Seatpost seizure: A cautionary tale

Some routine maintenance after a bike ride around Arran revealed a rather bigger problem than I suspected with my seatpost.
Posted: Mon 11 Jun, 2018, 18:24

After returning from a very enjoyable trip round the North Loop of Arran with a varied group of cyclists from work - on road, MTB and hybrid frames and used to cycling hardly ever, infrequently or often - I was aware of an annoying squeak coming from somewhere on my bike. For some reason, I find it really difficult to pinpoint exactly where unexpected noises are originating from whilst riding my bike. I can never to tell if a noise is coming from a wheel, hub, chain or bottom bracket. The closer I listen, the most I convince myself it is the front chain ring, when in fact it is the spokes.

So, as usual, I could not say for sure where the noise was coming from. Just to rule it out, I thought I would take out my seat post and see if I still heard the sound. The would rule out the post, saddle and seatpost clamp - all of which were outside contenders. However when I undid the clamp I found that I could not pull out the seatpost, no matter how hard I pulled or twisted it.

Had I stopped right there, logic would have told me it probably was not causing the squeak, and even if it was, a bit of oil would probably sort it. My post was at the perfect level (no dropper) and there was actually no problem leaving it right where it was. But the fact that my seatpost was immovable was now disturbing me more than the squeak. It was interfering with the illusion I heldof my bike as being well maintained.

So I hit the saddle a few times with hammer to twist it round. Nothing moved. Then I removed the saddle and replace it with a long arm bar for twisting the post. Nothing moved, dispite me giving it everything. Then, I confess, I removed all of that and with just the seat post I hammered it a few times and dropped it (carefully) on the seatpost head - nothing moved even a millimetre. Time to check YouTube and the regular MTB forums for possible solutions.

Some mentioned sawing down into the tube and prizing it away from the sides. Some even suggested fashioning a long hacksaw, held only at one end, in order to split the tube length ways. Surely such extreme measures were not necessary? One suggested heating and cooling the tube to naturally pull the post away from the tube. So I poured 4 kettles of water over the post. No difference.

After four hours of work, with various saws, hammers, pliers and screwdrivers, it finally became very clear to me that I was way out of my depth and I may well have broken my bike/frame irreparably. I was not good company that night. I did manage to write a pleading email to a bike shop I found who specialized solely in fixing bikes. Not selling, just fixing. This guy was my only hope.

I sheepishly handed in my bike the next day. It made me feel almost ill to look at the mess I had made of it. The guy who owns the shop could obviously see my distress and managed to not to laugh out loud at my predicament. He described his various tactics for fixing the problem (as he had seen this many times before) and thankfully took the bike, promising to get in touch when it was fixed.

He called the next day. He had to saw the tube right to the base length-ways in order to them split it away from the frame. A task that took more skill, patience and time that I could possibly have managed. Not to mention the right tools.

So, the moral of the story is, if you have a titanium frame and aluminium seat post, you might want to check it is not completely seized in place. Use the right (copper-based) lubricant when you fit and move it regularly, just in case. I probably did use some grease when I fitted it but that will have melted away last summer and it spent the next nine months galvanically corroding itself to my bike. Total kudos to the guy at Stirling Bike Doctor, my bike is back on the road (or trail) when it would very easily have been beyond repair.

The alternative moral is, a problem avoided is better than a problem solved. If I had just left it where it was, it would never have moved that could have been fine.

Or, more simply, know when to take your bike to the bike shop!