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Broken Frames on Tour

Old 09-30-21, 08:06 AM
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Broken Frames on Tour

In another thread there was another round of talk of broken frames and welding. This seems to come up again and again, usually as an argument against aluminum frames for touring. It made me wonder about a few things...

How many here have ever broken a frame on tour? Where, somewhere with plenty of services or not? Frame material? Did you manage to get it repaired and continue on it? Replace it and continue? End your tour? Interesting anecdotes? Details please.

Do you know of others who have broken frames on tour? Same questions as above.

Personally I only know of a guy who crashed and bent/cracked a fork and had to wait a couple days for one to be shipped and another couple instances where folks waited for derailleur hangers to be delivered (if you count that as frame damage). The guy waiting for the fork was probably happy to have a few days to recover before resuming his TA as he was pretty banged up.

I have seen pictures of main and rear triangles cobbled together by being splinted with bamboo or bars or wrapped with sheet metal (beer can in some cases) and held together with hose clamps, cable ties, or duct tape. I don't know if any were touring, Many of the pictures I have seen were mountain bikes with wrenches or other tools used as splints to ride back out of the boonies.

Personally I might be inclined to do whatever it takes to get to somewhere that I could get a new frame or a new bike if the damage was bad. Depending on the damage, that might mean stripping the frame and junking it, then hiking, hitching a ride, taking a bus, or whatever it takes to get to a ctiy or town where a replacement could be procured or shipped to. If that meant shipping the good bike home and riding a cheapie bike for the rest of the tour so be it

I have a two bikes that I am emotionally attached enough to that I'd have a hard time letting go of. The rest I'd just as soon replace either the frame or the whole bike if a frame broke.
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Old 09-30-21, 08:26 AM
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As I've noted previously, my bike broke on the first day of my tour. The drive-side dropout (part of the steel frame) broke. If I'd been in the hinterlands I might have tried to get the frame welded. But after a phone call to REI, and finding they had a bike "only" a couple hours from Yorktown, with my wife still in town, we made the drive up towards D.C. and got the frame replaced. REI did a nice job touching up the wheels (no problems for about 3,000 miles then a minor touch-up true), and moved the front rack, bars, and gave me money back because it was a return from a high-tax state plus buying the new one at the same price in a lower tax state!

A few years later, I figured out I'd put a 135 rear wheel into a 130 frame, without spreading the frame, which might have caused the breakage.

25,000 miles later, that's still my rain bike.
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Old 09-30-21, 09:36 AM
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My dropout/chainstay joint snapped while climbing a hill in Booneville KY (pop 152). The steel frame was repaired by the village smithy at a local auto repair garage. It was a quick repair while I waited and watched. This was during a TransAm tour in 1993. I was able to complete the westbound tour after the repair.

The frame dropout spacing had been reset from 120mm to 126mm the previous year by a local NH frame builder. Not sure if this stressed the braze.



edit: frame geeks, correct me if I'm wrong ... I believe the above was a brazing repair with a torch, not welding with an arc? See golden color bead at joint.

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Old 09-30-21, 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
In another thread there was another round of talk of broken frames and welding. This seems to come up again and again, usually as an argument against aluminum frames for touring. It made me wonder about a few things...
Since I’m the one who brought it up, I’ll address it. I’m not saying that touring frames are prone to breaking. I really doubt that a touring frame is any more or any less delicate than any other frame. Touring frames are likely stronger than many road bikes but probably only slightly and certainly not by orders of magnitude (i.e. tens of times stronger). Frankly, I consider the fear of breaking a frame on tour to be an unreasonable fear. That’s part of the reason I call it a “myth”. It happens but it’s probably a 1 in a million chance. That doesn’t stop people from being unreasonable, however. There are very few reports of broken touring frames here on the Bike Forums.

A lot of the mythology of materials other than steel “asploding” also comes from people not understanding materials or just resistance to change. Aluminum bikes have been around for a very long time and they are extremely tough. Carbon fiber has been around for a little less time but the only thing that would “asplode” would be people’s heads if you suggest using it for touring.

As a person who has managed to break 4 frames (not touring bikes) by simply using them, I think I have a lot more experience with broken frames…and repairing them…than most. Based on my experiences, I should (and do) trust aluminum over steel. My first mountain bike (Miyata Ridge Runner) from 1984 broke a fork, broke at the brake bridges, broke at the driveside dropout, and finally cracked above the previously repaired brake bridge which is what killed the frame. That 4 breaks on one frame.

I broke a steel Specialized Rock Combo at the driveside dropout. The Rock Combo was an early attempt by Specialized to make a hybrid bike which I adapted to mountain biking. I was asking too much of the frame. I have also broken a Specialized Stumpjumper Pro M2 frame which had a production problem due to the frame being too brittle for what it was designed to do. The other aluminum bike I broke was a Nashbar Flashback which was too small, had a weak seat tube/seat stay junction, and I was trying use a seatpost with a huge set back.

The Ridge Runner and the Flashback were the two bikes I had repaired (the other two were warranteed). My interaction with the machinist I had repair both is what informs my attitude towards the “ease” of repair. He commented that the thinness of the tubing on the Ridge Runner surprised him. He said that it would be very easy to burn the metal during welding and that he almost did. He, like many welders, was much more used to working with thicker metal. Perhaps what saved my frame was the fact that he also worked on delicate scientific equipment and was used to using a very light hand during welding.

He also repaired the broken aluminum frame which I used for several years without issues even though it was not annealed.

I currently touring on aluminum and bikepack on titanium. I’m not worried about either one breaking nor am I worried that if either were to break that I couldn’t get them repaired to at least get me to the end of a tour. If the aluminum frame broke, I’d replace it at the end of a tour but if I were to ride on steel, I’d do the same. For the titanium, I have a guy in Boulder that does a great job.
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Old 09-30-21, 12:15 PM
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I have broken two frames on tour. The breaks and circumstances are as follows.

The first break happened in 2001 near Shark Bay in Western Australia. A little hard to see but that line you see is a crack that goes ~2/3 of the way around the left chainstay.

This is on my aluminum framed Cannondale T1000 touring bicycle. The sequence that led to this started some 1800km before this point:
- About 260km before coming to Broome, WA; I noticed my rear wheel was starting to develop cracks from the eyeholes for the spokes.
- Better safe than sorry, when I got to Broome, I went to the bicycle shop and inquired whether they could pre-emptively replace the wheel. Broome is 2000+ km north of Perth and it is not very populated so rather replace when I could
- The bike shop didn't have materials to rebuild a wheel; so they called down to Perth and had a bike shop there build up a new wheel and send it out by truck. It took two days per truck transport and a day or two to get scheduled so I spent most of the week waiting.
- Once the wheel arrived, the bike shop it turned out the spacing was too wide and they forced open the dropouts to squeeze in the wheel. This also put the tire closer to the left dropout. We determined this later. I wasn't watching them in detail because I was busy taking apart the old wheel to get the hub to send home.
- About 1500km later, when I got to Shark Bay, I noticed the rather ominous crack. Shark Bay is still 280km away from the nearest town with a bike shop (Geraldton).
- Without anything else to do, I put duct tape around the chainstay and started down the road. Figured if it failed, I would stand beside the road to hitchhike or catch a bus.
- It took three and a half days of cycling, but fortunately the duct tape held and got myself to Geraldton. Here I found a bike shop and they did the analysis to determine what happened including the width being too wide.

At this point, I had to figure out what to do with the broken frame. Geraldton still isn't Perth and it didn't seem like there was much in way of local options. I called Cannondale contact numbers and it was close to model switchover and they couldn't find a frame in my size in all of Australia. I probably could have gone to Perth to find a replacement bike, but instead I had a different Cannondale T600 bike back in the US. Cost of shipping that bike was surprisingly high and for approximately 1.5x of the shipping costs, I could fly over and come back with the bike. So I took the bust from Geraldton, flew back from Perth to SFO, stayed five days to get my lower fare and flew back to Perth. I then cycled from Perth back to Geraldton. Here the bike shop moved bike racks and other components from old bike to new bike. After that I continued the trip. I was fortunate with my timing in all this because my flight back from SFO landed in Perth on August 30th, 2001. If I'd been two weeks later, I would have been caught up in flight issues following 9/11 as well as collapse of local carrier Ansett Airlines which happened later.

The second broken frame was in 2017 on my Trek 4500 mountain bike. The photo below shows the right chainstay after a welding repair.

The circumstances surrounding this failure.
- I was cycling from Prudhoe Bay to Ushuaia - starting June 2016.. In August 2016, I switched from my touring bike to this mountain bike, in part to try some GDMBR.
- This failure happened in October 2017, so had ridden for more than a year and many kilometers before the frame failed. It was all fairly loaded with both my weight and my gear.
- I didn't notice the failure initially. Instead, I was taking some language classes in Bariloche, so brought my bike in for service. They brought it to my attention.
- I asked for their advice and they suggested they could weld the frame. So I had them do this and above is the photo post repair.
- I was still a little iffy on how well this might last. However, I had only the part from Bariloche to Puerto Montt to still cycle loaded - and after that I would join a supported TDA ride from Puerto Montt to Ushuaia.
- So figured I would give things a try and if the bike failed, quickly fly back to the US to retrieve an alternate bicycle to complete my journey.
- The weld held fine, both to Puerto Montt and then the remainder of the way to Ushuaia. I still have the bike, but now it is one of my commuting bikes and won't take it on tour.
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Old 09-30-21, 02:35 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Since I’m the one who brought it up, I’ll address it. I’m not saying that touring frames are prone to breaking. I really doubt that a touring frame is any more or any less delicate than any other frame. Touring frames are likely stronger than many road bikes but probably only slightly and certainly not by orders of magnitude (i.e. tens of times stronger). Frankly, I consider the fear of breaking a frame on tour to be an unreasonable fear. That’s part of the reason I call it a “myth”. It happens but it’s probably a 1 in a million chance. That doesn’t stop people from being unreasonable, however. There are very few reports of broken touring frames here on the Bike Forums.

...

As a person who has managed to break 4 frames (not touring bikes) by simply using them, I think I have a lot more experience with broken frames…and repairing them…than most.
Your "one in a million chance" doesn't seem to jive with the seven reports of broken bikes that've cropped up already. (Note I'm including your four since, as you say, there's not much difference between touring bikes and other bikes that would significantly change the probability of their failing.) Are there seven million registered users of BF?
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Old 09-30-21, 03:27 PM
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A properly built steel or aluminum frame is not likely to break under any conditions unless used to jump obstacles. In the 1970s a lot of the early "mountain" bikes have frame and fork failures as the builders were still learning their way. The examples given where an altered bike has a problem is not relevant to a stock bike from the manufacturer. If one considers that between 15 and 20 million bikes are sold in the USA each year and therefore that there are more than 200 million in use, if frame breakage was common we would have thousands of incidents.

The so called "touring frames" are not stronger, only heavier and this makes them less reliable in terms of damage to the wheels. It is why this type of bike is no longer being made as it is not really needed for even world touring. In the old days the touring type bikes had more relaxed geometry which now corresponds to what is found on most gravel bikes. But that is a problem that dates back more than 30 years.A properly built steel or aluminum frame is not likely to break under any conditions unless used to jump obstacles. In the 1970s a lot of the early "mountain" bikes have frame and fork failures as the builders were still learning their way. The examples given where an altered bike has a problem is not relevant to a stock bike from the manufacturer. If one considers that between 15 and 20 million bikes are sold in the USA each year and therefore that there are more than 200 million in use, if frame breakage was common we would have thousands of incidents.

The so called "touring frames" are not stronger, only heavier and this makes them less reliable in terms of damage to the wheels. It is why this type of bike is no longer being made as it is not really needed for even world touring. In the old days the touring type bikes had more relaxed geometry which now corresponds to what is found on most gravel bikes. But that is a problem that dates back more than 30 years.
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Old 09-30-21, 06:28 PM
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Zinn knows more about frames than I ever will. I refer to a column he wrote a few years ago about frame materials. He does not have a favorable opinion on aluminum frame longevity.
https://www.velonews.com/gear/techni...nkarm-fatigue/

***

A friend of mine cracked his fork steerer tube. I think it was an aluminum fork, not steel, but I can't say that with certainty. He also cracked his helmet. This was on a bike that he had ridden cross country three times, twice with fully loaded bike (with four panniers) and a third trip was van supported. He cracked it on a ACA van supported Pacific Coast ride from Canada to Mexico.

I took the photo below of his bike when he was doing a test ride for his third cross country ride, this was before he broke his fork in half. He always used the rain covers, even on nice days.



Before you say anything about his saddle, he was trying that out on our five day shakedown tour, he ditched the saddle when he got home. One of his brifters quit working shortly before this short shakedown tour, he was trying out his new bar end shifters, new dynohub wheel and new Luxos U headlamp. Lots of new stuff on this bike.

He also crashed on a supported trip in Ireland, his foot fell off the pedal when he hit a bump, he woke up in the hospital, cracked another helmet. When he got home, he had his bike inspected by a carbon frame engineer, he had a lot of cracks in the downtube, his carbon frame went into the dumpster after that.

***

Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
As I've noted previously, my bike broke on the first day of my tour. The drive-side dropout (part of the steel frame) broke. ...
...
A few years later, I figured out I'd put a 135 rear wheel into a 130 frame, without spreading the frame, which might have caused the breakage.
....
That should not have caused the breakage.

I run a 135mm hub on my rando bike, before I ordered the frame I talked to the company (Velo Orange) about using a 135mm hub in their 130mm steel frame (rim brake version Pass Hunter). Their only concern was the inconvenience of stretching the stays with both hands when I drop the rear wheel in.

***
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Old 09-30-21, 06:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Calsun View Post
...
The so called "touring frames" are not stronger, only heavier and this makes them less reliable in terms of damage to the wheels. It is why this type of bike is no longer being made as it is not really needed for even world touring. In the old days the touring type bikes had more relaxed geometry which now corresponds to what is found on most gravel bikes. But that is a problem that dates back more than 30 years.
Huhh?
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Old 09-30-21, 07:05 PM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
Your "one in a million chance" doesn't seem to jive with the seven reports of broken bikes that've cropped up already.
What is the denominator for this "one in a million" claim? Is it:
- one in a million people
- one in a million bikes
- one in a million miles
or something else in a million? Assume numerator is frame breaks.

As far as my breaks go, I'm not sure I would explicitly change things:
- Both happened during an extended trip. On the Australia trip, I ended up traveling 28,500 kilometers in a year expedition. On the Americas trip, I ended up traveling 27,000 kilometers in an 18-month expedition.
- Both happened after quite a bit of cycling and this wasn't the only cycling I had done with those bikes [so perhaps supporting the aluminum fatigue description mentioned by Tourist in MSN]
- On an extended expedition it cost me some time to resolve. Approximately 15 days in the Australia break and a week in the Argentina break.
- One of the fixes ended up being a weld. In both cases I wasn't looking in a way outback situation. Instead, I got myself to a larger point of civilization.
- Still only two failures in 20 years and I did quite a bit of other touring other than these two trips.
- I am a large guy, so expect both my weight and my gear probably helped in putting more stress on the system

If it is one in a million centimeters, then I'm doing better than the odds...
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Old 09-30-21, 07:21 PM
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The bottom bracket cracked on my 1986 Stump Jumper. I heard it go pop as I was coming out of a dip on a river path. The seat stays on my Schwinn Sierra peeled of at the seat tube. Schwinn warrantied with a replacement frame three times.
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Old 09-30-21, 09:13 PM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by mev View Post
What is the denominator for this "one in a million" claim? Is it:
- one in a million people
- one in a million bikes
- one in a million miles
or something else in a million? Assume numerator is frame breaks.

...

what does it matter? frames sometimes break. anything mass-produced will include some defective units.
what are the odds of winning any given lottery? millions to one, yet there are winner(s) every week.
what are the odds of life on earth? something like 1 in 10 quadrillion billion trillion.

yet here we are, once again, arguing about the odds of frame breakage, on a subforum of a niche forum of a wee tiny corner of the intertubes that includes a tiny fraction of the touring cyliste population.

and sure, there are 200 billion bikes on the planet. and just as there are 50 million 4WD vehicles in the usa (numbers randomly pulled from back hole for illustrious porpoises only), only a tiny fraction ever leave the pavement.

most bikes spend their lives in tool sheds, collecting cobwebs, except for occasional july 4th outings to the local park. the more expensive models live in basements, used as clothing racks, or static performance art gazed at longingly during midnight micturition excursions.

tour bikes are commonly used only on, umm....tour, heavily laden and ridden for extended periods, often in less than ideal climate and terrain conditions, so it would be expected that if they break, it would, ummm, like, y'know, be while on tour.
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Old 09-30-21, 09:31 PM
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Originally Posted by saddlesores View Post
what does it matter? frames sometimes break. anything mass-produced will include some defective units.
what are the odds of winning any given lottery? millions to one, yet there are winner(s) every week.
what are the odds of life on earth? something like 1 in 10 quadrillion billion trillion.

yet here we are, once again, arguing about the odds of frame breakage, on a subforum of a niche forum of a wee tiny corner of the intertubes that includes a tiny fraction of the touring cyliste population.

and sure, there are 200 billion bikes on the planet. and just as there are 50 million 4WD vehicles in the usa (numbers randomly pulled from back hole for illustrious porpoises only), only a tiny fraction ever leave the pavement.

most bikes spend their lives in tool sheds, collecting cobwebs, except for occasional july 4th outings to the local park. the more expensive models live in basements, used as clothing racks, or static performance art gazed at longingly during midnight micturition excursions.

tour bikes are commonly used only on, umm....tour, heavily laden and ridden for extended periods, often in less than ideal climate and terrain conditions, so it would be expected that if they break, it would, ummm, like, y'know, be while on tour.
It's a fun topic to discuss on a warm autumn night, dreaming of further expeditions.

I wouldn't buy a used aluminum touring bike, especially after reading the short piece that MSN linked, but a new one should be good for many thousands of kilometres.
I don't know what the odss are, but it is probably one of the last things I would worry about. If you have the bike and the time, just go do the tour.

I saw a guy break an aluminum mtn bike just before a race at the Canmore Nordic Centre. He was doing a warm up ride before the race and came from a side trail onto a gravel road. There was a small drainage ditch maybe about half a metre deep at the side of the road and as he crossed it, the frame broke where the down tube met the steerer tube. It was a fairly new bike so it should have been covered by warranty, and the guy wasn't going very fast maybe about ten kph. He wasn't hurt, but I do remember he was pretty upset. I would have been too.
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Old 09-30-21, 10:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
Huhh?
I concurr. Huh?
My BBQ weighs more than the difference in weight between my touring frame (a troll) and a non touring frame. (actually that's untrue, that troll is really heavy and my bbq only weighs 1kg) I can't think what would break a Troll frame, maybe getting run over by something?
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Old 10-01-21, 07:12 AM
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Originally Posted by mev View Post
What is the denominator for this "one in a million" claim? Is it:
- one in a million people
- one in a million bikes
- one in a million miles
or something else in a million? Assume numerator is frame breaks.
Not my claim. But figuratively, one in a million is so uncommon it'll never happen; yet it does. I will make the claim that, of your examples, it's likely we've already disproven one in a million people and one in a million bikes. You're probably a lot closer to a million miles ridden in your lifetime on a bike than I am, but four bikes breaking?

Now to get absurd; what if one in a million milliseconds riding? Who would want to ride a bike if it was going to break every 16 minutes?
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Old 10-01-21, 07:52 AM
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The only frames I have broken on tour were my glasses frames back in 2018 during my stop at my high school reunion. Rode into town and bought new ones from Mr. Walgreen, the village pharmacist.
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Old 10-01-21, 08:13 AM
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I didn't mention the frames I broke (not on tour). I think I wrecked a few bikes as a kid including my teen years, but no longer remember details. Since then I only remember two. The first was a mountain bike that was fillet brazed steel. The headset bearing was driven into the bottom of the head tube flareing it out all sloppy and eggy. I figure the brazing was poorly done and annealed the tube to a soft state. I was supposed to be a decent tube set. The second was a aluminum fork that was broken in a hard crash into a car at speed. A lady at the last second decided there was an opening and sped out from a stop sign in front of me. I did my superman impersonation flying over the car. I got an ambulance ride and the bike got a ride in a cop car to the police station. The bike got a new fork and has since racked up a ton of mileage including a ST tour and a bunch of commuting.
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Old 10-01-21, 10:52 AM
  #18  
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
Not my claim. But figuratively, one in a million is so uncommon it'll never happen; yet it does. I will make the claim that, of your examples, it's likely we've already disproven one in a million people and one in a million bikes. You're probably a lot closer to a million miles ridden in your lifetime on a bike than I am, but four bikes breaking?
That’s not how probability works. “one in X” where X can be any number is a statement of how common something is. Consider a coin toss. The chance of tossing heads is 1 in 2 chances. Each toss of the coin can be either of 2 results. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t toss heads 3 times in a row. Tossing 50 heads in a row has a far smaller probability but it could still happen.

If frame breakage were 1 in 2 that would mean that frame breakage is a common occurrence. That doesn’t mean it happens every time the bike is taken for a ride but you shouldn’t be surprised if the frame fails. But we know that bicycle frames aren’t that delicate. Even the lightest of bicycle frames don’t break very often. There are literally hundreds of millions of bicycles in the world and only a very small percentage of them ever break. The conversational phase “one in a million” shouldn’t be taken as a statistical analysis of bicycle frame breakage but more as a way of saying “frame breakage is rare”.

Even in a rather small community like bicycle touring, a thread like this that reports 6 frame breakages shouldn’t be taken as a sign that frames break with any regularity. While I have broken 4 frames, I’ve owned 40 bikes, 36 of which haven’t broken. Even at a 10% failure rate, I don’t think that bicycles are particularly prone to breakage. I consider all but one of the breakages due to engineering and manufacturing errors. Using a Hell Bent seatpost with about 2” of setback on my Flashback was my fault.
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Old 10-01-21, 03:06 PM
  #19  
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
That’s not how probability works. “one in X” where X can be any number is a statement of how common something is. Consider a coin toss. The chance of tossing heads is 1 in 2 chances. Each toss of the coin can be either of 2 results. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t toss heads 3 times in a row. Tossing 50 heads in a row has a far smaller probability but it could still happen.

If frame breakage were 1 in 2 that would mean that frame breakage is a common occurrence. That doesn’t mean it happens every time the bike is taken for a ride but you shouldn’t be surprised if the frame fails. But we know that bicycle frames aren’t that delicate. Even the lightest of bicycle frames don’t break very often. There are literally hundreds of millions of bicycles in the world and only a very small percentage of them ever break. The conversational phase “one in a million” shouldn’t be taken as a statistical analysis of bicycle frame breakage but more as a way of saying “frame breakage is rare”.

Even in a rather small community like bicycle touring, a thread like this that reports 6 frame breakages shouldn’t be taken as a sign that frames break with any regularity. While I have broken 4 frames, I’ve owned 40 bikes, 36 of which haven’t broken. Even at a 10% failure rate, I don’t think that bicycles are particularly prone to breakage. I consider all but one of the breakages due to engineering and manufacturing errors. Using a Hell Bent seatpost with about 2” of setback on my Flashback was my fault.
Your probability discussion is still incomplete; you forgot to mention confidence levels, for instance.

Your one in a million broad-brush "conversation" still doesn't hold up. For instance, if the Mean (bike) Trips Before Failure (MTBF) was 1,000,000, even if you made one bike trip per day on average, it'd be over 2,700 years an average cyclist would ride before, on average, one bike failed by frame breakage. How long you been riding again?

Now if you want to get down into the details of reliability and sparing analysis, that might be relevant to touring. It's going to be tougher to fix or replace a bike while on tour than riding around home, where you've got default SAG support available -- friends or family to pick you up and take you and your bike home. So if a touring bike has an MTBF of one in 10,000, and you're going for a 100 day tour, the chances of the bike breaking on tour is 1%; uncomfortable, perhaps, compared to your mythical 1,000,000, but probably not worth carrying a spare frame. It's much less than your chance of getting a flat, for instance, where it's worth carrying something to get you back on the road because the probability is much higher. Now if you're @mev and going on a three year trip around the world, you want to at least think about how you're going to finish the trip, or even get home, if your bike breaks.

If we could get some honest input from one of the major bike brands, you'd have a better idea what the true failure rate. They're more likely to have run the numbers, and figured out that they're going to need X% spares in the warehouse to address frames breaking within the warranty period. I don't have a reference, but I've got it stuck in my head that "X" was about 1% -- at least before Covid cleared the warehouses.
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Old 10-01-21, 04:03 PM
  #20  
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I have no clue what the probability of frame or fork failure is. But I would be much more concerned about probability of failure if I was in the middle of nowhere. But some of my tours have been where long distance bus options exist, or other means of getting out if you have to abort a trip.

Here, I want a rock solid bike and drive train that I can depend on. Aborting a trip here would be complicated. I think the nearest bike shop was about 200 km. Nearest retail of any kind was about 100 km away.




Here, I would not be as concerned about having to abort a trip due to serious mechanical failure. Lots of choices available.

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Old 10-01-21, 06:15 PM
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About 7 years ago, a friend whom I was touring with had his steel Bike Friday develop a large crack at the chain stay just posterior to the bottom bracket. I noticed when I was riding behind him a significant wobble of the rear wheel so I assumed it was the rim. Nope, it was the cracked frame. We were near Little Rock, Arkansas and he found a welder who in fact welded it back together so he could continue the tour. It wasn't pretty but seemed to hold up well enough. What didn't hold up well was his rear wheel's hub which shortly thereafter became problematic and was then in need of replacement. The hubs on his Bike Friday were not standard dimensions and he had a helluva time finding a replacement. I think the crack developed, not because of an acute event but rather from him carrying so much damn weight on the rear for years. I loved touring with the fine fellow because he brought everything but the kitchen sink, though I did think I once saw a faucet sticking out of his rear pannier. Though I've toured with a lot people over the years, I don't think it's been a million (not yet anyway, but here's to hoping)
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Old 10-01-21, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
The only frames I have broken on tour were my glasses frames back in 2018 during my stop at my high school reunion. Rode into town and bought new ones from Mr. Walgreen, the village pharmacist.
Extra points for that one monsieur indy
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Old 10-02-21, 09:36 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
Your probability discussion is still incomplete; you forgot to mention confidence levels, for instance.
Quit being so literal. “One in a million” is a conversational method of saying something is rare. I haven’t done any detailed analysis nor have I ever said I did. It’s a wild ass guess, nothing more.

Your one in a million broad-brush "conversation" still doesn't hold up. For instance, if the Mean (bike) Trips Before Failure (MTBF) was 1,000,000, even if you made one bike trip per day on average, it'd be over 2,700 years an average cyclist would ride before, on average, one bike failed by frame breakage. How long you been riding again?
Again with the being literal. “One in a million” doesn’t mean in any way one person doing a million miles. It means one person experiencing a frame failure out of a million other people using the bike. Nor does it mean that if a million people doing 1 mile is going to experience a frame failure.

Now if you want to get down into the details of reliability and sparing analysis, that might be relevant to touring. It's going to be tougher to fix or replace a bike while on tour than riding around home, where you've got default SAG support available -- friends or family to pick you up and take you and your bike home. So if a touring bike has an MTBF of one in 10,000, and you're going for a 100 day tour, the chances of the bike breaking on tour is 1%; uncomfortable, perhaps, compared to your mythical 1,000,000, but probably not worth carrying a spare frame. It's much less than your chance of getting a flat, for instance, where it's worth carrying something to get you back on the road because the probability is much higher. Now if you're @mev and going on a three year trip around the world, you want to at least think about how you're going to finish the trip, or even get home, if your bike breaks.
Your 1% failure rate is just as mythical as my 0.0001% failure rate, although I think mine is probably closer to the true value. Bicycles can fail but not all bicycles fail. I have worked on around 15,000 bikes at my local co-op. Most of them are abused beyond what anyone on the Bike Forums would tolerate. I can’t honestly recall any bike in that number that has had a broken frame unless the bike was run into something.

The possibility of a frame breaking on tour is so low that it’s not something to worry about at all. Frame breakage might have been worse many years ago which is where this myth about steel got started but with today’s metallurgy and frame design, it’s not something to even be considered while touring.

If we could get some honest input from one of the major bike brands, you'd have a better idea what the true failure rate. They're more likely to have run the numbers, and figured out that they're going to need X% spares in the warehouse to address frames breaking within the warranty period. I don't have a reference, but I've got it stuck in my head that "X" was about 1% -- at least before Covid cleared the warehouses.
I would say that the number of spare frames in a warehouse is probably much lower than 1%. Trek sells 1.5 million bikes per year around the world. That would be a stock of 15,000 bike frames. Since breakage is a random(ish) event, they wouldn’t use all of them yearly. In 10 years, they would have a significant percentage of 150,000 bikes in warehouses somewhere.

If you break a frame you aren’t likely to get a new frame that is the same as the frame you broke…I got the closest bike they could get for the model year when I broke the frames. They seem to just pull one from the line rather than keep a back inventory. My Stumpjumper Pro was a 1998. It was replaced with a 2003 Stumpjumper Pro, not another 1998. The same happened with my Specialized Rock Combo.
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Old 10-02-21, 09:46 AM
  #24  
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and my wild ass guess is that there is a million more times of a chance of bending or busting a rd hanger, or the rd itself, or busting a rim by smacking into something--all plausible stuff that happens if one isn't careful.
I certainly don't worry about a frame problem, but am aware of all the other stuff that could happen if not careful and or if a rider has dubious riding habits or is just plain klutzy.
touch wood touch wood
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Old 10-02-21, 10:21 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by BobG View Post

edit: frame geeks, correct me if I'm wrong ... I believe the above was a brazing repair with a torch, not welding with an arc? See golden color bead at joint.
I would think you are correct. What I am looking at are the "globs" and how those have wetted in, or not, to the base metal. Neither looks like the behavior of a weld pool.

You can torch weld also, not just braze.

One benefit to brazing over welding is you don't modify the base metal much. By modify I mean melt and mix weld metal with base metal. The only way to separate welded parts is to physically cut them apart as the base is fused together. Brazed parts, on the other hand, can be re-heated and taken apart - like soldering. Though, a good brazing joint will have a small amount of surface material that mixes (like when you tin copper with solder - even if you "remove all the solder" the part that had solder wetted to it will remain silver and not turn back to copper color). If you over-stress a brazed joint you can tear the base metal here before the brazing.

I would be curious how that joint held up over time - beyond the tour? I would be curious what the break looked like underneath, also. I assume it was a pretty clean break. Id think filling the crack brazing it would have been adequate. That makes me curious why they blobbed up the metal - were they trying to bridge a gap where they cut out material? Or did a chunk of material come out in the break?

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