Author Topic: Is this advice still relevant ?  (Read 1438 times)


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Is this advice still relevant ?
« on: November 09, 2019, 09:18:03 PM »
Looking through a ROSEBIKES catalogue dated 2013 (I think this was the last one published before they went 100% on line) I read the following statement and I quote
""Please note that you may only combine stems and handlebars with the same clamping measure.  For your safety, please change aluminium stems and handlebars at the latest after two years or 5,000km. After a fall you should change these parts at once""
The first and last sentences I have no problem with, but the middle one, I have never heard of this before.
Your comments welcomed.


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Re: Is this advice still relevant ?
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2019, 10:49:18 PM »
I have never changed my handlebars or stem. I however did retire a handlebar from the early 1960s a few years ago because i wanted a wider one.

I can see scheduled replacement if you use carbon, but I do not have any carbon fiber bike stuff.


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Re: Is this advice still relevant ?
« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2019, 08:22:31 AM »
For your safety, please change aluminium stems and handlebars at the latest after two years or 5,000km.

I've seen this kind of advice in lots of places, and not just for stems and handlebars, notably for aluminium cranks as well. My Brompton handbook lists some aluminium parts that should be changed regularly. I replace the hinge clamps every 5 years as advised (because I reckon these parts are highly stressed and would be dangerous if they broke) but ignore all the other advice.

I did replace all my old (30 + years) aluminium drop handlebars, partly because I have gone over to the modern short-reach drops.

But I still have lots of old TA Cyclotouriste cranks in service, they stopped making these several years ago. Some of these date from the early 1980's, two pairs of these have 45,000 and 50,000 kms of use.

And a pair of rims from about 1990 that have survived being worn out only because they have mainly been used with roller or drum brakes.


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Re: Is this advice still relevant ?
« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2019, 08:45:48 AM »
I recently replaced several of the "modern" aluminum drop handlebars -- Bontrager and Hsin Ling/Zoom -- fitted to my rougher-service expedition, gravel and enduro all-road bikes. Their tubing is heat-treated and bead-blasted to surface harden and remove stress risers before anodizing. They have thinner walls and weigh much less than my older handlebars. Given their greater width and harder use on rougher roads, I have replaced each of them after 5 years' use although they showed no signs of failure. I bought the first of these handlebars in 2011.

In contrast, my old randonneur handlebars (Nitto and SR/Sakae Ringyo from the 1980s and '90s) are thicker throughout and have generous double sleeves over the clamped section. These  handlebars are pretty narrow at the brake hoods where I ride most and I have used them largely on pavement or better gravel so I don't put a lot of strain on them.

I've retired a couple of these older handlebars due to obvious bends caused by very hard falls -- one had the bike sliding into a curb at an intersection without me when I was crowded off the road by a car and laid it down (in summer, and I was riding without a shirt -- ouch!), another was an "off" on a rainy downhill when I hit a mossy corner. Beyond some slight bends, there were no cracks or damage anywhere on the 'bars, but I disliked the new shape and erred on the side of caution rather than attempt to re-bend the aluminum.

Otherwise, I have several Nitto and SR drop handlebars I've ridden well over 48,000km each. I inspect them each ride as I do the rest of my bikes when I wipe them down after each ride and regularly during service and my annual -- sometimes seasonal -- 'bar retaping. I've not found any problems to date. No cracks, no fissures, no change in surface finish, no wobbles or other problems. I am careful to match the clamped portion with the internal diameter of my stems and I use care to make sure my brake lever bodies and clamps are smooth and do not dig in. Mostly, I think their longevity is due to gentler use and more robust materials; they're simply overbuilt compared to the newer 'bars which place a greater priority on light weight.

My feeling is Rosebikes' caution may apply more directly to these more recent handlebars made of lighter, thinner aluminum than my older models.

Just my two cents' worth.


« Last Edit: November 10, 2019, 09:16:54 AM by Danneaux »


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Re: Is this advice still relevant ?
« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2019, 12:51:06 PM »
I've seen the advice elsewhere, and recently, I'd always ignored it till I had a set of bars snap a couple of years ago.  Now I'm not so sure, they get removed and refitted at the correct torque as part of the annual service, if all looks well I'll probably change at three years on the most used bikes and a bit less often on the others.


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Re: Is this advice still relevant ?
« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2019, 04:05:22 PM »
A friend of mine just finished riding the Pacific Coast through USA from Canada to Mexico.  He rode his Cannondale touring bike, Aluminum frame and fork, that he has had for over a decade.  That bike has crossed USA three times, twice fully loaded with four panniers.  Plus some other shorter tours.

He broke a fork on that trip.  Steerer tube broke between the upper and lower headset bearings.  The mechanic at the bike shop told him that it looked like the crack started years ago, part of the crack was oxidized so it looked like an old crack and the rest of it finally broke.

I have heard that on the internet there are counterfeit stems sold from Asia, all my stems came from a bike shop or USA bike components seller, I have not ordered any stems or handlebars from Asia.  If I had any ultra light components, I might worry more, but none of my components are that light.

A gal I know had a seatpost clamp bolt break.  She was not injured when the saddle and seatpost detached, but she was slightly injured from the crash.

This is the first that I have heard that we are supposed to replace cranksets.  I am not going to.

Andre Jute

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Re: Is this advice still relevant ?
« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2019, 05:38:09 PM »
It's hardly worth the hassle and niggling uncertainty to save a miserable few grammes by using ali handlebars rather than steel.

I always specify steel bars. I like steel. I used to race Big Healeys in a rough formula until you could put your thumbnail into the cracks in the chassis.

Ali isn't in fact a natural weightsaver, because the tube rim has to be made three times as thick as steel to have the same desirable characteristics, or the diameter of the tubes have to be substantially boosted somehow to recover the lack of cability of ali compared to steel. And then, on top of the fat tubes being aesthetically displeasing, the weight saved is never as much as expected and advertised. That's why my all-steel Kranich frame, despite its extra tubes, actually weighs less than my otherwise similar aluminium Dutch and American commuter/touring frames.

When vendors claim weight savings on crucial ali parts, my first suspicion is that they shaved the component for the headline weight saving. I survived my adventurous youth because I'm a five-star paranoid. I see zero reason as a bicyclist to change a proven outlook to save a few grammes that could have a disproportionate cost.

I have the same lack of faith in titanium, for the opposite reason: I broke four ti frames on racing cars in one day, every time in a different welded joint on space frames. Also, at the other end of the size scale, we have an expensive complicated watch in a ti case with a ti band, and the clip, which is made in ti to exactly the same blueprint as the steel band on another of these watches (we used to have three of these pilot's watches in various styles and casing materials and still have two), keeps breaking a year or a few after a new one is fitted. Ti is another metal the designer must really understand well if you're to trust his design, and then it is only too easy for the stamper or the welder to screw him -- and his customers.

I don't see why I should be an unpaid beta-tester -- worse, one who lays out good money for the "privilege".

Jobst Brandt, a firstclass racing car (Porsche grand prix brakes was his work, etc) and bicycle (Avocet, treadless tyres, the first electronic bike computers, etc) engineer, didn't even like forged ali cranks unless he personally knew the operator in charge of the forge. (I've not had any crank problems, but then all the cranks I've ever used were forged on their own premises by companies with decades to a century of experience in bicycles, and since 2009 I have been using mostly steel cranks for reasons nothing to do with fears of ali breakages.) That photograph of Jobst on his bike that Dan published the other day tells you a lot: that yellow bike was ordered person-to-person, face-to-face by Jobst from Gino Cinelli himself, and built in steel by the great man's own hands. That Jobst, an obsessed cyclist and a great engineer, and with a certain minimal understanding of marketing necessities, didn't like ali as an engineering material for bicycles is more than enough reason for me to proceed cautiously with weight-"saving" on my bike. Here's Dan's image of "Jobst at speed testing Avocet road slicks", leaning over at an amazing 40 degrees (measured) from the vertical:

There are probably some known-good in-house makers of bicycle components one can exclude from my strictures -- Dan mentions Nitto* by name for a good reason, and I don't believe Uno-Kalloy* will do anything as stupid as shaving the component too thin for the metal, even if only to avoid liability suits, but I wouldn't buy generic Chinese ali handlebars -- which is what most big brands and all boutique brands are -- under any circumstances. As for ali forks...

In addition, there are components made in forged ali under the supervision of German or Swiss or Japanese engineers in China or more often in Taiwan (a Japanese for whom I designed stuff was so worn out shouting at careless Chinese manufacturers -- "My Irish designer will come bomb you" (!) -- his wife made him move production to more expensive but more competent Taiwanese firms) that I'm perfectly happy to fit. An example is a copy of the first Ahead-set stem made by the original maker in Taiwan for a German company, thoroughly tested by Utopia in Germany before they fitted it to their bikes (but it isn't for weight weenies!). Another is the n'lock that several of us have on our bikes: what is not generally known is that the n'lock designer first licensed his invention to a French company, who didn't supervise production in China, which led to breakages and liability claims, which in turn caused the designer to take the matter into his own hands and move manufacture to Taiwan where he could supervise it closely.

All of that said, I don't actually know anyone who suffered a catastrophic failure of an ali part on a bicycle, but then everyone I know has one or more good quality bicycles with good quality parts, none of these BSOs (bike shaped objects) from China, and none of their bikes have the sort of mileages one would expect to find on the bikes of members of this forum. So I'm not about to start a scare story among my pedalpals, though I will unobtrusively check whether their bars and stems and forks are ali and if so crack-free.

Thanks for directing our attention to the potential problem, Energyman.

*My Nitto moustache bars (saved when I let an earlier bike go, to use in case I ever have to ride in a crowded city where my 620mm wide normal choice would be a nuisance) and Kalloy bars are steel anyway. The last time I had an ali handlebar on a bike was 2002, and it was the first thing I took off and instantly replaced with steel on the day the bike was delivered to me.


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Re: Is this advice still relevant ?
« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2019, 06:02:46 PM »
I have had old GB alloy handlebars break whilst riding - I was lucky as I was commuting out of Edinburgh at night and landed on the pavement getting just scrapes and a cracked rib.
I have also had an alloy stem and a steel pedal spindle break with no warning, but these were some time after a horrendous sudden stop caused by a 6 inch nail in the rear wheel over stressed these items. Again I was very lucky and survived these breakages.

I now change my alloy handlebars every 5 years, I am far too risk averse!
I may change to steel when I go for an even more upright position as old age creeps on - ‘North style' bars beckon.

The give away for a handlebar problem is a visible crack and or creaking noises starting when you pull on the bars.
Not something which happens very often.