Thinking of buying a SWISSBIKE folding bike? Be careful.

Discussion in 'Commuting and Road Safety' started by thirteenchars, Mar 6, 2013.

  1. thirteenchars

    thirteenchars New Member

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    Hi

    New to these forums. Just wanted to alert people to a design fault in the Montague Swissbike.

    Been cycling up London commuting to and from work for 6 years without problem. Started off with a generic mountain bike with smooth tyres, but then the train companies cracked down on ordinary bikes and requested that only folding bikes be used. Couldn't get on with the Brompton and it's small wheel diameter, and I wanted a bike that I could also used at the weekend. I bought a swissbike. Absolutely fine for 4 years until on one very cold January morning it snapped in two with no warning at all. I was approaching Hyde Park corner in London and was extremely lucky to escape with my life.

    Contributing factors to this may of been

    Temperature. I store my bike in the house. The morning of the accident it was -4 degrees. Apparently aluminium is very susceptible to sudden temperature change and may of caused the accident?

    Gears. I had upgraded to a shimano 8 speed hub with a 19 tooth sprocket. I had exactly the same range as the old 21 speed shimano.

    I really couldn't live with myself if this happens to someone else, So I created a small website with detailed pictures of the damage.

    Been stuck indoors with a broken foot since the 17th of January, and still on crutches. Can't wait to ride again, but the choices for someone who wants a full size mountain bike that folds quickly and easily and is light enough and strong enough for me are very limited. If anyone knows of any other models that they can vouch for please let me know.

    Montague refuse to acknowledge me at all, after many emails to their UK suppliers I have decided to speak up about this.

    http://thirteenchars.com

    Thanks for your time.
     
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  2. Volnix

    Volnix Well-Known Member

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    That looks terrible...

    Makes someone wonder if the ISO requirements for bicycles fatigue damage should over the 10 000 cycles figure. 10 000 cycles is probably a few days of cycling.

    Btw, after a look at the pictures, I am not sure if its soil or oxidation, but there seems to be a copper colored-like part on the section of the tube that got detached from the main part of the bike. If that's oxidation then the crack might have been there for a while before the tube braking, but there should probably be a similar oxidation to the other part of the tube. The other part of the broken tube (the one attached to the main body of the bike) doesn't have this copper colored discoloration. Any ideas why?

    Another explanation could be that the discoloration is some sort of "impurity" on the aluminium tube material, which caused a weak point.

    Another weird thing from these pictures is that the tube seems to be "thinner" on the wall on the one side of the bike. All though the angle from the pictures don't show if there was a chunk removed whilst the break.

    I would suspect its fatigue related damage as there isn't any bending on the tube which would indicate an above strength load on the tube. If the tube was bent above its structural strength the tube would probably become a bit "elliptical" in shape before failure due to plastic deformation prior to the tube braking.

    A compression related break would also maybe indicate something similar as it would be very difficult for the tube to be compressed with a load vector perfectly aligned with the tube axis. Maybe it could be a tension related brake. But that would not happen unless the bike was pulled apart by something, not a common cycling load.

    I would suspect that its probably fatigue related damage. If the bicycle had a warranty on the frame that is still valid you are entitled to a new frame from them as this doesn't look like misuse related damage. Maybe even compensation. The so called "warranty" is more of a "promise" that is not exactly backed up by law... at least for some stuff, but bike companies probably dont like courthouses much.

    Any idea of the type of the aluminium used on this bike?

    Cant recommend anything on folding bikes. If I ever end up in hell I will be probably using a folding bike... and probably in London... /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif
     
  3. dhk2

    dhk2 Active Member

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    I'd guess the failure was due to fatigue also. There probably was a crack that started in one spot, right above the weld line, and then that progressed over a period of a few days or weeks. In perfect conditions, you might have heard some creaking or felt looseness before it failed, but the freezing conditions with winter clothes and heavy London traffic noise may have masked it. The tubing would normally be weaker in the heat-affected-zone right above the weld, so that's a "normal" place to fail. The question would be if this frame was defective in materials or workmanship, ie, poor quality, or if all the frames they manufacture would fail in this way due to a poor design.

    The bike has no downtube, so all the bending moments are concentrated right where the failure occurred. They used a heavy-walled tubing there, but the bending forces from bumps, potholes and braking are significant. Riding on London streets means you're putting lots of these load cycles on the frame. Airlines talk about their "high-cycle" or "lead-the-fleet" aircraft: unfortunately, you may have been the "lead-the-fleet" tester for this frame.

    Disappointing the manufacturer doesn't want the frame back and won't replace it. The warranty likely doesn't cover "wearout" or "normal wear and tear", but I'd think just for customer goodwill they would want to replace it anyway. Hope you make a full recovery and continue to commute. Can't blame you for coming to Speaker's Corner!
     
  4. dhk2

    dhk2 Active Member

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    Looking more at the photos, it appears the folding pin is used to carry some of the bending loads into the rear triangle of the frame. When you lock down the lever, it pulls the top tube down against the bottom structure. Over long usage, if the lock pin yielded, the top tube flattened, or the lever wore, that would reduce the clamping force and result in more of the bending load going into the seatpost.

    If so, the pre-load on the locking mechanism might be critical. Is there a way to adjust the clamping tension on the folding pin? Does the owner's manual specify routine checks?
     
  5. dhk2

    dhk2 Active Member

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    OK, found the owner's manual. In para 7.4, there is a diagram of the folding pin lock mechanism, with the "safety lip" shown. The integrity of the design would require that this internal collar, as well as the shoulder on the locking pin be free of wear. Did you notice any loss of clamping force when you locked the lever down in days before your catastrophic failure? When you look at the pin and mating collar ("safety shoulder") now, are those mating surfaces free of wear? Do you think it's likely the pin or mating collar failed first, or were they still intact after the crash? If they were missing from the tube, or not right at the crash site, that would indicate that the pin failed first.

    As an aside, the warranty is typical in that it only covers "defects in materials and workmanship", not normal wear and tear or fatigue damage.
     
  6. thirteenchars

    thirteenchars New Member

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    DHK2: I had got through about 4 pins in the time I owned it, which isn't unusual due to the stresses etc - Used every single day for 4 years. There is a fair bit of wear due to movement and general opening and closing, but it still closed ok. Once or twice when I would forget to do the pin up the bike justs gently folds so all you do is stop and clamp it in. The pin is steel and the nut was aluminium - my main reason for replacing it on average once a year. Aluminium nut wears out as they don't recommend doing it up tightly - just enough to hold. The mating collar is also quite worn but again, every day for 4 years will do this.

    Volnix: The yellowness isn't something I can explain - It could be a drip-line of grease or oil but otherwise I really don't know. I have no idea what aluminium it is. If you do go to hell on a folding bike then pick one of these if you want a detour to A&E on the way!
     
  7. thirteenchars

    thirteenchars New Member

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    In one of the pics it does look like it is thinner on one edge - Think that may be the camera - plus there is a bit of wear where I came off and slid along the concrete - That's the part I slid on.

    Thanks again for the interest - Making me feel a bit better about all of this. My dream career of being a ballet dancer is all but over. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif
     
  8. dhk2

    dhk2 Active Member

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    13chars: Thanks for the update. Smart to change out the aluminum locking nut. Assume that's an expandable-collar type nut, so it's subject to wear and corrosion too. The webpage says the frame is 7005 aluminum, which contains just a small amount of Cu, <0.4%. My guess is the broken end of the tube picked up the mark from the pavement...looks like maybe red clay brick.

    Now that you're without a folding bike, have you considered the Barclay's rental (hire) scheme? When I was in London last fall, was surprised to see so many locations where the bikes could be taken and returned.
     
  9. Stedman Sloane

    Stedman Sloane New Member

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    A Montague customer of ours sent me the link to this odd posting. I feel compelled to provide some facts:

    1) Our store have sold hundreds of Montagues over the years and we have never seen a failure like this. With few exceptions, our customers are always happy with their bicycle. We also sell Bromptons, and both brands offer excellent quality in folders.

    2) This gentleman admits to forgetting to lock the frame quick release in some cases, and in all cases not locking the frame quick release tightly - or "just enough to hold". Those of us in the industry cringe when we hear something like that. Do that with the front wheel quick release, and the wheel falls off. Do that with the seat post, and the seat falls.

    3) He says the frame quick release nut is aluminum. It is not. It is hardened steel.

    4) The photos show that the frame quick release is completely missing! It is amazing that he was able to ride at all. That it then failed, is no surprise. Again, one only needs to remove the quick release from the front wheel of any bicycle, and see how long before it fails.

    5) There are very few original parts on this gentleman's bike. Almost everything has been replaced with different bits. I do not know of a manufacturer that would warranty a bike with everything having been changed, and the consumer admitting to not properly fastening a quick release.

    I would also recommend Barclay's rentals for this gentleman. The maintenance and safety check are done by someone else, and he should be okay, as long as he doesn't start removing random bits from the bicycles.
     
  10. Volnix

    Volnix Well-Known Member

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    Hmmm it says that its a 7005 aluminium bike... I am commuting on a 7005 aluminium bike... Its got 4000km on it... I am selling it! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif

    I crashed a few times with a bike... A&E is a trip isnt it? /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif Especially these damn x-rays...

    I was once in the UK and tried to get a bike on the train and I got into a very embarassing situation. The train would not start and I heard the driver announcing on the speaker com "Hey you, on the wagon, remove the bicycle from the train" or something like that. I felt so bad. But then, I removed the wheel from the bicycle, wrapped it with a backpack cover and went on to the next train. No problems. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif

    Since you are in London you might want to get one of these ultra-sweet Thorn touring bikes from Saint John street cycles which are made of steel which is supposed to be very fatigue damage resistant. The wheels are probably quick release so it might be fine to transport it on the train by removing one of the wheels. Its probably as fast as folding a folding bike. I think the same shop is the one that sells the Brompton bikes.

    Did the SWISSBIKE people gave you a reply or anything when you contacted them? If so what did they say?
     
  11. dhk2

    dhk2 Active Member

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    Ouch! Well, I had wondered about the missing lockpin, as you can see from my questions in the post above. Not familar with your folding bikes, but it's obvious the integrity of the lock-pin joint is essential to the fatigue life of the seatpost and frame. Without the proper pre-load tension in the lock pin, appears to me the bending loads would be carried through to the seat tube.

    But I also can see how it might be hard to carefully do up the folding pin skewer every time in the crowds of commuters coming out of the Underground. At least the OP admitted to not always getting it right.
     
  12. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    Interestingly, the OP's link doesn't work.
     
  13. thirteenchars

    thirteenchars New Member

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    Just changed the URL of the site that's why it wasn't working. It's now http://swissbikefail.com

    There is no way that the nut on the main locking mechanism was steel - it was a large round aluminium nut. I have an email telling me not to do the nut up too tightly.

    The release mechanism also snapped which is why it isn't in the photo - It snapped near the bolt and was too busy dodging traffic to recover it - didn't see where it went either.

    The parts on the bike when purchased are poor, to say the least. Apart from the front wheel everything had been replaced. 4 years wear and tear?

    It should not of snapped, but then I should not of been given conflicting advice as to the correct tension.
     
  14. thirteenchars

    thirteenchars New Member

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    I have been in touch with the UK REP and they contacted the main office for me - nothing heard.
     
  15. thirteenchars

    thirteenchars New Member

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  16. Stedman Sloane

    Stedman Sloane New Member

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    Please visit any store with Montague and check the nut for yourself. It is most definitely hardened steel.

    As for not doing up your quick releases, I do not know any Montague retailer that would give any customer such information. A quick release is always supposed to leave a mark on the palm of your hand when you have applied enough pressure to lock it properly. It says so in the Owner's Manual and all retailers will instruct the same.

    The Owner's Manual says (from: http://www.montaguefoldingbike.co.uk/assets/files/Montague_Owner_Manual.pdf )

    "The quick release is securely closed when it leaves an imprint on the palm of your hand from moving the lever into the closed position." It goes on to say if you do not understand, contact Montague.

    I'd suggest in the future, with any bike you ride, always lock the quick releases properly. Even Barclay's rentals. Having said that, I do hope you do not come to our store, as you are clearly someone where bad things happen, and they are always the fault of someone else.
     
  17. Volnix

    Volnix Well-Known Member

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    Hmmm doesnt sound very "Swiss" at all... Maybe you could contact the main office directly too?
     
  18. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    They're not a Swiss company, and it took zero effort to find as much (Hint: Google).
     
  19. thirteenchars

    thirteenchars New Member

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    Would you like me to forward on the email from a montague dealer concerning how I should do the nut up? Most certainly not 'up to leaving pressure marks on your palm!'

    It should of NEVER of snapped like that - and if what I am doing prevents the death of someone else, then my job is done.

    It's a crap design. A poor design. A CHEAP design. A longer seatpost would of been fine on the XL version and would not of snapped, but no, they just weld a little bit on top so the seat post can go higher.

    Thankyou for your advice on never coming to your store. So sad you feel the need to be rude. That little bike shop on Sloane Square? I will go out of my way to say hello!
     
  20. Dave Cutter

    Dave Cutter Active Member

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    Every mechanical device sooner or later fails... that's what they do. Most well made and properly engineered devices of all types last as we would expect them to. But be sure.... it is far from unusual for machines to fail.

    If you want to save some lives... (and who doesn't?)... remind people to read and follow the instructions and/or manual that with their bicycle or whatever device they are using. Then regularly inspect the equipment you are depending on.

    I am often surprised at the number of bicycles I see caked in dirt and road film. I have wondered to myself, and to other cyclists, both at forums and in person.... how can anyone inspect a bicycle if they aren't washing it?

    I am glad you're OK. Crashes are serious stuff. Bicycle ouchies can end a life... or last a lifetime. I wish you better luck with your next bike. Learn about whatever bicycle you buy next, take good care of it, and keep a close eye on it's condition.
     
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