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When should you retire a steel frame?

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When should you retire a steel frame?

Old 05-04-19, 09:16 AM
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BikeWonder
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When should you retire a steel frame?

Take your best C & V steel bike and use it for almost everything. But in this case, we'll stick to long commutes or touring during dry weather (mostly spring or summer). Every now and then you replace components and consumables, spray the frame with rust saver, and overall the frame looks great as you polish it with clear coat so that paint remains good with no signs of surface rust.

How long would you ride the frame before deciding to retire it? What factors would contribute to your decision?
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Old 05-04-19, 09:21 AM
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When I got bored with the ride?
Steel has a fatigue limit, and when flexed without deforming, it does not structurally weaken, so the frame has the potential to last indefinitely if it is protected from corrosion and impact.
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Old 05-04-19, 09:21 AM
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When you crash into something , or it cracks from use fatigue?



when you service it poorly & get the seat post & stem stuck you put it on eBay

Cheap, and find a victim..







...
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Old 05-04-19, 09:24 AM
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It should outlast you, barring crash or design/assembly flaw.
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Old 05-04-19, 09:59 AM
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Old 05-04-19, 10:15 AM
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ride it till it breaks, which may be beyond your lifetime. And if it breaks, there’s a good chance it can be repaired
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Old 05-04-19, 10:51 AM
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Originally Posted by BikeWonder View Post
Take your best C & V steel bike and use it for almost everything. But in this case, we'll stick to long commutes or touring during dry weather (mostly spring or summer). Every now and then you replace components and consumables, spray the frame with rust saver, and overall the frame looks great as you polish it with clear coat so that paint remains good with no signs of surface rust.

How long would you ride the frame before deciding to retire it? What factors would contribute to your decision?

Based on your previous thread about feeling like your Miyata was 'fragile,' it seems you've heard the stories of steel frames "wearing out" that enthusiasts use to justify new bikes, and to reinforce how dominant their new bikes are.

I recall a thread on another forum where some guy was berating me for spending time/money/energy on rebuilding one of my old bikes because steel "wears out at the bottom bracket- a guy who rode across the Alps told him so." No ****.

I think that sort of thinking is ingrained in people because it reinforces what they want to believe- you *need* new stuff, and old stuff is obsolete and dangerous. It seems like you're kind of caught between what you've been told- and what you like; you have a really cool old bike, you know it's really cool, plenty of enthusiasts have told you it's really cool- but at the same time, you've heard all the stories about how old fashioned and unsafe and useless old bikes are- and probably from people you know and trust.

As far as the premise for the thread- you retire a steel frame when there's something wrong with it that you can't or don't want to repair.
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Old 05-04-19, 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by The Golden Boy View Post
Based on your previous thread about feeling like your Miyata was 'fragile,' it seems you've heard the stories of steel frames "wearing out" that enthusiasts use to justify new bikes, and to reinforce how dominant their new bikes are.

I recall a thread on another forum where some guy was berating me for spending time/money/energy on rebuilding one of my old bikes because steel "wears out at the bottom bracket- a guy who rode across the Alps told him so." No ****.

I think that sort of thinking is ingrained in people because it reinforces what they want to believe- you *need* new stuff, and old stuff is obsolete and dangerous. It seems like you're kind of caught between what you've been told- and what you like; you have a really cool old bike, you know it's really cool, plenty of enthusiasts have told you it's really cool- but at the same time, you've heard all the stories about how old fashioned and unsafe and useless old bikes are- and probably from people you know and trust.

As far as the premise for the thread- you retire a steel frame when there's something wrong with it that you can't or don't want to repair.
Nothing to do with my previous threads. It was just a question that came up in my head and I wanted to ask those with more experience. I see a lot of carbon bike users retire their bikes every 2-4 years, mainly to do with just wanting to upgrade and keep up with what's new.

I know with steel bikes there are various types of tubing, so I wonder if the thinner tubes for racing frames are more subject to fatigue (due to sizing and weight specifications for a rider) to a lower cromo frame.
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Old 05-04-19, 11:10 AM
  #9  
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when you pry it from my cold dead hands...
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Old 05-04-19, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by gugie View Post
ride it till it breaks, which may be beyond your lifetime. And if it breaks, there’s a good chance it can be repaired
I have broken two steel frames just by riding the hell out of them. They are not immortal.

1. 1971 Nishiki Competition, at the 20 year, 40k mile mark -- the seat tube lug broke away from the bottom bracket shell.

2. 1973 Peugeot UO-8, a few years later (after I had bought French BB cups and moved most of the components from the Nishiki) -- the chainstay cracked almost all the way around, between the tire and chainwheel clearance dimples.

I have broken two other frames, but they do not count, because they had previously been crashed and straightened. Both failed near the front of the downtube, as expected.

Significantly, I have never experienced a frame failure that either endangered or stranded me. In one case I gingerly rode home with a ruptured downtube. I worry much more about a handlebar stem or crank failure, having experienced the latter (ouch!).
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Old 05-04-19, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by BikeWonder View Post
Nothing to do with my previous threads. It was just a question that came up in my head and I wanted to ask those with more experience. I see a lot of carbon bike users retire their bikes every 2-4 years, mainly to do with just wanting to upgrade and keep up with what's new.

I know with steel bikes there are various types of tubing, so I wonder if the thinner tubes for racing frames are more subject to fatigue (due to sizing and weight specifications for a rider) to a lower cromo frame.
Sorry to infer something that wasn't there!

It's a logical thought process you have about it. And what I see you thinking about is what makes steel great- there's signs that a steel frame is going to give it up- catastrophic failure is outrageously extremely rare.

As you're aware there are different tubesets that comprise different metallurgy and different thicknesses. While I think there are very very special bikes that are made with absolute lightness as a primary consideration-(something like meant to be used for one race and discarded), the great great majority of bikes with most available tubing is designed with a robustness in a direct correlation with thickness and weight and strength.
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Old 05-04-19, 11:32 AM
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When you buy a better Carbon Fiber Frame.

I'm not sure about ever "retiring" a frame. I haven't broken one yet. But, perhaps that will come.

I may eventually remove the rack from my old Colnago, as I now have better bikes for carrying cargo, and am working on another one or two.

I've slowed down using the old Colnago in the inclement weather because the paint has gone bad. But, it should get out again this summer.
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Old 05-04-19, 11:50 AM
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My steel frame road bike is 28 years old and I have no idea how many miles on it, other than a lot.. I am 66 years old and know that my body also has a lot of miles on it. I am in the process of rebuiding the bike, and it will be like new again. That cannot be done with my body. Without a catastrophic accident, I suspect the bike will still be capable of giving someone a nice, comfortable ride after I am no longer able to ride, or I am dead.
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Old 05-04-19, 12:19 PM
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Whether you get a new bike every 2-4 years has nothing to do with what material is used, crabon or steal.

Below is a 90+ year bike and some idiot riding it.


Frejus 01 by iabisdb, on Flickr



IMG_2623a David and his Frejus by kurtsj00, on Flickr
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Old 05-04-19, 12:22 PM
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... when the top tube on your sports tourer gets too long for an aging back.
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Old 05-04-19, 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by iab View Post
Whether you get a new bike every 2-4 years has nothing to do with what material is used, crabon or steal.

Below is a 90+ year bike and some idiot riding it.
Where are the cobbles?

Ok, so I see some road cracks, but riding on pavement must be like riding that thing on a wood track.
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Old 05-04-19, 01:01 PM
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My steel bikes will likely "retire" me, balance being what it is.
Maybe a 3-wheel recumbent, then.

Or, I'll expire on one, and that's not a bad thing.
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Old 05-04-19, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by John E View Post
I have broken two steel frames just by riding the hell out of them. They are not immortal.
Sounds like you followed my advic to a "t".

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Old 05-04-19, 01:18 PM
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When i die and get buried with it....
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Old 05-04-19, 01:30 PM
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When would I retire it? Pretty much never.

What factors would contribute to my decision? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steel
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Old 05-04-19, 03:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Chr0m0ly View Post
When I got bored with the ride?
Steel has a fatigue limit, and when flexed without deforming, it does not structurally weaken, so the frame has the potential to last indefinitely if it is protected from corrosion and impact.
There's no such thing as flexing without deforming, the fatigue limit is certainly not where metal takes a permanent bend (plastic deformation/yield point), and regular riding will most likely fatigue a nice frame. However it takes a long time to kill an aluminum frame with fatigue cycles, and usually longer still to kill a steel frame, so much that the frame is likely to die from some other issue, or the owner dies first. One of the big things about Reynolds 531 was not just higher strength, but better fatigue life, about 4-6 times as much in Reynolds testing as hi-ten.

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Old 05-04-19, 03:37 PM
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I agree with the, when you have an accident and break something or something on the frame brakes.

On that latter point I will never forget being in Bill Stevenson's shop when a young man and his mom came in. He had inherited a Stevenson bike from the parents and had converted it to a single speed, couldn't tell if it was a fixie. Now this young man was somewhere in the 6'2-4" range, in that golden age of late teens to mid-20s and nothing but muscle, lungs and heart. He lived in Seattle, can't remember if he was going to school there and if you've never been to Seattle one of its features are hills, some of them real heart aches. It seems he was riding up one such hill when he heard a sound and noticed that the ride had changed on his bike. Pulling over he saw why, which was why he was at Bill's shop. He had neatly snapped through the seat tube about an inch or so above the BB lug. It looked like a giant had just torn apart the seat tube in a neat straight line. Bill was hoh hum about it, joking with the mom (may have been her bike, she was quite tall too) and yes, Bill replaced the seat tube and the bike was as good as new (probably better as I bet he chose a seat tube whose wall thickness was equal to this young man's strength/weight).

So yes even if broken a steel frame can be repaired, a choice up to you, not someones marketing department.

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Old 05-04-19, 04:21 PM
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If you can't come up with a plausible reason to retire your steel frame, then clearly it's not ready to be retired.
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Old 05-04-19, 05:05 PM
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I've retired frames for: My '67 UO-8 hit a car door in '82. We both suffered real damage. Two years before I'd broken a chainstay like the John E above and had it welded.

Broke a fork blade on a cheap Sekine midway while riding. Rode it home and retired it. Not a good enough bike to be worth saving. Shortened its replacement on a chainlink fence. That bike was a quality bike but a poor fit. Didn't try to save it.

My current Trek broke across the seatstay cap as those bikes were prone to do. Local frambuilder did a repair to better than new. My racing bike, a Fuji Pro, broke across the BB lugs at the bottom of the seattube (like John E's other experience). The seattube was too short and not mitered and fitted to the downtube. I wonder if John E's bike had the same.

Except for the crashes, I never got hurt by any of these failure/

I did cracked both (steel) fork blades on one of my titanium bikes. Now that was scary. I discovered the problem when the bike started wobbling, almost bucking when I touched the front break. I was 5 miles from home and had just ridden down 2000' of descent. Very sobering. That was a case of not respecting steel as a material. Quality Columbus SL. We (myself and the builder) thought that nickle plating and bead blasting the fork would be a pleasing match to the ti frame it was going on. It was. What we didn't know was that if you plate high strength steel with nickle, you have to heat treat it to drive out the hydrogen atoms that become embedded by the process. The plater knew this but choose not to point out that the heat treat would be an extra $30. (We'd have paid that in a flash if we knew. Replacement is painted 531. As trustworthy as they come.)

And I had an aluminum fork fail. Had I not been wearing the first good helmet, I would not be here. That's not speculation.

For all the steel failures I've seen (in roughly 180,000 miles) I'll stick to it (and that wonderful titanium in doses limited by my wallet).

Ben
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Old 05-04-19, 05:26 PM
  #25  
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I see the correct answer has not been stated yet.

You retire an old steel frame when.................you can see the cords poking through the rubber on the old tires. Time to get new tires.

Duh.
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