Back at the end of August, a fatal crack appeared along the weld at the top of the seat tube of my beloved Rad Power Bikes RadRover ebike, and to keep a long story shortened pleas to get Rad Power Bikes to help by offering me a discount on either a new bike or perhaps even a replacement frame were met with decalarations that my three-year-old bike was loooooong past Rad’s stinky one-year warranty and a consolation offer of a $50 gift card (to which I told them where they could put that token bullshit).
I was fortunate in that I had my wife’s ebike to ride while I mourned the apparent demise of Bigfoot. But instead of just breaking her down for parts and relegating the leftovers to the broken bike heap, I got proactive and hopeful that I could find a welder who could make repairs.
The first place I found was out in Fontana, which is about 50 miles away, and I kept it in reserve while I tried to find something that wouldn’t involve roundtrips totaling 200-plus miles. The second place I found was north of Woodland Hills in the San Fernando Valley, and when I finally got out there toward the end of September the guy took a look at the job and said he was lacking a special tool needed, a cylinder that would sit snug inside the tubing and block the new weld from encroaching in that space, which would be bad. He subsequently recommended a third welder — Jaytech Fabrication & Welding further north in Chatsworth who he was pretty sure had said tool so I drove out to his place. He inspected Bigfoot’s injury, determined he had the right sized tool and could fix it, but was so overbooked with jobs at the moment and so limited on space he wouldn’t even allow me to leave the bike and instead directed me to call the following week and book an appointment. I did and secured an October 3 return date, after which for $120 he fixed it in a couple days. But when he called me to let me know he was done he said there was a problem.
In a nutshell, he said that after doing the work he determined an issue that more than likely caused the first crack and would guarantee his weld would be doomed to cracking again. He said for reasons unknown to him, a few inches down from the top of the seat tube the interior was wider than at the top — juuuuust enough that the actual seat tube that sits in there will flex and move in the course of every day riding exerting stress on the top where the weld is and ultimately causing it to fail.
“So I just threw away $120?” I asked, and he said something close to “Well here’s what I would do if it were my bike. I would drill three holes in the area where the interior of the tube widens, then I would weld three threaded supports aligned over those holes after which I would run set screws into those mounts and holes that when tightened against the seat tube inside would stabilize it in place inside the frame, prevent any such internal movement and add years to the life of the bike.”
When I asked what the additional charge would be he said $200. “Sold,” I said.
He had gotten busy again and was even shorter on space than before and at first wanted me to come get the bike out of there and bring it back at a later date when things had calmed down. I had to practically beg him to let me drop off the actual seat tube the next day and leave the bike with him until he could get to it, and he finally said OK.
The next morning, I showed up bright and early with my seat tube, got it situated on the bike and told him I would look forward to hearing from him when it was done. Three weeks later, it was, and I picked it up this morning.
The work done brings to mind the term “Frankenbike,” but I love the unpainted welds and bolts, and the newly exposed aluminum framing. They’re like a survivor’s badges of honor.
It goes without saying how completely thrilled that Bigfoot will ride again.