[CR] Aluminum and life of a frame


Date: Thu, 25 Feb 2010 14:56:42 -0800
To: <classicrendezvous@bikelist.org>
From: Jan Heine <heine94@earthlink.net>
Subject: [CR] Aluminum and life of a frame


The life of a frame is determined more by good design and careful workmanship than by the material. There are plenty of stories of production bikes with lugs that had stress risers, and the frames cracked...

I have broken two bikes in my life:

- American-made custom, silver-brazed steel frame. The fork crown lasted 4000 km and 7 months. A poor design, even though the brazing was top-notch. - Alex Singer, brass-brazed steel frame. That frame lasted 35 years and at least 120,000 miles until a dropout cracked. Can't complain there... even though Ernest Csuka said that the later Huret vertical dropouts weren't as good as the earlier ones.

I have an Alan cross bike that I bought well-used, and which I rode for many season both in cross and on the road. Still holding up...

So generalizations about materials are of little use. The same applies to ride quality. The Alan rides wonderfully and climbs better than most bikes, yet a modern OS aluminum bike we tested rode nothing like that. I have ridden wonderful steel bikes and others that performed poorly.

Given the choice between a modern production steel bike with thickwall OS tubing and the Alan, I know which I'd pick... Similarly, a "on-topic" hand-built sport-touring bike with Reynolds 531 "Super-Tourist" tubing didn't work as well for me as a modern custom carbon bike we tested a while ago.

What matters is what you do with the material, which tubing you use, and how you use it...

Jan Heine Editor Bicycle Quarterly 2116 Western Ave. Seattle WA 98121 http://www.vintagebicyclepress.com