Faded love

I wanted to love the new Habanero frame.

I had some problems with my aluminum Giant frame after I had to replace the fork (the integrated headset was made out of old napkins, I think), and I found Habanero cycles, with titanium frames at excellent prices. I ordered the “Team Issue Nuevo” frame.

When it arrived, I took pictures of the whole unboxing and assembling process. It really is remarkably light, and the titanium has a beautiful industrial look. The bosses for the bottle cages are a bit too close to each other, so I had to use wire cages (the cool plastic ones didn’t work)… but if this is the worst complaint I had, it’s tiny. The bike built up nicely, and all of the bolt holes were properly threaded; adjusters are built into the downtube stops for the derailleur cables, and they threw in a bottom-bracket cable guide. I was ready to love this bike.

Except that the seatpost kept slipping.

Showing Habanero cycles integrated seatpost binders

As the picture (from the Habanero website) shows, the bike comes with integrated bits for a seatpost bolt. I tightened my seatpost into it… and after a few miles, the post had slipped. I adjusted the post, tightened a bit more, and it slipped again after riding. The slipping happened several times (each time I rode the bike), and I tightened it each time, until I finally tightened the bolt so much that the seatpost cracked; the weld was stronger than the seatpost material, and ripped a hole in the post (the post is doubled for a few centimeters at this point, so at first I didn’t realize the extent of the damage).

First picture of broken seat tube Second picture of broken seat tube

I emailed Habanero, asking if I was out of luck, and they’ve been most cooperative. I’ve sent the frame back, and they’re sending out another. But this isn’t the first time this has happened. These quotes are from email correspondence I’ve had with one of the principals at Habanero:

This has happened before, almost always because the seat post is a little too small. Even a 0.1mm too-small post is very hard to keep from slipping. By the time it’s 0.2mm too small, it’s almost impossible to get the binder tight enough to keep the post from sliding down. I’ve seen quite a few “27.2mm seat posts” that measured 27.0mm or less…. You can send the frame back to us, and we’ll simply remove the other portion of the clamp and clean up both sides (so it looks like there was never a clamp there to start with). It’s not a hard process and that will allow the use of a “slip-on clamp” (the same kind nearly all the other manufacturers use…

And later:

OK – I see what you’re dealing with.  That’s not the typical break (which is usually just the weld separating from the tube).

I’ve asked them to grind the new frame so I can use a standard seat clamp.

Now, the difference between a seatpost at 27.2mm and one at 27.0mm is less than .85%. I don’t know anything about materials standards, but that seems an awful close tolerance to me for the seatpost binder to be breaking, especially often enough that the folks at Habanero have some idea of how much variation it takes to happen. I will arrange to have the integrated seatpost bits ground off, and use a common clamp. Frankly, if this is the last frame I want to buy, I don’t want to risk having this happen again, and the integrated-binder-solution is simply too risky; the standard-clamp-solution seems much more likely to succeed over the course of decades. It is certainly possible that I would get another seatpost that is less than 1% out of specification… and what would I do then?


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