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Steel frame - cracked(?) seat tube

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Steel frame - cracked(?) seat tube

Old 04-29-16, 08:35 PM
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dubes
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Steel frame - cracked(?) seat tube

So, like many of us I was bitten by the siren song of an Ebay deal and acquired a Ritchey Swiss Cross frameset which was described as: "Frame is in excellent condition with no chips in the paint that I could find. Only paint flaws are in the contact points in the dropouts where the skewer and wheels get connected to the frame/fork."

Long story short, tonight as I was getting ready to install the fork (old crown race was butchered; needed to order a replacement), I noticed the seat cluster was cracked:

Cracked by mdubrow

(If you click on the images, you'll get a very close up view of the crack.)

As you can see, these cracks are just above the binder clamp: there is a large crack on the right side and a smaller crack on the left. Looking (and feeling) inside the tube, these cracks do not go all the way through (though you can see the jagged edge of the crack on the right).

Focusing on the larger of the two cracks:

Cracked2 by mdubrow

Because of the corrosion, I'm having a hard time determining if the crack is only in the paint (frame is painted, not powdercoated) or if it is really into the steel. If the crack is in fact in the steel, can the frame be ridden? If the crack is a potential problem, is this something that can be repaired? (Any recommendations for someone who can do the work in the NYC area?)

Thank you!
Mike

Last edited by dubes; 04-29-16 at 08:48 PM.
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Old 04-29-16, 08:54 PM
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That's a bummer. Hate to see that. Seller should refund or pay for repairs.
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Old 04-29-16, 10:49 PM
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It looks like the crack is in the brazing/welding rather than in the tubing. I would think that could be repaired. But of course that's going to require paint removal and re-painting process after the re-brazing. However, to me it doesn't appear to be a safety concern. So, if you can't get the seller to refund or repair it...I'd go ahead and ride it "as is" for the time being. Keep the above pics of it to give you something to compare to in the future. If it is getting worse, then I guess you might as well look into getting it repaired. Good luck.

Dan
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Old 04-29-16, 11:10 PM
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Yes, the braze is cracked, not the seat tube or ears themselves.

IMO - assuming you keep it, I'd leave it alone, rather try to rebraze it now. It may continue to crack, or it may not, and either way it could be months or years, all good time, and you can cross the repair bridge when you get to it.

Here's some ideas.

First of all the crack is on the opposite side of normal, and not the result of the bolt being retightened. I suspect tow possible causes.

1- the ears are cracking because of seatstay flex tugging at them. Seatstays cracking at the seat cluster isn't all that rare, and this might explain why the cracks are on the wrong side.

2- the seatpost might be undersized. Not a full size under, but at the extreme low end of the tolerance, or the seat tube reamed to the high end of the tolerance, or both in combination. This causes the ears to pinch together as the bolt is tightened. However, if the bolt is a snug fit in the ears, it will try to keep them parallel, causing them to try to pull back where the cracks are. It probably wouldn't be enough to cause the cracks, but can be a preload onto which the stresses of normal stay flex are added. This theory can be ruled out, or proven possible by checking the fit of the pinch bolt in the ears, If its snug, then it supports the theory. of it's sloppy, forget you read this and focus on theory no. 1. You might also tighten the frame onto a post and note how far the top of the slot closes (less is better).

In any case, decide whether to seek a refund, or if you keep it, ride it and hope for as much good time as possible before you need to deal with a repair.
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Old 04-30-16, 05:49 AM
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Thanks all for the words of support and your insights into the problem.

Dan and FBinNY, I like the "do nothing and hope for the best" approach. I have the pictures and can also measure the length of the cracks with a calipers to keep an eye on it over time.

To make sure I understand, when you say the crack is in the brazing, are you talking about the brass or silver or whatever the factory used to join the seat stays to the seat tube? So if I do decide to keep it and eventually repair it, I'd need someone who can do brazing work as opposed to TIG welding, right? (Not to mention TIG welding would look horrible there.)

Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but on the face of it what is more disconcerting to me is FB's theory number 1. If the cracks may be because the seat stays are flexing, would that mean the seat stays are at risk of separating from the seat tube altogether? Because if that's the case, I may try to seek a refund from the seller.

Thanks again!
Mike
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Old 04-30-16, 06:32 AM
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Originally Posted by dubes View Post
To make sure I understand, when you say the crack is in the brazing, are you talking about the brass or silver or whatever the factory used to join the seat stays to the seat tube? So if I do decide to keep it and eventually repair it, I'd need someone who can do brazing work as opposed to TIG welding, right?
Correct. It's pretty much like soldering, with a torch.

Another option for securing the seatpost...it looks like you might be able to get a collar to fit over the top of the tube.

Dan
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Old 04-30-16, 06:37 AM
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Originally Posted by dubes View Post


Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but on the face of it what is more disconcerting to me is FB's theory number 1. If the cracks may be because the seat stays are flexing, would that mean the seat stays are at risk of separating from the seat tube altogether? Because if that's the case, I may try to seek a refund from the seller.
Whatever the cause, the seatstays are attached through the the parts where the cracks are. So for practical purposes, consider them as cracks in the seatstay/seat lug joint. That's based on what little I can see of them in the photos, and that Richie used that design. Of course, if the stays are attached elsewhere, you can disregard this.

I don't know what you paid, but unless it was a great bargain, my first option would be to seek a refund from the seller. Or, at least do some research on what a repair would cost you down the road and actor that into your decision whether to keep or return. You might send the photos to Richie and ask about the cost to repair.

Assuming you keep it, I wouldn't worry about the stays separating suddenly or dangerously. As I said earlier, seat stay failures there aren't that rare and don't tend to have consequences other than needing repair.
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Last edited by FBinNY; 04-30-16 at 06:45 AM.
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Old 04-30-16, 06:52 AM
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First I would file a claim for "not as described" with Ebay so you are cover if this does not go well. I would add to the good insight given above that having a frame builder in your area (any frame builder can easily do the work if needed) look it over would allow you to address the seller with some "professional input" as to how repairs if required would be done and at what cost and collateral damage (paint) you would have to put up with. You and the seller can then negotiate the path forward. Without something like stop drilling or re-brazing I would think left unattended those cracks can only get worse.
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Old 04-30-16, 07:50 AM
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Originally Posted by _ForceD_ View Post
Another option for securing the seatpost...it looks like you might be able to get a collar to fit over the top of the tube.

Dan
I like that idea although it might require some file work (on the collar, not the bike!) to get the collar to clear that cable guide, but the clamps usually have plenty of material. I like that this is a reversible solution; "First, do no harm."
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Old 04-30-16, 07:54 AM
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Have to Burn paint off to braze up that crack, since the metal has to be clean..
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Old 04-30-16, 09:16 AM
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Thank you all for the good ideas here for how to deal with the cracks if I keep the frame.

That said, I've decided to take Francis's (and Jarrett's) advice and request a return / refund from the seller. I don't think the seller was deliberately dishonest, just clueless. From the way he overtightened everything else--including the headset! which is why I needed a new crown race--wouldn't surprise me if the cracks are from him overtightening the (ungreased) binder bolt, but I'd rather not be in a position where I build up the frame only to have to take it all apart again in a few years either to have it repaired or replaced. I like to tinker and all, but I like riding even more.

Mike

Last edited by dubes; 04-30-16 at 09:18 AM. Reason: Give credit to Jarrett2
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Old 04-30-16, 11:28 AM
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If you do end up riding the frame.

Mark the crack with paint or a sharpie. If it progresses, repair it early as the smaller the repair and less damage, the easier.
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Old 04-30-16, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
If you do end up riding the frame.

Mark the crack with paint or a sharpie. If it progresses, repair it early as the smaller the repair and less damage, the easier.
This isn't a case where a patch can be put on the area. Now or later, or anywhere in between, the entire area will need to be taken apart and rebuilt properly. So it's the same job unless crashed.

If the OP ends up having to keep it, he should post again, and I have a few simple suggestions that may slow the rate or crack progression, but nothing can stop it entirely except random good luck.
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Old 05-01-16, 03:42 PM
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OP here with an update: I spoke with the seller, and we agreed that I would keep the frame but with a very substantial reduction in price (the auction included some other components that I'm happy to hang onto, and the reduction in price is basically treating the frame as a freebie).

#FBinNY , if I were to build this back up, what can be done to slow the progression of the crack?

Alternatively, can anyone suggest a framebuilder in the NYC area who can do this repair? It may be worth it to make repairs before I build up the frame.

Thanks!
Mike
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