Life Span of Scandium- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1

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    Life Span of Scandium

    or how concerned should I be about my Scandium frame not breaking?

    Does anyone know the life expectancy of a scandium frame used primarily for XC racing and training? As an owner of many steel frames prior to my current bike, scandium (or even aluminum) is a new frame material for me. Before I bought my frame, I never really thought about it. When I bought my frame, I was told that the scandium model tested out as the strongest of all frame materiels offered by the manufacturer. While I have no reason to not believe them, I am concerned that I bought myself a frame that will only last a season or two.

    Can anyone help me out here? (and by help, I mean talk me out of selling this frame that I like very much and not buying a new steel frame).

  2. #2
    Always Learning
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fort James
    or how concerned should I be about my Scandium frame not breaking?

    Does anyone know the life expectancy of a scandium frame used primarily for XC racing and training? As an owner of many steel frames prior to my current bike, scandium (or even aluminum) is a new frame material for me. Before I bought my frame, I never really thought about it. When I bought my frame, I was told that the scandium model tested out as the strongest of all frame materiels offered by the manufacturer. While I have no reason to not believe them, I am concerned that I bought myself a frame that will only last a season or two.

    Can anyone help me out here? (and by help, I mean talk me out of selling this frame that I like very much and not buying a new steel frame).
    I think the frames are simply too new for all of us to be able to answer your question. I believe that model years in 2005 and 2006 were the first years we saw them (at least in 29"er format). Those frames are certainly still in use...

    BB

    Scandium is the eighth most abundant rare earth element, but it is very difficult to extract from ore. Prior to the opening of the former Soviet Union in the early 1990’s it was largely unavailable, even though it was discovered in 1879. Scandium is a silvery white metal, numbered 21 on the periodic table, hat is a potent grain refiner used in aluminum alloys to elevate strength and durability. Scandium alloys were first made commercially available in 1996.

    Scandium alloys were first used for structural purposes in Soviet aircraft and missiles. In fact, some of the missiles used Scandium alloys for the guiding fins on missiles. The Soviets welded the guide fins onto these missiles, something that Western engineers could not do successfully. Most remarkably, the Soviet missiles were designed for launch from below the polar ice cap. The missiles were capable of piercing the ice cap without damaging these welded on fins. The strength that Scandium alloys brought to weldable alloys allowed Soviet built aircraft to utilize welded structures. This gave these planes tremendous weight, maneuverability, and range advantages.

    In the bicycle world, Scandium refers to frame tubing made from an aluminum alloy that includes the element Scandium. In most cases, the tubing base is a high-strength, 7000-series aluminum alloy. Scandium allows a stronger, non-weldable base aluminum alloy to be welded. Previously, these and similar base alloys could only be made into a frame by bonding them together using high-strength adhesives and cast or machined lugs-almost like high-tech tinker toys.

    Scandium opens up new opportunities for frame engineers. In the past, aluminum tubing required larger diameter tubes to achieve the strength necessary to support riding. The larger diameter tubes resulted in stiff ride characteristics, which are fine for time trials but less than ideal for century rides. With Scandium tubing, frame engineers are able to use smaller diameter tubes, thinner cross sections, and shaped tubes to tune the ride characteristics of each frame while using less material. This results in comfortable, efficient and light frames. Scandium frame tubing also has increased fatigue life and improved failure modes when compared to traditional aluminum frame tubing. For many of the same metallurgical reasons that Scandium allows non-weldable alloys to be welded, Scandium adds to the fatigue life and durability of frames.

  3. #3
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    ahhh, Scandium

    The addition of scandium to aluminum alloys increases the strength by about 10% for the stronger alloys, improves weldability, and improves the fatigue strength. Usually, a crash that would destroy an aluminum frame, even a scandium alloy, would probably ruin a steel frame, or at least make one awfully nervous about the integrity of the frame. Aluminum is affected by welding more, and the addition of scandium reduces some weld effects that can weaken the frame.

    As the manufacturer said, the strength of the frame may be the highest, but aluminum, even scandium, has a finite fatigue life, meaning that you may not exceed the yield strength of the frame, but it could still develop a crack or fail at some, usually long, time. Below a certain stress level, in theory, a steel frame has an infinite fatigue life.

    Often, due to the stronger material and longer fatigue life, builders would slightly decrease the wall thickness or tubing diameter to get a bit of a more compliant ride, and they could get away with this due to the increased fatigue life.

    You don't say what kind of frame it is, but Salsa warranties their scandium frames for 5 years, so they probably reasonably expect that a large portion of their frames will statistically last longer than that under normal use.

    It depends what kind of frame you have. Do you have a super light scandium frame? If so, this may not be a frame that you will have 5 years from now. Are you thinking about a steel frame with superlight tubing? That may also not be a frame that will last 5 years. For a given strength, the scandium frame will be lighter, but may not ride as well.

    Scandium has been used in road bikes for 5 years or more, Salsa has been building with it for probably that long (not 29ers, but cross bikes), and other manufacturers have been using it. The strength and longevity of the frame probably depend more on how it is built than the material, within reasonable limits.

    If the frame is a production model, was not some crazy team bike that is meant to be disposable after one season, and they don't have a super-short warranty period or restrictions for weight, the frame is probably just fine, at least for a few race seasons.

    Steve

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by gabbard
    ...
    ...
    You don't say what kind of frame it is, but Salsa warranties their scandium frames for 5 years, so they probably reasonably expect that a large portion of their frames will statistically last longer than that under normal use.

    It depends what kind of frame you have. Do you have a super light scandium frame? If so, this may not be a frame that you will have 5 years from now. Are you thinking about a steel frame with superlight tubing? That may also not be a frame that will last 5 years. For a given strength, the scandium frame will be lighter, but may not ride as well.

    Scandium has been used in road bikes for 5 years or more, Salsa has been building with it for probably that long (not 29ers, but cross bikes), and other manufacturers have been using it. The strength and longevity of the frame probably depend more on how it is built than the material, within reasonable limits.

    If the frame is a production model, was not some crazy team bike that is meant to be disposable after one season, and they don't have a super-short warranty period or restrictions for weight, the frame is probably just fine, at least for a few race seasons.
    Based on my experience, I think you're right-on with your assessment here Steve. I've ridden and raced Salsa's scandium frames for the past few seasons, and their durability has been excellent for me.

    That said, I would be hesitant to race any frame for more than three seasons, simply because I know what racers put frames through in races. It's different than in 'normal' riding because you push yourself to go fast even when your body is thrashed, and that takes more of a toll on equipment.

    The bottom line is to keep an eye on your frame, especially when cleaning or servicing the bike. Most likely, you will get hints that something is amiss before you have a catastrophic event. This is true with a frame built of any material.

    Pay attention and you'll spot the problem before it becomes a problem on the trail. That's my best advice.
    I like bikes

  5. #5

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    I appreciate everyone's input. I did buy a production frame, but it only has a 2 year warranty. Checking the frame quite often is a good idea, as well as replacing the frame after 3 racing seasons.

    I kinda wish I bought the Salsa Mamasita, but that is a whole 'nother story . . . . .

  6. #6
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    You told me you love the frame - keep it and ride the crap out of it. It'll hold up and then some I suspect!

    Cheers,

    Mark

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by MMcG
    You told me you love the frame - keep it and ride the crap out of it. It'll hold up and then some I suspect!

    Cheers,

    Mark
    You're probably right... but those Mamasitas are pretty darn sweet! I've rarely met a scandium frame I didn't like though. It's a pretty cool material, and not many companies have the ability to work with it.

    Cheers,
    MG
    I like bikes

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fort James
    I appreciate everyone's input. I did buy a production frame, but it only has a 2 year warranty. Checking the frame quite often is a good idea, as well as replacing the frame after 3 racing seasons.

    I kinda wish I bought the Salsa Mamasita, but that is a whole 'nother story . . . . .
    All Good advice, I am guessing you have a Niner Frame by the warranty....
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  9. #9

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    Well good to hear all the positive responses to Scandium.. Considering building up a Mamasita, possibly a 1x9. Hopefully that light weight frame would be fine for a guy just into the Clyde category.
    Thanks,
    Kyle

  10. #10
    SingleTrackSal
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    4 Seasons and Still Ticking...

    I know a guy that has raced (at the pro level) a Kona Scandium frame for four seasons now. He's a little worried about it, only because he thinks he should be worried, not for any reason being exhibited by the frame....it's still baller.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle29erAZ
    Well good to hear all the positive responses to Scandium.. Considering building up a Mamasita, possibly a 1x9. Hopefully that light weight frame would be fine for a guy just into the Clyde category.
    Thanks,
    Kyle
    You'll have no problems Kyle. I know several strong big riders on Mamasitas, and they all love 'em.

    I've run 1x9 quite a bit on my El Mariachi, and it's worked very well for the riding I do here in the midwest. I definitely appreciate the additional chainring clearance.

    Good luck,
    MG
    I like bikes

  12. #12
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    Soft Tail ?

    As the manufacturer said, the strength of the frame may be the highest, but aluminum, even scandium, has a finite fatigue life, meaning that you may not exceed the yield strength of the frame, but it could still develop a crack or fail at some, usually long, time. Below a certain stress level, in theory, a steel frame has an infinite fatigue life.

    Does it make sense then to build a soft tail with Scandium. I have been hesitating for months around the Dos Niner before going for a steel frame. I know I will probably buy a new bike within 5 years, I still can't get over the idea that a bike frame life is not infinite ( I have been using a Carbon Scott Endorphin for 10 years now)

  13. #13
    i heart singletrack
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    Quote Originally Posted by SingleTrackSal
    ...it's still baller.
    Never heard that description before... but I like it.
    I like bikes

  14. #14

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    There was a rumor going around a few years ago about scandium road frames having a short life span. The only problem was, they didn't seem to break any more than any other material--I think it was made up by the nonscandium manufacturers...

  15. #15
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    just a rumour, nobody came up and showed any facts or figures.
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  16. #16

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    Scandium is a premium alloy, so frames tend to be high end race bikes, because as pointed out above, scandium allows much thinner tubes. With thin tubes (of any material) comes the reputation for being a semi-disposable race only.

    Manufacturers could make a tank of a ride out of thick walled scandium, but it would cost a great deal of money for something with no immediate advantages over a cheap aluminium frame, apart from longevity.

  17. #17
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    I had and my buddy still has and rides a redline scandium cross bike. I purchased it in 99/00

    Voodoo limba was out in 99 as well.

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