Ways You’re Ruining Your Bike Frame

March 03, 2021 0 Comments

Road bike leaning against a tree near a lake front

Your bike frame is easy to take for granted. 

It’s always there doing its job — holding you up and keeping your bike together — until, suddenly, it isn’t. A damaged bike frame can be catastrophic, but it might not be terribly obvious. Some of the most dangerous frame damage can occur in simple, everyday situations. Mistreating your bike — such as by placing it where it can easily be knocked over or hit — may ultimately ruin your bike frame. 

In fact, longtime cycling coach Darryl MacKenzie shared a story of a doctor whose bike fell over while resting, causing what looked like minor damage to an especially vulnerable part on his bike frame (we’ll tell you about that part in a moment). He tried to keep riding but, tragically,  he hit a hole in the pavement, his frame collapsed, and he was killed.

That’s not a situation in which you want to find yourself. And it’s not only the major wrecks that are a risk. But the good news is, there’s a way to avoid it by changing how you rest your bike when you’re not riding it.

The Most Dangerous Ways to Rest Your Bike

“With regard to your frame, the most dangerous speed is zero miles per hour, because you’re going to have more damage to your frame when it’s not moving than when it is moving,” says Coach Darryl.  

With that in mind, let’s look at two of the most common — and most dangerous — ways people park their bikes that can cause serious damage to your cycling equipment.

The Car Lean 

In this scenario, you’ve just finished a ride, and while you’re waiting for everyone else, you lean your bike awkwardly against your car. It’s not steady, and before long it falls over. If you’re parked by a curb and it lands just right, you’re in trouble. 

The Curb Lean

Another common way that cyclists park their bikes is with the curb lean. Here, you prop your bike pedal on top of the curb with the wheel on the lower pavement, allowing it to balance just so on the pedal. As handy as this may be, all it takes is a gust of wind or a bump from a passerby to knock the bike over. And, here again, if it falls just right (say, on a nearby parking block or any other uneven surface), your bike’s frame could be compromised and no longer rideable. 

What’s the Big Deal?

What’s the vulnerable part of the frame in both of these scenarios? There are actually two of them: your chainstay and your seatstay. These are the two forked, narrow tube pairs that connect your back wheel to the rest of the frame. The seatstay runs from the seat tube diagonally down to the wheel hub. Your chainstay runs parallel to your chain from the pedal crank to the wheel hub.

Both of these parts of your frame are narrow and easily damaged with direct impact, which can easily occur in the above scenarios. Darryl has seen friends do both, then end up thinking they had damaged the paint only to find they had actually ruined the structural integrity of the carbon fiber in their frames. This is the part that the doctor we mentioned before had damaged before he ran over a hole on that fateful ride.  

The moral? The simple — and incorrect — choice of leaning your bike improperly is an easy way to harm your bike frame. Think twice before you rest your bike in either of those ways.

“If it falls over, it may be the last time you ride it,” Darryl warns. 

A Less Damaging Way to Rest Your Bike 

Another common, though less damaging, way to park your bike is to lean it so that the top tube rests against a pole or tree. This may prove sturdier, but it's not without cost.

“This is the equivalent of applying sandpaper to your paint,” says Coach Darryl. “If it slides a little bit front to back, it’s gradually going to scrape off the paint.”

While this isn’t dangerous like the other scenarios are, it’s still not something you want to do to a bike you’ve spent good money on. Darryl often sees cyclists with their paint rubbed off in this way, and it doesn’t leave their bikes looking great.

The Best Way to Rest Your Bike

So, what is the best way to park your bike so that you don’t ruin your bike frame? Rest it against a wall with two main points of contact: the saddle and the handlebars.

Let’s elaborate on this a little. First, you want to lean it against a wall. Pull it out farther from the wall than you think you should — leave about 9 inches between the bottom of the wheel and the wall. That will keep it from toppling over. 

Now, turn the front wheel slightly toward the wall and lean it against the wall with just the edge of your handlebar and the saddle touching it. This will keep your bike stable and less likely to roll front to back.

Simple enough, right? Start practicing this habit on your next ride so you can keep your frame sturdy and safe for many rides to come.


Look for more insights from Coach Darryl over at his website.

Photo by Animal Land . on Unsplash