Wednesday 21 August 2013

A little fatigued

It's been a hard time being a cycle campaigner over the last few weeks. Nice Way Code has taken up a lot of our attention, so we could all be forgiven for being a little fatigued. However, I didn't realise that this feeling could be transmitted to the bike....

It was a normal ride home. Nothing particularly unusual.....actually that's not entirely true. It was a little unusual, as at one set of traffic lights 3 cyclists came together at once.


Readers from places like London, Amsterdam and even Edinburgh might be a little confused by my above statement, but anyone who cycles in Glasgow will know exactly what I mean. Cyclists are a scarce sight on the roads of Glasgow, so having three converge in one place at the same time, going the same way is cause for celebration.

We have our own wee peloton!

I couldn't help making a wee joke out of it. The two other hardy cyclists (again this is Glasgow) smiled, and we set off a short distance only to meet again at the next set of lights. One of the other cyclists at this point, upon arriving with 'the squeek' commented on his noisy brakes.

At least the cars will hear you!

That was my retort as we set off from the lights. I do love these little momentary conversations that you can have with other cyclists, something that I don't think I've ever seen happen when two cars pull up next to each other. Cycling really is an incredibly social activity.....except for the majority of the time in Glasgow of course.

Unfortunately for me things went downhill rather quickly from then on.


It was a strange kind of clunk, but I put it down to a minor shifting issue I have with my gears at the moment, so I carried on.

That's strange....

Something wasn't right though. Something just felt a little odd in the bikes handling. Instead of pulling past the cyclist in front (I had been catching them up until that point) I kept my pace steady and started 'feeling' the bike in the hope of diagnosing the issue on the move.

The bike just felt a bit....bouncy. Yes, that was it, bouncy. That suggested to me that the rear tyre had a puncture and was probably in the process of deflating. I wasn't sure though, so I kept on going a bit, just to see if the tyre did indeed deflate. It didn't appear to, but I decided to stop anyway just to check. Perhaps I was just imagining things.

A quick stop and a quick feel of the tyre confirmed that the tyre was indeed fully inflated. Perhaps I was imagining things, so I shrugged and started pulling away again. That's when I could really feel something was wrong. As I started applying the pressure to the pedals it almost felt like the bike was waving from side to side. Very strange!

I stopped again.

Once again I looked at the tyre. Still fine. Perhaps the rear wheel wasn't seated right for some reason. Nope, it felt tight. Could it be the front wheel? No, that to was fine. I was puzzled. When all else fails in bike fault finding there is only one thing left to do.....bounce the bike of the ground a few times. So I did.


Ooohh. That didn't sound good.

Something at the front did not sound to healthy, but what? Extreme situations, called for extreme measures. It was time to wobble the bike from side to side....

That's when it became blatantly clear that my bike had ridden it's last mile. I spotted this. 

Eeek!....or words to that effect.

Somehow my downtube had decided that enough's enough (blatant connection to my previous blog which is worth read!). It was sick of all the bumping and bashing it received from Glasgow's potholed roads and it wanted to split.....literally.

Thank goodness this didn't happen when I was speeding down the Clyde Tunnel only 10 minutes earlier!

I stood there, swearing slightly, and completely shocked at the full seperationism of it all. A segregated bike, if you will. I was only brought back to reality by two lovely cyclists who stopped, oooh and aahhhhed in all the right places and very kindly offered to give me a lift home in their car, as they lived just around the corner (see cyclists do have cars!). I declined as it would have been a fair distance for them to drive (probably about 6 miles) and walked in the light drizzle for about 15 minutes until I managed to hail a 'taxi of shame'.

Boo Hoo!

Here is the video, if you'd like to see my pain

On close inspection at home, after my wife and kids ooohhed and aaahhed in all the right places it looked very much like it was a metal fatigue issue, probably propagating from the top of the downtube. I hadn't even spotted when I serviced my bottom bracket at the weekend.

Just one of those things?

Well, no. Yes it's done a lot of miles, and yes it's done a lot of weathers, but I only got it in December 2009, so it should have lasted a lot longer than that. I'll see what Ribble say. Mind you, I'm not entirely sure I can trust one of these frames any more. Sure I'll see if I can get a new frame from Ribble, but a few of the components are being used to destruction, and a few of those are close to it already. Worn components on a new frame when I don't have all the tools and time to take them off the old and onto the new?

So, at a time when money couldn't be much tighter (damn those kids and their birthdays, damn the house needing some urgent work to it, and damn the lounge TV going ping and needing replaced), a replacement needs to be found. I do have another bike, but it's a nicer bike and it would just get eaten up by the Glasgow weather (damn those kids again for taking up my bike maintenance time...)

That's confirmed then. I need a winter friendly bike that will last, that's not to heavy (I have hills and a bit of distance), and won't break the bank.   So which bike shops offer credit......?


  1. Edinburgh Bike Co-op do interest free credit over £500 and I heard there's a sale starting soon. Could spread over 12 months.

  2. I don't know what Glasgow Bike Station are like, but if money is tight and you don't mind one slightly used then I highly recommend Recyke a Bike in Stirling.

  3. Looks like a welded aluminium alloy frame - for serious use stick with steel - stiffer than titanium, and it gives plenty of warning of failure. A good lightweight steel can match aluminium - just look at those pencil stays on old Scots and their ilk.

  4. Try the local recycling schemes to see if any have an old steel touring frame or bike (eg Raleigh Clubman but more likely a Grand Tour or Royal). You can get these new still from about £500 onwards.

    The problem with aluminium is how wielding weakens the metal around. Ideally the frame should be heat treated. Our desire for cheap, lightweight bikes seems to have pushed an increase in this happening. Most people dont ride often enough or for far enough to suffer this fate however.

  5. With aluminium the allow is a mix of Cu and Al (mainly). It can exist largely as a eutectic mix but the Cu tends to migrate to deliver a 'soft' grain boundary which provides a stiffer, stronger material.

    Have Ribble offered to replace the frame? To examine the crack the section will need to be cut out to look more closely at the faces, and see how much of the crack existed before the catastrophic event, and what initiated the process by way of a material discontinuity, or a scratch or dent possibly even dating from the time of manufcture.

    Grain boundaries are good for making it hard for a crack to propagate, Hence dirty iron AKA steel, has nice hard to shift grain boundaries packed with perlite. Al alloy on the other hand has a big problem with any stress raising detail especially scratches and dings. I'm now up to no 5 in my history of snapped cranks - this one was a Ritchie, and 4 previous were TA top of range cyclotouristes, fortunately most snapped starting away from lights, although one incident cost me a couple of broken ribs. Having also had around 3 handlebar failures I now have steel handlebars and steel cranks, wherever I can, and certainly never an Al or carbon fibre frame.

  6. I started getting a creaking when shifting around on my saddle. At first I thought it was the seat tube. I have had one of those break, fortunately I was standing on the pedals at the time. I noticed the tiniest of lines on the seat stay just below the clamp and above the place where the top tune joins the seat tube.

    I took it to my LBS (Ben Hayward Cycles) who after a bit of heaving on the saddle agreed - the tube was cracking. The bike was around 7 years old so I started mentally planning on what I would buy to replace it. They then mentioned that they thought that the bike (a Marin San Sausalito) came with a lifetime frame warranty. They checked, it did. A few days later my old components were now on a brand new frame.

  7. Get a steel frame, steel never cracked.

  8. I had a broken chain stay on a steel bike. I too thought it must have been a puncture but the bike felt SO wierd. Like you it took me a while to find the crack.

    CX bike for winter?

  9. Thats nasty...
    You were VERY lucky not to have been going at some speed when that gave way.
    Id defiantly be on to Ribble !