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  1. #1
    old, fat, lazy wannabe plain.jim's Avatar
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    One bike for the rest of my life: make sense or not?

    I've just returned to riding after a hiatus of thirty years (most of the staff in the LBS's I visit weren't born at the time I stopped riding!). I'm lovin' my Giant OCR2, but I read that I'll get a few years out of this aluminum frame, and then metal fatigue will set in and I should plan on buying another bike.

    Well, that doesn't sound right to me. Not the metal fatigue part - I'm willing to believe that - but the part about having to buy a bike every few years. After all, the limiting factor on the performance of any bike I'm likely to ride isn't going to be in the bike's components, but in the weaknesses and laziness of the rider. (Ahem.) So is it possible that I'll be able to get one frame that will last me the next twenty-five years or so, and is worth keeping, and on which it's worth replacing the wear parts? If not, OK, then, but if so, what would that frame be made of? What should I look for? And (at the risk of igniting a flame war) who are likely manufacturers?

    Cost, of course, is an issue, so if the only way to do this is to take out a loan against my retirement plan, I'll pass... but I hate to think of adding a bunch more bike frames to my local landfill if there's another way.

    (In other news, I can't believe I went so long without getting on a bicycle. In less than three months, I've lost 18 lbs., and I'm in better shape than any time since the Carter Administration. What the &%$# was I thinking of?)

  2. #2
    Recovering Retro-grouch CRUM's Avatar
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    The lifespan of your Alloy frame will depend largely on the style of riding and ridng conditions. Of the metals used in frame building, aluminum has the shortest lifespan. But, it can last a lot longer than people think. I rode ( and still ride occaisionally) an aluminum Lotus I bought in 1987. I put well over 10,000 miles on it. The welds are still fine and I feel it has as many miles in it as I want to take. Conversely, I broke my first aluminum mtn bike frame 3 months after I bought it. So, the best advice I can give is keep an eye on the welds. Any cracks in the paint may indicate a weld getting ready to fail. Look for paint chips that do not seem to be from dings. This is not something you have to do everyday, but every so often ( I examine all my aluminum rides at least once a month).

    That said, IMO, the one material that seems to stand the test of time is steel. I love my steel road bike.

    BTW - Because I am addicted to owning bikes, I think owning one bike is akin to only having one shoe. You need at least a pair to cover everything.
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  3. #3
    Live to Ride,Ride to Live
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    Quote Originally Posted by plain.jim
    I've just returned to riding after a hiatus of thirty years (most of the staff in the LBS's I visit weren't born at the time I stopped riding!). I'm lovin' my Giant OCR2, but I read that I'll get a few years out of this aluminum frame, and then metal fatigue will set in and I should plan on buying another bike.

    Well, that doesn't sound right to me. Not the metal fatigue part - I'm willing to believe that - but the part about having to buy a bike every few years. After all, the limiting factor on the performance of any bike I'm likely to ride isn't going to be in the bike's components, but in the weaknesses and laziness of the rider. (Ahem.) So is it possible that I'll be able to get one frame that will last me the next twenty-five years or so, and is worth keeping, and on which it's worth replacing the wear parts? If not, OK, then, but if so, what would that frame be made of? What should I look for? And (at the risk of igniting a flame war) who are likely manufacturers?

    Cost, of course, is an issue, so if the only way to do this is to take out a loan against my retirement plan, I'll pass... but I hate to think of adding a bunch more bike frames to my local landfill if there's another way.

    (In other news, I can't believe I went so long without getting on a bicycle. In less than three months, I've lost 18 lbs., and I'm in better shape than any time since the Carter Administration. What the &%$# was I thinking of?)
    Here's something to think about: I am a great fan of steel and have a bike with a U-brake on it. Some old bikes have frame spacings that are hard to find new hubs for. As some bikes get older styles change and today's cantilever brake may give way to disc brakes, to the point where cantilever brakes may not even be available in the future.

    That said, I am all for keeping your bike as long as you can but sometimes they really do go obsolete, although if you look long enough you can still get parts, at least NOS, if not new manufactured stuff.

    That said, I have a friend who has a Raleigh steel road bike that is 35 years old and has a Campy Record gruppo on it. He has replaced/repaired a few parts but the lesson for you is to buy the best gruppo you can afford because it will be your component group that will probably obsolete your bike barring any frame failure.

    Then again, you could do what I did: buy the bike and wreck it the following week, and none of that matters!

    I second the previous post, though: steel would probably be your best choice for longevity, but I have two aluminum bikes, aged 9 and 12 years that I plan on riding until they break.

  4. #4
    hello roadfix's Avatar
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    You deserve a new bike from time to time.
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  5. #5
    X-Large Member Istanbul_Tea's Avatar
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    Certainly a cycle that will last the rest of your life and be your *one* steed to ride until you yourself retire to that great landfill in the sky deserves being very special...

    and to that I say and recommend throwing some cash at a Custom Builder.

    You can't take that retirement fund with you after all

  6. #6
    Just ride. roadbuzz's Avatar
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    You probably can't get a lifetime bike, but you might be able to get a bike with a lifetime frame. Rims, shifters, cogs, bearings... you name it, all wear with time and eventually need to be replaced. You can avoid the hassle by just replacing the bike from time to time.

    On the other hand, you can get a bike with a quality frame that, with the passage of time, you won't feel the need to upgrade. Keep up with maintenance and parts will last, although they will eventually need replacement. Get a quality lightweight steel frame, or for more $$$, a Ti frame. Either will cost more up front. Typically, replacing things piecemeal costs more than getting a new bike, but since the outlay doesn't occur all at once it's not so bad. When you replace parts, you can upgrade, or go with similar quality.

    If you're happy with the OCR2, you can keep it going. As far as I can tell, the problems with Al are overblown. Maybe when the technology was new it was a bigger problem.

    Caveat: Changing technology can obsolete a frame, e.g. it's getting harder and harder to find q quality quill stem, and the cost is rising accordingly.

    PS. Congrats on your return to the bike!
    Last edited by roadbuzz; 11-29-04 at 07:17 PM.

  7. #7
    Upgrading my engine DXchulo's Avatar
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    Some good points from roadbuzz.

    I'm sure you're going to hear a lot from the "steel is real" people, but i think you'd be a perfect candidate for titanium. It will cost a little more, but titanium lasts forever, and you'll never have to worry about scratching it. It also has the added bonus that it's sort of an "exotic" material....not everyone has a Ti bike....so the urge to upgrade might be lessened even more. If you can resist the upgrade urge for that long, then you're a better man than me! I'd get a Ti bike myself if I would actually keep it long enough to justify the price.

  8. #8
    The Red Lantern Rev.Chuck's Avatar
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    Things do wear out and alluminum does fatigue but I have an '82 Cannondale that is still in good shape. It will wear out, probably the parts before the frame.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Aluminum frame longivity again. What a farce! Certainly aluminum frames can fail, but the idea that every aluminum frame is a time bomb counting pedal strokes until it self destructs was conceived by a bunch of people who wasted too much time reading books. Time that would have been better spent riding their bicycles.

    Go out on any group ride, the bigger the better. Look around at what kind of bicycles ordinary people are riding. Estimate the age of the bikes that you see. Now here's the important part: Trust what you see with your own eyes. It's good to learn technical stuff in school, but you have to see how that knowledge applies to the real world.

    Personally, I've never had a bicycle frame that didn't last longer than I wanted it to.

  10. #10
    World Champion, 1899 Maj.Taylor's Avatar
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    It will take something most profound for me to buy another road frame. I bought my present bike with the thought of it being the last very much in mind. But that's also why I bought titanium. And so far, so good. I (and the bike) may just make it.
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  11. #11
    World Champion, 1899 Maj.Taylor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by roadbuzz
    Caveat: Changing technology can obsolete a frame, e.g. it's getting harder and harder to find q quality quill stem, and the cost is rising accordingly.
    Let technology change. I very much doubt my titanium quill stem will ever need replacing.
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  12. #12
    Work hard, Play hard forum*rider's Avatar
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    my cousin just got a used mtb off of e-bay made out of 6/4 Ti. The bike is about 10 years old, was ridden everyday rain/snow/shine by the previous owner and generally thrashed to hell.

    He got the bike, wiped the frame down with a damp cloth and it looks brand new. If I ever have to buy another bike(road or mountain) I'm going to be going for some kind of Ti.

    BTW My uncle told me that Russian Ti should be cheaper than both 6/4 and 3/2.5 Ti. He works for Boeing and he said that the Russian Ti costs more to buy the raw material and the savings come from the fact that the Russian Ti is so much easier to work with it actually ends up being cheaper buying/working with Russian Ti than 3/2.5 or 6/4.

  13. #13
    Immoderator KrisPistofferson's Avatar
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    I think the whole aluminum frame failure thing got started with mountain bikes, where it is a genuine concern, and was assumed after a while to apply to road bikes. This rumor was probably cultivated by people who want you to buy a bike every 2 years, and people who buy a bike every 2 years. Honestly, a modern aluminum road frame will last a good , long while, unless you've got some ROUGH roads. Aluminum is more susceptible to metal fatigue WHEN IT FLEXES, this is why the tubes are oversized and ovalized, to keep the frame rigid to AVOID metal fatigue. If they sold aluminum road frames with the exact dimensions as steel frames, they would snap all the time, and then the bicycle companies would go out of business from all the lawsuits!
    Aluminum gets hated on because it doesn't have the niche market cool that steel and titanium do, that's all. Nobodies got a Rivendell, Merlin or Paramount made with aluminum, and a lot of people don't consider a sub-$1000 road bike "real". Be not disheartened, these are merely snobs. I personally love the Giant OCR line of bikes, and aluminum sure is nice when you gotta climb some hills!

  14. #14
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    It took a few years (and 6 bikes), but I'm a believer in bike monogamy now. I've had bikes that saw <1000 km/year, and to me that just made them toys. I do all my own maintenance, and having only one bike makes it a lot more tolerable. One of the problems with trying to live with only one bike is that most companies are putting out specialized, niche bikes these days. Custom is the way to go.

    If you're low on money, you can still get the bike of your dreams with a LOT of time and patience. My 20-lb sandvik Ti XC bike cost <$900 CDN, but I probably spent >100 hours spec'ing it, browsing buy/sell sites, meeting people to buy parts, etc. But in the end you get EXACTLY what you want, building it up yourself really bonds you to it.

    As for frames, I only considered Reynolds 853 or Ti. But then a 3/2.5 USA-made sandvik Ti frame fell into my lap for $300 CDN, so I figured it must be fate.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by krispistoferson
    I think the whole aluminum frame failure thing got started with mountain bikes, where it is a genuine concern, and was assumed after a while to apply to road bikes.

    Nope, I'm not buying that one either. Go back to my earlier post. I basically trust what I see with my own eyes. What I DON'T see is very many mountain bikes that are made of anything but aluminum. If they were breaking that often from whatever cause, I just don't think that would be true.

  16. #16
    'Bent Brian
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    My Trek road bike is 13 years old and it is aluminum. If I hadn't gone 'bent this spring I would have no qualms about riding it another 13 years. My road bike before the aluminum one was a lugged steel frame Raleigh. although the components are worn out the frame is still quite servicable.

    'bent Brian

  17. #17
    wildjim
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    Quote Originally Posted by plain.jim
    I've just returned to riding after a hiatus of thirty years (most of the staff in the LBS's I visit weren't born at the time I stopped riding!). I'm lovin' my Giant OCR2, but I read that I'll get a few years out of this aluminum frame, and then metal fatigue will set in and I should plan on buying another bike.

    Well, that doesn't sound right to me. Not the metal fatigue part - I'm willing to believe that - but the part about having to buy a bike every few years. After all, the limiting factor on the performance of any bike I'm likely to ride isn't going to be in the bike's components, but in the weaknesses and laziness of the rider. (Ahem.) So is it possible that I'll be able to get one frame that will last me the next twenty-five years or so, and is worth keeping, and on which it's worth replacing the wear parts? If not, OK, then, but if so, what would that frame be made of? What should I look for? And (at the risk of igniting a flame war) who are likely manufacturers?

    Cost, of course, is an issue, so if the only way to do this is to take out a loan against my retirement plan, I'll pass... but I hate to think of adding a bunch more bike frames to my local landfill if there's another way.

    (In other news, I can't believe I went so long without getting on a bicycle. In less than three months, I've lost 18 lbs., and I'm in better shape than any time since the Carter Administration. What the &%$# was I thinking of?)
    The aluminum frame is extremely strong.

    Consider This:

    http://www.efbe.de/defbefrm.htm

    LIGHT AND STRONG

    ”Pfffffft, pfff, pfffffft .....” For two long weeks the computer-controlled pneumatic cylinders in the EFBe laboratory carry out the heaviest work and trachten for the frame fauchend after the life. The best of the best take the machine two days of hard work - and nevertheless do not give up! Three light frames are through the torture without visible evidence. After 200.000 strokes output - divided in pairs - which visibly distort even the stiffest frames, the computer switches the test off for Cannondale, Trek and Principia according to plan.

    A sensational result, in view of tender tubes and enormous test loads. Also for Manfred Otto comes the surprising result: "Those are the lightest frames that ever came across the EFBe test stand, and in addition, they are at the same time the most durable." The Time carbon frame only barely fails because of the hurdle, and succumbs to a break at the chain stay after 182.000 footsteps in the heart of the frame. Likewise the second lightest frame in the comparison strikes itself very well and thereby exceeds all expectations: Schmolke's frame manufactured from inexpensive Russian titanium cracks after 160.000 cycles. Klein's Quantum Race fails in fewer cycles: after 132.000 cycles the down tube breaks. At the end follows Merlin's piece of titanium splendor, Team Road, and prepares the largest disappointment: the frame breaks - based on the price - only 106,000 cycles. Stevens RPR4-Modell forms the tail light of the light frames, which is however the most inexpensive with distance.

    Steel in the crisis: De Rosa's SLX already breaks after 57.000 cycles and does not comes half as far as Bruegelmann's Barellia frame from the same tubing. Interestingly enough both break in the same characteristic way, scarcely above the lower head tube lug - a type of break by the way, the TOUR tester already saw in nature. The Fondriest frame, extremely light for steel, does not make it past the first load class and breaks like the much heavier Nishiki frame after scarcely 80,000 cycles.

    Numbers and facts of the tested frames
    Frame Weight Size Price(1) Material/Construction Cycles(2) Break Location Frame Stiffness(3) Reference/Info

    Barellia SLX 2.080 58 798 steel, lugged 119.316 Head tube, lower lug 64,6/86,2 06196/750075

    Cannondale 1.520 60 1.990 alu, welded 200.000 no break 91,3/92,1 0031/541589898

    De Rosa SLX 1.895 57 1.650 steel, lugged 56.690 Head tube, lower lug 66,8/80,6 02871/275555

    Fondriest 1.630 61 2.600 steel, welded 77.171 both chain stays 79,9/76,8 0821/27250

    Klein Quantum Race 1.415 57 2.700 alu, welded 131.907 down tube, cable guide 89,0/94,5 06103/50700

    Merlin Team Road 1.525 60 5.199 titanium, welded 100.595 down tube, shift boss 65,9/81,3 040/4806040

    Nishiki Team 2.080 56 1.390 steel, welded 78.206 bottom bracket/seat tube/down tube 67,2/93,5 02871/275555

    Principia RSL 1.460 60 1.895 alu, welded 200.000 no break 83,5/91,85 0531/2872913

    Schmolke Titan 1.300 59 2.000 titanium, welded 160.356 down tube, bottle boss 64,3/70,2 06139/6735

    Stevens RPR4 1.515 57 1.299 alu, welded 85.032 right chain stay 77/84,7 040/4806040

    Time Helix HM 1.485 57 2.990 carbon/alu, lugged 181.966 right chain stay 66,5/86,2 07159/945930

    Trek OCLV 1.200 58 2.800 carbon, lugged 200.000 no break 75,3/94,5 06103/50700


    (1) Price for frame set with fork in DM. (2) tested to 100.000 cycles with 1.200 N, then increased to 1.300 N. (3) Head tube stiffness / bottom bracket stiffness.
    Last edited by wildjim; 11-30-04 at 06:45 AM.

  18. #18
    old, fat, lazy wannabe plain.jim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wildjim
    The aluminum frame is extremely strong.

    Consider This:

    http://www.efbe.de/defbefrm.
    HAH! Uh... that site appears to be in German. I'm an American; we can barely speak our OWN language... can you imagine what we would do to somebody ELSE'S?

    Thanks to all for your input. The message I seem to be getting is:
    • The whole "aluminum is temporary" thing is overblown;
    • I'll probably be able to see weaknesses before they are problems if I examine the bike regularly;
    • That being the case, it might be useful to learn to do my own maintenance;
    • If I DO get a Ti frame, it may well outlast me.


    So my short-term plan is to make this bike last as long as I can, and I'll swap out wear parts with new until I see a reason not to do so.

    But now I've got a couple more questions... but I'm not sure they're for this thread.

  19. #19
    wildjim
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    Quote Originally Posted by plain.jim
    HAH! Uh... that site appears to be in German. I'm an American; we can barely speak our OWN language... can you imagine what we would do to somebody ELSE'S?

    Thanks to all for your input. The message I seem to be getting is:
    • The whole "aluminum is temporary" thing is overblown;
    • I'll probably be able to see weaknesses before they are problems if I examine the bike regularly;
    • That being the case, it might be useful to learn to do my own maintenance;
    • If I DO get a Ti frame, it may well outlast me.


    So my short-term plan is to make this bike last as long as I can, and I'll swap out wear parts with new until I see a reason not to do so.

    But now I've got a couple more questions... but I'm not sure they're for this thread.
    Please "read" as there is an option for English. . .

  20. #20
    old, fat, lazy wannabe plain.jim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wildjim
    Please "read" as there is an option for English. . .
    Oh... DUH!

    Never mind.


  21. #21
    Cycling is Self-Therapy pdxcyclist's Avatar
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    I find this thread fun (and funny), because the stated cause of a "bike for a lifetime" sounds very practical and level-headed. However, this objective is normally the motivation for some of the most expensive bikes I've ever seen, which means the result of the quest is pure bike lust at its finest.

    Not that there's anything wrong with that...

    However, I think it's possible to love a bike too much. I love my 1991 RB-1, and I've had it since it was brand new, but nowadays I'm over cautious about riding in the rain or on bad road surfaces, etc. I like keeping it as pristine as possible, so I ride my Bruce Gordon more on club rides, and my mtb for commuting five days a week in the muck.

    Hence, by default, if you ride bikes a lot, they're going to get mucked up (scratches and dents in the frame, even), and over time it's better to "use up" bikes than spend $6,000 on a custom Spectrum and then live in fear every time you have to leave it outside a country store as you step in for Gatorade and a brownie...

    Buy bikes, and ride the life out of them.
    Last edited by pdxcyclist; 11-30-04 at 08:42 AM.

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  22. #22
    2-Cyl, 1/2 HP @ 90 RPM slvoid's Avatar
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    The reason why aluminium might seem to last longer is because it could be over built.
    With steel or titanium, the bike might be slightly underbuilt because of the frame builder's impressions on the perceived strengths of the material.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slvoid
    The reason why aluminium might seem to last longer is because it could be over built.
    With steel or titanium, the bike might be slightly underbuilt because of the frame builder's impressions on the perceived strengths of the material.
    Could you define "overbuilt" and "underbuilt" for me?

  24. #24
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    The material alone is not the reason a frame breaks or does not. The design and application of the material is the key. You can have any of these materials last "forever" or fall apart. This test is a perfect example. Lots of older aluminum frames have failed in the past. Prodution bikes not just odd bikes.Raleigh had a line of road and Mt. Bikes with faliure problems that were aluminum.My friends steel MTB broke at the bottom bracket.They were not designed properly. You make them according to the way the material dictates and they will be fine.

    If you are comsidering only the number of times something can be flexed before breaking. It's Ti, then Steel, then Aluminum. With a properly designed bike none will fail.

    There was a problem with Mongoose Ti mountain bikes flexing so much you could rub the back tire against a stay in a hard sprint.

    I hear that the Eastern Ti that is cheaper has quality control problems, not a bad alloy just variations. There have been breaking problems with welded Ti cranks too.

    It's the DESIGN, not just the material.

  25. #25
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    Well, as I was born during the Truman years, I feel pretty confident that any of my bikes will last for the rest of MY lifetime. But, I don't think anyone in their twenties would be realistic in thinking they will be riding the same bike every day for the next fifty years (even if they wanted to).

    Most of my frames are over twenty years old, and seem to be in good shape. However, because my riding is spread among ten or so bikes, none of my frames get a lot of miles. And, my miles are very low stress miles, cruising slowly along paved streets and bike trails.

    A younger, larger,faster, more powerful rider putting hard 10,000 miles a year on a frame is going to wear that frame out eventually. If it is a lugged steel frame, cracks can be repaired, and tubes replaced. Aluminum...well, it recycles rather well.

    There are no guarantees on how long a given rider or a given bike is going to be around. It is easier to just ride a bike that you like, and when you wear it out, get another bike that you like just as much.

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