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  1. #1
    Senior Member gregw's Avatar
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    "The steel repair myth"


  2. #2
    dangerous with tools halfbiked's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregw
    Personally, I don't agree with that guy's opinions. But rather than just criticize him I'll explain why in this particular instance. His premise is "If the frame breaks, just ship it home for a warranty repair." Well, thats all fine and dandy if your bike breaks near the ubiquitous fedex office he cites. Sure, as he mentioned, there's a fedex office in Cambodia. But is it in a mountain village in Cambodia? If your frame breaks, do you want to be on your way right away, or do you want to hitchhike to the nearest city with a shipping office and hang out for a week or more, waiting for your old frame to be shipped to the manufacturer, repaired or replaced under warranty, then shipped back to you while you're hanging out in the cheapest accomodations you can find in a third world city? When I've travelled, usually the last place I want to be is sitting in the middle of a large city for a week or more. A couple urban days to see the good stuff are fine, then get the heck outta there & see the rest of the country.

    So, maybe if keeping the expensive touring bike 'in warranty' and perfectly sound is your goal, hang out and wait for a warranty repair. If you want to keep touring & experience the trip, get it fixed by any local fabricator & keep on truckin'. But maybe thats just me.

  3. #3
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    I believe that a servicable repair is more likely using epoxy and a woven reinforcment (rim strip in a pinch) than backwoods welding equipment. I am not convinced that suitable welding is likely to happen on a .7-.8mm cross-section tube. I am very nervous about a non-specialist welding a frame for me. I do not expect that DHL'ing the broken frame to another country is very likely either! If it came down to it, I would prefer an overbuilt aluminum frame to relying on the ability to weld a steel frame in lower squeedunk, Elbonia.

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    But what happens if only a small braze on breaks while you are out in Anlong Veng, Cambodia? It seems like that could be repaired simply with steel, by a local furnature maker, but maybe with aluminium that little fix is not as easy.

    I think this guy has gotten a free bike from the Koga Bicycle Company and for every person he refures to them he gets a bit more money. So really his opinion is that of a salesman rather than an impartial observer.

  5. #5
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    Eastbay, you may have me there...I imagine that braze on breaks are probably more likely than frame tube failures...in that case steel is nice...if you have to, anyone can soft solder to steel. Probably the second most likely failure (other than wheels and racks) would be fork related.

  6. #6
    Senior Member cheg's Avatar
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    If this happens in the outer godfosakens you might as well try to McGuiver it whether it's steel or aluminum. Find some galvanized pipe and sleeve it. Your frame is already broken, it won't hurt to try.

  7. #7
    No longer in Wimbledon... womble's Avatar
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    I think halfbiked's arguments pretty much sum up my own.

    The guy misses the point about the point of repairing a frame. I wouldn't expect it to be "good as new"- I'd just want the bike to be ridable. Once I got home, I'd probably replace the frame if it rode funny, but if I'm in the middle of a big tour then I just want to be able to finish it, rather than go home.

    Neither Steel or Aluminium are likely to break- for me I'd tour on either. But relying on a frame warranty procedure (how long does this take in the west- weeks? Months?) + Fedex problems in remote rural areas + customs procedures in corrupt developing nations sounds a bit silly.

    I wouldn't expect a touring break to be in the middle of a tube- isn't that usually caused by impact? I'd expect a touring break to be like a crack at a weld, which would be easier to fix. Does anyone have experience with broken touring frames?

  8. #8
    Member bikeguru's Avatar
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    I am no real expert but I have brazed together a couple steel frames for both race and touring and have modified bike to take racks and extra h2o bottles I have also built my own single wheel trailer. From what I remember Aluminium can also be repaired or even built with an oxy acetlene combo but you do need special filler rod to weld it. I suggest that one tours on a steel frame one is the repair thing the other being more comfy. I also suppest that before a major tour to the nether reaches of the globe you do a simple welding course at your local tech college after a short timeyou can pick up the basics. Its not that hard and at least you will have some idea if something goes wrong. Cheers and good luck to all

  9. #9
    Senior Member gregw's Avatar
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    To me it is not a matter of catastrophic failure, because I have never had a frame break, nor have I ever met anyone who has had one fail, except in a major tour ending, bike smashing wreck. I'm sure they are out there, but rare. So for me it is heavier and rusts vs lighter and no rust. The frame design has far more to do with it's ride quality than does it's material make-up. The stiffest / harshest ride I have ever had was a Motobecane (steel frame), the most sloppy a Trek three tube carbon / aluminum frame and the finest being a Litespeed ultimate in a 63cm frame. That same litespeed in a 56cm frame would feel too stiff in my opinion. For a frame to have that "Sweet" ride for you, it has to have the right frame design and size for your weight and riding style. It has much less to do with material. That's why, given a choice, I choose lighter and no rust.

  10. #10
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eastbaybob
    But what happens if only a small braze on breaks while you are out in Anlong Veng, Cambodia? It seems like that could be repaired simply with steel, by a local furnature maker, but maybe with aluminium that little fix is not as easy.

    I think this guy has gotten a free bike from the Koga Bicycle Company and for every person he refures to them he gets a bit more money. So really his opinion is that of a salesman rather than an impartial observer.
    You could easily epoxy a braze on in place. You could even hold it down with a hose clamp. Unless it's for a brake cable it should hold. If it's a brake cable, you could replace the housing with a full length housing between the lever and caliper or just make do without the rear brake until you get to a major city.

  11. #11
    Older I get, Better I was velonomad's Avatar
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    Egads! Chevy versus Ford, Coke vs Pepsi aand Steel frames versus Aluminum frames....

    I remember Tim posting on a touring email list a few years back when he was looking for his touring bike for the trip. he got some good advice and some bad advice. unfortunately he (IMO) followed some bad advice on bikes.

    IIRC he had been turned down by one well known touring bike builder because the builder felt Tim was too heavy for his bikes considering the intended use.( I think the builder got bashed over this at the time). The other builder couldn't deliver within Tims's timetable. and as Tim mentioned the KM World Traveler wasn't available in the USA. The bike he ended up getting was way to0 light for what he wanted to do. It reportedly worked well when he was riding the smooth roads in the states but when the roads got bad south of the boarder the bike wasn't up to the task, which was what some people expected would happen.
    I won't beat on him for recomending the Koga Miyata even though it appears he has a business relationship with KM. If I were going to tour on an "off the shelf" bike the Koga Miyata World Traveler would probaly be at the top of my list. MY only gripe is the low rider front racks, They are fine for smooth roads but in the rocky and gnarly stuff you will shred our wear holes in your front panniers ( as mentioned in Tim's narrative)

    IMO Tim is mostly correct in his assessment of American Bike builders, There are only a few who *get* touring. There is more to a touring bicycle than a spoke holder and third waterbottle mount.
    As for repairing a modern steel frame. Tim is pretty much right. The steel in most frames has become too thin for a reliable quick and dirty repair out in BFE. In the 60's through early 70's frame tubes in a sturdy touring bike were often butted 1.2mm/.9mm/1.2/mm . the metal was thick enough that a brazing torch too hot would not likely destroy the tubing. over the last 30 years American cylists all became weight weenies and now steel frame tubing is alloyed harder and is heat treaded making it sensitive to brazing temp. Steel tubing that is butted .7mm/.4mm/.7mm is common these days. Your average Cambodian welder is not going to have the knowledge to braze bicycle tubing that is shortbutted with .7 mm wall thickness. If he doesn't burn it up, he might get it to stick back together for awhile. Maybe long enough to get you to the next big city, maybe not.

    Regarding rust, Chromoly steel doesn't rust quickly as milder steels so it takes a lot longer for rust to weaken the frame structarily. On the other hand if your frame has tubing walls only .4mm thick you can't afford to let any rust build up.
    As for frame warranties They may not include shipping unless through an authorized dealer . FedEx for a frame from NY to Cambodia is $304 each way. That free replacement frame may still cost you over $600 in shipping.

  12. #12
    Immoderator KrisPistofferson's Avatar
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    I really dig that World Traveller, what a nice tourer. I've got too much tinker time tied up in my touring bike to abandon it. Seems like the more you mess around with a bike, upgrading components and whatnot, the more attached you get.
    Quote Originally Posted by Bikeforums
    Your rights end where another poster's feelings begin.

  13. #13
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    Having had a broken frame and having it brazed and having it break again a few miles later. I say that frame repair is hard to do right. If you found a good mig/tig welder perhaps it could be done right but I would have to ride the bike for a while before I would trust it. The epoxie and fiberglass repar idea sounds good to me. The problem with welding a frame is the frame overheats, because it is so thin, then it cracks next to the weld. Small thing tubes are very difficult to weld right and it takes a real pro to pull it off.
    Joe
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  14. #14
    Pedalpower clayface's Avatar
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    Does what has been said regarding brazing and wall thickness apply to racks? I have seen how some of my alu racks (including a B'burn) have failed me and I know first hand that the stories about fixing them with roadside wire, electrical tape and shoelaces are true. They all failed at the welds. Now that Surly have the Nice racks out, I'm considering them but there's no point if they can't be fixed properly mid tour.

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