Aluminum Frame Longevity

Discuss light weight issues concerning road bikes & parts.
arbitrage
Posts: 15
Joined: Fri Aug 20, 2010 3:49 pm

by arbitrage

I ride an aluminum frame (Spooky Skeletor) and occasionally find myself wondering about its longevity. I'm not delusional--I'm sure it will be in great shape five years from now, but I can't help but think about this when flying down a mountain descent.

Reading through old threads, there are two strong view points:

1. Ride your bike. Don't flatter yourself--it will be fine.

2. Aluminum does fatigue, and you should be careful. Failure can be ugly and dangerous.

I'm sure the truth is somewhere between these opinions, but neither answer the question 'when is it time to retire an aluminum frame?'

So what do you think? When would you stop trusting an aluminum frame?

by Weenie


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btompkins0112
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Location: Mississippi

by btompkins0112

Long past a decade I would say.........unless there is some damage that would affect the integrity of the welds or tube shape. Plenty of OLD aluminum riding around. I'd go with number 1.

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fa63
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Location: Atlanta, GA, US

by fa63

Theoretically, yes aluminum does fatigue over time. That said, whether you ride hard and long enough to reach its fatigue life before you move on to your next bike is highly improbable. I wouldn't worry about it, enjoy your Spooky.

mickey
in the industry
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by mickey

You should be happy for a long time-

We've had production Skeletors out there for about 6 years now- except for a small handful of bikes that have seen some cracking on the seatube/seatstay junction(misplaced vent holes) things are still out there getting thrashed on.

With an upcoming batch of production cx bikes and a general brand re-launch coming up I often think about what an "Official Warranty Policy" should be...
I'm that skinny guy who runs Spooky Bikes
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DenverScorcher
Posts: 14
Joined: Wed Jun 09, 2010 2:52 am

by DenverScorcher

I still ride a 1200g handmade aluminum Principia (very similar to a selector) from 2002 and its fine...
2014 Madone 7 DA9000
2011 Supersix
2009 Storck Absolutist 0.9
2006 Orbea Opal
2005 CAAD 8
2002 Principia RS6 pro
2001 Eddy Merckx Team SC
1985 Pinarello Montello SLX
1981 Mercian king of mercia
1979 Colnago Super

andyindo
Posts: 395
Joined: Tue May 12, 2009 10:03 am

by andyindo

DenverScorcher wrote:I still ride a 1200g handmade aluminum Principia (very similar to a selector) from 2002 and its fine...


I just cracked my Principia RS6. It didnt catastrophically crack and nor was I ever in any danger. Thing rode perfectly, I'll miss it. Amazing bike.

Geoff
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Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2003 2:25 am
Location: Canada

by Geoff

You forgot to mention two big factors: your weight and riding style. I know guys that went through alloy frames at a rate of at least 1 or 2 a season. On the other hand, i have never broken a frame in my life.

If you are really big and 'hard' on a bike, you can crack an alloy frame pretty easily. Fortunately, carbon bikes are 'better' from that perspective, so you have that option, too.

HillRPete
Posts: 2292
Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:08 am
Location: Pedal Square

by HillRPete

I had a no-name aluminium frame develop a crack (in the middle of a tube, not weld) after like five years. (not big and not strong rider :oops: ) It wasn't the big sudden breakdown, though, that Al seems to be accused often, and I could safely swap the frame. Bottom line, just enjoy it, there are many more likely problems.

arbitrage
Posts: 15
Joined: Fri Aug 20, 2010 3:49 pm

by arbitrage

Guys--thanks for the responses. Always nice to hear your opinions.

Mickey--great to see you checking in and following up on your bikes. Absolutely love the skeletor--keep up the good work! Can't wait to see the next batch.

Geoff--165lb/75kg, fairly moderate riding style. Plenty of dirt roads and frost heaved New England roads, but I'm pretty gentle. I imagine the bike has another decade in it easily.

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stella-azzurra
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Location: New York

by stella-azzurra

An aluminum frame can easily be repaired and ridden another segment of time.
I never took drugs to improve my performance at any time. I will be willing to stick my finger into a polygraph test if anyone with big media pull wants to take issue. If you buy a signed poster now it will not be tarnished later. --Graeme Obree

thisisatest
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by thisisatest

^ depends on the frame. Most 6000series alloys require proper heat treatment to maintain strength. I would be hesitant to try to repair those, such as US-made Cannondales. Others, like the 7000 series, heat treat at room temperature over the course of a few weeks, or however long it takes for a cargo ship to cross the pacific.

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boolinwall
Posts: 195
Joined: Thu Aug 23, 2012 11:19 pm

by boolinwall

That is 100% correct. Unless you have a heat treating facility available to you. You can forget about "safely" repairing 6061 or other 6000 series alloys. THe reason you only ever saw 6000 series alloys made in low volume factories such as C-dale and others was due to their being able to heat treat them, and send them out the door in a matter of days. 7000 alloys are generally lighter and stronger. However, the idea of having to store them for a month to cure them isn't ideal. The warehousing space required to do that would be outlandish. Easy enough to do in China, not so Easy in downtown USA.
And the reason a Principia can crack and not dramatically fail is due to the 7020 alloy used in them. It's stiff for riding, but won't shatter when it breaks like some other alloys. If it wasn't so damn expensive and difficult to weld correctly, more companies would have likely used it.

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stella-azzurra
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by stella-azzurra

I sent my Fondriest Don Racer to get repaired to Fondriest in Italy. The frame is made of Deda Acciai U107 tubing.
The crack was a the rear drive dropout at the weld.
It came back re-welded and stronger then ever.
If the manufacturer is willing to do it then it can be repaired.
I never took drugs to improve my performance at any time. I will be willing to stick my finger into a polygraph test if anyone with big media pull wants to take issue. If you buy a signed poster now it will not be tarnished later. --Graeme Obree

bikewithnoname
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Location: UK

by bikewithnoname

1995 Cannondale SM1000 hardtail mountain bike. Still going strong... (a bit dented though)
"We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities." Oscar Wilde

Pegoretti Responsorium, Parlee Z5i, Donhou Commuter, 1946 MacLeans Featherweight L'Eroica!, 2x MTB 'dales

by Weenie


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Rick
Posts: 2035
Joined: Sat Aug 29, 2009 4:30 pm

by Rick

Aluminum does fatigue....in theory.
In practice: don't flatter yourself. Ride.

I have seen steel frames and titanium frames break. It all depends on the quality of initial construction, not the theoretical fatigue curve of the material.

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