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  1. #1
    car guy, recovering aixaix's Avatar
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    How common is injury from steel frame or fork failure?

    Several recent C&V threads got me thinking about this. I've seen many bent and broken steel frames and forks, but haven't had first-hand or even second-hand knowledge of people injured because of frame and fork failure. To be clear, plenty of folks get hurt when frames/forks get bent, but I really wonder how common it is for them to fail in such a way as to hurt the rider, absent any collision or other component failure (derailleur in the spokes, brake caliper falling off, e.g.).
    I suspect that steel frame failures are almost never catastrophic. The ones I've seen have come apart in one spot (separation behind the head tube or above the BB most often) but haven't caused the frame to collapse. Still, I'd like to hear from anyone who has been hurt or knows somebody who has when a steel frame or fork failed all on its own.

    Thanks!

    P.S. If this subject has already generated a thread I apologize for not finding it, and would be grateful for a link.
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  2. #2
    johnliu@earthlink.net jyl's Avatar
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    I don't know anyone who has been injured by a failure of a steel fork or frame, and I've never heard IRL (in real life) of anyone being hurt like that, other than stories on the Internet. I imagine it happens, but is so rare than you'd do better to worry about crashing on wet leaves, getting clipped by a car, running into another cyclist, and all the other things that are actual threats.
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  3. #3
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Steel fork (actually, steerer tube) of death -- Viscount.

    I have broken three frames while riding -- chainstay, bottom bracket, downtube; none of these failures came anywhere near endangering me. Snapping a Sugino crank at the pedal eye on an out-of-saddle climb was a different story ... .
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  4. #4
    Decrepit Member Scooper's Avatar
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    I've tried unsuccessfully to find statistics on bicycle frame/fork failures for different materials, and I think consumers are basically being kept in the dark. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I might even think this is being done on purpose. 'ya think?

    Looking at CPSC recall notices and product liability lawsuits are two data sources I thought might be helpful, but it doesn't seem like anyone has tabulated the data available into meaningful numbers.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member fender1's Avatar
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    I would imagine the injury/failure ratio is relatively low across the board. The carbon stuff seems to fail more dramatically, so it would logically get more attention.

    When I was 13, I had a friend who rode my bmx bike off a set of stairs. The (steel) fork snapped about half way up the fork leg. He spent 3 days in the hospital and needed a fair amout of dental surgery to set things right (face plant). Clearly, it was the use/mis-use of the the rider but I still think about that fork and try not to push things too far when I am riding.

  6. #6
    Senior Member jeirvine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E View Post
    Snapping a Sugino crank at the pedal eye on an out-of-saddle climb was a different story ... .
    I was about to post the same thing. I'm far more worried about a chain or crank snapping than I am of a steel frame going.
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    I had the steerer tube fail on our tandem's fork almost 40 years ago and still have a slight scar on my hand as a reminder. Looks like one of the balls in the lower race may have cracked and the pieces started to wear a groove in the steerer tube until it suddenly gave way entirely and the fork/front wheel separated from the bike. The bottom of the head tube impacted the pavement and my chin and hands took most of the impact. The back of the bike stayed up and my wife wasn't injured. A frame builder replaced the steerer tube and reshaped the dented head tube and we still have the bike.

  8. #8
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E View Post
    Steel fork (actually, steerer tube) of death -- Viscount.
    Wasn't that aluminum?
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  9. #9
    Senior Member sauze's Avatar
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    The only injury I've sustained from mechanical failure is my chain snapping crossing a busy intersection. That sucked.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by sauze View Post
    The only injury I've sustained from mechanical failure is my chain snapping crossing a busy intersection. That sucked.
    Ouch.

    I have seen a disaster waiting to happen though. A Windsor Professional, customer complained of the headset not staying in adjustment. Remove the front wheel, remove the front brake on the way to taking it apart and the fork fell away from the steerer, the brake mounting bolt was holding things together. No idea what held it together initially, the chrome plating?

    The other issue was a well known So Cal racer of the 70's who liked Hi-E equipment, his aluminum skewer let go while in a turn and the fork spiked the ground, he rolled over the front. The fork splayed quite a bit apart. Requiring a new fork.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Hoss Cartright's Avatar
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    In Northern climates, rain water will accumulate in the steerer tube by seeping around the quill-stem and will then expand when it freezes. This will sometimes cause a fracture of the front fork.

    In the early spring a couple of years ago, the neighbor kid had the front fork snap-off at the base of the steerer. Right in front of the library he crashed and several people witnessed it, thankfully he was not going too fast at the time. He had a little endo and he bit his tongue a little but otherwise not hurt bad enough to go to the hospital. His parents asked me to look at the failure and it was obvious that it had expanded and cracked. The steerer tube was split and expanded vertically as well. Their bikes lay in the yard all year, so this is how I explained it. (This failure was actually on an old USA made Schwinn, and I have seen this a few times over the years)
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  12. #12
    Senior Member rootboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aixaix View Post

    P.S. If this subject has already generated a thread I apologize for not finding it, and would be grateful for a link.
    Crikey, Aixaix! You haven't been around much. There's been at least a dozen threads on this subject. Get with it, man!

    Actually, I have no empirical evidence. Just bored, I guess.

  13. #13
    Senior Member RobbieTunes's Avatar
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    I've not seen injury from any kind of frame failure, in person, ever.
    Last edited by RobbieTunes; 08-13-14 at 06:00 PM.

    Robbie ♪♫♪...☻

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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoss Cartright View Post
    In Northern climates, rain water will accumulate in the steerer tube by seeping around the quill-stem and will then expand when it freezes. This will sometimes cause a fracture of the front fork.

    In the early spring a couple of years ago, the neighbor kid had the front fork snap-off at the base of the steerer. Right in front of the library he crashed and several people witnessed it, thankfully he was not going too fast at the time. He had a little endo and he bit his tongue a little but otherwise not hurt bad enough to go to the hospital. His parents asked me to look at the failure and it was obvious that it had expanded and cracked. The steerer tube was split and expanded vertically as well. Their bikes lay in the yard all year, so this is how I explained it. (This failure was actually on an old USA made Schwinn, and I have seen this a few times over the years)
    The Schwinn forks I had came with a hole in the bottom, which could let water out except if there was a fender mounted, then you would have a flask.

  15. #15
    Ellensburg, WA scozim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E View Post
    Snapping a Sugino crank at the pedal eye on an out-of-saddle climb was a different story ... .
    Someone here locally had that happen a couple of years ago - two fractured ribs, broken hand and sprained wrist - this has me more worried than frame failure
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  16. #16
    Disco Infiltrator Darth Lefty's Avatar
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    The fork bent on my 1990-ish Novara MTB, in about 1997. Too many fat kid wheelies landed! But I didn't crash.

    In long hindsight, if I were smart and knew better, I could have rolled it into an REI and probably gotten a new bike.

  17. #17
    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E View Post
    Steel fork (actually, steerer tube) of death -- Viscount.
    Quote Originally Posted by himespau View Post
    Wasn't that aluminum?
    The blades and crown were a single, solid aluminum casting onto which a steel steer tube was pressed and pinned into place. The pins were apparently the failure site for these forks, although I have yet to hear of an authenticated report of someone who was injured by a Lambert/Viscount fork failure.

  18. #18
    Senior Member auchencrow's Avatar
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    It is common for people to get injured when their steel frame or fork is bent or broken - but usually there's a car or another solid object in the mix.
    - Auchen

  19. #19
    Senior Member rootboy's Avatar
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    What would a catastrophic failure violent enough to cause a major crash look like? Steerer tube shearing off? Seems like it might have to be somewhere in the front end\steering.

  20. #20
    Senior Member RobbieTunes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by auchencrow View Post
    It is common for people to get injured when their steel frame or fork is bent or broken - but usually there's a car or another solid object in the mix.
    The key word is "from," which implies the frame failure is the proximate cause.

    I've never heard of a frame simply failing, and then causing injury. I've seen them rust out and drop the rear axle onto the ground, resulting in many words you can't say on TV, but I've not seen any frame simply fail, right there in the space and time continuum, unless it was defective.

    I broke two frames back in the 80's, neither were mine, both at the BB, and both aluminum. Neither caused injury, and both were defective. The manufacturer replaced both, free of charge, which angered the bike shop, because nobody paid them to swap all the parts over and rebuild the new bike. At the time of the break, one simple word sufficed, and was then repeated by the owner of each frame, standing next to the "starting line" of the hill climb. Seems like the same word was repeated by the bike shop manager when the owners walked in carrying the broken frames.

    It is somewhat ironic that one of the replacement frames was later totalled by an angry police officer who chose to chase and then knock the rider off the bike, using his patrol car, because of some girl. The other replacement frame was doused in lighter fluid and set ablaze (in the living room) when its owner went through a manic episode, aggravated by recreational pharmaceuticals, erroneously mixed. Even then, it was fixed, but eventually stolen.

    We were an "active" group of cyclists, but at least we spent enough money on bikes that we had much less to blow on motivational substances.
    Last edited by RobbieTunes; 08-13-14 at 06:20 PM.

    Robbie ♪♫♪...☻

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