Fixed and broken

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Thursday, November 20, 2008
By Yokota Fritz

I normally zip through congested downtown traffic on my fixed gear bike with confidence, but last night my bicycle felt oddly non-responsive, as if I was sailing with a missing dagger board. I figured I either drank too much coffee or I didn't get enough sleep. It was an uncharacteristically non-zen feeling for a fixed gear bike.

This evening, the front end of my bike shimmied like a freshly landed trout and creepy groanings emanated from my headset. The front of my bike flopped weirdly as if possessed. Captain Howdy in my bike is definitely a non-zen feeling for a fixed gear bike.

I was within a half mile of home when I got under a street light and finally noticed what was wrong. The top tube cracked just aft of the lug holding it to the headtube.

Broken top tube

What should I do with this bike?

I bought the bike in 1987 so I guess I got my money's worth. Does anybody know if Centurion had a lifetime warranty on their frames? Centurion became Diamondback which is now owned by Raleigh, but I don't know if Raleigh just bought the name or if they own the warranty obligations also.

The headset and bottom bracket are original and probably not worth salvaging. I'm not inclined to build a frankenbike. The pedals, wheels and tires are in decent enough shape, along with the other parts like handlbars, seatpost and the saddle. I'll probably call the Santa Cruz Bike Church and see if they want the bike for parts.

Does anyone have any other ideas? What should I do with this broken bicycle?

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can't you just get it welded back together?
If it cracked there, other areas are also very tired. You could spread the rear stays to make a funky tripod stool.

This pic shows the crack touching the top point of the lug, something that was not clear from the Flickr pic I just looked at.
As a DB dealer, I think you definitely should run that past your local DB or Raleigh IBD. If you are the original owner and can find some proof of purchase, you get a new frame.
Sorry about the Proof of purchase part.
Any competent frame builder could replace the top tube for you. After all, when discussing the benefits of steel frames, don't we always point out that they can be repaired?
This is the second broken frame story I've read today!
It's an epidemic! We must all repent and drive cars!

Ppbbbbfffttt! NOT!
I wouldn't bother fixing it. Sure you could have it repaired, but is is worth spending the money on that bike? I guess the original question was about warranty though, so maybe spending money on the Centurion is out of the question. Donating it for parts is probably the way to go. I just gave away a few old wheels and components to a local shop that fixes bikes for those who need them. It feels pretty good to get rid of old stuff and know that it might help someone out.

Don't you already have another fixed gear commuter anyway- a Raleigh One Way?
Donate it if Diamondback/Raleigh won't honor a lifetime warranty. Getting a new toptube brazed in would be quite expensive...and it IS a Centurion, after all -- certainly not a bad bike, but it's not a Faliero-built Masi frame or anything.
Yeah, it's not the ultimo-blah-blah-blah frame but:

One of the things which has gotten us to the point we are at, in this country, is the fact that we have become a throwaway society.

Fixing the frame would cost a few dollars, but it also keeps it out of the landfill.
I had an old bike repair book that walks you through this. Here's approximately how you do it:

Cut the top tube at another place; this will give you a gap with enough room to work.

Use a brazing torch to melt the brass in the lugs, and slowly twist the old tube out of each lug.

Get a new tube, cut to length and mitre it according to the old tube. Re-insert and re-braze
Two words -- duct tape.
Personally, I would retire the frame. Hang it up on the wall with a plaque under it and let her rest. She's been a good frame for a long time; She deserves a permanent vacation.
This typer of failure is usually a result of overheating the tubing during brazing. Unless you have a sentimental attachment to the frame, I'd just write it off. Otherwise, if you have a "Mr Fix-it" inclination and access to an oxy-acetylene rig, top tube replacement is a pretty easy frame repair. A frame builder could do it in less than an hour (excluding repaint), but the cost would probably exceed the value of the frame.
Forget about warranty, I'd say that in being a long term daily rider, this bike has exceeded all expectations, and is over 20 years old! Repair is a bad option as well, since the same fatiguing may be present elsewhere unseen. I think this needs to be a trophy, or used in a hack 'n weld project.

Be proud that you ride hard enough to wear out steel, then go get yourself a new or mostly new steel frame to replace this one.
1980s Japanese-built frames like that are a dime a dozen on CL. And/or the RideSFO bike swap is just around the corner... Just get another cheap old frame/bike and swap all your parts over!
Demolition Derby!!
Yes, we're a "throwaway" society - so I would seek out a thrown away frame that is less used. If you haven't "bonded" with it... it's likely to be fatigued in other places, too.
See if its parts could be useful; see if the metal can be recycled... make it into art? Do something zen wtih it :)
I just thought of a use -- a Honeypot! You know, bait for thieves. You know how fixed gear owners always say they'd like to see an unsuspecting thief try to ride away on a bike? What about a fixed gear bike with a broken top tube? Videos posted to YouTube afterwards.
@Jon- the frame does not have to go into landfill. All steel is recyclable, and because steel fabrication and recycling are the same process, it is a really efficient way to go, and, it becomes new bicycles. At the San Francisco dump, all scrap metal is separated from garbage and sold off for recycling. So, junking a very broken steel bike is not the environmental problem you may think it is.

Here is a site all about it
If you know someone learning framebuilding, they may be interested in it, either as practice material or practice repairing.
Need to repair your bike? Then why not visit for a great article about replacing your bike's bottom bracket bearings, the photos are a real help too.
To help you get a better understanding of bearings & their performance on/in bikes, check out for loads of technical information & help on bearings.
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