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Frozen water hydro formed my rear triangle out of alignment

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Frozen water hydro formed my rear triangle out of alignment

Old 06-15-24, 10:10 PM
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Frozen water hydro formed my rear triangle out of alignment

Wow, well here is a new one on me!

Just purchased this Trek 990 - I got it because it is a slightly larger size and might fit me better than a smaller but otherwise identical Trek 990.

I turned the bike over to service it a bit, and noticed water seeping out here and there. Hmmm.

Then, later this evening, put a wheelset in it, and it was off about 5mm to one side. Hmmm.

Then I tried the wheelset that was in my other Trek 990, and it was still off. I noticed the cracked and flaking paint on the chain stay earlier, but just thought it was from the sun or something.

But the more I started looking at the roundedness of the chain stays, the more I realized it wasn't some mid-year revision. Water must have gotten in there and froze in those suckers!

I have two questions for all you frame building gurus out there:

1. Is the frame toast? I included a pic of what looked like the worst of what I could see, which I'm not sure is damage. I have I no idea if 'hydroforming' in a sense can damage welds, etc. Other than just the paint and that one little spot on the inside of the NDS chain stay, I see no cracks or splits.

2. If the frame isn't toast, can it be re-aligned? I'm assuming yes.

To be honest, I'm actually pretty impressed the whole thing didn't come apart. Just trying to figure out if this thing is still going to be buildable/ridable. For anyone wondering - I did ride the bike earlier, and it didn't disintegrate under me

First, a pic of what a normal, non-hydroformed chain stay situation is for a Trek 990 -







Now, for the weirdness -





This is the worst of it that I can see


Thoughts?

Thanks all!

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Old 06-15-24, 10:39 PM
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Alignment, and rear wheel alignment. Maybe worse than I thought?




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Old 06-15-24, 11:27 PM
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I think the chainstays will fail near the welds after all that stress on the HAZ.
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Old 06-16-24, 02:02 AM
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I remember selling those (or similar) back in early 90s. Those chainstay tubes are bulged pretty dramatically. My guess is the frame is junk unless you want to replace the chainstays. If you have to pay someone to do that it is not worth it. You'll be able to find another frame cheaper.
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Old 06-16-24, 02:15 AM
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Not a framebuilder, just an engineer. Given that the density of ice is 0.917 that of water, that bulge is significant enough (looks like more than 8-9%) that it may be from one freeze cycle, or multiple freeze cycles; Freeze, expand, melt, freeze, expand even more, etc.

How much of a problem is the expansion? Well, chainstays are loaded in tension from weight, and some compression under chain tension or lateral bending, and in compression, you want a section shape that is resistant to buckling, and in that regard, round is better than oval, unless, the chainstay is under vertical bending so wants to resist that with tubes that are vertically ovalized. But the rear triangle gets most of its stiffness and strength from... triangulating. So my point is, oval flattening of the chainstays may be primarily for clearance issues, not stress. So, will anything rub or be close with the fattened chainstays?

Another possible reason for oval chainstays, assuming high lateral bending loads on the frame, is that if there was a stress concentration where they met the bottom bracket, ovalizing them might reduce that by spreading the flex over a much longer length. But this is just a wild @ss guess on design intent. My 20" wheel folding bike, the chainstays are tapered but round, except where they meet the seat tube and then they are mitered and ovalized, but horizontally, to increase lateral stiffness at the weld.

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Old 06-16-24, 04:16 AM
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I'd red tag that one. Just isn't worth the risk.
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Old 06-16-24, 09:00 AM
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It looks like the bottom of the weld on the left stay is already cracked 3-4mm.
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Old 06-16-24, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Kontact
It looks like the bottom of the weld on the left stay is already cracked 3-4mm.

It's probably just paint, as the paint on this end of things has been really cracky/flakey. But I like the frame, I've got the tools, I need some brazing practice anyway, I'll just replace them.


Stay tuned for some carnage...
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Old 06-16-24, 09:07 AM
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So are the stays actually bigger, or did the ice just make them round again?
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Old 06-16-24, 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Kontact
So are the stays actually bigger, or did the ice just make them round again?

Well...I'm not sure. It definitely made them round, but it may have also bulged them in places where they were smaller. Honestly, if it wasn't for the alignment issue, I may have never even noticed, but since the wheel was so off in the dropouts, it made me start investigating.

Just waiting for my phone to charge and then I'll get some pretty interesting pictures...
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Old 06-16-24, 09:56 AM
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Sooooooo....I just cut the stays to see where we ended up without any tension on them. Surprising!



The things that surprised me were just how far the stays had spread from being bulged, but more surprising to me is the fact that after removing the chain stays from the equation, the wheel alignment was exactly the same - off. I'm really banging my head against a wall to figure out why. I mean, its probably off about 2-3mm at the brake bridge, which means a 5mm difference in spacing. I don't think the bulging of the stays could have pushed the seatstays beyond their elasticity...so, was it really this off from the start? I don't really get it. I'd also like to understand more about tension. The amount that it moved seemed to me to be a LOT of hidden tension, which can't be good. But I wonder just how much any old bike will move once tubes are cut.

From what you guys are seeing, do you think it is possible to get a rough alignment via the seat stays and dropouts, to then prep for new stays? I don't have an alignment table, so I have to get creative. But if the rear wheel sits in there evenly, that would at least be in the right direction.









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Old 06-16-24, 01:54 PM
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I found these, what do y'all think?

https://framebuildersupply.com/collections/chain-stays

They are 425mm long, and it looks like the unbutted section is 130mm, so you just trim to the length you need. I measured the chain stays on this bike and they are around 390mm.

If you guys have any other suggestions, let me know.
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Old 06-16-24, 02:22 PM
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Holy Cow! I would've ridden it. Having broken a chainstay on one bike and the chainstay side of a rear dropout on another, it's really no big deal. On the dropout one I was in the middle of nowhere, Wyoming and had to ride it/walk it about 15 miles to get to cell phone reception to make a call for a ride home. I could only ride it on downhills and in flat land I could pedal very softly without tire rub but had to hike-a-bike up the hills.
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Old 06-16-24, 02:56 PM
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I've wondered how much seat stays can account for alignment given that they are thinner than the chainstays. In other words, if welding heat causes the seat stays to want to wander, the stiffer chainstays are going to prevent the seat stays from expressing that tension at the dropouts. So the seat stays could spend their entire life under some sort of strain. Same thing when spreading the dropouts - the dropouts will set to a new position under whatever combination of forces the seat and chain stay work against each other to make.

So I'm not surprised your seat stays are off on their own. They were never on their own in the first place.
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Old 06-16-24, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Kontact

So I'm not surprised your seat stays are off on their own. They were never on their own in the first place.

Ah! Well, that makes sense. I suppose the missing component to all this is what the alignment looked like before the chain stays got all bulged out. That would be telling. Maybe the seat stays were under some sort of tension like what we are seeing now, and the movement of the bulging chain stays was partially influenced by them. Who knows.
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Old 06-16-24, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets
Holy Cow! I would've ridden it. Having broken a chainstay on one bike and the chainstay side of a rear dropout on another, it's really no big deal. On the dropout one I was in the middle of nowhere, Wyoming and had to ride it/walk it about 15 miles to get to cell phone reception to make a call for a ride home. I could only ride it on downhills and in flat land I could pedal very softly without tire rub but had to hike-a-bike up the hills.

Well, it would have bugged me honestly, riding around on those bulged out sausages. I can always use the brazing practice, plus now I have have like the easiest setup in the world - the bike becomes the jig! I'll see if I can set the alignment a little closer to what it should be, then cut/grind away the old stays, and work on fitment of the new ones. I'm going to definitely reviewing Mr. Brodie's videos!

Some questions. We are definitely going to be fillet brazing the stays to the BB. I think in the brazing videos I have seen by Mr. Brodie, he likes using some sort of nickel rod as a start before filling in with brass. Advisable here as well I'd assume?

Funny thing this came up, because I just did some brass brazing today of a project for my kid. I know this sounds like a dumb question, but soft red, not bright cherry red, yes? I was doing some solid rod and those things had to get pretty bright for the brass (bronze) rod to start flowing. But the material I was brazing was small - 3/16". I was using standard gas flux and I think a 3/32 brass rod.
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Old 06-16-24, 04:26 PM
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I will have to read this complete thread before suggesting anything about alignment for now. However, I seriously doubt freezing water did any tubing expansion. What I suspect is going on is build manipulation of tubing to fit shell widths and welding needs. The stays likely were necked down before welding IMO. As to the chain stay bridge and the bulges on both chainstays at those points, a too long bridge wedged into place at the "correct dimensional location" will result in the same look because the stays get soft during the welding and the too long bridge pushed each inner wall of the chain stays inwards as it won't compress anywhere as readily as the stays would just give way. The spreading of the rear end when the too long bridge was installed supplies the force to push in the stay walls at the bridge. Andy
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Old 06-16-24, 04:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart
I will have to read this complete thread before suggesting anything about alignment for now. However, I seriously doubt freezing water did any tubing expansion. What I suspect is going on is build manipulation of tubing to fit shell widths and welding needs. The stays likely were necked down before welding IMO. As to the chain stay bridge and the bulges on both chainstays at those points, a too long bridge wedged into place at the "correct dimensional location" will result in the same look because the stays get soft during the welding and the too long bridge pushed each inner wall of the chain stays inwards as it won't compress anywhere as readily as the stays would just give way. The spreading of the rear end when the too long bridge was installed supplies the force to push in the stay walls at the bridge. Andy

Andrew,

I hear what you are saying, and you are not wrong. However, these tubes are significantly ballooned around every attachment point, especially the welds to the BB and not just the chain stay bridge (I actually missed that before you mentioned it). I have an identical frame (just a size smaller) to compare to and the difference is pretty big. The final tell was the paint that had cracked from expansion and was flaking off. Water was also pouring out of the bike when I turned it over. In any case, the stays are cut, so whether they were compromised or perfectly good (whoops?) I'll be replacing them! The big thing for me was that the alignment was visibly off, otherwise I probably would never have been the wiser to any of this.
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Old 06-16-24, 05:02 PM
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I don't think it is crazy to think that an oval tube could expand to round under the pressure that ruptures copper pipe. This is a legit technique to push dents out on metal tubing.
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Old 06-16-24, 05:25 PM
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A bike got dumped at the Co-Op with the exact same issue, but one chain stay only. It was given to me for "disposal."

I used wooden blocks in a vice to resmoosh the chain stays to equal oval profiles using the non damaged one as a master. Then I re-dimpled the damaged stay being careful not to tempt fate too much with recreating the exact factory depth. IIRC I only went about 75% of the original dimple depth. Then I realigned the rear triangle.

It worked, so I powder coated it and put 1000-1200 miles on it before deciding the bike was too small for me. I then donated the frame to another Bikeshop mechanic for his own gravel build.

It makes sense to me that dumpling and oval shape act as a sort of safety valve when it comes to the internal stresses of frozen water that round plumbing pipes do not have the luxury of. In a round pipe, the forces express equally in all directions with no places for the forces to go until something bursts. In an oval pipe, the flatish side simply pushes out towards roundness.
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Old 06-16-24, 08:13 PM
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OK, I think the chainstay's condition could be from freezing water's expansion. But having placed my water bottles in the freezer many times I will say that the amount of container expansion is very dependent on the surface area of the water's "top" VS the amount of water in the container (or tube in this case). Also many all BBs on welded production bikes have vent holes that would mean any water in the stays would also want to fill the BB, seat and down tubes (which are usually also vented into the shell). Is there any evidence of said vents or water being in those tubes? Was there any internal rust in the stays or elsewhere?

After cutting through the chainstays their splay is exactly what i would expect if the bridge was too long and wedged in before joining. The BB side of the cuts would want to splay out and the dropout side would want to move inwards. The rear triangle's alignment is the average of the stresses and strengths of the various tubes, in a mannor of speaking.

The seat stay uneven length issue (the wheel sits to one side at the seat stay bridge) could very well be from the factory, I've seen worse. But their length won't change easily, steel is pretty strong in tension and compression. However wheels can sit off center at the seat stay bridge for other reasons than uneven lengths.

I would have considered a general frame alignment "correction" and ridden the bike but perhaps monitored the stays periodically. Breaking a stay is not the frame failure that I would worry about too much, WRT riding safety. Andy
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Old 06-16-24, 09:23 PM
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I appreciate everyone's thoughts. I could be completely wrong about everything, so I'm not discounting anyone's opinions, I appreciate them! The deed has been done, so no going back. It still would have bugged me enough to want to do something about it, and I picked it up cheap, so it should be a good learning experience/experiment. We'll have some fun. And it's my size, so I'm motivated. I'm going to have to study the post above that talks more about wheel alignment, as I'd like to try to get closer if I can, before brazing anything back together.

RE: vent holes - in the BB, there are very small holes, one for each stay, that are probably around 3/16" in diameter, definitely not the full size of the tubing. There was rusty water leaking out of the bike throughout every process thus far, from turning it over, to taking off the cranks and BB, and cutting open the stays. Not full of corrosion, but tinted red/brown. I did notice that the BB was pushed out about 3 threadlengths worth, although I didn't see a ton of damage on the threads, so that may be neither here nor there. But where the tubing did expand (especially on the outside of the stays near the BB, it definitely blew the paint out.

If anyone has any chainstay recommendations, feel free to let me know. The stays on this bike are about 390mm long. The only ones I've seen so far are those MTB Columbus 'Zona' or whatever they are called, but I'd be fine w/ just about anything CroMo that worked.

Also, more dumb questions. I've read (on here, by one of our framebuilding members I think) that in about 10 seconds, you can get on long enough to put a tiny tack on. Would you all recommend a tack on both sides of a stay before the full treatment? I've also heard that you want to have the torch on metal for as little time as possible. This to me also equates to 'as localized as possible'. I see sometimes people waving around a torch to pre-heat the area. Is that all nonsense? How far outside of the very immediate brazing area should you go? Or not at all? Are we still thinking that the metal is ready when 'it' melts the brazing rod, and not the flame, regardless of the color? I ask because on some of the brazing I did today, it seemed like the metal got pretty red before it would melt the bronze rod. I've also seen that Ciocc video when it looks like he heats up that headtube pretty cherry red! But I've read that you may need to put a little more heat on a joint to break it loose, rather than a fresh braze, and since I'm planning on cutting/grinding, I don't think that would be a big problem. I just don't want to overheat the metal or stay on there longer than I need to.

Okay, one more question. W/ gasflux, I've noticed that it doesn't take well to putting more on mid-way through a braze, since it just piles up and burns off, hardening up. W/ silver brazing, I've seen it turn dark and so folks will add more. I'm sort of assuming that you put a lot on at the beginning and coat everything, and then you don't add anything else on throughout the process (cuz it seems like its impossible) ?

Thanks all!
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Old 06-16-24, 11:11 PM
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If the chainstays went from oval to round section under pressure of expanding ice (and possibly multiple cycles of that), I don't think the length would change. However, if they were expanded beyond that, meaning the circumference increased from original form, the tube wall thickness could get thinnner, and possibly the chainstays get shorter in overall length. (Conversely, if the wall thickness was thinned due to swaging and kept at the same outside or inside diameter, the overall length of the tube would get longer.)
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Old 06-17-24, 12:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart
I will have to read this complete thread before suggesting anything about alignment for now. However, I seriously doubt freezing water did any tubing expansion. What I suspect is going on is build manipulation of tubing to fit shell widths and welding needs. The stays likely were necked down before welding IMO. As to the chain stay bridge and the bulges on both chainstays at those points, a too long bridge wedged into place at the "correct dimensional location" will result in the same look because the stays get soft during the welding and the too long bridge pushed each inner wall of the chain stays inwards as it won't compress anywhere as readily as the stays would just give way. The spreading of the rear end when the too long bridge was installed supplies the force to push in the stay walls at the bridge. Andy
I thought the same. Maybe for some reason the builder had "round-oval-round" stays instead of the usual oval ones he was used to. So he just squished them a bit in a vice. But I could be wrong. Seems unlikely water could do this without just finding somewhere to go-- through vent holes or further down the tube etc.

Round-Oval-Round stays are actually better IMO but it can be tricky to get the TIG electrode down in between them.
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Old 06-17-24, 04:49 AM
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It may just be the pictures, but the left seat stay looks like it has more bend in it than the right seat stay. It looks like the whole rear end may have been shoved over to the right by some type of impact.
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