Friday, September 17, 2010

Blame Singapore

It started with a broken flange on a Bonerager rear hub. An athletic-looking guy who looked to be somewhere in his flurfties -- what do you call the age we're getting to now? We're not middle aged. That sounds so stodgy. But we're not ferocious young athletes anymore, either. In good shape for our age? That sounds like something you say about 95-year-olds who don't need a walker. Anyway, this guy comes in with his late-1990s LeMond road bike with this cracked hub flange. He said he was grunting up a climb.

I told him the wheel was toast. We discussed his options. He selected a built wheel from a reputable supplier rather than engage my talents for a custom build. Because his bike was very rusty that seemed like a good compromise.

He requested an overhaul on the bike while we waited for delivery of the wheel. We discussed the rust.

I've seen some nasty rust on bikes people ride on their trainers. He admitted to some of that, but he and his wife blamed most of it on the time the bike had spent with them in Singapore, with its tropical humidity and surrounding salt water.

He loves how the bike handles. I said I would check the frame for cracks before proceeding. This I did, in due time, when I finally started the repair a few days later. For some reason the frame was intact. For how much longer, I could not say.

I'm so glad I unwrapped the handlebars before I went too far on any other work. I've seen trainer corrosion, I've seen metal fatigue. This was the first time I had seen handlebars that had literally turned to powder inside the bar tape.
I was able to poke a screwdriver through the handlebars in many places. See?
Screwdriver inserted into bars
I called a halt to this repair until the customer can see what we're up against. I've suggested he transfer the many good surviving parts and his groovy new rear wheel to a Surly Pacer or similar sporty road frame.

I can't believe he was riding this. He was one good pothole away from collapsing those bars.


RANTWICK said...

Holy Crap! That is insane!


Janice in GA said...


I didn't even know hubs could crack. Now I have something else to worry about on my 20 & 30 year old bikes. O_o

Steve A said...

That bar is an argument in favor of carbon bars. With a carbon bar, nothing worse would have happened than the aluminum stem turning to powder...

cafiend said...

Janice, your 20-30-year old wheels are a better bet than wheels made 5 years ago. Wheels had plenty of spokes then, so hub flanges weren't subjected to the highly concentrated stresses they suffer with modern dispos-a-wheels.

I don't even want to think how old the Campy front hub on one of my fixed gears is. For that matter, I'm still running a Record low-flange on the front of the road bike. I only retired the rear hub because good thread-on freewheels were hard to get.

Just remember to check every part of your bike for fatigue cracks periodically. The handlebars are much scarier and more likely to fail from fatigue than the hubs. A couple of summers ago we saw a rash of handlebar breakage on bikes built in the late 1970s or so. Don't ignore any creaks or pops from the bar and stem area!

NHcycler said...

Randomly reading posts from the past; I hope you don't mind! I second your comment about old wheelsets.

I "retired" my late '70's (gotta check the bars!) Zebrakenko(!) back in '99 that I'd been riding many thousands of miles since high school, with very little maintenance, because I didn't know any better.

I drank the Bicycling Magazine Kool-Aid and bought a new ride at the time, and stuck the Zebra in the back of the garage.

I recently got it in riding condition again, for very little money, I might add. The 36-spoke hubs (with a metal pie plate!) and stainless rims are still going strong.

Thanks for your blog ramblings --I enjoy reading the curmudgeon point of view -- probably because I'm one myself.