Why Welding Has Been Important For Bike Frames For Decades

Last Updated on March 29, 2021
written by Cycle expert Alex Bristol
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Why Welding Has Been Important For Bike Frames For Decades

Are you looking to get yourself into the world of cycling and looking to delve into the design of bike frames? Are you curious about the welding bike frames and forks and wondering the key importance of them?

Well, you’re at the right place.

I’m here to jump into why tig welding has been so important in bike frames for decades, how they affect their lightweights and stiffness.

But what is welding?

Welding melts in the filler material and frame material and coalesced in a solid. Welding is a way of joining individual materials together to make a bike. You will notice welding in the frame of the bike.

Welding is not only essential in bikes but it is a crucial factor in the manufacture of buildings, bridges, cars, airplanes, pipelines, and much more.

Let’s jump in.

Why Welding is important in bike frames:

When you’re building a bike frame you have two options when it comes to joining the frame together, either tig welding or brazing your bike frame.

For example, if you want to join two joints of the bike frame at a 90-degree angle using a filler to hold them together you would use the tig welding technique. This heats up each part of the steel metal to their melting point to hold them together.

The steel then goes from being solid to being liquid and then as it cools it forms a joint and holds together the frame on your bike. These two solid pieces now become one solid piece held together within the steel frame.

Stick welding is so important in the construction of bike frames and you will notice it is the key method used in the construction of a steel frame bike.

It is easier, quicker, and more convenient:

Tig Welding is important in bike frames as it is much faster than brazing. If you’re an expert with tig welds then you will be able to tig weld a steel frame within a fraction of the time it would take to braze a steel frame.

It is also a much easier method of brazing as there are less clean-up and less of a process than having to braze tube joints. Tig welders tend to be tubes that are ready to be put together, they’re either two-piece of lug or a tube joint that can be easily be put together.

This is why it has taken over the bike industry in the past few decades as it is a much easier method to brazing and it isn’t too time-consuming. It is most commonly the way steel bikes are made in factories by bike manufacturers

Much cleaner:

During brazing, the joints are covered in a white paste called flux core which helps protect the materials that are about to be melted. This can give off horrible fumes and it will get on your hands, it’s quite sticky too.

When a bike frame is tig welded you don’t need to paint the joints with flux core, it is generally a much cleaner method. You also don’t need to wear a mask as you would with brazing to prevent enhaling the fumes.

Tig welded bikes only require the burning of the materials you are using such as carbon steel and then the heat from the burning torch.

Cheaper:

Despite fillet brazing being cheaper to start off with, tig welding is much cheaper in the long run, once you have all the kit to do it.

With brazing, you’re going to have flux, oxygen, a settling, filler. Plus most high-end brazing methods use 60% brazing silver which can be very expensive in comparison to MIG welding.

With tig welding, you have argon, electricity, filler rod, and generally is a cheaper method, especially if you’re a student or making many bikes a year.

This is also why a tig welder is favored by anyone, especially frame builders, manufacturers, and those building bikes– it is cheaper, faster, and more efficient in a bicycle frame and offers a much better price point

Better for other materials:

If you’re making a bike out of titanium, aluminum, or carbon fiber then tig welding is probably your best bet.

You can tig weld steel and you can braze steel but you cannot braze other materials like carbon fiber, titanium, and aluminum. Even as of now you’re just MIG welding steel bikes it is always more convenient to have a welding machine so you have the option to do different materials too.

Titanium is said to be much easier for welds as if you have the right skillset and know-how to weld it properly, it is definitely beneficial.

Tig welding:

Tig welding works by heating the pieces of steel that you want to form together on the frame to their melting point. As they become slightly melted you form them together and allow them to cool so when they return to a solid form they hold together.

Brazing:

Brazing on the other hand works by heating the filling material to its melting point such as bronze, which melts at a lower temperature than steel it can be used to hold together the bike frame.

If steel is hot enough to melt bronze then it will work as an adhesive to adhere joints together. So instead of melting the steel, you melt another material into the steel to act almost like glue.

Brazing is brilliant for dissimilar materials if you’re using different materials within the frame. It also introduces less heat to the steel and prevents the frame from becoming weak and brittle.

MIG Welding:

Mig welding has been widely used for decades, it is the process of using metal arc welding, spray arc welding, flux-cored arc welding, and short circuit welding.

Mig welding is ideally used to weld aluminum it uses filler metal and heat with a MIG welder. However, MIG welding isn’t the best method for bikes and if you have the option to do tig welding then I would recommend doing that.

Facts about bike frames

Since steel is subject to rust, engineering in the bike frame has introduced lug to bike frames. A lug is the piece around the thick steel and will fit around various joints of the frame. These then get brazed to the frame tube joints.

A lugged frame construction is brilliant when it comes to frame construction and the frame tubing suffers corrosion, damage or rust then the lug can be easily removed and replaced without damaging another tubing on the bike’s frame.

Air hardened steel has been introduced and can be accomplished using either TIG or MIG welders, it can be used without damaging the tubing. It can make joints become stronger from the added heat to the bike tubing.

High-end bike frames being made by a frame builder who uses a TIG welder or fillet brazed joints. TIG welding is a much more economical and quicker method than fillet brazing. A modern steel frame builder will use the fillet brazing method as it creates a smoother, more aesthetically pleasing joint over the two.

Summary:

TIG and MIG welders have been a growing trend for decades and very popular amongst many bike frame builders.

Whether you go for a brazing or MIG welder method is completely up to you, but I would recommend building your skill on both.

A welder method is much better when it comes to variety and using other materials such as carbon fiber, aluminum, titanium, and much more.

It also offers a much cheaper price but brazing a steel frame also has its benefit and offers a much cleaner finish.

Happy bike building!

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