably be around
longer than their owners will have any interest, but Al has a much higher potential
for failure. Steve
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Old 09-26-04, 05:27 PM   #3
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I ride a late seventies Trek all the time (ANd occasionally a '82 Cannondale)
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Old 09-26-04, 05:28 PM   #4
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patience, dawg, no need to cross-post... all answers come to those who wait
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Old 09-26-04, 11:11 PM   #5
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I ride a 84 Trek steel frame that has over 140,000 miles on it, and it still isn't worn out...except the decals are faded.
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Old 09-27-04, 06:40 AM   #6
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I have a steel Trek 300 from about the early nineties, and it's still ridable. I also have a 1996 OCLV carbon 5200 which also shows no age. Of the four main frame materials (carbon, steel, titanium, aluminum) most people would say that Al is the least durable. However, except for the lightest/thinnest/stiffest aluminum (ie: the ones that tend to crack the easiest) most frames out there will outlast the rider.
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Old 09-27-04, 04:04 PM   #7
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Not really being a answer of the question, but, the most important aspect is not when or if it is breaking but HOW! I rather have a nice gentle steel frame brakedown so I got time to stop (I would have to be blind not to see damages to the frame before I start riding). While on a Al frame it says "snap" and if I happen to be riding downhill, well, ask the guy that finds you in some bush to call the dentist, you are going to need it.
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Old 09-27-04, 05:00 PM   #8
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I'm riding\ jumping a 14 y old chromoly frame. if I keep pounding it like this, the bb will start to over-flex> i'm getting a phone# tonight of a welder\ bike freak and will discuss with him the possibility of welding structural gussets to the chainstay\ bb\ lower front tri.

I love my steel frame THAT much.
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Old 09-27-04, 06:30 PM   #9
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Anyone want to throw out some ideas on preventing rust (internal)?
I have a steel frame I use year round and for 'cross and it gets WET here in Portland, OR! Had my frame painted about a 1 1/2 years ago so am assuming that helped (it was dip stripped but don't know if anything was applied internally).
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Old 09-27-04, 06:38 PM   #10
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Boeshield T-9 or JP Weigel frame saver will both do the job.
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Old 09-27-04, 07:14 PM   #11
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Does anybody think there is a difference in ride smoothness between high tensile and chromoly?
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Old 09-27-04, 07:20 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cbPDX
Anyone want to throw out some ideas on preventing rust (internal)?
I have a steel frame I use year round and for 'cross and it gets WET here in Portland, OR! Had my frame painted about a 1 1/2 years ago so am assuming that helped (it was dip stripped but don't know if anything was applied internally).
Framesaver, or boiled linseed oil and a drain hole in the BB shell.
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Old 09-27-04, 07:26 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barndog
Does anybody think there is a difference in ride smoothness between high tensile and chromoly?
Chromoly as a choice for frames is for strength not smoothness. It's probably a tiny bit harsher, but will not 'noodle' after a just couple years (depends how hard you are on the bike).

Last edited by jeff williams; 09-28-04 at 12:29 PM.
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Old 09-28-04, 12:24 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barndog
Hello,

Recently purchased a Trek 820 steel frame and was wondering if could get some experienced opinion on how long this thing might last. Most likely, I'll probably upgrade to an aluminum frame when $ permits but was thinking about keeping this bike as a secondary for friends and relatives who might want to ride with me. Its not a high end steel by any means (just high tensile), but if I keep the paint pretty much on this thing and keep it clean, how long can a person expect it to last? I don't live in a salt air environment and probably won't be exposing it to too much hard elemant riding. Any info is most appreciated. Thx.
Hi
Stop worrying, your Trek frame has a lifetime warranty. If you really want to go wild, coat the inside of the tubes with automotive rust inhibitor such as Waxoyl.
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Old 09-28-04, 12:45 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cbPDX
Anyone want to throw out some ideas on preventing rust (internal)?
I have a steel frame I use year round and for 'cross and it gets WET here in Portland, OR! Had my frame painted about a 1 1/2 years ago so am assuming that helped (it was dip stripped but don't know if anything was applied internally).
Consider this from Jobst Brandt:

Forget it. The whole idea of rusting out from the inside is a hypothetical consideration brought on
by frame failures that occurred from someone leaving rag or paper stuffing in a seat tube (the tube
that ingests all the water) that subsequently became a rust wick.

If you make sure the clamp slit at the seat post is sealed (thick grease is good enough) there won't
be enough moisture in the frame to cause significant rust. Back in the days when everyone rode
steel, internal rust was not a problem over 20 years of commuting in all weather or more. Frame
saver is a boutique elixir sold by fear mongering. I've ridden unprotected steel frames since the
1950's and never had a rust problem. But what if...???

Jobst Brandt jobst.brandt@stanfordalumni.org Palo Alto CA
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Old 09-28-04, 11:53 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dafydd
patience, dawg, no need to cross-post... all answers come to those who wait
Cross posting, ohhhhhh... what a rebel. He can his question whenever, wherever he wants. Someone who reads the Mechanice section may not read the vintage section and so forth. I actually recommend it for quicker results.
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Old 09-29-04, 05:45 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barndog
Does anybody think there is a difference in ride smoothness between high tensile and chromoly?
I've been agonising over your question since yesterday, and i'm not happy with the half-baked answer I gave earlier.

I think there's a difference between something like a crappy Tange frame and a REALLY crappy hi-tensile frame. Some "average" hi-tensile will ride ok, but add another kilo, and it will feel like complete junk. So, what brand is your frame?

I've got a slightly better, but still somewhat vague answer: cro-mo "dances" better when you get out of the seat. A nice bike sort of feels like it "comes with you" when you accelerate out of the saddle, and crapper bikes feel like they don't jump off the seat with you, and you have to sit back down and grind because it won't do as it's told.

That's still a crap answer.

My Tange bike (Tange 4) is actually just bearable, but it doesn't "dance".

Steel has a reputation for being forgiving and therefore comfortable, but I suspect if you had a VERY heavy steel frame, it would not have much flex at all, so a cro-mo bike should be smoother.

But having said all that, the relationship money and ride quality isn't linear, so don't expect to go from a $500 bike to a $3000 bike and get a ride that is 6 times better.

Last edited by 531Aussie; 09-29-04 at 07:38 AM.
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