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Why was Chromoly phased out?

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Why was Chromoly phased out?

Old 06-27-20, 08:04 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
The steel fork on Cannondales was to reduce cost. The less expensive models of their touring bikes had steel forks while many of their more expensive models had aluminum forks. Aluminum forks would be hard to make cheaply. Additionally, putting a steel fork on the bike to "reduce the harsh ride" makes no sense. Steel is more rigid than aluminum.
Yeah forgot to comment on this one.

You were an engineer right? How is that you don't account for geometry when discussing stiffness/rigidity? Steel is three times stronger and three times stiffer than aluminum, but an aluminum piece three times thicker than a steel piece is far stiffer than the steel because of the effect geometry has on stiffness. I-beams are a great example of this.
So if you get an aluminum fork with three times the wall thickness of the steel fork you get the same strength (or actually likely more) but the aluminum fork is much stiffer. So to get the same amount of flex you'd need to sacrifice strength. So it actually does make sense to at least use a steel fork, preferrably with bent blades to further increase the flexing effect.
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Old 06-27-20, 08:32 AM
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They can still be found.. Eg. Ribble offers reynolds 725 versions of their road and gravel bikes.
Much I'm sure has to do with margins for the manufacturers. To make a budget cro-mo frame (eg. like the ribble), probably costs more than making a budget CF frame, while the cache of CF means exacting a higher selling price (plus the buyer has benefit of a likely lower weight bike).
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Old 06-27-20, 08:40 AM
  #78  
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Originally Posted by Sy Reene View Post
They can still be found.. Eg. Ribble offers reynolds 725 versions of their road and gravel bikes.
Much I'm sure has to do with margins for the manufacturers. To make a budget cro-mo frame (eg. like the ribble), probably costs more than making a budget CF frame, while the cache of CF means exacting a higher selling price (plus the buyer has benefit of a likely lower weight bike).
I would think if a CF bike cost less to build than a CrMo bike, the RRP for the carbon bike would also be less. Otherwise a manufacturer somewhere is missing a trick, and losing out on sales, if everyone automatically adds a markup to their carbon frames.
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Old 06-27-20, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
You keep saying that but it seems that sentiment is more of your own imagining than the average mindset of your typical bicycle tourist.
But if you ask bicycle tourist why they pick steel, high on the list is the (supposed) repairability of steel over aluminum.

Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
In the days of on demand shipping, popularity of cycling rising around the globe and LBS's even in the more remote parts of the world repairing a frame is not something many would attempt on tour. Typically it'd be easier to order a new one and transfer parts from the broken frame to the new one.
So why pick heavy steel over light aluminum? I agree that people probably wonít have a frame fixed on tour so picking steel because it is ďrepairableĒ is more of a romantic notion than a reality.

Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
But if we really talk the practicality of repair, the fact remains that chromoly frames are easier to repair than aluminum frames. You have a multitude of repair techniques available but the more common ones are mig welding, tig welding and brazing. Now a welder with a modern degree in welding in the western world will likely to be able to repair almost any part of a bicycle frame even at its thinnest part by mig or tig welding it. Welding is a craft and there are schools to learn it. It's not something at all obscure. Brazing can be done by sleeving or just if it's just a crack filleting.
You do know that the same schools that teach welding teach people how to weld aluminum as well, donít you? MIG and TIG welding were invented for aluminum. Aluminum can be brazed as well. There are a multitude of techniques that can be used for both materials.

Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
If you break an aluminum frame there aren't many shops which are able to weld the frame AND heat treat it. Because that's what aluminum frames typically require after welding: heat treatment. Chromoly doesn't require heat treating. It's strong enough as is.
The need to heat treat depends on several factors. Tube joining requires heat treatment because of the heat applied. Crack repair is quick and affects a smaller area. Repairs on broken both steel and aluminum frames should be considered temporary.

Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
But none of the above really matters.
Iím not sure what your point is but I agree that none of it really matters. Both materials can work well for touring bikes but one is looked down upon mostly because of ignorance.

Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
If we're thinkin about this realistically the reason why so many cyclotourists choose steel is in the market. There's a lot of steel touring bikes but not that many aluminum ones in the anglosphere. Surly, Salsa, All City, Thorn, Comotion, Kona, Trek, Soma, Velo Orange, Specialized, Fuji, Spa, Ridgeback, Temple, Pashley, Cinelli, Dawes, Genesis, EVEN Koga make or have made steel touring bikes in the recent history. Bit of a smaller listing for aluminum, titanium or carbon fiber touring bikes.
The reason for the few aluminum touring bikes being offered is because of that romantic village smithy repair scenario. Bicycle tourists donít want to buy aluminum because they think the material is inferior so aluminum touring bikes donít get made. Because they donít get made, people donít buy them and steel bikes keep getting made. Gravel biking and adventure bikes are changing that but touring bicyclists are a curmudgeonly bunch.

Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
Of course in Europe lots and lots of touring bikes are made of aluminum but those are called trekking bikes and aren't exactly your world crossing calibre. They're more in the region of going along the Donau with two panniers and stopping at a bed and breakfast every night.
Oh, please! Just because someone rides one of the few aluminum touring bikes that do get made doesnít mean that they arenít ďrealĒ bicycle tourist. Cannondale made touring bikes for nearly 30 years that have been ridden all over the world in the same places as steel touring bikes have. I have 10,000 miles of tradition loaded touring on two Cannondale touring bikes (one about 8000 miles). I have another aluminum road bike that has 25,000 miles on it. They are tough bikes.

Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
Oi9But there are other perks to steel. It has better impact and wear resistance than aluminum. Ie, it doesn't dent as easily as aluminum. Also a dent in a steel tube is something that's manageable but in aluminum can mean a dead frame. Wear resistance is handy if you ride against a mountain. Done that, luckily only lost two panniers. For reference you can work on aluminum with woodworking tools. Also steel threads are far stronger than aluminum threads. That can be something that one could consider when attaching racks/panniers/bottle cages etc. Steel also doesn't have the tendency to creak. Aluminum and carbon fiber both tend to develop horrible creaks/clicks at some point. Never had that issue with steel.
Donít make out steel to be more than it is. Aluminum may not be impervious but neither is steel. Riding a bike into a mountain (or a wall or a car) is usually going to result in damage to the bike. I have a pretzeled frame in my garage (and a very ugly scar on my knee) from an encounter with a car nearly 40 years ago. The frame material wouldnít have made any difference in terms of how the bike did,,,or didnít...survive the crash.

IĎve also crashed aluminum bikes more times than I can number without damaging the frames. Frame damage is more dependent on the speed and angle of impact than the material.

Iíve ridden and heard many creaky steel bikes. Creaks arenít do to the material, they are due to the parts in the frame. Creaky bottom brackets are due to loose bottom bracket not the frame material.

Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
What I'm trying to say is that you don't have to be careful with steel. A touring grade chromoly frame is very hard to break. Aluminum is not.
Millions of mountain bike riders have a thing or two to say about the ďweaknessĒ of aluminum. Steel isnít as hard to break as you seem to think. Iíve broken both...multiple and equal times. Iíve had a steel mountain bike that broke at the steer tube at fork crown, cracked at the chainstay bridge, broke at the dropout, and finally cracked a second time outside of the weld repair at the chainstay bridge (so much for steel welds holding up over time). I had another steel mountain bike that broke at the rear dropout. I didnít even attempt to get that one welded since Specialized replaced it no questions asked.

I have also had an aluminum frame...an aluminum/boron Specialized M2 frame...that cracked in the same place as the steel bike. Again, it was replaced without question by Specialized. I also broke an aluminum frame because I put a HellBent seatpost with massive set back on the frame. Thatís the one that was welded and I never had another issue with it.

Finally, if aluminum is as weak as you seem to think it is, do you tour on steel rimmed wheels with steel hubs? Do you tour with steel handlebars, steel cranks, all steel pedals, and steel brakes? If you fear the weakness of aluminum, why not? Iíve broken aluminum versions of almost all of them but I donít fear that they will break on me to the point where I would trade them for steel versions.
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Old 06-27-20, 09:10 AM
  #80  
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Originally Posted by Leinster View Post
I would think if a CF bike cost less to build than a CrMo bike, the RRP for the carbon bike would also be less. Otherwise a manufacturer somewhere is missing a trick, and losing out on sales, if everyone automatically adds a markup to their carbon frames.
I think it's definite that a CF bike costs less to make. However, the manufacturers are selling on the features/benefits.. a CF bike will weigh less and has perception of being the modern and more exotic of materials, and it weighs less. So these bikes can sell for more and the manufacturers have much better margins. Maybe it's like helmets.. I can't imagine that eg. a MIPS helmet with more venting (holes) and thinner foam lining really cost much more to make than the heavier weight MIPs models, but you see some of these at 3-4x the cost from the same manufacturer.

The CroMo bikes exist because they can fill a pricepoint tier in their product lineup for buyers with low budgets. Selling a CF for less would mean they have to diminish pricing across their higher end lineup, or offer CF bikes with garbage groupsets.
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Old 06-27-20, 09:39 AM
  #81  
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
I've even seen some steel hangers that have be damaged to the point where the only alternative is to use a claw hanger if the bike has horizontal dropouts. The frame is dead if the frame has vertical dropouts. I'd much rather have a sacrificial hanger even if I owned a steel bike.
Dropouts are replaceable.
How many threads do we also see here where people can't find, or wait weeks for a replacement hanger?
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Old 06-27-20, 09:47 AM
  #82  
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Originally Posted by Trakhak View Post
Chromoly bikes were phased out for the same reason mechanical wristwatches were phased out. Quartz crystal watches do exactly what mechanical watches do---i.e., give you the time---but do so better and more cheaply than mechanical watches. There are still plenty of people who prefer mechanical watches, despite their shortcomings, because they like to think of themselves as more-discerning consumers. Some enthusiasts may even argue passionately that mechanical-watch are superior, on the basis of what appear to be obscure and romantic reasons to the rest of us.

I rode the highest of high-end steel road bikes from 1965 to 2005, at which point I bought my first aluminum road bike. I still have a Reynolds 853 bike and a 531 bike left from the old days, but I haven't ridden either more than a half-dozen times since 2005 because I prefer my aluminum bikes. My only regret is that I didn't buy a Cannondale road bike in the 1980s or 1990s, when I worked for a shop that sold them. (I did buy a Cannondale mountain bike in 1986; rode it yesterday, in fact.)

BikeForums.net is a site populated mostly by bike enthusiasts, many of whom are steel bike proponents. Which is fine---there's nothing wrong with steel bikes.

But: digital media versus analog, solid-state audio amplifiers versus tube, electronic watches versus mechanical, aluminum bikes versus steel: all are examples of a market moving on. Look at it this way: if it weren't for aluminum bikes, choosing steel would say nothing about your taste.
Can't really see how a bike frane is like a wrist watch. Not really passionate about it either. I guess really high end exotic materials bikes will ride and perform much better than a steel bike, notwithstanding any consideration of durability. On the other hand if I had to choose between an allie or steel bike in same (medium) price range it would be steel every time accepting all the frames were well made in the first place.
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Old 06-27-20, 11:17 AM
  #83  
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Originally Posted by Sy Reene View Post
I think it's definite that a CF bike costs less to make. However, the manufacturers are selling on the features/benefits.. a CF bike will weigh less and has perception of being the modern and more exotic of materials, and it weighs less. So these bikes can sell for more and the manufacturers have much better margins. Maybe it's like helmets.. I can't imagine that eg. a MIPS helmet with more venting (holes) and thinner foam lining really cost much more to make than the heavier weight MIPs models, but you see some of these at 3-4x the cost from the same manufacturer.

The CroMo bikes exist because they can fill a pricepoint tier in their product lineup for buyers with low budgets. Selling a CF for less would mean they have to diminish pricing across their higher end lineup, or offer CF bikes with garbage groupsets.
I don't follow the economic logic of that. If I, as a manufacturer, can assemble 1,000 carbon frames for less than the price of assembling 1,000 steel frames, and could then equip both models with the same spec components, (by buying 2,000 wheelsets, groupsets, finishing kits etc) surely I should sell the CF bike for less, or risk being undercut by another manufacturer, who has access to the same OEM pricing on all accessories (let's say for argument's sake that we're not talking about Giant or Specialized who can make basically the whole bike in-house).
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Old 06-27-20, 11:24 AM
  #84  
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I don't think it's correct to make a blanket statement that CF is cheaper to manufacture than steel. The cheapest bikes are steel. There are some really inexpensive carbon forks, but they are quite heavy. Lightweight steel bikes might cost more to make than inexpensive carbon, and required testing is biased against steel. But all materials cost less to make than most of us think.
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Old 06-27-20, 11:41 AM
  #85  
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Originally Posted by Leinster View Post
I don't follow the economic logic of that. If I, as a manufacturer, can assemble 1,000 carbon frames for less than the price of assembling 1,000 steel frames, and could then equip both models with the same spec components, (by buying 2,000 wheelsets, groupsets, finishing kits etc) surely I should sell the CF bike for less, or risk being undercut by another manufacturer, who has access to the same OEM pricing on all accessories (let's say for argument's sake that we're not talking about Giant or Specialized who can make basically the whole bike in-house).
Because each brand is maximizing profit.. and they want a lineup where they can offer options that range from eg. $1k to $10k. They sell what the market will bear. Pinarello is undercut by BikesDirect, but their bikes with similar groupsets don't have frames that really cost eg. $5k more to make. Bike jerseys are all made of of some version of polyester... but you can find some $30 models and some $200+ models.

Use these 2 examples linked below.. trying to find something in the same brand and similar component spec.
I'd strongly wager that the frame and component cost for either is almost identical, and I do think it's highly possible the CF frame is sourced at an actually lower price than the 725 version. Sure, they may well be able to lower the CF version cost, but they simply probably have found they don't need to in order to sell the most units at highest margin they feel their brand can get away with.. comparing themselves with the rest of the market offerings and the considering their own brand value.

Ribble CroMo
Ribble CF
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Old 06-27-20, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by dedhed View Post
Dropouts are replaceable.
How many threads do we also see here where people can't find, or wait weeks for a replacement hanger?
In what world are dropouts replaceable? Not the derailer hanger but the forged dropout.
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Old 06-27-20, 03:07 PM
  #87  
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Originally Posted by Sy Reene View Post
I think it's definite that a CF bike costs less to make.
Not with current manufacturing methods. Carbon fiber doesnít lend itself well to automated manufacturing. There is still a lot of hand work needed for carbon fiber bicycle frames. The reason that a small steel (or titanium) manufacturer charges a lot for a frame is because of the hand work, not the materials.

Carbon fiber is also an expensive material. It costs around $15 per pound compared to steel and aluminum which are less than a dollar per pound. The price of CF has come down a lot but it is still fairly expensive as a material.
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Old 06-27-20, 03:48 PM
  #88  
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Originally Posted by Sy Reene View Post
Because each brand is maximizing profit.. and they want a lineup where they can offer options that range from eg. $1k to $10k. They sell what the market will bear. Pinarello is undercut by BikesDirect, but their bikes with similar groupsets don't have frames that really cost eg. $5k more to make. Bike jerseys are all made of of some version of polyester... but you can find some $30 models and some $200+ models.

Use these 2 examples linked below.. trying to find something in the same brand and similar component spec.
I'd strongly wager that the frame and component cost for either is almost identical, and I do think it's highly possible the CF frame is sourced at an actually lower price than the 725 version. Sure, they may well be able to lower the CF version cost, but they simply probably have found they don't need to in order to sell the most units at highest margin they feel their brand can get away with.. comparing themselves with the rest of the market offerings and the considering their own brand value.

Ribble CroMo
Ribble CF
I think that's purely an assumption on your part.

I can believe that the difference in Ribble's cost between the 2 framesets is less than the difference between the 2 MSRPs, but I find it hard to believe that they would be making CF frames for less than steel, AND being the only ones who would have worked out how to do that. Because if they have $200+ clear that they can charge for their carbon frames, then other bike makers would settle for $150 there to ship more units of their bikes.

If high-end carbon retails at higher prices than off-the-shelf high-end steel, (and it does) then it's likely that a reason for that is that it costs more to build a carbon frame. Probably for most of the reasons Cyccommute outlines above.
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Old 06-27-20, 04:02 PM
  #89  
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Not with current manufacturing methods. Carbon fiber doesnít lend itself well to automated manufacturing. There is still a lot of hand work needed for carbon fiber bicycle frames. The reason that a small steel (or titanium) manufacturer charges a lot for a frame is because of the hand work, not the materials.

Carbon fiber is also an expensive material. It costs around $15 per pound compared to steel and aluminum which are less than a dollar per pound. The price of CF has come down a lot but it is still fairly expensive as a material.
I think you need to distinguish material cost.. are you comparing the cost of CF and Resin to eg. triple butted CroMo tubing. If just raw material, it's kinda meaningless, as you're talking about 2-3 lbs of raw material.. it's not going to explain 100s or 1000s of dollar of price difference.

Hard to get at the data, but maybe shop around on Aliexpress and see where Reynolds 725 frames are priced out vs. CF frames

And for assembly are you considering welding costs in the steel assembly scenario (or assuming everything is machine welded)?
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Old 06-27-20, 04:51 PM
  #90  
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
In what world are dropouts replaceable? Not the derailer hanger but the forged dropout.
On steel bikes, in the real world. Straightened, welded, replaced all happen. A search in C&V shows numerous threads of repaired or replaced. I've personally sent an old dropout off a trashed frame to a BF member who had it brazed in to repair his old Trek.
Simple, easy, unbraze, braze in new one, align.
Any frame builder and many shops will do it.

More Varieties of Frame End Repair at Yellow Jersey
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Old 06-27-20, 10:09 PM
  #91  
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+1 Steel is real.





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Old 06-28-20, 02:51 AM
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I don't know much about material science, but are there frequency response plots (Bode plots) available for various materials. Seems like it would be a good way to quantify vibration damping characteristics of different frame materials/shapes.
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Old 06-28-20, 05:05 AM
  #93  
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Originally Posted by son_of_clyde View Post
I don't know much about material science, but are there frequency response plots (Bode plots) available for various materials. Seems like it would be a good way to quantify vibration damping characteristics of different frame materials/shapes.
Tubing diameter far outweighs material choice as a factor in vibration damping in bike frames. Steel is denser than aluminum and thus damps vibration comparatively poorly, which is why steel rather than aluminum is used to manufacture bells.

In the early days of aluminum bike frame manufacturing, when Vitus and Alan were building frames with thick aluminum tubes of the same outer diameter as conventional steel frames, their aluminum frames were known to be much more flexible and shock-absorptive than the steel frames of the day.

That said, discussions of this and other differences between steel and aluminum bike frames miss the point. The OP asked for explanations of why aluminum bike frames have effectively supplanted steel frames in the market. The answer, tautological though it seems, is that the market moved on, as markets will. Clearly, the supposed shortcomings of aluminum and supposed superiority of steel were not significant enough factors for steel to maintain a significant share of bike sales, arguments from steel proponents on BikeForums notwithstanding.
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Old 06-28-20, 06:33 AM
  #94  
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As others have pointed out, the premise of the original post is faulty: there are plenty of chro-moly frames being produced out there.
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Old 06-28-20, 07:18 AM
  #95  
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Originally Posted by Leinster View Post
I think that's purely an assumption on your part.
.
You're right that it's a guess.. but I think it helps explain why you can often find extreme pricing swings/sales on CF frames such as linked.
You won't typically ever be able to find a steel/cromo frame that can suffer a $2k price discount

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Old 06-28-20, 07:23 AM
  #96  
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Steel had little competition until roughly the 90's.
Carbon, titanium and more aluminum were available in the 80's but with the end of the cold war production technology for consumer goods improved faster in the 90's making steel alternatives competitive on cost.
New, different and lighter are always good marketing points.
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Old 06-28-20, 09:01 AM
  #97  
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Originally Posted by dedhed View Post
Simple, easy, unbraze, braze in new one, align.
This is the main sticking point to the ďdropouts can be replacedĒ comment. If the frame is of brazed construction it might be replaceable. Replacement on a brazed frame would depend on how much the owner is willing to spend. Not all brazed frames are worth the cost.

If the frame is welded ...which is how the vast number of frames of either steel or aluminum are made...replacing the dropout isnít usually an option. You canít really just heat it to remove the dropout like you can with brazing. You would need to cut the dropout out, drill out or cut out the dropout tab in the frame tubes, clean up the ends, and then weld in a new piece. It would also be something that is going to require significant frame alignment. Most welded frames of any material just arenít worth the expense if it can even be done.
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Old 06-28-20, 09:55 AM
  #98  
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Originally Posted by PoorInRichfield View Post
Curious as to why you'd be interested in Chro-Mo? It's still very alive and well in BMX bikes, probably because it's tough. However, I have no desire to return to Chro-Mo frames for road biking, other than for nostalgia's sake, as the alternatives are so much better.
I have almost zero knowledge of modern bikes, frames, components, etc.

What are the alternatives and what makes them so much better?
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Old 06-28-20, 10:09 AM
  #99  
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
As others have pointed out, the premise of the original post is faulty: there are plenty of chro-moly frames being produced out there.
Yes, but if people accepted indisputable fact that the premise of the OP is faulty, there would be noting for people to argue about.
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Old 06-28-20, 10:38 AM
  #100  
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
As others have pointed out, the premise of the original post is faulty: there are plenty of chro-moly frames being produced out there.
If by "plenty" you mean between 1% and 4% of annual U.S. bike sales, the overwhelming majority being aluminum, then, yes, there are plenty of chro-moly bikes being produced out there.
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