- Lugged steel frame construction
Lugged steel frame construction is a method of building
bicycleframes using steeltubing and sockets called lugs. For most of the history of the bicycle, steel has been the material of choice for high-quality bicycle frames (though its dominance has waned in the last two decades). Likewise lugged construction has been the preferred means of assembling a steel frame, and retains this status among builders of high-quality steel frames.
Method of construction
Lugged steel construction uses standard cylindrical steel tubes which are connected with lugs, external fittings made of pieces of steel (sometimes
stainless steel) which fit over the ends of the tubing. Before assembly, the framebuilder cuts the tubes to the desired length and precisely mitres [ [http://www.littlefishbicycles.com/frame/mitering.html Mitering steel frame tubes] ] their ends, so that they fit closely together. The end of the tubes are inserted into the lugs and are then brazed together with a silveror brassfiller metal. The lug greatly increases the strength of the joint by distributing the molten filler metal over a larger surface area via capillary action. [http://www.sheldonbrown.com/harris/atlantis.html#lugs Atlantis Frames and Bicycles from Harris Cyclery] ] When brazing a bicycle frame, most framebuilders use a small scaffolding called a jig [ [http://www.henryjames.com/ujig.html Henry James Universal Jig] ] to hold the tubes in place and maintain their precise alignment. [ [http://spokesmanbicycles.com/page.cfm?PageID=329 Metallurgy For Cyclists: Steel is Real] ] At least four lugs are used to construct a typical diamond frame:imagequote|230
* seat lug or seat cluster joins the
top tubeand seat tube; the ends of the seat stays are usually brazed directly to the sides or back of the seat lug, although some newer designs of seatlugs also have sockets for the seat stays. Also has an opening for the seatpost
* bottom bracket shell joins the
chain stays, seat tube, and downtube, and includes a threaded cylindrical socket for the bottom bracket
* upper head lug joins the
head tubeand top tube
* lower head lug joins the head tube and down tubeThe two rear dropouts (which join the seat stays to the chain stays, and hold the
axleof the rear wheel) may have integral lugs in some designs. The fork dropout or ends may be joined to the fork blades using a similar method as well. The fork crown, which joins the steering tubeto the fork blades, may have either an external or internal socket design.
In most lugged steel frames, the lugs have a simple pointed shape. The lug's gentle curves maximise the strength of the join, while minimising the possibility of stress risers, which would otherwise make the frame prone to cracking at the end of the lug.
Some more expensive lugged frames have lugs which are cut and filed by hand into fancy shapes, both for slight weight savings and as a sign of craftsmanship. In addition many frame builders file the lugs to thin them, in order to reduce stress concentrations. These ornate or fancy lugs are often painted distinctively to accentuate their appearance. Particularly fine lug-work is highly prized by some bicycle collectors.
Unlike MIG or TIG welded steel frames, a lugged steel frame can be relatively easily repaired in remote areas due to its simple construction: a broken tube can simply be removed by the application of heat to un-braze it, and then its replacement can be brazed in place. For this reason, lugged steel frames are preferred by many bicycle tourists, who often ride long distances in remote areas. Facilities for brazing steel are widespread even in developing areas of the world, and so it is often easier to find someone who can repair a lugged steel frame than, for example, a TIG-welded
Types of lug
Traditional pressed lugs are formed by pressing sheet steel over a
mandrel, and then brazingor weldingthe seams. These lugs are of constant thickness, necessitating large amounts of file work in order to minimise stress risers.
Most lugs used today are investment cast, allowing much finer detail, tighter tolerances, and correspondingly less manipulation and file work.
A relatively recent trend has been toward the use of
stainless steelfor investment cast lugs, as shown in the picture on the right. These lugs do not require painting, but must be brazed using silver filler rod, which necessitates much better heat control and better fit of lug to tube.
One advantage of pressed lugs over investment cast lugs is that the angles of pressed lugs can be very slightly altered.
Lugs are usually stamped with a letter or symbol code identifying the maker, and possibly the angle. For example "BCM" indicates Bocama of France.
History of lugged steel construction
From the late 19th century until the 1970s, this method of frame construction was favored because the lower temperatures of brazing (silver brazing in particular) had less of a negative impact on the tubing strength than high temperature
welding, which can seriously weaken many steel alloys. Brazing thus allowed relatively thin walled, lightweight tubes to be used without loss of strength. However, recent advances in metallurgyhave created steel tubing that is not adversely affected (or may even be improved) by high temperature welding. This has allowed both TIG and MIG welding to displace lugged steel construction, [ [http://www.madehow.com/Volume-2/Bicycle.html How bicycles are made] ] in large part because these methods lend themselves more easily to automation and reduce the cost by eliminating the lugs.
Conversely, lugged steel construction remains popular among builders of custom-fit bicycle frames, and among amateur framebuilders, since it is one of the simplest methods of constructing a bicycle frame by hand in a small workshop. [ [http://www.rivendellbicycles.com/html/101_framematerials.html Rivendell Bicycles: Frame Materials 101] ]
Finding lugged steel frames today
Despite the fact that lugged steel frames are no longer mass-produced, affordable frames are still available. There is a thriving trade of used bicycles in North America, especially in large cities and
college towns. Popular sources of used bicycles include:
Because of their durable construction, many lugged steel frames from the 1980s, 1970s, and earlier remain in good condition.
Japanese- and French-made frames from the
bike boomare particularly common in North America. These range widely in quality: low-end frames are made of ordinary high-tensile steel using thick, heavy tubing and stamped steel dropouts. Better frames are nearly always made of some variant of chromolysteel alloy and include forged or investment-cast dropouts. Higher-end frames are often made of butted steel tubing, which is thicker at the ends and thinner in the middle, reducing weight but increasing the cost. One of the most famous and prized types of tubing used in classic steel bicycles is Reynolds 531.
* [http://www.littlefishbicycles.com/framebuilding.html Little Fish Bicycles] : an illustrated diary of amateur framebuilding
* [http://www.bikebrothers.co.uk/tjcycles.htm Pictures of a frame with fancy lugs being built by a professional]
* [http://www.bohemianbicycles.com/track.html Pictures of a lugged steel track bike] ;Forums/mailing lists:
* [http://frameforum.org Frameforum.org] : an online discussion board about bicycle frame building
* [http://www.phred.org/mailman/listinfo/framebuilders Framebuilders mailing list] : mailing list for both amateurs and professionals
* [http://www.bikeforums.net/forumdisplay.php?f=229 Framebuilding forum] on BikeForums.net;Links:
* [http://www.sheldonbrown.com/rinard/framebuild.htm Damon Rinard's Frame Building Links]
* [http://www.totalbike.com/directory/Custom_Frames/ Custom frames directory] : a directory of professional custom frame builders
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