There are no absolute values for the lifespan of aluminium bicycle frames, and frame lifespan will be determined by a number of factors including type of aluminium alloy, quality of welding, type of treatment, tube size, frame geometry and even the weight and pedalling style of the rider.
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Types of Aluminum
Different aluminium alloys are used to create frames with varying stiffness, strength and resistance to corrosion. Popular alloys for bicycle frames are 6061 aluminium and 7075 aluminium, as both have properties to endure many thousands of miles of riding.
Aluminium has a limit on its endurance, which means that repeated stresses will eventually make the frame suffer from fatigue failure. Frame builders take this property of aluminium into account when they design frames, and by changing tube size, tube thickness and bike geometry, a frame builder can make a substantially strong aluminium frame that should never reach a point of fatigue failure.
Welding and Treatments
Aluminium bicycle tubes are connected by a process called tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding, and frames tend to be weakest at the welding points. The quality of the welding will affect the lifespan of an aluminium bicycle frame, and weld points should be inspected on a regular basis. Aluminium bike frames must also be treated after the welds are made. The quality of this treatment can also affect the strength and lifespan of the frame.
Scratches and Dents
A deep dent or scratch in an aluminium frame can compromise its ability to withstand load and shorten its lifespan. Any significant damage to a bike frame (of any material) should be checked by a professional mechanic before it is used on the road.
Type of Riding
Different styles of riding will stress an aluminium frame differently and hence influence the lifespan of the frame. Is the rider standing up on the pedals and powering up steep climbs, or taking leisurely spins on a flat road surface? The harder the riding and the heavier the rider, the more quickly an aluminium frame will come to the end of its useful lifespan.
Always check your bicycle frame for scratches, dents, cracks or other structural damage.
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