If you’re wanting to take care of your Hardtail or full suspension, there are a few preventative maintenance tips most riders follow.
In addition to the standard brake and tire changes, you also want to make intervals to check the integrity of your bike.
One of the most important things to check on your bike, is the actual frame itself.
And while you may already know what to look for, it can’t hurt to have a few tips when it comes to such a safety concern.
Whether you’re looking to revive an old bike or inspect one after a crash, here is everything you need to know to check a bike frame.
It is actually rather straightforward to check a bike frame. Start with the welds that hold the frame together and then check each individual tube and stay, taking extra care to check for cracks or damage in high stress areas like the Head Tube, Seat Tube and Chain Stay. To dive a little deeper, we explore everything you’d want to know below.
What You Need
To start, there are a few things you should have if you want to give your bike frame a proper inspection. Ideally, you want to use a well-lit area where you have plenty of space and time to evaluate the bike, especially if you’re buying a used bike. I understand that this is not always possible, so try to at least have the 3 things I outline below:
Flashlight – I flashlight is crucial when it comes to inspecting your bike frame. Dents and cracks can be elusive – having a flashlight can help you identify the difference between a crack in the Head Tube and a crack in the paint.
Time – Whether you’re buying a used bike or digging an old one out the garage for a spontaneous ride, don’t rush yourself when it comes to checking your bike frame. I can understand the excitement to get out and start riding, but it’s not worth the possible injury in the future, just to rush through a frame check. Always allow yourself enough time to thoroughly check your bike frame before making any decisions to ride or buy.
A Keen Eye – If you’re inspecting your bike frame, make sure you check the areas where you know there is a lot of stress and force on the bike. The seat tube, head tube and chain stay are all high stress areas on a bike, so make sure you give them a thorough inspection.
What to Look For
When checking a bike frame, it also helps to know what to look for.
There are only a few ways in which a bike frame can be damaged, I will go over the most important ones below:
Rust – Rust is a clear sign that your bike has been exposed to too much water, compromising the actual frame material. Common problem areas are the seat tube, bike chain and rear cassette. Make sure you do what you can to address the leak or problem and get your bike checked out by a professional.
Dents and Bends – Your bike frame can sustain a few dents and bends after a bad crash. If unaddressed, these dents and bends could eventually compromise completely, leaving you in a world of hurt on the way out.
Cracks – Cracks in your bike frame are the most dangerous to ride with, as they severely diminish the structural integrity of your bike. If you develop cracks in high stress areas, it is time to get a fitting and evaluation from your LBS. If you sustain a crack after a bad crash, always have a professional check it out before you start riding again.
Scratches – Scratches are not always too much to worry about, unless you see them around any suspicious areas like the head tube or rear axle. Regardless, always fully inspect your bike, no matter how small of an issue you think a scratch may be.
All connections of frame to components for tubes
Check – Check for cracks on the front and sides of the Head Tube. Take a flashlight and check the bottom, sides and top of the welds that connect the Head Tube to the rest of the bike.
Your Head Tube is one of the most vital areas on your bike, and it is also one of the areas subjected to the most stress.
Since you virtually connect to your bike in two places; the pedals and the handlebars, these are the areas that see the most force and stress while riding.
This is especially true if you’re a Mountain Biker.
Rotating all that mass and transferring your every input can take a toll on the Head Tube and headset all together.
Check – Run your fingers along the Top Tube to feel for any dents or cracks. Take a flashlight and look for cracks on the welds that meet the seat tube and the rest of the bike frame.
The Top Tube on a bike can be surprisingly strong for how thin it is. Nonetheless, it is still vulnerable to damage during a crash. It is also fairly easy to dent if you accidentally bang your bike against something. If you notice any cracks or damage to the Top Tube, you could be looking at a new bike purchase sooner than later.
Check – Run your fingers along the bottom and top of the Down Tube, feeling for any cracks or dents. Take a flashlight and thoroughly inspect the bottom of the Down Tube, along with the welds that connect it to the rest of the bike frame.
The Down Tube can really take a beating, especially if you’re a Mountain Biker.
The Down Tube is not only subjected to rocks and dirt, it is easily damaged when trying to roll over large objects.
Just because it’s on the bottom of the bike, don’t forget to give it a thorough check.
Check – Check the top of the chain stay for excessive wear from “chain slap”. Take a flashlight and inspect each weld that connects the chain stay to the rest of the bike.
The Chain stay is part of the rear fork on your bike, specially the part that takes the most beating from your chain.
This is why you see so many Mountain Bikers using a chain stay guard or something to that affect.
This is less of a problem for Road Cyclists, however, it’s still an area of interest.
Check – Check for any cracks or dents in the seat tube and where it connects to the Head and Down Tube. Take a flashlight and check around the seat clamp for signs of the overtightening of a bolt.
The Seat Tube is one of the most common areas to experience cracks from stress and pressure.
Seat Tubes are notorious for cracking when the rider puts a lot of pressure on a seat that’s extended far beyond the recommended distance.
Make sure you check the welds as well as the tube.
Check – Check the welds that connect the seat stay to the rest of the bike. Take extra care to check the inside of the seat stay to inspect for tire rub.
The seat stay is not usually a cause for worry, however, don’t count it out just yet.
If there was ever an issue with tire rub or a severe hub imbalance, you can easily eliminate the bike if you see these telltale signs of damage.
In conclusion, Bike frames are extremely resilient.
But don’t take chances if you have suspicions that there may be damage to your bike frame.
Take the time to check the welds, tubes and high stress areas on your bike, so you can continue to ride in confidence.
Good luck and safe riding!