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Steel Bike Miles(16 posts)

Steel Bike Milesraj_lakewood
Jul 18, 2003 6:06 AM
I am in the market for a new "used" steel bike. My question is: "How many miles can a steel frame (high quality) handle before it should be put to pasture?"

Please assume that the current ride of the bike in question seems fine.

The type of riding I plan on using this frame for is recreational, charity, and the occasional semi-competitive ride. Thanks for the input!!!

(If this topic has been discussed before, I apologize, but I could not locate it in the archives.)
Hmmm ... dunno yet ...Humma Hah
Jul 18, 2003 6:14 AM
... the cruiser has been going strong since 1971, estimated mileage currently somewhere in the 30k range, with some horrendous abuse in that total. A few weeks ago it got a mudbath banging down the C&O towpath for 50 miles, and I'll ride the whole length of that this September.
And material science says....niteschaos
Jul 18, 2003 6:19 AM
that barring the welds, steel has infinite fatigue life. So if your frame doesn't have any cracks in it, and you plan on riding it the same way that made it last this long, then the frame will outlive you.

The only material people seem to worry about lasting is Aluminum. This is because Aluminum, even at cycling loads well below its plastic deformation load, will not withstand the load cycle forever. However, the number of fatigue cycles that Aluminum applications are designed to withstand are on the order of 10^7.
assuming proper care...a lifetime (nm)ColnagoFE
Jul 18, 2003 6:44 AM
proper care and good welds..dotkaye
Jul 18, 2003 8:13 AM
my steel frame (Tange Prestige tubing) cracked at the seat-tube weld on the bottom bracket at less than 10k miles. Fixable, yes, but I could get a new frame for little more than the cost of fixing.
It depends on a lot of thingsMR_GRUMPY
Jul 18, 2003 7:04 AM
If it is an ultra light steel frame that has been raced for quite a while by a heavier rider, I would not feel safe buying it, unless I was going to use it for "easy" rides.
If it's a middle-weight frame, that hasn't been raced, it should last forever.
More than you.Dropped
Jul 18, 2003 7:10 AM
That steel bike will last longer than your legs will.
re: Steel Bike MilesLC
Jul 18, 2003 7:41 AM
exactly 100,001 miles
Until your son crashes it! Sorry, just venting. nmdzrider
Jul 18, 2003 7:51 AM
It's all in the weldsFredrico
Jul 18, 2003 7:58 AM
Older (before the 90s) bikes mass assembled with automatic brazing jigs sometimes have brittle joints from too much heat. If one of these is ridden hard long enough, it may develope cracks, typically around the bottom bracket and chainstays.

A carefully brazed or tig welded frame, however, will last a lifetime, and continue giving the same ride year after year. Tig welding, joining the tubes without lugs, is just as strong as lugged welding. Since it heats up much less area, the frame tubes aren't as likely to be as brittle around the joints as a mass produced lugged frame.

So when you're looking over a steel frame, sight along the tubes for ripples, especially along the downtube and headtube, and the front forks. They're evidence of a crash. Look for cracks where the seatube comes out of the bb, the chainstays join the bb, and the seat stays join the seat tube up near the saddle, and the front forks up where they're joined to the steering tube.

A top of the line steel bike made in the 80s can be had for a few hundred dollars, and will ride as well as it did new. Its equivilant today would cost a few thousand.
Agree, FWIW--essentially infinite in normal usecory
Jul 18, 2003 8:14 AM
Assuming it's not a Stupidlite and has had reasonable care, I don't think you can wear one out. My present singlespeed started life more than 20 years ago as a Reynolds 531 Trek tourer, then was a surrogate mountain bike until I could afford the real thing, a mud/beater bike, back to loaded tourer, then has seen regular use as an all-purpose townie since I converted to SS. My weight in that time has ranged from 260+ down to around 210. Far as I can tell, the frame is still as solid as it ever was.
the friend of mine has a frame with 114,000mi on itcyclopathic
Jul 18, 2003 8:20 AM
which is lifetime for me ;)
if simple anti-rust care taken and frame hadn't been crashed frame will last practically forever. Being a big strong burly crit racer or touring mnts with 80lbs of load may somewhat reduce expectations.
Would be a very long timec722061
Jul 18, 2003 9:42 AM
My first bike was steel and it lasted more than 15 years until I crashed it. I was living in a high humidity/moonson rain area. I guess if you do not see any rust spot on the bike then it can survive for quite long time. Also agree with other posts that the welds' quality are important too.
I have over 15,000 miles on mineSadlebred
Jul 18, 2003 10:20 AM
I have over 15,000 miles on the Casati not including trainer miles. The Casati will be replaced next year with some custom steel or ti her, though. The ride is nice and forgiving.
Mileage doesn't matter...bicyclerepairman
Jul 18, 2003 11:09 AM
whether its top tube has been corroded/rusted from dripping sweat, and whether its been 'put away wet' after rides in the rain, kept outdoors, etc. matter. (imho) Just that Lakewood NJ?
visit Dr WeiglerChazWicked
Jul 18, 2003 2:33 PM
Dr Weigler's frame saver. It's an internal coating that prevents rust from the inside. I have two >$1000 steel frames and they need to last for a looooong long time. Applying the Dr every few years will nearly eliminate the rust issues.

and ditto on the comments on weld quality and "stupidLight".