Frame flexing more than before?

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
oneten
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Location: Whitstable, Kent

Frame flexing more than before?

Postby oneten » 18 Jun 2020, 6:04pm

I am still riding my 1989 Nigel Dean Tour Ace, although it is only the frame set and brakes that are actually original. I ride it regularly and do a reasonable weekly mileage as well as going on heavily laden camping tours at least once a year. I hasten to add that I am quite a heavy bloke myself.
After talking to someone recently, who called into question my use of an older steel-framed bike which he says was never designed for heavy loads, I have been looking at just how much the frame seems to flex from side to side. I certainly noticed this when on tour, but now, to see how much movement there is, while putting a bit of sideways pressure on the unladen bike with the handlebars resting against a wall, is quite surprising and worrying. The movement almost appears as if the top tube is hinging slightly on the head tube though there are no apparent cracks or other signs of deterioration to the lug where it intersects with the head or top tube. There are no sounds that I can hear but I do feel concerned and not happy about trusting the frame for another camping tour, as and when camping is permitted again.
How likely is it that the 531 tubing or lug brazing could fail?

Thanks in advance for any advice or experiences of this.

Needless to say, I'm looking for something a bit more up to date and considering a new bike. I have a question about options and will do this in a separate post.

Brucey
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Joined: 4 Jan 2012, 6:25pm

Re: Frame flexing more than before?

Postby Brucey » 18 Jun 2020, 6:17pm

the whole point of steel frame is that they do flex, in a controlled fashion. If it is not cracked and you have not noticed anything peculiar (different from normal) happening when riding it then the frame is probably fine.
I have ridden several steel frames to the point of destruction and in every case there was due warning that the thing was about to break before it did, and there were likewise visible cracks.

Having said that it is possible that the frame you have isn't ideally suited to the task in hand. If loaded touring is your thing there are lots of good touring bikes out there for you to choose from. The only thing I would say though is that (IME) a frame that is stiff enough that there is no flex when you have a load on won't be that pleasant to ride when you have no load on at all; too stiff.

cheers
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Brucey~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

mig
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Joined: 19 Oct 2011, 9:39pm

Re: Frame flexing more than before?

Postby mig » 18 Jun 2020, 6:26pm

oneten wrote:I am still riding my 1989 Nigel Dean Tour Ace, although it is only the frame set and brakes that are actually original. I ride it regularly and do a reasonable weekly mileage as well as going on heavily laden camping tours at least once a year. I hasten to add that I am quite a heavy bloke myself.
After talking to someone recently, who called into question my use of an older steel-framed bike which he says was never designed for heavy loads, I have been looking at just how much the frame seems to flex from side to side. I certainly noticed this when on tour, but now, to see how much movement there is, while putting a bit of sideways pressure on the unladen bike with the handlebars resting against a wall, is quite surprising and worrying. The movement almost appears as if the top tube is hinging slightly on the head tube though there are no apparent cracks or other signs of deterioration to the lug where it intersects with the head or top tube. There are no sounds that I can hear but I do feel concerned and not happy about trusting the frame for another camping tour, as and when camping is permitted again.
How likely is it that the 531 tubing or lug brazing could fail?

Thanks in advance for any advice or experiences of this.

Needless to say, I'm looking for something a bit more up to date and considering a new bike. I have a question about options and will do this in a separate post.


yes all steel / 531 frames flex. i ride a mercian 531 frame most days (unladen admittedly) and i can see and feel it flex under load. in the mid '90s i had a frame built from columbus max - an oversized steel tubset shaped to resist twisting loads. it is now my turbo bike and i can see the twists in the frame as i pedal and ramp up resistance. it's normal.

your frame flexes back each time i take it? it's not just gradually distorting in one direction?

oneten
Posts: 158
Joined: 11 Aug 2014, 2:49pm
Location: Whitstable, Kent

Re: Frame flexing more than before?

Postby oneten » 18 Jun 2020, 6:32pm

Thank you Brucey for a rather reassuring view of things. I have to admit, it is nice that there is a bit of liveliness in the frame when unladen. I am torn though about whether to invest further in this older frame which needs a repaint. I have a nice Harry Rowland wheel-set albeit with ,a screw-on freewheel block rather than a cassette. Another intention in upgrading is to lower the gear ratio a bit more than I already have, 26 t inner ring and Shimano mega-ride freewheel block with a 34t lower gear. But looking at the spec on a lot of new bikes, I seem to be doing pretty well with that ratio as things stand.
Thanks again for your help.

peetee
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Location: Cornwall

Re: Frame flexing more than before?

Postby peetee » 19 Jun 2020, 12:16am

I too have a Nigel Dean Tour Ace although mine is the rarer 753 model. I also have a Raleigh frame with Reynolds 708 which has the larger dia top tube. The 708 is noticeably stiffer when riding out of the saddle and firmer on bumps than any 531 or 753 frame I have ridden and would be my choice if I were loading up where the additional weight would would probably offset the firmer ‘spring’ and the stiffer top tube maintain stability and reduce frame whip (where side-loads are applied to the frame and it responds by springing back and upsetting the balance of bike and/or rider). I suit a 24” frame so it’s a bit easier for me to notice a flexible frameset and I do tend to analyse the characteristics of my bikes rather more than is necessary for contented riding. :oops:
Current status report:
Back on two wheels in deepest Pastyland and loving every minute. Mission: to enjoy big, bad hills again.

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531colin
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Re: Frame flexing more than before?

Postby 531colin » 19 Jun 2020, 1:26pm

Have you access to another similar bike to compare the degree of flexibility?
My test goes;
Stand next to the bike, one hand on the stem, other hand on the saddle. Pull one towards you, push other one away. Reverse, repeat.
Same starting position, but put toe of one foot on crank/BB axle end, and push.
I used to see numbers of the old UK made Galaxies (You know, the ones they go all misty-eyed over on here)
They showed a big variation is stiffness, presumably the only differences would have been how well the tube mitres fitted under the lugs, and how well the joints were filled with spelter. (Made by bored operatives in a grotty factory, not an individual builder who puts his name on it!)

Long ago, I scrapped an old 531 butted frame (pre-531ST) I didn't really need it, and it got too much of a fag to fiddle with getting the cantis to work on 700c, they were positioned for 27" wheels. It was my impression that the old girl had got floppy, and I cut her up with an angle grinder and found......nothing. No serious rust, nothing. I think I was simply making a wrong comparison, ie to modern frames which are going to be stiffer.

peetee
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Joined: 4 May 2010, 10:20pm
Location: Cornwall

Re: Frame flexing more than before?

Postby peetee » 19 Jun 2020, 4:02pm

Ah, I just noticed that you are talking about a Dawes. I’m afraid my own personal experience of this brand is not good. I was asked to investigate my brothers Dawes Imperial and I found that one of the fork blades had not been brazed into the crown and had been held in place with a tight fit and a bit of chrome. :shock:
I do hope your concerns don’t prove to be as revealing as that.
Current status report:
Back on two wheels in deepest Pastyland and loving every minute. Mission: to enjoy big, bad hills again.

markjohnobrien
Posts: 254
Joined: 4 Oct 2007, 8:15pm

Re: Frame flexing more than before?

Postby markjohnobrien » 19 Jun 2020, 4:24pm

Sad story about Dawes in the last few years of British frame building: most of the experienced frame builders retired en masse and people with less skill and experience took over (with a big chunk of tyro apprentices) leading to poor quality on some frames. Other frames were still fine but the overall standard had fallen.

peetee
Posts: 2097
Joined: 4 May 2010, 10:20pm
Location: Cornwall

Re: Frame flexing more than before?

Postby peetee » 19 Jun 2020, 6:41pm

The Imperial fork failure was in the mid eighties. The ‘Handbuilt in England’ era. :?
Current status report:
Back on two wheels in deepest Pastyland and loving every minute. Mission: to enjoy big, bad hills again.

markjohnobrien
Posts: 254
Joined: 4 Oct 2007, 8:15pm

Re: Frame flexing more than before?

Postby markjohnobrien » 19 Jun 2020, 7:22pm

Oh dear: the rot set in even earlier than I thought or, being charitable, this could be an outlier?

roubaixtuesday
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Re: Frame flexing more than before?

Postby roubaixtuesday » 19 Jun 2020, 8:26pm

I used to own a 25" Tour Ace of near identical vintage.

The flexing sounds fine, no issue.

Mine failed by the "ears" on the seat stays cracking after 25 years or so use.

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Mick F
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Re: Frame flexing more than before?

Postby Mick F » 20 Jun 2020, 9:23am

My 1986 531c Mercian is beautifully flexible. An absolute dream to ride.
I've used four full panniers with it, and it was fine.
Mick F. Cornwall

thirdcrank
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Re: Frame flexing more than before?

Postby thirdcrank » 20 Jun 2020, 9:48am

If you haven't noticed any evidence of change in the frame, then I suspect that this is the mechanical equivalent of hypochondria: you find out about the symptoms - the internet is usually the worst culprit - then you become convinced you have the disease. Speaking as a 75 yo man, I've been convinced I've had an unplanned pregnancy more than once. :wink:

The problem now may be getting any sort of reassurance that the frame is ok so you don't ruin your riding by nattering.

I've had two steel frames fail while riding. One was the downtube which cracked around where gear levers had once been fitted. I was honking really hard up a short steep hill. When I inspected the crack, it had been there a while - rust - and it had only needed me to hammer hard to break the camel's back. Had I bothered to check the bike in the way you now have, the problem would have been obvious.

With the other, it was an old Peugeot frame whose seatstay broke around the blowhole. The back end went wobbly and I assumed I had broken the back axle.

As others have said, I think what you have described is normal for a lightweight steel frame.

oneten
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Location: Whitstable, Kent

Re: Frame flexing more than before?

Postby oneten » 20 Jun 2020, 1:55pm

Hello Thirdcrank. It could well be, as you suggest, a case of cyclist's hypochondria! I think I might have caught a dose after talking to 'an expert'. When I mentioned about trying a frame with a different geometry, ie a lower sloping top tube, he showed me his modern bike-packing tourer/adventure bike, which, I have to say, was impressive but with a price tag way beyond what many cyclists could afford. It had those massive bulbous tyres (looked like you could ride it on water) definitely not my cup of tea, but my Dean suddenly looked in quite a sorry state standing beside it in comparison!
I think the frame's flexing is probably no worse than before and there are no signs of cracks. I remember the first camping tour I took it on, I was heavily loaded and was concerned then about it having noticeable sideways movement when leant against a wall. But no harm came of it then or on subsequent trips.
What did you do when your frames broke Third rank? Were you able to limp home after applying a temporary 'splint' such as a stick or suchlike? We're you able to get it brazed?
Thanks for your reply.

oneten
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Location: Whitstable, Kent

Re: Frame flexing more than before?

Postby oneten » 20 Jun 2020, 1:57pm

Mick F wrote:My 1986 531c Mercian is beautifully flexible. An absolute dream to ride.
I've used four full panniers with it, and it was fine.


Thanks Mick F. And Cornish terrain is a lot harsher than the rolling hills of Kent!