Fractured Tour Easy Seat Strut Screw

Broken bolt
Broken bolt

Straight up: this is about a stainless steel socket head cap screw I installed eight years ago, not the original Easy Racers screw, so this is not their problem.

I rode out for milk-and-eggs at the corner store, a flat one-mile ride, and stopped at the traffic signal. Light goes green, line of cars accelerates, so do I… and there’s a snap and the left side of the seat sags backwards. I am not a powerhouse rider and it’s March, so I’m not doing leg presses while getting up to cruising speed.

I continued the mission by sitting slightly to the right on the seat and pedaling gingerly, then diagnosed the problem in the corner store’s parking lot. If I’d been further away, I’d have done the repair right there, but I figured it’d hold together until I got home. It did.

The problem turned out to be a broken screw holding the left-side seat strut to the threaded eyelet on the rear dropout. The top picture shows the way I have it set up: seat strut clamp outboard, rack strut inboard, with a socket head cap screw extending all the way through, and secured with a pair of stainless nuts that went missing along with the broken screw end.

Screw fracture closeup
Screw fracture closeup

Here’s the fracture across the end of the screw, which shows no evidence of foul play. As nearly as I can tell, the whole thing snapped off in one event, with none of the crud that would indicate a progressive crack. Compared with that wheel stud, this is in pristine condition.

So it’s time to replace the right-side screw, as well, which means a trip to the Bike Repair Wing of the Basement Laboratory. While I had the bike up in the repair stand, I decided to reshape the head on the right-side screw for better chain clearance.

As nearly as I can tell, the usual practice puts both the seat strut and the rack strut outboard of the threaded eyelet on the dropout, but that seems wrong to me. The seat strut puts a tremendous amount of stress on the screw, so you really want that lever arm as short as possible: put the clamp against the eyelet. While the rack isn’t as heavily loaded, cantilevering it outboard of the clamp just doesn’t look right.

But putting the rack strut inboard of the eyelet means the screw head sticks out rather more than I’d like. Very rarely, the chain will snick against the head and even more rarely it jams between the head and the freewheel. Nothing much happens (it’s a freewheel, after all), but I think reducing the head thickness ought to help.

Reshaped socket head cap screw
Reshaped socket head cap screw

So I chucked the screw in the lathe, shortened the socket by about half, and put a taper on the head. If I had a stock of round-head cap screws, one of those would be even better.

The shortened socket makes it a bit tricky to get enough bite with the hex key, but this isn’t something that requires much attention after it’s installed… and I get to do all that in the shop.

Dabs of Loctite in the eyelet and nuts, for sure!

By a truly rare coincidence, a standard 1-1/2 inch cap screw is exactly the right length.

Right-side mount
Right-side mount

Here’s a view of the installed right-side screw, looking rearward along the upper rear triangle tube. Seat strut to the outside, rack strut to the inside, and reshaped head above the cluster.

Took the bike out for a 16 mile spin today and it’s all good.

A note for the weight weenies in the crowd: a rack on the back of the seat adds a redundant support structure. Without that, a failed seat strut can be a real showstopper. Even if you don’t use your bike as a pack mule, maybe you should add a rack.

Memo to Self: add more nuts to the tool kit!