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Is old steel frame still good?

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Is old steel frame still good?

Old 08-12-15, 06:59 PM
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Is old steel frame still good?

Have an 1974 JCPENNEY steel 10 speed in the attic that I'm thinking of resurrecting, just for the fun of it. I'm wondering on the integrity of the frame, used to ride this bike everywhere, but has always been stored indoors. Do old steel frames crack or fail in some way? Just don't know what the life expetancy is for this kind of frame.
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Old 08-12-15, 07:01 PM
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I dont think steel bike break. I have one old steel bike 1987 and is stay okay
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Old 08-12-15, 07:12 PM
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There's every likelihood that this frame can last longer then many of what we would think are high quality ones. It uses fairly low strength steel but a lot of it. Since the usual stresses of a bike are far less then the limits of the material having a lot of the material gives this bike a lot of fudge factor. But that's assuming it's one of the ones that was consistently joined, within the tolerances of the process. This will be hard to determine. So I say have a go and enjoy the resurrection. Andy.
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Old 08-12-15, 07:25 PM
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That bike will outlast you.
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Old 08-12-15, 07:44 PM
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Corrosion is the only enemy of a steel frame. A bit of surface rust or even minor pitting is no problem but should be dealt with to prevent progression of the disease. If it was always stored indoors, the frame is likely in quite good condition and perfectly good for restoration. I know people who have restored bikes from the 1950s to like new condition and still ride them, so you should have no problem. Tires, tubes, brake pads, seat, and cables may be another story, but you can get replacements for those if needed. You will need to clean and repack all the bearings; headset, bottom bracket, and wheels. Old grease can get really gummy and leave a varnish like film. Real mineral spirits and a bit of elbow grease will take care of that. Stuck seat posts and stems can be a problem, but there are ways to deal with those too. Check with the vintage forum for additional information specific to older bikes.
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Old 08-12-15, 07:55 PM
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Let's see. How often do you hear of old steel bridges being dismantled because of age. While steel doesn't last forever, it's close enouh for normal purposes. As AS pointed out, low end bikes are overbuilt more than high performance bikes.

I wouldn't blink unless the bike had clear evidence of crash damage.
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Old 08-13-15, 10:31 AM
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From the sound of its condition and storage, that bike is in as good of shape as it ever was.

However, it was a cheapo department store bike boom 10 speed. So one could argue that it's just as bad as it ever was, no worse.

The steel frame will last forever until it rusts or is damaged. The fact that it was a cheapo bike means its frame is probably thicker steel. Bad for weight, but good for damage resistance.

Same thing for the components; they're mostly steel and should operate just as vaguely as they ever did.

Plenty of folks are still riding bikes their grandparents bought new.

If you want to ride it safely:
The tires and tubes will need to be replaced; the rubber degrades. The tire size is molded into the sidewall; they're probably 27 x 1 1/4" tires, which are still available. All 27" tires are the same diameter, and can be found in widths from 1" to 1 1/2"

It will need new brake pads; Kool Stop "Continental" are usually a bolt-in replacement.

Anything else that is rubber, vinyl, or plastic is suspect (bar wrap? seat?) and may need replaced.

The wheel, crank, and headset should be re-greased at least, and probably overhauled with new ball bearings. Any other lube (like the chain) should also be cleaned off and re-applied.

New cables and cable housing will improve shifting and braking performance, but the original cables shouldn't have degraded (unless they got rusty).
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Old 08-13-15, 10:49 AM
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Probably as good as what you buy today. If you are a casual rider looking for a good 1/2 hour workout everyday? You got the right bike. You would probably have to ride a 27 speed or what ever they are now,carbon fibre bike, for 2 hours to get the same exercise.
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Old 08-13-15, 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY
Let's see. How often do you hear of old steel bridges being dismantled because of age.
Memorial Bridge, Kittery ME - Portsmouth NH, 1927

Sarah Mildred Long Bridge, Kittery ME - Portsmouth NH, 1941

Whittier Bridge, Salisbury MA - Newburyport MA, 1951

Just sayin'...

But these are steel bridges over salt water which see salt treatment for icy conditions. Nastiest possible environment for steel and they still lasted many more decades. All of these finally succumbed to structural rust issues.

Steel bike, decades newer, stored inside should be good to go.
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Old 08-13-15, 11:31 AM
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you said, "just for the fun of it", by all means go for it...
I resurrected a 17 year old steel bike, well at least the basic frame... put a threadless headset and carbon fork on it...
and went full ultegra 6800 on it, including wheels...it is a great tooling around ride.
It is a very smooth ride for an "aero" bike...and on a timed 5 mile sprint, I am within half a mile an hour average of what I am on my new propel.
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Old 08-13-15, 01:22 PM
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I have an old three speed Raleigh from 1939 that I ride occasionally, it was a rust bucket when I bought it, but the steel is thick and there is little chance it will fail, even under my clyde butt. Your JC Penney steed will be fine to ride.
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Old 08-13-15, 02:11 PM
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Since 1781, just sayin..
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Old 08-13-15, 02:36 PM
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If your frame is in good shape, it should be fine.

I bought my bike in 82, but I think it is a 68 or 69, and since I've had it, perhaps it had a single 12 month period without being ridden. Not always a lot of miles, but it adds up over time.

However, as others have mentioned, most Department store bikes were HEAVY. Perhaps good for longevity, but virtually all new steel bikes will be made out of a chromoly steel, often with butted tubing, while yours is some kind of high tensile steel.

However, if you're interesting in restoring a bike, or learning about bike mechanics, there is nothing better to start with than an old "classic" that you already own.
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Old 08-13-15, 02:49 PM
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Yep, very, very heavy bike. Should be fun. I could actually pop wheelies on that thing, used to catch rides on 18 wheelers by gabbing the rear bumper!! Me a bunch of the boys would layout a 4X4 block area in the neighborhood and play tag on the bikes, on dirt streets (South Texas)!

Damn I was dumb and stupid! Wearing plain pocket blue jeans, Winner II tennis shos, no helmet, no gloves, no water bottles----the good old days.

Have a bike co-op close by that has bins of old used parts for cheap, in case I need something.
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Old 08-13-15, 06:36 PM
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Oh, and please don't fall for that myth that frames "get soft" or "get flexible" with age and use. They don't but that story was used by many riders in the past to convince their spouse they needed to buy a new bike.

This past weekend I was talking to a guy who made just that claim for his old steel bike saying it had gotten "soft" from years of use and how his new carbon bike was now much stiffer. I pointed out that his steel frame was every bit as stiff as when it was new and it wasn't nearly as stiff as his carbon bike even then.
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Old 08-14-15, 08:41 PM
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I ride a 1972 Raleigh Super Course for my daily commuter. I doubt that it will last more than 25-30 more years unless I start taking it easy and quit flying over speed bumps.
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