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  1. #1
    seattle based cyclist merlinman's Avatar
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    "steel is real"......fragile

    I'm curious to hear what people think about the catastrophic failure of my frame as a result of a low speed crash yesterday. I am unhurt - ran into another cyclist who crossed in front of me (yes, it was their fault, came across bike trail traffic without stopping). I estimate I was going about 12mph at the time, had just crossed an intersection (with walk sign) on way to work and was still getting up to speed. T-boned the other rider. I was stunned to see how much damage occurred - it is totaled. I wish I had been riding my titanium bike. But now as I think about a replacement - I am wondering - is it the maker, the material, or do low speed crashes always cause this. thoughts?

    Andiamo!!

  2. #2
    Senior Member Goonster's Avatar
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    Your impact tore off the top tube, buckled the downtube and pushed the wheel back a good four inches. I've seen other frames destroyed at similar speeds. Avoid front impacts.

  3. #3
    Not an internet law-maker Godwin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by merlinman View Post
    I'm curious to hear what people think about the catastrophic failure of my frame as a result of a low speed crash yesterday. I am unhurt - ran into another cyclist who crossed in front of me (yes, it was their fault, came across bike trail traffic without stopping). I estimate I was going about 12mph at the time, had just crossed an intersection (with walk sign) on way to work and was still getting up to speed. T-boned the other rider. I was stunned to see how much damage occurred - it is totaled. I wish I had been riding my titanium bike. But now as I think about a replacement - I am wondering - is it the maker, the material, or do low speed crashes always cause this. thoughts?

    [IMG]http://i197.photobucket.com/albums/aa27/decaturnw/bikecrashphoto.jpg[/IMG]
    You should be paying more attention to traffic signals... I rear ended a car last year doing about that speed on a old steel bike and just bent my fork. I'm guessing yours was a lightweight steel frame though.

  4. #4
    seattle based cyclist merlinman's Avatar
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    "You should be paying more attention to traffic signals".

    Your comment is WRONG. I was with all the traffic and crosswalk signals on a multi-use trail filled with bikes. I was the victim, not the perp. As a daily commuter to downtown I am acutely aware of the "traffic" - it is how you survive. But accidents happen. So if you have a relevant comment about the topic I'd welcome it. If you are going to spew nonsense take it elsewhere.
    Andiamo!!

  5. #5
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    If I'm reading correctly: "right hooks" like this usually involve cars, but are rather common. Regardless of who is at fault, you really have to watch out for 'em.

    Anyway. How old is the frame? Who's the manufacturer? Is there any indication of rust, corrosion, or improper welds?

    It's quite possible that the exact same impact could have damaged or totaled any type of frame, by the way, including ti. Also, my understanding is that the failure characteristics of ti and steel are quite similar. Maybe you're lucky you were on the steel instead of the ti.

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    I don't think that's a "right hook."

    I find it odd that the frame gave out before the wheel.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    Anyway. How old is the frame? Who's the manufacturer?
    The manufacturer is Rodriguez, I'm assuming, based on the photo. Would be interesting to know which of their tubing sets this was...they use a couple of different grades.

    www.rodcycle.com

  8. #8
    seattle based cyclist merlinman's Avatar
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    It was a right cross - see below. What was different was that I was on a major bikeway, and once I had crossed the intersection another cyclist came downhill on the sidewalk (hidden by a bus) and crossed into the bike traffic (I was not alone). So chalk it up to other rider being young (I am not), daylight savings time changeover, whatever. I had on an orange jacket, orange messenger bag, large blinkie lights in front, yellow reflective legbands - in short I look like a psychedelic christmas tree. Police laughed at my outfit and wondered how I could not be seen. Not the first accident, won't be the last. But the first time I've totaled a 6 month old S3 steel frame by a local reputable framebuilder/LBS. No indication of rust, improper welds, corrosion.

    Collision Type #1:
    The Right Cross

    This is one of the most common ways to get hit (or almost get hit). A car is pulling out of a side street, parking lot, or driveway on the right. Notice that there are actually two possible kinds of collisions here: Either you're in front of the car and the car hits you, or the car pulls out in front of you and you slam into it.
    How to avoid this collision:
    1. Get a headlight. If you're riding at night, you should absolutely use a front headlight. It's required by law, anyway. Even for daytime riding, a bright white light that has a flashing mode can make you more visible to motorists who might otherwise Right Cross you. Look for the new LED headlights which last ten times as long on a set of batteries as old-style lights. And helmet- or head-mounted lights are the best, because then you can look directly at the driver to make sure they see your light.
    2. Honk. Get a loud horn and USE IT whenever you see a car approaching (or waiting) ahead of you and to the right. If you don't have a horn, then yell "Hey!" You may feel awkward honking or yelling, but it's better to be embarrassed than to get hit. Incidentally, the UK requires bells on bicycles.
    3. Slow down. If you can't make eye contact with the driver (especially at night), slow down so much that you're able to completely stop if you have to. Sure, it's inconvenient, but it beats getting hit. Doing this has saved my life on too many occasions to count.
    4. Ride further left. Notice the two blue lines "A" and "B" in the diagram. You're probably used to riding in "A", very close to the curb, because you're worried about being hit from behind. But take a look at the car. When that motorist is looking down the road for traffic, he's not looking in the bike lane or the area closest to the curb; he's looking in the MIDDLE of the lane, for other cars. The farther left you are (such as in "B"), the more likely the driver will see you. There's an added bonus here: if the motorist doesn't see you and starts pulling out, you may be able to go even FARTHER left, or may be able to speed up and get out of the way before impact, or roll onto their hood as they slam on their brakes. In short, it gives you some options. Because if you stay all the way to the right and they pull out, your only "option" may be to run right into the driver's side door. Using this method has saved me on three occasions in which a motorist ran into me and I wasn't hurt, and in which I definitely would have slammed into the driver's side door had I not moved left.
    Of course, there's a tradeoff. Riding to the far right makes you invisible to the motorists ahead of you at intersections, but riding to the left makes you more vulnerable to the cars behind you. Your actual lane position may vary depending on how wide the street is, how many cars there are, how fast and how close they pass you, and how far you are from the next intersection. On fast roadways with few cross streets, you'll ride farther to the right, and on slow roads with many cross streets, you'll ride farther left.
    Andiamo!!

  9. #9
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    Who's the manufacturer? Is there any indication of rust, corrosion, or improper welds?

    That's a Rodriguez frame, and I think they use OX Platinum for all their steel frames.
    I can't tell w/o a close up, but it looks like there's minor surface rusting inside the top tube (could just be the angle of the photo, though.)
    I'm not a materials engineer, but is the break near enough to the weld for that to be an influence? I'm seeing what looks like a tall stack of spacers and a fairly long stem above that headset. That kind of leverage is going to put some additional stress on the tubes of the front end. Based in Seattle, there's a lot of rough roads and steep downhills which could make for even further stress to the front end of the bike. I'm just taking a guess, but if that's a lightweight frame, those might have been excess metal stresses which led to the failure. (maybe?)
    "I feel like my world was classier before I found cyclocross."
    - Mandi M.

  10. #10
    Not an internet law-maker Godwin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by merlinman View Post
    "You should be paying more attention to traffic signals".

    Your comment is WRONG. I was with all the traffic and crosswalk signals on a multi-use trail filled with bikes. I was the victim, not the perp. As a daily commuter to downtown I am acutely aware of the "traffic" - it is how you survive. But accidents happen. So if you have a relevant comment about the topic I'd welcome it. If you are going to spew nonsense take it elsewhere.
    Woah, sorry, wasn't trying to imply you were at fault.

  11. #11
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    Is there a reason this was posted in the LD forum? It would seem to be more appropriate in frame-builders. I don't see any relevance in the original post to LD seeing it was a multi-use path accident.

    Mod please?
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  12. #12
    Senior Member TnBama's Avatar
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    It's because you put those carbon fiber spacers on your stem.

  13. #13
    Senior Member yeamac's Avatar
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    post #8 "I steal other people's images"

    Here is a direct link to the image.

    Sorry to hear about your loss. Glad you are OK.
    Last edited by yeamac; 03-18-08 at 01:58 PM.

  14. #14
    Senior Member swc7916's Avatar
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    Did you have the bike built for you? Do you know what tubing was used? If the top tube is tear-drop shaped, and not round, it is made of S3 tubing which is very lightweight and thin-walled (I know, I have one.) It looks like the top tube broke behind the weld. By all means, take this frame to R+E and have them look at it; I doubt that they will warantee it for collision damage, but they should at least look at it to see if there were any manufacturing defects. It could have been just an unlucky way you fell on the bike.

    Edit: Sorry, I didn't read all the posts. You did say it's a 6-month old S3 frame. Those things are expensive - the S3 tubing is a $600 upcharge, making your frame alone at over $2000. The folks at R+E have got to see this bike.
    Last edited by swc7916; 03-13-08 at 08:12 AM.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by swc7916 View Post
    The folks at R+E have got to see this bike.
    +1

    Though I must say that two adults colliding at 12mph generates a lot more force than one would imagine (hmmm...where's my physics textbook). I had a collision on a MUP with another biker many years ago and the very, very rugged steel-framed bike I was riding was twisted like a pretzel.

    It's really unfortunate that a such a great frame was damaged in this accident; on the other hand, if you back your $100,000 Maserati into a guardrail, the picture ain't pretty, either. (www.wreckedexotics.com, for your viewing pleasure.)

    BTW, let me be the first to say, happy you're OK!

  16. #16
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    Take a look at what happened to my '86 Trek 400, when I was in a head-on collision with someone who tried to cut in front of me.

    http://www.cyclofiend.com/cc/2007/cc...kbull1207.html

    Very similar damage except that the top tube did not actually separate. As you can see, no damage to my Peter-White-built Schmidt-hub based wheel (thank goodness).

  17. #17
    **** that mattm's Avatar
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    wow, i didn't know it was so easy to hose a frame!

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by merlinman View Post
    I'm curious to hear what people think about the catastrophic failure of my frame as a result of a low speed crash yesterday. I am unhurt - ran into another cyclist who crossed in front of me (yes, it was their fault, came across bike trail traffic without stopping). I estimate I was going about 12mph at the time, had just crossed an intersection (with walk sign) on way to work and was still getting up to speed. T-boned the other rider. I was stunned to see how much damage occurred - it is totaled. I wish I had been riding my titanium bike. But now as I think about a replacement - I am wondering - is it the maker, the material, or do low speed crashes always cause this. thoughts?

    With the way the top tube broke it looks almost like the metal was too brittle. I don't know how hard this metal formulation is but it could have been that the welder was in a hurry and put something on the joint to cool it off too fast (like water) causing the metal to be hardened too much. You can see that the weld is good and strong. In fact this zone close to the weld where it broke is the weakest link in many welded frames because the heat of the welding process can change the metals hardness. One reason why double butted tubing is used. It is thicker in this weak area compromised by the welding process. And any changes in hardness need to be gradual and not abrupt.

    You may want to go to a lugged and brazed steel frame as they are stronger and require less high heat to join so the metal is not compromised at the joints. With cheap heavy mild steel frame bikes welding works pretty well but with light steel alloys welding is not the best approach to frame making.

    Also, you may be using too small of a frame if you need that many spacers underneath the stem. As was stated that will put a lot of extra stress on the top tube in a front end impact. Having a longer head tube and more spacing between the top and down tube makes this stronger for a tall rider.

    However, my guess is that you would have damaged nearly any kind of bike in this kind of an impact. But it would have been nice if it was just the wheel and fork and not the whole frame.
    Last edited by Hezz; 03-13-08 at 01:01 PM.

  19. #19
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Could be a bad weld, or an undetected flaw. If the frame is under warranty, get it fixed.

    The main thing is, though, that no bike will be completely invulnerable. Steel is merely far less likely to fail catastrophically than some other materials. There's no magic pixie dust in a steel frame that protects it from all failures. Ergo the same crash may well have totaled a ti, alu, carbon frame. Kind of impossible to say without having an expert closely examine it in person.

    Or to put it another way, a general principle (e.g. "steel is less likely to fail catastrophically than aluminum") is actually refuted by an isolated anecdotal incident, even if said anecdote is somehow more emotionally persuasive than boring ol' scientific principles, engineering knowledge and/or statistically proven data.

    P.S. stop stealing images kthx

  20. #20
    Lone Star Tex_Arcana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yeamac View Post
    post #8 "I steal other people's images"
    Right, Would be nice if Marlinman fixed his post to get rid of that big ugly "BUSTED" notice in his post. I really do hate big oversized pics in threads.

  21. #21
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    Hope you're OK.

    That is the front crumple zone. Federal regulations.
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  22. #22
    sch
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    I had a low speed collision into a curb on a vintage steel tourer in the '70s
    and severly kinked the down tube at the down tube shifter
    locus and bent the top tube down about 3/8". Head tube and
    fork were ok. Within a few months the seat tube broke completely.
    Speed was perhaps 5mph. Any bike can do this whether steel, Ti
    CF or Al.

    In theory this is fixable with steel, both tubes could be replaced and the
    frame repainted. Close exam of the bottom of the fork would be in order.
    Cost would be $4-600 depending on type of tubing and quality of paint
    job.

  23. #23
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    Zowie: Wheels are very strong radially. Back in high school I once rode into a parked car (not too bright, I admit). Ruined a steel fork and bent the frame on a steel Gitane. I got a new fork, put the old wheel on and went back to riding it.


    Merlinman: I looked at the rodcycles.com website - isn't the S3 the lightweight version? In steel frames I think "lightweight" is generally going to mean thinner walls and therefore less durability in a crash. Also, how much do you weigh? I only ask because the momentum of moving weight has a big effect on the physics of an impact.

  24. #24
    Senior Member swc7916's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hezz View Post
    With the way the top tube broke it looks almost like the metal was too brittle. I don't know how hard this metal formulation is but it could have been that the welder was in a hurry and put something on the joint to cool it off too fast (like water) causing the metal to be hardened too much.

    ...with light steel alloys welding is not the best approach to frame making.
    This posting bothered me so much that I have to respond.

    1. If you are suggesting that Dennis Bushnell and Todd Bertram of R+E are such hackers that they would pour water on a weld in order to cool it off faster, you owe them an apology.

    2. Where did you get the idea that welding light steel alloys is not the best approach to frame making? One could argue that USING light steel alloys compromises the longevity of a frame, but that is part of the compromise that you make when you try to lighted up the materials. Does carbon fiber fair any better in a collision? In any case, True Temper S3 tubing is made to be welded.

    As an aside: The folks at R+E have a story about a fellow who came into their shop with a high-end carbon-fiber bike that needed frame repair. It seems that this person left his brand-new bike in the garage with his new puppy, who considered the bike to be a chew-toy and gnawed on one of the chainstays. Needless to say, the frame was unrepairable and he ended up having them build him a new steel frame.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Iowegian's Avatar
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    If you want more informed opinions I would post this in the framebuilders forum. My guess is that they'll tell you that you're SOL as light-weight frames aren't made to withstand this type of front end impact, regardless of the material used. As for repair, you can ask the builder but I don't think TIG welded steel frames can be repaired as easily as lugged steel.

    PS Glad you're OK.

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