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  1. #1
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    Anyone *ever* had a steel frame repaired in mid-tour?

    I was browsing the carbon-fiber thread below, and one advantage of steel over carbon or aluminum is its ability to be repaired mid-tour.

    I was curious if anyone had ever had a frame repair done in mid-tour, and what your experiences were. Thanks-

  2. #2
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Yup, my own improv'd frame design .. not a ROC made brand ..

    the welder in Killarney Ireland was working in a company that welded together stainless steel ventilaton ductwork .

    then I went on another 6+ months .. before flying it all home .. have yet to have the Powder-coat burned off redone..


    still sound, and rock solid .. the weak brazed joints overcompensated for.. it is farm equipment strong.

    the weight conscious frame specs are another story... Ie super light tubes etc. ..




    conventional frames are well made if the welder is not half way thru a divorce. and distracted.

    You ask about a Imported mass produced bike .. different ..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 05-23-14 at 09:47 AM.

  3. #3
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    This is an excellent question. When I bought my Surly LHTD I had it in my mind that just about any farm in the hinterlands of Kansas would have a welder. I'll be following this thread closely.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by cycle_maven View Post
    I was browsing the carbon-fiber thread below, and one advantage of steel over carbon or aluminum is its ability to be repaired mid-tour...
    In theory, one could have minor damage to a steel frame repaired on tour (a cracked DS dropout joint, broken rack boss, or something else relatively minor).

    Some of a typical steel frame is welded, and some is brazed. A guy with a welding shop or a roadside stall is usually experienced only in welding much heavier gauge steel parts. The walls of bike frame tubing is nearly paper-thin, and most welders would never be able to repair a major joint failure without probably melting a big hole clear through the tube. They may manage to "repair" the joint good enough for you to continue on your way, but odds are high the original failed-and-repaired joint will break again. Plus the repair usually looks like hell even if it holds up. You will have to repair damage to the finish from the repair or the area will begin to rust. A professional bike refinishing costs at least $200, and a new LHT frameset on sale is only $400. I consider the frame as simply another disposable bike component.

    Steel frame manufacturing is pretty high tech stuff, a long ways from the guy who fixes farm implements by the roadside. A significant number of decent steel bike frames (Surly, Salsa, Thorn etc) are all made in a single factory in Taiwan (Maxway). You'd have no better chance of finding the right guy to fix a steel frame than finding the right guy to fix a carbon frame. I suppose one could practice and develop the skill to lay up CF, carry around some CF fabric and epoxy and make an equally valid claim that CF frames are field-repairable. I don't think steel frames should really be considered any more field-repairable than carbon frames. However, a proper touring frame made from steel is far more likely to handle the fatigue of standard touring loads than a CF road frame that someone has overloaded for touring.

    This whole discussion is a little pointless since you can't go out and buy a real CF touring bike anyway. No one makes/sells one - and I mean a REAL touring frame with relaxed STA/HTA, long CSs, room for fenders and big tires and support for racks for loads of up to 40#R/30#F.
    Last edited by seeker333; 05-21-14 at 08:14 PM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member dwmckee's Avatar
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    I hired a professional weld shop to tag weld a couple of thin tube extensions to a chrome rack. He burnt holes in the rack and tube and gave it back to me unfinished with an apology. Good thing he waived the 80 bucks he was going to charge. The tubing was much thicker than frame tubes. He was a professional shop. I can only imagine what a rural farm repair guy would do with a basic stick welding rig. You would have to be extremely lucky to have your steel frame break near a shop that could reliably weld it.

    No doubt someone will post after me that the we're the lucky one but I bet it is 50 unlucky to 1 lucky one out there that have had successful field weld repairs done.
    Last edited by dwmckee; 05-21-14 at 08:31 PM.

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    Senior Member shipwreck's Avatar
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    I have never had it done but read a journal or thread over on crazy guy where a guy with a lht had some welding done on his broken frame. It looked like hell, lots of burn thru. But he either finished the tour or at least got to a point where he could get home. He was in China I think.

    If I ever got in a situation where I needed some repairs, I would probably try to find a shop that would let me use a torch and brazing rod. Welding, either stick or wire feed would be last resort, and again I would really try to sweet talk them into letting me do it.

    Edit. Been looking for the thread on that, and found this while looking. Your most frequent repair while on the road ?
    Post # 10, a braze on replaced while on tour.
    Last edited by shipwreck; 05-21-14 at 09:44 PM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member saddlesores's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dwmckee View Post
    No doubt someone will post after me that the we're the lucky one but I bet it is 50 unlucky to 1 lucky one out there that have had successful field weld repairs done.
    yes. well, almost. just after the tour, if that counts. ran some tires a little too wide, with only
    a few mm clearance. picked up some grit in the rain, sanded a small hole in one chain stay
    on the steel mercian.

    lucky enough to locate a guy in backwoods virginia who could do braze-on stuff. had his
    welding equipment in a little shack out back, with a whole mess of bike frames and frame
    parts hanging on the walls. (i'm used to the fellers having all their guns on the walls,
    so this was new!). he cut a small piece off another damaged frame, shaped it, brazed
    it on. good as new. a little black paint and you'd have to know it was there to find it.

  8. #8
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    If it were me riding in the USA and I had to have the frame repaired on tour (as opposed to just ordering a new LHT frameset from QBP in MN and having it delivered in 4-5 days), I'd stop at the nearest Lowes/Home Depot/hardware store, purchase a Bernzomatic brazing kit, and make repairs myself.

    I've used Bernzomatic before (a decade ago when they sold the relatively hot-burning MAPP gas + O2) to 1. repair cracked joint on the DS rear dropout (a common failure point), reattach DT gear cable stops (broken off in an accident), fill small tube dents, and add a third set of water bottle bosses to a DT.

    A Bernzo kit costs the same or less than what a welder might charge for the repair, plus it is impossible to melt a hole through a frame tube with this rig - it simply cannot produce enough heat to reach the melting point of 4130.

    So YES, steel frames are field-repairable (by a small number of people).

  9. #9
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    Maybe someone should ask mythbusters...can the village blacksmith in Upper Volta or Outer Mongolia repair my butted and TIG welded 4130 frame.
    Last edited by ekibayno; 05-22-14 at 01:49 AM.

  10. #10
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    I wouldn't go near a stick welder for a steel bicycle frame. Even a MIG in the hands of someone not familiar with thin steel tubing is a recipe for disaster. And while I haven't had to have a frame repaired on tour, I have done my own repair a farm workshop using an oxy-acetylene set.

    But seeker's idea is a good one... if you get the right brazing rods and flux. Which does add to the cost. Plus, you do have to have a bit of a clue as to what you are doing.

    FWIW, my repair was to a broken DS dropout on my Fuji Touring, and it has lasted very well.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  11. #11
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    Yep. The chainstay/dropout braze on my old Bill Vetter frame snapped on the way into Booneville KY (pop 81) in the first month of a TransAm tour. It was successfully repaired at an auto shop in that town. I completed the trip to OR on it. Never had it repainted as I retired the frame the next year due to a rust hole on the top tube.

    Last edited by BobG; 05-22-14 at 06:48 AM. Reason: better photo with paint removed

  12. #12
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cycle_maven View Post
    I was browsing the carbon-fiber thread below, and one advantage of steel over carbon or aluminum is its ability to be repaired mid-tour.

    I was curious if anyone had ever had a frame repair done in mid-tour, and what your experiences were. Thanks-
    Long ago (about 1988), I had a steel mountain bike repaired by the machinist at my work. The frame broke at the bottom bracket bridge on both sides of the chain stay. He's an extremely talented welder but was shocked at how thin the metal was on the frame...even on an overbuilt mountain bike. His comment was that it would be extremely easy to burn through the metal. Some farmer with a arc welder probably isn't going to know that and will just leave you with a smoking ruin.

    The idea that you should ride a steel frame because it can be "fixed anywhere by anyone" is a fallacy. I agree with seeker333 that a frame is consumable. I don't agree with him, however, that steel is more up to the task of touring than aluminum. Aluminum can take a lot of punishment and touring probably isn't the ultimate test.
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  13. #13
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    On the 2006 ACA North Star, a gentleman with a Waterford bent his chain stay when crashing towing a BOB. As luck would have it, and I mean luck, there was a US Navy certified welder and a bike store owner along with us AND an acetylene torch at the helicopter maintenance facility at Bell II on the Cassiar in BC. An hour of careful gradual heating using professional tools for truing got the gentleman back on the road. He made it to Denali, albeit with some difficulty.

  14. #14
    Senior Member tarwheel's Avatar
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    This example is not exactly comparable, but years ago I had an aluminum backpacking frame repaired by a local welder while hiking on the Long Trail in Vermont. I was hiking the entire Long Trail, and my pack frame broke while I was near a small town with no outfitter store. I was able to find a local welder who fixed the frame at nominal cost. This was an aluminum backpack frame with tubing much thinner and smaller diameter than a typical bike frame, so I'm assuming that a competent welder could make similar repairs to a bike frame. One of the most likely repairs needed would be a broken dropout, and that should be fairly straightforward.

  15. #15
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    I've seen some farmers who could weld wings on flies. One of them welded a frame tube for me a longtime ago. Prettiest weld you ever saw, and it was stick. Don't know where it is now, as I sold it years later, and know he used it for a long time.

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  16. #16
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    I think my repair pictured above was a crude fillet braze done at low temperature with a torch. Although I was watching him do it I don't remember the details. It was 30 years ago. It has the golden color of a bronze rod.

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    bronze or silver brazing is probably the least dangerous form of field repair. think local jewellery maker rather than plough welder.
    I have heard of epoxy/fibreglass repairs on steel chainstays.
    Last edited by MichaelW; 05-22-14 at 11:06 AM.

  18. #18
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    I had to patch the same tube a few times.

  19. #19
    Senior Member dwmckee's Avatar
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    I agree that if you can find someone that can braze or silver solder with Acetelyne you might have a chance, but I think you are much more likely to find the dreaded stick welder unfortunatelly.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by seeker333 View Post
    ...a proper touring frame made from steel is far more likely to handle the fatigue of standard touring loads than a CF road frame that someone has overloaded for touring...
    this is the only comment I made about steel WRT another material

    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    ..the idea that you should ride a steel frame because it can be "fixed anywhere by anyone" is a fallacy. I agree with seeker333 that a frame is consumable. I don't agree with him, however, that steel is more up to the task of touring than aluminum. Aluminum can take a lot of punishment and touring probably isn't the ultimate test.
    I didn't mention Al anywhere, perhaps I misunderstand this comment. Al is pretty darn tough. I easily put >8,000 trouble-free miles on my old Cannondale before I sold it.

    I don't have a strong preference in bike frame materials. My purchases are based on perceived value. I like Ti frames - I still have a TST MTB set up as a commuter bike. Welds on it are better than my Lynskey-era Litespeed frame, which I sold several months ago, along with my old Giant CF road bike. I've rode them all (well, not magnesium or bamboo), and obviously steel or Al is the best value due to the low purchase price and good longevity.

    IMO, the LHT currently offers the best value on a legitimate, well conceived and implemented touring frameset. I sold my 3-year-old LHT and built a Disc Trucker 14 months ago. I've since considered adding a 26" wheeled LHT to my 2-bike collection. Again, this is mostly a value decision, because I can get a DT/LHT frameset for $400 shipped to my doorstep, throw on some spare parts and spare wheels and have a whole new proper touring bike for <$700. The fact that it's made from generic 4130 series steel is secondary to the facts that:

    1. Maxway of Taiwan (the manufacturer) has made thousands of LHTs/DTs since 2004 and their manufacturing process now almost certainly has all the minor issues worked out (btw, why didn't Surly issue a "10 year anniversary LHT") and

    2. The LHT/DT has 46cm CS, all the necessary rack/fender/bottle/pump fittings, etc etc etc and

    3. Did I mention it costs only $400?

    I'd probably still buy the LHT/DT if it were fashioned from Al and sold for $300 (I have to factor in the reduced fatigue/life of Al vs Fe in my value calculation, plus there are less expensive option in Al than Fe last time I looked). I'd pay $1000 for a Ti LHT - best fatigue/life, if a joint don't break, plus excellent resale value. Probably wouldn't buy a CF LHT because I'm afraid I'd bang it up, or more likely, someone would steal it. CF/Ti are invitations for theft IMO - another reason why plain ole steel makes sense.

    Back to the OP - Don't pick a steel tourer over a hypothetical CF tourer because it's "field repairable". Some (extremely-unlikely-in-the-first-place) frame failures ARE field-repairable on steel tourers, by a very small number of people with knowledge/skill to make the repair, but not enough to affect the decision. Pick steel because it's the least expensive, most developed material actually used in existing touring bike frames that you can buy today. The only thing bad about steel is it's relatively heavy, which is a minor issue for touring, and it rusts if you scrape the finish off (so don't do that).

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    1) This is an old thread idea, there are several other threads on this, and people have had their steel bikes repaired.

    2) If anything, carbon fiber would be easier to repair, since all you need is a sock's worth of tow, and some resin in a few bottles. Depends on the configuration, but it is not difficult to do. If you want to learn some of the possibilities, look at threads on building bamboo bikes. Some of those are held together with hemp twine and epoxy, not even carbon tow. Bamboo is obviously not carbon, but either is a bike and the minimum repair is there in the joints of a bamboo/hemp bike.

    3) Fixing frames it is more practical to tack it and splint it than to weld the joint. A lot of welders have the skills, but it is asking a lot of anyone to just run a bead on something they have never seen, and can't even do a practise piece on.

    4) Stick is no worse than MIG, and is totally doable. For instructions on how, see my post on roadside welding.

    Roadside Stick Welding

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by ekibayno View Post
    Maybe someone should ask mythbusters...can the village blacksmith in Upper Volta or Outer Mongolia repair my butted and TIG welded 4130 frame.
    Upper Volta???

    Its been Bourkina Faso forever now, but Ouagadougou is still Ouagadougou

    ...and, IME, the hallmark of welders (and they do have them) in remote Africa is they dont bother with them silly welding glasses...
    Last edited by Sharpshin; 05-27-14 at 12:10 PM.

  23. #23
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Early TdF the rider, when their bike needed repair, had to be their own Blacksmith and fix their own Bike or be DQ'd from the race.

    so, once the forge or torch was found , they used the tools themselves.

  24. #24
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    That's probably what I'd do- take along a length of silver filler and some sta-silv flux. You can find folks with torches, steel and files but the filler and flux might be more difficult.

  25. #25
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    I could fix most frame breaks with a disposible propane torch and small brazing rods. These torches get plenty hot for thin tubing brazing repairs. I have the experence and skill to do it myself and wouldn't let some club fisted welder do a bike repair for me!


    I was raised on a farm and found it difficult to adjust my "tork wrench" from combine specs to bicycle specs!

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