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a question about frame durability/longevity

Old 07-24-15, 11:56 AM
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portlypedaler
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a question about frame durability/longevity

Hi!

Iíd like to buy a simple road bike for commuting and long rides (~20-65 miles) that will last me for years Ė at least ten, maybe as many as fifty years Ė and that I can afford in the next month or two before my commute changes from 1.7 miles to 10 this fall. I hope that isnít too much to ask.

I have my eye on the . BikesDirect Motobecane Mirage If you have an opinion about that choice, my reasoning is listed later and I welcome input.

My question is: will the 4130 ChrMo frame, all else being equal, last as long as that of, say, a Surly Pacer or other 4130 ChrMo frame? If not, are we talking a difference of 20 years vs. 100 years or 5 years vs. 20 years?


I ask because while the componentry isnít ideal, itís quite acceptable Ė even desirable Ė for me right now and will eventually have to be replaced anyway.

However, while I expect to gradually replace everything else on the bike Ė saddle, pedals, chain, brake pads, tires, cogset, chainring, bars, brakes, crankset, bottom bracket Ė I want foundation of the bike, the frame, to be something I can feel OK spending money upgrading as my needs change and parts wear year after year after year. Iíll be 30 next year, and itíd be rad if I still had this bike when I was 60. Is that too much to ask from a BikesDirect steel bike, or from any steel bike?

Reasoning: Why this bike?

I want something fast, simple, reliable, dependable, and non-flashy. I want to lock it up (ulock) and have it still be there at the end of the day Ė or even after a week. I donít need to haul stuff on a daily basis, but I will add a rack just in case I want to put my trunk bag on. So I donít think a touring frame with a longer chainstay would be a better fit for me than a road frame.

I want something simple that I can fix, no matter where I am. Iíve been using a singlespeed to commute for the last month or so because there is very little that can go wrong there, but between accelerating in traffic and the hills, it just doesnít give me enough mechanical advantage (my knees hurt).

I donít want an aluminium bike; I want steel, which narrows the field a lot. It looks like it has a 4130 ChrMo frame and it has almost exactly the same geometry as my State Bicycle Co CoreLine bike, so it should work well for me.

Now, looking at this bike, Iím aware it has downtube shifters, likely very heavy wheels, and single-pivot brakes and probably a too-wide seat.

However, Iím interested in giving downtube shifters a second chance (I had a bad experience with them on an old bike from a bike coop that was nothing but trouble), Iím OK with heavy wheels, single-pivot brakes will still stop me, and Iíll need to replace the seat eventually anyway.

Furthermore, Iím 210 pounds so I need something solid, and that I can use as my EveryDayRide (except in case of rain; then Iíll grab my ride with the IGH and fenders), and I can always upgrade the rest of the components later.

The only argument I could see for a Surly Pacer over this bike is the curved fork to eat up road noise (which would be a big plus), and then Iíd be worried about it getting stolen because, you know, itís a Surly and theyíre awesome.

Iíve also looked at two other steel road bikes on Bikes Direct, $500 and $900 because they are also steel, which is what Iím looking for, but I just canít see the benefits of a flashy road bike over the Mirage:

Save Up To 60% Off Magic Riding Steel Road Bikes | Commuting | Commuter Bikes | Motobecane Gran Premio SL

Save Up To 60% Off Pro Level Steel Road Bikes | Commuting | Commuter Bikes | Motobecane Gran Premio PRO

Iím not going to be racing (except traffic), and the wheelset can always be upgraded. I donít mind that the fork & the frame arenít color-matched; uglier = less likely to be stolen.

Am I missing something serious between the Mirage and the more expensive options that would affect my use case?

Finally, I see the downtube shifters as a feature, not a bug (except you canít shift out of the seat, but I think I can live with that); easy to keep in adjustment, donít need to be put in the stand every two weeks, or taken to the shop monthly for little adjustments; they just keep on rolling. Am I idolizing this old technology to the point of being impractical?
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Old 07-24-15, 12:12 PM
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I was told by a Surly dealer that, starting with 2015 models, Surly now will pre-treat the inside surfaces of the frame and fork tubes with rust inhibitor (such as Frame Saver or T-9). I could not find any substantiation for this on the Surly website, so I'm not sure whether this is true. If true, then, if subjected to wet weather, the Surly frame would probably last longer than a non-treated steel frame. You should be able to treat the frame yourself, but this requires stripping the bike down completely for the procedure.

My previous steel bike lasted me 13 years as an all-weather commuter. Eventually one of the chainstay tubes rusted inside out, all the way through. I treated my current steel tube bike with T-9, I wonder how long it will last as I continue riding in the winter in salty slush.
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Old 07-24-15, 12:16 PM
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There nothing wrong with your choice . As log you take care of the frame and fork , It should last you 20 -50 years . Yes the components will wear out with use and time ,so replace them then . The cassette and chain will b the first to go . There is nothing wrong with wanting to upgrade . There nothing wrong with downtube shifters I have them and always enjoy them .
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Old 07-24-15, 12:25 PM
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Originally Posted by agenkin View Post
I was told by a Surly dealer that, starting with 2015 models, Surly now will pre-treat the inside surfaces of the frame and fork tubes with rust inhibitor (such as Frame Saver or T-9). I could not find any substantiation for this on the Surly website, so I'm not sure whether this is true. If true, then, if subjected to wet weather, the Surly frame would probably last longer than a non-treated steel frame. You should be able to treat the frame yourself, but this requires stripping the bike down completely for the procedure.
Thanks for the reply! I've read on the Surly site that they do recommend doing that on their frames, it'd be awesome if they came that way. I might have to do that with my bikes (new thing to research!).

Did you hang your bike upside down with the seatpost out after riding it wet?
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Old 07-24-15, 12:30 PM
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The big difference in service needs isn't between DT shifters and brifters, it's between indexed and friction. If you decide to use indexed, you might as well use brifters.
Want a bike that'll need minimum tuning? Stick with as few(rear) gears as possible. My commuter sees about 6000 miles/year. And winter for me means snow ans salted roads. It has a 7-speed rear. I replace chain and cassette more often than I do shift adjustment.
Theft is a so-so thing. Unless YOUR bike gets deliberately targeted, it's more about opportunity than about the finer point of bike value/styling. It's faster, and hence safer for the criminal to do a sweep, cut loose as many of the easiest to pick bikes that'll fit on the cargo bed of a pickup and be out ot there rather than to walk around and assess each individual bike for sellability.
Longevity is also a so-so thing. Some fail, some last forever. Not always clear why. Hit it with an internal rustproofer and don't worry about it.
But, apart from fit items, try to buy the bike you want NOW, instead of planning immediate changes. You'll never get a better deal on a bike part as when it's already attached to a bike.
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Old 07-24-15, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by portlypedaler View Post
Did you hang your bike upside down with the seatpost out after riding it wet?
No, I always just leave it in the garage leaning against a wall and walk away. I know that there are folks who would wipe their bike down with a clean cotton rag after each wet ride, but if I had to do that, i would probably choose not to ride the bike on a drizzly day.
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Old 07-24-15, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by portlypedaler View Post
Thanks for the reply! I've read on the Surly site that they do recommend doing that on their frames, it'd be awesome if they came that way. I might have to do that with my bikes (new thing to research!).

Did you hang your bike upside down with the seatpost out after riding it wet?
The better plan is to drill a small hole at the lowest point of the bottom bracket shell so that any water can drain out immediately. High-quality steel frames often had these from the factory in the past.
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Old 07-24-15, 12:46 PM
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You did a pretty good job at convincing me (but more importantly yourself) that the Mirage will be a great bike for your purposes. The frame will certainly last decades. I don't think the brifters or the carbon fork on the other bikes will be of much value to you, but will surely attract more thieves. All in all, great choice!

P.S.: Love the color(s) on it as well.
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Old 07-24-15, 01:36 PM
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Aside from rust and abuse, I think the main thing affecting the longevity of a steel frame will be the quality of the welds. And that's a hit or miss thing, depending on the skill of the welder and whether he or she was having a good day when your frame was built. That's true of Surly, Motobecane, and every other brand made in under contract in huge bike factories. (Reportedly, there are only a few of them, so it's possible they're even made in the same factory).

That's not to say that every brand puts equal emphasis on quality control, so on average one brand may be better than another. But no one can guarantee that any given frame will last forever, or less than 100 miles.
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Old 07-24-15, 01:52 PM
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A steel or aluminum frame is one of the cheapest parts of a bike (~$10 to the brand).
In ten years the components will have substantial wear and be somewhat obsolete. Industry economics makes it cheaper to replace the whole bike rather than just the components.

Thus, over focusing on frame durability seems like false economy.
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Old 07-24-15, 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by dabac View Post
The big difference in service needs isn't between DT shifters and brifters, it's between indexed and friction. If you decide to use indexed, you might as well use brifters.
IME, brifters are about 1000 times more likely to get gunked up with sludge. I also note that there is no equivalent of the WD40 brifter flush for DT index shifters... I hypothesize this is because none is necessary. Finally, almost all DT indexing shifters can revert to friction mode if there's a problem.

Since the OP has an objective of robustness, DT shifters with indexing are a fine choice... second only to SSFG.

So I think that Mirage is a fine choice for a commuter, but I don't think OP should expect it to last 50 years... not because it's steel or BD, but because he's using it to commute - that's hard duty.
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Old 07-24-15, 02:49 PM
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I think that you are overthinking this. On the whole, that is a fairly nice basic bike. The one thing I really don't like about it is the brake callipers. They are horribly cheap single pivot side pulls. For only a couple more dollars they could have installed a set of decent double pivot callipers that would have been far better So equipped, that would be a fine basic bike good for 20 years of normal use. I had a very similar bike I used as a commuter for 6 or 7 years, probably put close to 40,000 kilometres on it. Not a bike I would think about doing major upgrades to, just something I would maintain and replace parts as they wore out. My commuter didn't wear out, I destroyed the frame and fork in a head on crash with another cyclist
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Old 07-24-15, 02:50 PM
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+1. The only time I hear of "servicing" DT shifters on BF is when someone decides to clean out their 40-year-old Campy NRs.

Indexed DT shifters seem to keep on working fine until one of the plastic indexing parts breaks.
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Old 07-24-15, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by AnkleWork View Post
A steel or aluminum frame is one of the cheapest parts of a bike (~$10 to the brand).
In ten years the components will have substantial wear and be somewhat obsolete. Industry economics makes it cheaper to replace the whole bike rather than just the components.

Thus, over focusing on frame durability seems like false economy.
This sounds like the throw away economy to me. I think that there is nothing wrong with considering the lifespan of most important component on a bike, and when consumables have passed their working life span, replacing or upgrading them. A commuting bike is just that, and I'm more than sure that in 10 to 15 years commuting bikes will still do the exact same thing that they do today.
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Old 07-24-15, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Donnie Johnson View Post
This sounds like the throw away economy to me. I think that there is nothing wrong with considering the lifespan of most important component on a bike, and when consumables have passed their working life span, replacing or upgrading them. A commuting bike is just that, and I'm more than sure that in 10 to 15 years commuting bikes will still do the exact same thing that they do today.
Good luck beating entropy.
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Old 07-24-15, 03:19 PM
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Frame material. design and components are all important factors, but not as important as bike fit in my experience. When I upgraded one of my bikes last year I factored very similar things to you however I didn't make any compromise on the geometry in relation to my body. This focus on getting the right fitting bike (among other criteria) eliminated most bikes I was interested in.

In the past I have had bikes that were branded as being high quality and had components to match however the fit was not quite right and while the bike was very fast it was also exceptionally uncomfortable, and on the flip side my current commuter was scrap that the previous owner discarded and I replaced and wheel set and recycled many components that were also considered exhausted, and it is the incredibly comfortable, ultra reliable and results in being my go to for almost all cycling trips.

If you want your bike to last for a very long time, you are correct in considering frame material and construction, however I think you should consider how well the bike fits your body and how your body will adapt and change over that time period. Being that you are around 30, I don't imagine it will change drastically, never the less, its a factor.
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Old 07-24-15, 05:41 PM
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OP, I like your plan but I'd heed alcjphil's advice about brakes. You're a big guy and better brakes don't cost much more.
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Old 07-24-15, 06:12 PM
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Originally Posted by dabac View Post
The big difference in service needs isn't between DT shifters and brifters, it's between indexed and friction. If you decide to use indexed, you might as well use brifters.
Want a bike that'll need minimum tuning? Stick with as few(rear) gears as possible.
I've never noticed any difference in tuning requirements. Things settle in the first week after housing replacement, although otherwise 8, 9, and 10 speed have all retained their adjustment until the cables frayed or lined housing wore out.
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Old 07-24-15, 06:17 PM
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Originally Posted by DiabloScott View Post
IME, brifters are about 1000 times more likely to get gunked up with sludge. I also note that there is no equivalent of the WD40 brifter flush for DT index shifters... I hypothesize this is because none is necessary. Finally, almost all DT indexing shifters can revert to friction mode if there's a problem.
I never gunked up a Campagnolo G-spring ergo or Ultrashift lever. The original ergo levers were a DT mechanism actuated by ratchet pawls except with the 2 stationary G-springs and cam on the moving part instead of 3 G-springs in the lever with a fixed cam.

Since the OP has an objective of robustness, DT shifters with indexing are a fine choice... second only to SSFG.

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Old 07-24-15, 06:38 PM
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Originally Posted by portlypedaler View Post
My question is: will the 4130 ChrMo frame, all else being equal, last as long as that of, say, a Surly Pacer or other 4130 ChrMo frame? If not, are we talking a difference of 20 years vs. 100 years or 5 years vs. 20 years?
I would guess Your bicycle will be stole or destroyed.... or you will die. The bicycle will last as long as it maintained.

Originally Posted by portlypedaler View Post
I want something simple that I can fix, no matter where I am. I’ve been using a singlespeed to commute for the last month or so because there is very little that can go wrong there, but between accelerating in traffic and the hills, it just doesn’t give me enough mechanical advantage (my knees hurt).
Gears rule... in my mind... but hurting knees s more likely a fit issue (again IMHO)

Originally Posted by portlypedaler View Post
Finally, I see the downtube shifters as a feature, not a bug (except you can’t shift out of the seat, but I think I can live with that); easy to keep in adjustment, don’t need to be put in the stand every two weeks, or taken to the shop monthly for little adjustments; they just keep on rolling. Am I idolizing this old technology to the point of being impractical?
Down tube shifters are a feature! And indexed DT shifters are awesome IMHO.

I think you should spend some time (reading posts) in the C&V (classic and vintage) forums.
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Old 07-24-15, 10:58 PM
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Just to add an additional consideration - We just bought my son a Fuji Touring (steel frame) for $699 at our LBS and found it to be a very nice riding and comfortable bike on top of an excellent value. Great components for the price range.
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Old 07-25-15, 09:41 AM
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May I humbly suggest you look for a used steel frame on your local CL? Or even ebay? IMHO you can get the bike you're looking for at a better price. Although that moto is not a bad deal..
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Old 07-25-15, 10:18 AM
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Why is it that bikes are expected by some folks to last forever when other goods and possessions, which may cost many times as much, carry no such expectation? Why is it important for a bike to last 50 years and not a car. You are 30 now. Over the entire course of your long life expectancy, will you never want something new? Will you never be able to afford something better. When I use something, I am conscious that I am also using it up, and that is just fine with me.

I find the "it has to last forever" attitude to be an extremely interesting quirk among bicyclists. Nothing at all wrong with it except that it doesn't serve the cyclist well. It certainly doesn't guide him to buy the bike that he will enjoy the most. Compared to all the characteristics which should be considered in making a bike purchase, extreme longevity is IMO one of the functionally least significant.

Suppose that a $1,000 bike lasts you ONLY 10 years, you ride it 100 times a year, and your average ride is 20 miles. Is a nickel a mile (not counting maintenance costs) too much to pay for a great bike? What other form of transportation competes with that?
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Old 07-25-15, 10:35 AM
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Metal fatigues from flexing it repeatedly . if you bend things often enough they will crack .

If you are heavy you will make things Bend a Bit.

some Brands , Like Trek offer the buyer a Lifetime warrantee on their Frames . Others May Not .

Read the Paperwork .
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Old 07-25-15, 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by portlypedaler View Post
My question is: will the 4130 ChrMo frame, all else being equal, last as long as that of, say, a Surly Pacer or other 4130 ChrMo frame? If not, are we talking a difference of 20 years vs. 100 years or 5 years vs. 20 years?
Properly cared for, any steel frame should be able to last a lifetime. But what's proper care? Don't neglect it outside for extended periods. Treat the inside of the tubes with a rust inhibitor like "Frame Saver" (especially if you live in a coastal area or ride in the winter when salt may be an issue. Touch up paint damage before it turns to extended rust.
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