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Yesterday while riding my Surly Ogre around town I noticed that it was making a weird metallic popping noise on the left downstroke. When I got home to take a look I was rather surprised to find that the right chainstay had broken completely free of the dropout at the weld (see pic at bottom).

The frame is out of warranty, so my options seem to be a) buy a new frame or b) try to weld it back. I know nothing about welding, and there is no frame builder in town, but a local machine shop said they could sandblast and TIG weld it back together for $120. My question is a) is this safe and b) is it worth it? The frame set me back ~$440 when I bought it new 5 years ago. So the repair option saves money, but I'd want to be sure the same problem will not arise again in a few years. Also I'm unsure whether it can be rewelded sufficiently strongly.

More generally, what I can do to prevent this from reoccurring? I weigh 175lbs, I've never crashed the bike and have used it exclusively for commuting and ferrying groceries. Back when I built it I sprayed the inside with cosmoline, and it's been kept in a dry climate, so frame rust also doesn't seem like an explanation. I'm puzzled as to how such a beefy bike (to quote Surly's own marketing copy) could fail so catastrophically in a fairly short amount of time.

cracked weld

  • The main question would be whether the shop can handle the specific materials present. The cro-mo tube is probably not a problem, but the dropout may be made from an alloy they're not equipped to deal with. And there's a slight question whether the weld failed or rather there is a "spike" coming out of the dropout and into the tube, and that spike broke off. As to safety, it seems unlikely that it would fail in a worse mode than this, if it breaks again, so so long as you're modestly vigilant for another break (and you don't take up off-road racing) you should be reasonably safe. – Daniel R Hicks Jun 27 '17 at 2:25
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    @DanielRHicks It's a Rohloff hub. The frame mfr. goes out of their way to advertise compatibility with this setup. – jth Jun 27 '17 at 2:32
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    Surly wrote in their blog entry for the 2017 model of the Ogre: "We also increased the welding surface area on the new Troll dropouts to provide an even stronger weld interface than the legacy design." This indicates they know there is a general problem. – linac Jun 27 '17 at 7:27
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    I would have it welded. – paparazzo Jun 27 '17 at 14:03
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    I too would go with the having it welded option but that's just me, they may even be able to add additional material on the outside adding some durability to avoid this in the future. – Nate W Jun 27 '17 at 20:34
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Get in touch with Surly even if it out of warranty. The worst they can do is say no, and even if they won't fix it, they should be able to offer advise on the the best way to proceed. They live or die based on peoples perception of the brand, so have a vested interest in helping you resolve this kind of problem.

Any competent engineering shop should be able to make a reliable repair on Cromo. frames.

  • Thanks, yeah I emailed them asking for advice. So far no response but it's only been a day. – jth Jun 26 '17 at 23:55
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    Please post back if/when you get a response from Surly as I am very curious about their response. You said it's a 5-year old frame. I thought most frames has something like "lifetime warranty" although how they define lifetime may surprise you. However, I was surprised you the frame was out of warranty after only 5 years. – SSilk Aug 4 '17 at 20:04
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    I stand corrected: Surly's frame warranty is 3 years. surlybikes.com/info_hole/faqs/how_long_is_your_frame_warranty – SSilk Aug 4 '17 at 20:04
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Just getting it welded by a non-framebuilder could have a couple caveats:

  1. I think most framebuilders would approach this in a way where they get full access to the broken face of the dropout, so they could work it down smooth, and then replace either all or part of the chainstay, the goal being to re-do the miter between the chainstay and the dropout to get as much contact area as possible, for as much strength as possible. There are possibly some ways a framebuilder could come up with to make it stronger than new as well. (Another approach could be to put in new dropouts completely, to try and accomplish the same things.) I think it's pretty safe to say that unless it was a defect that got you here to begin with, just going in and re-welding it probably won't make it as strong as new.

  2. The frame alignment could get a little screwed up.

  3. Non-bike welders have a tendency to not be prepared for just how thin walled bike tubing is. The dropout end of the chainstay actually is just about the thickest walled tube on a bike, so this effect might be minimized here, but the risk is that they blow through it or just do a bad job on the weld because of it, and the flip side is that dropout is very heavy too. (Generally speaking, one of the challenges of bike frames is managing your heat control when you're joining a thin-walled, low-mass thing to a heavy, slabby thing like a burly dropout or a bottom bracket.)

What I would do if Surly doesn't offer anything is send this pic to the nearest reputable framebuilder who does TIG steel mountain bikes, and ask what they think.

A side note is that one of the big questions here is what the dropout alignment was like during the life of the bike so far. Poor dropout alignment often causes failure in this area, as the materials are dealing with a permanent stress from the QR or axle nut forcing them parallel, and the stresses of being a right chainstay are added on top of that. It's sometimes the dropout itself that fails in these cases, but the one in question here is on the strong and totally inflexible side, so the joint would bear the brunt of it.

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for what it's worth, I've gone through 4 Surly Troll/Ogre frames over the last four years, all four have cracked at the chainstay (twice on the drive side, twice on the non-drive side) weld. They just did a new redesign in 2017 on both models and I had high hopes - but the 2017 Troll I got after six months of backordering and then trying to get it warranty replaced by Surly, it lasted 2500 miles before it broke again. I'm not bothering to try to get it replaced again (it seems harder and harder to get it replaced under warranty each time - I'm done with wasting my local bike shop's time trying to get it done). I'm going to have the local bike shop (which also does frame building) blast the surfaces, weld it, braze on a brace around the chainstay and do the other side while they're at it. (I might not be using the terms right, I don't know anything about welding myself.)

I don't know what is going on with their manufacturing, but the chainstay/dropout weld is an incredible weak point on the troll/ogres. I would have never bought a Surly bike if I'd known beforehand, or how much time it would take us to get them warrantied each time we had to do it. I've given up on them, even though the design of the bikes is perfect for me.

(and the time the chainstay on my Ogre broke, it was 40 miles from home as the sun was setting and I had to get up & down a 2200 foot mountain to get back home where there was no cell phone service or cars around. I was very displeased with surly on that day in particular. The descent was even harder than the ascent.)

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    It's always going to be hard to get multiple warranty replacements from the same company. The first time you ask for one, it's good business sense to check the customer hasn't done anything crazy and then give them the benefit of the doubt that the product was defective. By the time you're on your third replacement, you're breaking far more bikes than the average customer and they have to start assuming that the problem is with the rider. – David Richerby Aug 4 '17 at 11:35
  • Wow, what a story. Surly would not warranty mine since it was 5 years old but did offer me a crash replacement, which I accepted. Like you I figured whatever they did in the 2016/17 redesign would fix the problem. I really hope I did not just spend $350 more only to have it break again in a few years... – jth Aug 4 '17 at 19:19
  • for what it's worth, I'm a heavy guy but within the stated weight spec of the Troll/Ogre. I'm a road rider, the Troll is my commute bike, I ride about 6000 miles/year on it. Two frames broke at 6,000 miles for me, one at 4,000, one at 2,500. I ride some fire roads up in the mountains but I'm not much of a mountain biker type - and I'm not going off jumps and such. The Troll XL frame alone is like 6.5 pounds of steel -- it doesn't seem unreasonable to expect better. Love the bikes Surly makes, really wish they were more reliable. – Jason Molenda Aug 6 '17 at 6:03
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You have a few options.

  1. Wield it back. Consider this option if you are really tight on budget as the frame would not be as strong as it was before.
  2. Contact your bike company. In this case is surly, they should replace the frame for you if its under warranty. If they do not, then you have to consider options 1 or 3.
  3. Get a new frame. This is a tough choice as it would mean spending lots of money. You are lucky if your current bike's components can fit the new frame you are intending to buy.
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    The weld shop claims it would be as strong or stronger, hence my dilemma. I have been really happy with the bike until now but I would be really hesitant to buy another Surly. I honestly thought this frame would last for decades. – jth Jun 27 '17 at 2:34
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    @jth It should last for decades, which is why your first action is to contact Surly. Do let us know what they reply, and consider that some frames like Giant come with a proper lifetime guarantee, albeit with fine-print. – Criggie Jun 28 '17 at 1:54

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