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Old 01-14-10, 02:54 PM   #1
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Bicycle quality question

Iíve been having more problems with my bikes lately even though Iíve been taking care of my bikes much better since learning what things to do and not to do when maintaining them. Long ago, I had a hybrid/road bike I got from a bike shop and it lasted me for 12 years without any major problems even though I rode it Summer and Winter, rain or shine. I used regular machine oil on the chain which I later found to be a mistake since it attracts dirt.

Now I use the type of oil meant for wet conditions when itís going to get wet, and yet my chain is corroded. Iíve had this bike for only a few years, and now itís in the shop for a $75 repair to replace the headset. Itís a Specialized Hardrock (3 years old), a mountain bike which should be able to stand a little dirt, which is what got into the headset and ruined it.

My other bike is one I use for dry conditons and I ride it only in the Summer. I only ride it on roads and never jump off curbs since I realized that my wheels would have to be trued after doing much of that. I donít do any jumping or acrobatics with it, and yet the rear axle broke last Summer. The LBS owner told me they see tons of broken axles all the time! But with every bike Iíve had in my younger years, Iíve NEVER had a broken axle. The bike with the broken axle is a Giant Boulder (about 5 years old), which is a mountain bike, which should be able to stand being jumped, and quite a bit of OFF roading. I only weigh 140 lbs, so Iím not a heavy rider.

This all leads me to wonder if the quality of bicycles and components these days is starting to wane. Are manufacturers cutting corners nowadays? Since Iíve actually had better luck in the past with bikes that were cheaper ones than with bikes that Iíve been buying lately at bike shops, it really is starting to make me wonder. Mile for mile, Iíve actually spent more money repairing my bikes than my car! It just doesnít seem right.

Has anyone else noticed a quality decrease in the last several years?
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Old 01-14-10, 05:36 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Torellian View Post
Has anyone else noticed a quality decrease in the last several years?
No. If anything, the reverse. Quality of bike parts at the top end is stratospheric—in terms of material science, manufacturing precision, and design, they're beyond anything we could have imagined 20 years ago. And quality has been trickling down the lines to the lesser parts all along. So the low-end parts you buy today may rival or exceed high-end parts from 20 years ago.

Parts have become more fussy though. Placed under more exacting demands. Over that 20 years, we've gone for 5 or 6-speed drivetrains to 9, 10, or even 11-speed drivetrains. Chains are narrower and need special pins. I get the impression there are more fixtures where you really need to use a torque wrench to safely tighten them.

It's possible you got lucky with your old bike, and/or got unlucky with your current bike. FWIW, I broke the axle on a Dura Ace-equipped road bike that I bought in 1985 and never road off-road. And pitted the headset. It happens.
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Old 01-14-10, 11:26 PM   #3
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15-20 years ago I would go through a headset every year or so with heavy use. I think a half decent headset today could last 10 years easily if maintained properly. Your headset is probably bad because the preload was not correct.
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