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Are N.O.S. aluminum parts still safe?

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Are N.O.S. aluminum parts still safe?

Old 09-09-18, 11:12 AM
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Are N.O.S. aluminum parts still safe?

I heard a claim once that aluminum is the only metal that fatigues by itself over time even if it is never used, but have no idea if there is any merit to this claim. My concern is mostly about older, (say early 90’s) steering parts made of aluminum such as welded stems that have never been mounted to a bike before. Could one safely assume that it would be just as safe now as when it were new?

Any knowledgeable feedback would be appreciated...Thanks!
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Old 09-09-18, 11:18 AM
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I use old stuff all the time with no concern for the metallurgy.
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Old 09-09-18, 11:29 AM
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The aluminum itself is fine. The welds may fatigue faster than Al itself, but I'd be skeptical that a non-stressed 20 yo part would fail. I've not heard of mass numbers of welded stems and such failing. Anyone else?

B-52s from the fifties are still flying, btw.
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Old 09-09-18, 11:59 AM
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I might catch hell for this, but I'm still using the very first Cinelli Mod 66 bar and 1A stem that I bought in 1983. They've been on three bikes and have over 100,000 miles on them.
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Old 09-09-18, 12:12 PM
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still looks ok to me!
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Old 09-09-18, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Wolf Dust View Post
I heard a claim once that aluminum is the only metal that fatigues by itself over time even if it is never used, but have no idea if there is any merit to this claim. My concern is mostly about older, (say early 90’s) steering parts made of aluminum such as welded stems that have never been mounted to a bike before. Could one safely assume that it would be just as safe now as when it were new?

Any knowledgeable feedback would be appreciated...Thanks!
There are two topics mixed together in your question. One is fatigue. The other is age hardening. Neither are trivial. I recommend going to the library and doing some reading. If you seek answers here how will you know which (if any) are accurate?
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Old 09-09-18, 01:40 PM
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Having broken a stem and two handlebars I can appreciate your concern. However , the stem was new and neither handlebar was particularly old. In general the reliability of bicycle parts is extremely low. Best to take up golf. Or checkers. And don't forget to wear your helmet.

About the only thing you can do is use parts with an established record of reliability. Anything new and improved is suspect. Anything which does not display obvious quality and conservative engineering is suspect. This morning I rode on 1930s FB hubs, the balance of the bike only a little newer. My parts are well proven.
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Old 09-09-18, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by gearbasher View Post
I might catch hell for this, but I'm still using the very first Cinelli Mod 66 bar and 1A stem that I bought in 1983. They've been on three bikes and have over 100,000 miles on them.
That sounds awfully NEW!!!!

I did finally remove my old Cinelli bars off of my old bike. I bought the bike used in 82, and the bars could well have been 10 or 20 years older.

I only retired the old bars because I chose to go with newer bar shapes.

I have, however, seen broken vintage bars. Cinelli used a double strength center section. I'm not quite sure how they created it, sleeved? Perhaps it creates a stress point at the edge of the sleeve, but the bars seem to be quite STRONG, and made with a good alloy (6061 or similar?)

Other Asian brands simply had an expanded bulb in the middle, and may have actually had thinner middle material than the rest of the bars.

I would be very skeptical of using those early expanded bulb style bars.

If you choose vintage bars, get a good name brand with the double thickness or sleeved center.
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Old 09-09-18, 02:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Insidious C. View Post
If you seek answers here how will you know which (if any) are accurate?
...everything I say here is a lie.
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Old 09-09-18, 02:26 PM
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Aluminum Properties Changing Over Time

"Aluminum does not have a specified “shelf life” and will not age harden [by itself over time]. Age hardening requires special heat treatment and applies only to a few alloys. ... Some aluminum alloys obtain their highest physical properties via a two stage heat treatment process called “Solution heat treatment and aging”.

https://www.unitedaluminum.com/techn...and-tools/faq/

In other words, aluminum properties don't change by themselves over time, but note it's only been a commercially viable metal for a little over 125 years so there is no long term record.

History of Aluminum | The Aluminum Association

During the US Bike Boom of the early 70's a lot of poor quality aluminum products such as bars and cast stems were produced, mainly by French manufactures. Those items made over about a 4-5 year period gave aluminum bicycle components a bad rap resulting in the "Death Stem" mystic.

Millions of cast aluminum stems were manufactured between the late 40's and the present. Sheldon Brown gave the name Death Stem to AVA cast stems but many of those made by Pivo were the worst!

A lot of those defective stems should have been remelted but where sold to bike manufacturers and put to use.



One thing to consider about older aluminum components, unless you've owned them since new, you never know their history! Have the bars or stem been in a crash? Has a stem been force fit onto the wrong size bar, either too big or too small???

Better quality forged aluminum stems have an advantage over cast ones. Also there weren't that many welded aluminum stems produced so there's not much history to go on.

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Old 09-09-18, 03:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Insidious C. View Post
I recommend going to the library and doing some reading. If you seek answers here how will you know which (if any) are accurate?
How do you know which (if any) answers at the library are accurate?
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Old 09-09-18, 03:36 PM
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Originally Posted by verktyg View Post
"Aluminum does not have a specified “shelf life” and will not age harden [by itself over time]. Age hardening requires special heat treatment and applies only to a few alloys. ... Some aluminum alloys obtain their highest physical properties via a two stage heat treatment process called “Solution heat treatment and aging”.

https://www.unitedaluminum.com/techn...and-tools/faq/

In other words, aluminum properties don't change by themselves over time, but note it's only been a commercially viable metal for a little over 125 years so there is no long term record.

History of Aluminum | The Aluminum Association

During the US Bike Boom of the early 70's a lot of poor quality aluminum products such as bars and cast stems were produced, mainly by French manufactures. Those items made over about a 4-5 year period gave aluminum bicycle components a bad rap resulting in the "Death Stem" mystic.

Millions of cast aluminum stems were manufactured between the late 40's and the present. Sheldon Brown gave the name Death Stem to AVA cast stems but many of those made by Pivo were the worst!

A lot of those defective stems should have been remelted but where sold to bike manufacturers and put to use.



One thing to consider about older aluminum components, unless you've owned them since new, you never know their history! Have the bars or stem been in a crash? Has a stem been force fit onto the wrong size bar???

Better quality forged aluminum stems have an advantage over cast ones. Also there weren't that many welded aluminum stems produced so there's not much history to go on.

verktyg
Thank you verktyg... This was the type of information I was hoping for.
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Old 09-09-18, 03:53 PM
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I can tell you that we purchase tempered aluminum pipe for use in formed handrails. If it sits in stock for too long, it'll fracture when it's formed. If we purchases a "fresh" mill run, it's fine.
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Old 09-09-18, 06:49 PM
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I believe that most NOS alloy components are safer than most modern weight weenie parts.
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Old 09-09-18, 08:25 PM
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Originally Posted by WizardOfBoz View Post
B-52s from the fifties are still flying, btw.
Catchy tunes, too.
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Old 09-09-18, 08:43 PM
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Originally Posted by WizardOfBoz View Post
The aluminum itself is fine. The welds may fatigue faster than Al itself, but I'd be skeptical that a non-stressed 20 yo part would fail. I've not heard of mass numbers of welded stems and such failing. Anyone else?

B-52s from the fifties are still flying, btw.
Always find the visual of a B-52's wing droop while on the ground scary when compared to the look of it in the air.
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Old 09-09-18, 09:04 PM
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Originally Posted by repechage View Post
Always find the visual of a B-52's wing droop while on the ground scary when compared to the look of it in the air.
The wings on B52 had been dropping since the first one came out of the Boeing factory, many decades ago. Even the earlier B47 Stratojet had similar droopy wings as these bombers had their landing gears under the fuselage instead of out under the wings, in the engine nacelles as earlier planes had them. The B47 even had small supplemental landing gears to support them mid spar of the wings to keep them from dragging when taxiing on the ground.....

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Old 09-10-18, 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by repechage View Post
Always find the visual of a B-52's wing droop while on the ground scary when compared to the look of it in the air.
I guess this goes to the point that aluminum's modulus of elasticity is less than steel's. Interesting demonstration of such.

Originally Posted by P!N20 View Post
Catchy tunes, too.
Heh heh. I guess that you could say that "Private Idaho" and "Rock Lobster" are catchy.

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Old 09-10-18, 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by WizardOfBoz View Post
I guess this goes to the point that aluminum's modulus of elasticity is less than steel's. Interesting demonstration of such.
This is a function of the B-52's wing design, not the material. The carbon fiber wings of the Boeing 787 (and modern sailplanes) are also relatively flexible; it is quite noticeable at rotation on takeoff.
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Old 09-10-18, 03:55 PM
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Originally Posted by djm323 View Post
This is a function of the B-52's wing design, not the material. The carbon fiber wings of the Boeing 787 (and modern sailplanes) are also relatively flexible; it is quite noticeable at rotation on takeoff.
just for fun, here are some shots that I've taken of both the Boeing 787 and the B-52. Both wings flex a fair bit as a result of design decisions... this would include making the wings thin (from top to bottom) to reduce drag at high speed. I'm not sure if this can be used to compare the relative flexibility of carbon to aluminum, since we don't know the relative thickness of the structural members in the wing.

787 just after takeoff.... the wingtips are flexed upwards a good deal.




787 on the deck, towed. Even at rest, the wings have a fair bit of dihedral and do slope upwards. Hard to say how much lower they are when compared to their flexed position in flight.




B-52, banked --- the wing appears almost straight.




B-52, on the ground. It's not obvious from the photo, but the wings do droop a fair bit. There is an outrigger landing gear near the wingtip, which is barely visible in this picture.



All photos were taken at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, at the Experimental Aircraft Association gathering in late July.

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Old 09-10-18, 03:56 PM
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Q: What sound do the 787 wings make when they flex?
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Old 09-10-18, 04:17 PM
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Aluminum can be dangerous if you drop a big chunk of it on your toe, but not as dangerous as the same size piece of steel or, heaven forbid, lead. It can also be dangerous if you are given that word in a spelling bee or a spelling test and you don't know when to stop. (I usually spell it aluminuminumimum to be safe.)

Other than that, I've been using the same aluminium stem on my UO-8 since I bought it in the last millennium.
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Old 09-10-18, 05:10 PM
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Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
It can also be dangerous if you are given that word in a spelling bee or a spelling test and you don't know when to stop.
Or which country you're in ~ aluminum/aluminium
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Old 09-10-18, 05:19 PM
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Aluminum stem and bars from 1939. I rode them.


Ambrosio 04 by iabisdb, on Flickr
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Old 09-10-18, 08:08 PM
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Originally Posted by madpogue View Post
Q: What sound do the 787 wings make when they flex?
Before they go to production, aircraft structures go through some tough tests. Here's a Wired article about a test on the 787 where the wing was loaded to 150% of the intended load. It says that the wings flexed upwards approximately 25 feet. No mention of any creaks, groans, or splintering sounds...

https://www.wired.com/2010/03/boeing...ing-flex-test/

The photo is quite impressive!

On the other hand... testing to failure can be pretty exciting (and a bit noisier). The 777's aluminum wing was tested to failure, and is pretty fun to watch and listen to.


My understanding is that the bike industry does carry out endurance tests on a lot of the structural elements/components. I know that I've seen Rivendell and Compass discuss some of the tests that their designs have gone through. Not quite as glamorous as testing a multi-million dollar aircraft, but still quite critical to the customer's safety and the manufacturer's finances (lawsuits can be expensive).

Steve in Peoria
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