Friday Group Ride #241

Friday Group Ride #241

I know guys who break things. What I mean is, I know guys who, by virtue of their size, strength or hell-for-leather riding style, go through parts like a college bar through cheap, American lager. Broken pedal spindles, bent chainrings, stripped stem bolts, it’s one thing after another for them.

I’m 5′ 9″ (with the wind at my back), and I weigh 155 lbs. I’m not the smoothest on the bike, but I’m not a wildebeest either. I don’t break things. I seldom even wear things out.

The only catastrophic failures I can recall were a shattered chain and a snapped saddle bolt. I had cut the damn chain too short in an ill-advised late night build session and tried to blunder on like I hadn’t. The next night, on my way home, I felt a pop and then a jingling, like someone throwing a wind chime at a brick wall, then the pedals went slack. I looked down. I cursed. I walked home.

The saddle bolt was even better. I climbed on the bike one morning and the saddle tilted back, so I grabbed a hex key and tightened it. I left for work. About a mile into the ride the saddle slid back again, so I got off, inspected it, pulled out the wrench and tightened again. Very odd, I thought. A few miles later, and luckily on I was on a paved bike path and not on the city streets, I heard a loud pop and then the bike was rolling away from me. I landed on my butt, with the saddle still between my legs, and slid six or ten feet. The bike went on a ways before veering of the path into a bush. I laughed. It was funny. The saddle bolt had snapped in two.

This week’s Group Ride is about breakage. Are you a breaker? Are you forever replacing parts? Or do you wear things out, threads worn smooth over decades of service? Have you had any catastrophic part failures? What happened?

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  1. Tom in Albany

    5’6″ – 130. I don’t break much. It takes a crash or stupidity. I try not to have many of those. That said, my list is short:

    1. tacoed front wheel on an ill-advised endo whle mtn biking Moab
    1a. Ill-advised endo also cost me a helmet – thankfully, I guess.
    2. tacoed back wheel from teen aged stupidity
    3. broken shifter on mtn bike after contact with tree
    4. Irreparable rim after hitting a deep pothole while commuting one morning with insufficient lighting
    5. Destroyed selle italia saddle while driving home after going over a bump and the bike bouncing off the trunk rack and getting dragged far enough to remove a huge chunk of leather. Some idiot had forgotten to put the straps over the top tube but ‘had’ thought to bungie the wheels to the rack.

    I’ve been riding pretty regularly since ’89 and that’s about it.

  2. Paul

    I would say I’m a little harder on stuff, but I’m 6 foot 230 lbs too.
    Worst was flats last year, maybe 20 tubes then, but far far fewer this year.
    Mostly the derailleur hanger (three times on my mountain bike, once on my road bike in last three years)
    Bent the front of my mountain bike seat down, replaced it and immediately bent the replacement too
    I’ve tacoed one wheel on a pothole and walked home. I had so much blood from my elbow on my shirt that my wife thought I’d been shot.

    1. Author

      @ Paul – Flats are a good indicator I think. I don’t get them. One a year, maybe. Don’t know why. Touch wood.

  3. Alex

    You break it – you upgrade!

    I’m 6-0, 170lbs dripping wet. The watts on the pedels aren’t breaking anything, it’s the roof rack and crashes.

    After my first crit race, I was driving home with my mom, dad, and future wife and mother-in-law in the car with my bike on the roof rack. Forgot all about it and drove straight in to the parking garage without any hesitation and snapped the frame in four places! I had to be the one driving…

    Upgrade the bike and continued enjoying the sport until I started getting serious about racing. The first season during a summer crit series, I attempted to recover after bumping into another rider by riding between two wooden parking bollards. Handlebars made it, pedals made it through, but my knee didn’t, catching it square-on rotation me and the bike into two of the bollards and causing my frame to look like a “Z” and cracking it. Somehow I didn’t break any bones.

    Since only the frame was damaged, all of my components weren’t damaged so I was able to take them off the Aluminum frame and build up my first carbon bike with those components.

    Fast forward three years and I’ve had now had that frame warrantied for a crack and crashed a cross bike and having to remain the carbon frame. My friends have joked that I’m too hard on my toys.

    And now this November, I pull the stunt of driving into my garage with the bike on the roof rack AGAIN! (Aside: a hitch rack is on the Christmas list as top priority!) I am lucky this time around that only the fork and headset bearing broke, not the frame. Add in the busted tire because I was backing into the garage, and I ended up having a 90% savings since the frame held together. My first depressing thought through the last incident was “I am yet to buy a new bike on my own time, not when I need to replace a broken one.”

    Still love the sport and will still keep my local bike shop in business…

  4. Kimball

    While growing up things on the bike “just broke”. Never mind the continually evolving ramps we were building and jumping off or the having contests for longest skid marks. Hard to explain to dad how my new back tire wore out in an hour.
    Adulthood finds me much easier on stuff; maybe because I’m paying for it.

  5. Weylandsmith

    I don’t have much of a budget so most everything is either bought used or scavenged off my old frames. I try to pay close attention to my equipment and have replacements lined up before things wear out. I’ve had a couple chains bust on me, but that’s it.

    Dare I even ask – where did you come up with the picture? Was that a bike tested to failure at work?

  6. David L

    I had an unforgettable experience with “breakage” many years ago. A few days before the Solvang Century was to take place, I decided to change the rotational angle of my handlebars. In those days, it was with the classic Cinelli quill style stem, with the single bolt. On the morning of the event, as my friends and I were rolling out from our cars to the start area, I suddenly decided that I was not satisfied with the handlebar angle, and that I was going to change it. “Hang on guys, this will just take a second”, I shouted. So I went back to the car, got my allen wrench and proceeded to make the adjustment. And as you have probably already guessed, as I was doing the final tightening of the titanium bolt (an upgrade), it snapped. What a shock. After all my preparations for this day, I am stopped by this.

    So my friends take off, and I’m left there like an idiot, with about 6 hours to kill while the guys ride the event. What do to… This was pre-internet days, so I find a phone booth and use it to locate the nearest Sears store, and the nearest bicycle shop. I find the Sears store. Its in Lompoc, about 8 miles up the road. I drive there and wait until it opens. When the door opens, I run in and buy an easy-out tool and the proper sized drill bit to use for extracting the remainder of the snapped bolt, which is still in the stem. Then I drive to the bike shop.

    I have to wait a while for this store to open as well. When it finally opens, I explain my dilemma to the store employee. He’s not really a mechanic, and he admits that he doesn’t know how to fix my problem. I plead with him to let into the mechanics work area and to let me use the shop’s tools to do my work. He reluctantly agrees. So I drill a hole down the center of the bolt fragment, and use my easy-out tool to remove it. The guy at the shop digs out an old bolt from a drawer full of odds and ends and let’s me have it for nothing. So I re-install my handlebars, and I’m good to go.

    I drive back to Solvang, gear up, and take off, riding the course in reverse. After 20 miles, I see my friends coming from the opposite direction, and rejoin them, riding the last 20 miles of the course with them. So I would say that under the circumstances, I made the most out of a breakage.

    But that day taught me a good lesson. On event day, I don’t even bring any tools with me, because I know how hard it is for me to resist that last minute tinkering. No tools, no breakage!

  7. Scott

    I wear stuff out. My race bike, my training bike, my commute bike, and my rain bike are one and the same. It endures ~10,000 miles a year. This experience has taught me a few things about the lifespan of parts:
    – A chain lasts about 2,000 miles and SHOULD be replaced thereafter. You can run it longer but if you do you’ll have to replace both the chain and cassette. If you replace only the chain after 2K, it will jump and skip.
    – If you replace your chain regularly, a cassette can deliver 5,000 miles.
    – A bottom bracket should last ~15,000 miles. With a worn BB, you’ll notice the big ring move side to side on each peddle stroke and you may hear it rubbing against the front derailleur to that beat.
    – A wheel can last up to 50,000 (I have an old Ksyrium that’s seen a lot of road).
    – Training tires range from 1,500 to 2,500 miles. Continental Grand Prix 4000’s are the best bang for the buck.
    – Bar tape should last about 5,000 miles. Replacing your brake cable housing every other time.
    – Shifter cables must be replaced every six months. Cable housing may last a year but that totally depends on the amount of rain you see.
    – Seats last 30 – 40,000 miles.
    – Peddles (specifically the barring’s) can last 50,000 to 75,000
    – Shifter life is inversely proportional to the cost. Expect ~40,000 miles.
    – The spring in a rear derailleur is the weak link. Expect 40,000 miles
    – Brake pads should provide 5,000 miles. Brake calipers should last a lifetime. In my case the calipers have outlasted two bikes — about 120,000 miles and counting.
    – Frames are a wild guess. My Aluminum Cannondale R2000 gave me about 80,000 miles before bending irreparably in a crash. My full carbon Cannondale Synapse has about 40,000 miles and it feels like a paper clip that’s been bent almost to the point of breaking. I just know that’s why I’m slower now than I was in my 30’s.

  8. Aar

    In my 20s and 30s I wore out stuff way too frequently. Even changing chains every 1,000 miles, I wore out freewheels, cogs and chainrings way too quickly. Rear rims lasted about a season over potholed roads. I even rode two steel frames until the rear triangles were soft enough that they shifted when I stood on the pedals. It was a matter of just piling miles upon miles on gear until they required replacement than any brutish power or anything like that. Gear is enough better and my miles are lower now that I get about triple to five times the life out of my gear today.

  9. Gene

    Bought a Cinelli stem with the hidden bolt as soon as it came out. Climbing a very steep hill the internal binder snapped and the bar swiveled up and I slammed the top tube. Not my fault. That aluminium binding wedge was defective. I’ve only ridden on Campy so reliability isn’t an issue

  10. Steve Barner

    I have certainly dented enough rims over the years, though these days rims are so much stronger that I usually wear them out from braking. I spent the first 15 years of my adult working life in a variety of bicycle and automotive mecahanic jobs, and developed a strong sense of the bicycle as a machine. Hence, I pay attention to a bike’s sounds and feel, and take care of issues as they appear. I try to get maximum mileage out of most parts, without taking undue risk of getting stranded, but I am much more likely to wear a part out, even with regular cleaning and servicing, than I am to break it. I have had a few interesting fatigue failures occur in aluminum components, especially on tandems, but that’s to be expected. I’ve been able to avoid catastrophic failure in these parts through regular close inspection and by maintaining awareness in the health of the machine.

    1. kurti_sc

      dang. that pulls at my heart strings. sorry to hear about that one. and having done something similar, the awkward silence with non-riding family is the worst. Ultimately, they just want to say, it’s just a bike or whatever and they cannot understand the impact. Somewhere between that view and a typical enthusiasts’ view of impending doom and a funny feeling in our gut that manifests itself in occasional gastrointestinal discomfort and sporadic tears of dismay is where the reaction should be…

  11. James Starrette

    Over the years, I’ve had the usual assortment of flats and such plus one steel mountain bike frame and one aluminum road bike frame that developed ripples in the bottom of the top and down tubes next to the head tube. Don’t know how, didn’t hit anything much, but when I found those ripples, those frames were immediately retired. Why did I pick the one sport where 6’3, 210 lbs. is not helpful?

    My masterpiece, though, is the day I had been out for about an hour, just playing around on a cross bike on some semi-singletrack, coming down a hill, approaching a wooden bridge. Maybe 20mph. The trail was eroded a bit just before the bridge. When my front wheel came out of the ruts and hit the brdige, the wheel came off the bike. Fork drop outs dug into the bridge and I went Superman over the bars. Face planted the bridge and my forehead to this day has a light colored streak where the pigment never fully came back. Yeah, just out playing on the bike, talking to my son, not really going anywhere and this was the one time I didn’t have my helmet on. Had given my helmet to my son who had forgotten his. Killed that frame and I was lucky to walk away from it. I can only conclude that I didn’t have the quick release on tight enough. You can bet my quick releases are tight now!

  12. Miles Archer

    As a kid, I broke everything. And I made things worse fixing them. I didn’t know you could over-tighten bolts.

    Now, not so bad. I don’t think weight has much to do with it. I’m 5-9 180lbs (swimming, and uh, maybe beer). I think it’s strength. I don’t have any.

    I recently had to replace an aluminum wheel that cracked where the spokes attach. It had 10k miles on it. Previous time I broke stuff was when I touched wheels with the person in front of me in a paceline, went down and got ran over by the guys behind me. Not a race – 60 miles into a charity century. I still feel bad for taking those guys out.

  13. RickV

    Metaphor of the week: “.. like a college bar through cheap, American lager.” Excellent.

    I could hear Phil Ligget yelling it in the finale of the Paris Roubaix: “And, Paul, now he’s coming up through the bunch like…”

    In ads: “The all-new 4,000 tpi Zombie Porcupine Extreme tire gets you through the corners like…”

    In conversation: “Dude, I talked this barista at the coffee house yesterday. Totally ADHD. She went through topics like…”

    Finally, have you considered submitting that one to the Cards Against Humanity folks?


  14. Quentin

    As a teenager, I bought a lot of used parts that had a lot of miles on them already. I had an early 1980s aluminum frame that eventually snapped right below the clamp on derailleur while riding to class in college. I went back to my previous steel Trek, and later broke a rear dropout on that in a poorly executed bunny hop. I’ve broken axles on old wheels, but that was from the freewheel era. I’ve never broken an axle on a freehub wheel. Come to think of it, I’ve had far fewer breakages on newer bikes, so it’s clear designs have improved over time.

  15. Mike

    5′ 10″ and 200#.

    In the last 5 years, I have sheared through the crank bolts once, have bent or broken 2 rear rims (good quality ones too), have caused fatigue failure where the spoke meets the hub on a Mavic Aksium RW, have worn out a chain and cassette that were replaced simultaneously (in less than 1800 miles) and have worn through rear tires prematurely.

    Must be a masher in denial.

  16. Rohit

    I am 6′, 180-195 depending on the season. I. Break. Everything. I also mostly mountain bike

    i used to love in Michigan and then NY/NJ, and break only chains on my Ibis Mojo (the OG…steel).

    Since moving to the Sonoran desert, pretty much everything is fair game. I have a full suspension MTB and a hard tail. in the past two years I have done the following damage:

    4 chains
    6 sets of ties (though riding on rocks and thorns will do this)
    1 blown rear shock
    2 totaled pedals
    3 derailleur hangers
    1 derailleur (hooray for well designed hangers!)
    1 rear brake assembly
    1 rear shift lever
    2 seat posts
    1 saddle rail
    plus the 3 cassettes, 2 sets of jockey wheels, and 4 brake rotors…though those are all wear and tear of the desert I suspect.

    For the record, I am a cross country guy who will occasionally take a drop or two. I’m not in the full-face helmet crowd

    The upside of all this is that I have deep relationships with ship owners and mechanics.

  17. slappy

    Just a frendlY ST0MPariLLA been so happy to ride Niner steel hard tails off road since they debuted. .managed to crack three frames, and shortly after my fourth warranty SIR9 arrived they created the bike of my dreams.. the ROS, designed around a long travel fork, built out of burlier steel. .it feels like they’d been specifically responding to all those who loved and shredded the cross country bikes they built and came along with the throw back hard tail shred machine, needless to say I love my Niner ROS and how!

  18. david

    I rarely break things……guess I’m just lucky.

    5 years ago, I was riding a vintage (aka old) Cannondale 2.8 fitted with ’87 vintage Campy C-Record components. The 22 year old crankset had to have upwards of 100K miles. I was standing up to get through an intersection and the next thing I knew I was on the deck….with the left side crank arm still attached to my shoe via the pedal. The arm snapped clean through.

  19. kurti_sc

    i’m a breaker. it’s a long list, too, that will only sadden my day. Beer is definitely required to get that convo started. Since giving up DH long ago, I have broken much less of myself, too. Really, I’m moving in the right direction as I get older. just riding XC for fun, SS for more fun and road for fitness.
    Now, I count a flat tire or busted sidewall as something. Most recently came across some larger than normal gravel at the bottom of a descent (Ceasar’s Head) on my road bike. I handled it perfectly, but darn if one of those rocks didn’t break thru the sidewall on my BRAND NEW Conti 4000’s. I think I had about 50 – 60 miles on them at this point. I hated that.

  20. Michael Schlitzer

    Back in the days of 7 speed downtube shifters I thought I’d save a gram or two and replace my rear derailleur pulleys with Aluminum ones. At the PA State RR championships we started up some god-awful climb, my pedals seized and then a big popping sound and my derailleur was gone. I decided then that if it involves going or stopping I was going to let a pro do it. That way I’d have somebody to yell it if it broke.

    Earlier that summer (same bike) we were doing crit training and we were on a “go” phase. All of a sudden my rear wheel felt like somebody just sat on it. Turns out a guy on a new Trek OCLV had his bottom bracket explode at 25+ mph. He did indeed fall on my rear wheel. His legs looked like pizza when he stopped rolling around.

  21. Nick

    I was working on this list earlier, and it bummed me out a bit, but here it goes. 5″10″ ~200 lbs. 5 years of Road, XC, and CX
    4 – derailleur hangers on the Colnago World Cup, those things are soft and not cheap
    2- derailleur hangers on the Caad 9 X
    2- Selle Italia Flites, one to XC, one to CX
    2- Prologo Scratch Pros – CX
    2- sets of Rival shifters – CX
    2 -Rival Rear derailleurs – CX
    1- 6800 right shifter – CX
    1- 6800 rear derailleur CX
    1- Rear Mavic Aksium, pulled spoke out of the hub, CX
    About a half dozen bottom line clincher road wheels, mostly the rims don’t hold up too long

  22. chiwode

    I’m 6’4″ and race at 158 pounds. I don’t even wear stuff out, much less break it. I just got 16K miles out of a Super Record cassette. You read that right. Crisp shifts the whole time right up until it was almost at 17K. But I just Andy Schleck’d my chain on a climb and it ate right through the chain stay on my carbon bike. Off to Calfee, who did a great job.

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