Triathlon Bike Frame Maintenance and Repair: Brazing or Welding?

Gabby

April 4, 2020

Whether you ride for fun, exercise, or in competitions, you need to keep your bike in good shape at all times. The frame of your bike determines the strength and ruggedness of your bike. As such, the structural integrity of the bike’s frame needs to be maintained at all times. This means ensuring there is no rust on the frame, cracks are repaired as soon as they appear, and the frame stays clean. It is the frame of the bike that holds all other bike components together. If the frame is faulty, the bike becomes dysfunctional.

How can you enhance the life of your bike’s frame? Read on to learn more.

Reduce Corrosion

Corrosion as an enemy to bike frames only comes second to bike accidents. Corrosion is common with steel frames – if you ride a bike with an aluminum frame, you are okay [1]. If you are not sure whether yours is steel or aluminum, check with a magnet.

One way to minimize corrosion is to ensure that sweat does not sit on the bike for long. If you sweat on your bike a lot, wipe off sweat immediately after the ride. Pay attention to corners, especially underneath clamps. The salt from sweat can corrode metallic parts slowly over a long time. Slat is also an enemy to aluminum, carbon-fiber, and other materials.

To prevent sweat and hard water from entering inside the frame, apply clear silicone-rubber bathroom caulk around the base of your bike’s stem. Wipe away the excess caulk. If sweat or hard water seeps through inside the stem into the bike’s steerer tube, the damage to the frame can be more.

You can reduce corrosion by reducing the frame’s exposure to moisture. However, it might not be entirely possible to keep moisture off. As such, you can swab or spray a rust inhibitor such as WD-40 in the tubes if you ever dismantle a part of your bike that exposes the tubes.

Fix Bike Bends

A good frame is resilient. However, a bend can result from an accident. To protect your frame, avoid twisting it out of shape. If, unfortunately, the bike hits a tree or large stationary object and the frame bends, take the bike to a mechanic. Trying to straighten the bike might make the frame break. Most mechanics have alignment tools that can straighten the bike and get it back to shape and back on the road. Frames with a lightweight design are easier to straighten.

Carbon fiber frames suffer metal dropouts in the event of a bend. Experts can fix these metal dropouts to get your bike back on the road. Note that you should never try to align a bent frame or fork.

Repainting the Frame

Paint chips can lead to corrosion. The area with chipped paint can develop rust, even on a dry and salt-free frame. Unless you are removing rust, do not sand the chipped area when prepping it for touch-up paint. In most cases, the manufacturer used a thin phosphate coating to keep off the rust – if you sand, you remove this coating. When prepping the area to be painted, use a lacquer thinner to clean the area. Afterward, apply one or more coats of paint that match the color of the frame. If rust has already developed, use fine sandpaper to remove it.

The touch-up painting will only help prevent rusting. It is done as you wait to take the bike to a professional painter. If there are areas on your bike where paint chips are caused by friction between parts, find a way to reduce the friction. One such area is the chainstay – use vinyl or foam to protect the chainstay and muffle the sound produced when the chain hits the stay.

Repair Dents

Dents are common after a crash. In most cases, these dents will not weaken the frame, and you can ride your bike as normal. However, the dents look unsightly. If you do not need to stay with an unsightly dent, you can have it filled with a brazing material [2]. After brazing, paint over the area, and your bike will be as good as new.  

For a carbon-fiber frame, any dents on the surface can mean a crack or a failure. If you notice such, get the frame professionally examined and repaired as soon as you note the dent.

Should You Weld or Braze the Frame?

Today, there are so many bike frames made of steel. Steel frames are best welded as the weld stays strong for years. Brazing is ideal for light stress joints as it does not give the deep penetration and fusing that welding gives.

Most frames require TIG welding seeing as a TIG welding looks prettier on your bike than MIG welding. The welder or frame builder will advise on whether to braze of weld based on the material of your frame, the location of the crack, and the nature of the crack, among other factors.

Conclusion

A bike in good shape is safe. The frame, being the largest part of your bike, is crucial in keeping the bike in good shape and safe. If the frame develops a crack that splits the tube, it will be risky for you and those riding with you. As such, always inspect the bike’s frame, especially after riding on a road full of bumps and potholes. You can do many repairs such as tire changes, but frame repair is best left to a professional.

[1] https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/bike-frame-materials.html

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazing

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