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  1. #1
    Senior Member inkandsilver's Avatar
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    My rear dropouts (seem to) place the wheel off the centerline of the bike

    Well, damn. I have gotten so much great information from lurking on these forums as I got into cycling in the last 8 months. Such a wonderful new part of my life. I was planning for my first post to be a helpful "give back" sort of post, not a "help me." But so it goes, as Vonnegut says.

    My new bike is a 2011 Jamis Coda. I know it's a lower-end machine, but I've been enjoying it a lot. Previously I was riding a commuter-conversion 90s MTB.

    When I installed the Axiom Journey rear rack, I was puzzled that it did not seem to want to go on centered over the wheel. It's not way off, but it was noticeable. I figured maybe one of the mounting arms that go to the seat tube was just a bit warped. The SKS rear fender I installed also did not want to center over the wheel (I know that by itself wouldn't mean anything because there's so much room for play in a fender install).

    So I did a lot of searching of related threads here. I triple checked that the wheel was properly set in the dropouts. I flipped the wheel and mounted it to see whether it was dished improperly, but it was still (seemingly) off center to the same side of the bike.

    Today I did the string test, running a triangle of string from front of headtube to dropout to dropout and back to headtube, making marks at each spot. There is plenty of room for small error in this method, but I came up with a difference of something like .75 inch (between DS dropout to headtube distance and NDS dropout to headtube distance).

    The bike seems to ride fine (although I am pretty inexperienced and probably oblivious to fine distinctions that experienced riders would notice). So my question is: should I even worry about it? Does it sound like a potentially significant problem? Are the guys at my LBS going to think I am insane or annoying to be bringing in a bike with a (potential) problem that is neither readily visible nor noticeable on a test ride? I don't mind being assertive if there's a real problem, but this one seems like it has potential to be over-anxious noob syndrome.

    Any advice is greatly appreciated. Does this seem like a problem? If so, what's the best way to approach the matter?

    And I promise to be a positive contributor in the future, not just a user.

  2. #2
    Senior Member skilsaw's Avatar
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    Take your bike to the LBS and present the problem as a question, not an accusation. Have them confirm that the frame is crooked.

    Since your bike is new, and I assume you are taking it to the store where you bought it, you should have no problem swapping you bike for a new one with a straight frame. The bent frame will be passed on back to the wholesaler...
    The one who has the most bikes wins.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by inkandsilver View Post
    Well, damn. I have gotten so much great information from lurking on these forums as I got into cycling in the last 8 months.
    Congratulations, and welcome!

    Quote Originally Posted by inkandsilver View Post
    I was planning for my first post to be a helpful "give back" sort of post, not a "help me." But so it goes, as Vonnegut says.
    Don't sweat it. Your headline isn't restricted to "help", and your issue hasn't been "on the board" the last few days - so fine by me.

    Quote Originally Posted by inkandsilver View Post
    My new bike is a 2011 Jamis Coda. I know it's a lower-end machine, but I've been enjoying it a lot. Previously I was riding a commuter-conversion 90s MTB.
    Again, don't sweat it. The enjoyment and practical use one gets out of the bike is rarely directly proportional to the value of the bike.
    And anyone who'll make negative comments on your choice of bike(as long as your expectations are a reasonable match to your ride) is just being petty.

    Quote Originally Posted by inkandsilver View Post
    When I installed the Axiom Journey rear rack, I was puzzled that it did not seem to want to go on centered over the wheel. ..The SKS rear fender I installed also did not want to center over the wheel ...So I did a lot of searching of related threads here. I triple checked that the wheel was properly set in the dropouts. I flipped the wheel and mounted it to see whether it was dished improperly, but it was still (seemingly) off center to the same side of the bike.

    Today I did the string test, running a triangle of string from front of headtube to dropout to dropout and back to headtube, making marks at each spot. There is plenty of room for small error in this method, but I came up with a difference of something like .75 inch (between DS dropout to headtube distance and NDS dropout to headtube distance).
    You're saying that you're measuring the distance from dropout to headtube? That's an approach to the string test I haven't heard before.
    Usually the method is to run a string from dropout, around head tube, back to other dropout, then measuring the distance between string and seat tube. I'd recommend you to try that instead, you get less issues with string stretch and more defined points to measure between.

    Quote Originally Posted by inkandsilver View Post
    The bike seems to ride fine (although I am pretty inexperienced and probably oblivious to fine distinctions that experienced riders would notice).
    Not necessarily. Us riders have an amazing ability to adapt to imperfections in our bikes. It might be noticeable for someone who's setting out to do a direct comparison, but before a bike becomes anything near unrideable it has to be seriously warped.

    Quote Originally Posted by inkandsilver View Post
    So my question is: should I even worry about it?
    Well, from what it sounds like, the bike certanly wasn't meant to look like that, so if you bought it new from a shop you deserve better.

    Quote Originally Posted by inkandsilver View Post
    Does it sound like a potentially significant problem?
    kinda-sorta. None of the warped bikes I've ridden(for any distance/time) have ever failed spectacularly while JRA, but they have been hard on the tires. But main issue IMO is that you got something less than you payed for, ie a bike with a defect.

    Quote Originally Posted by inkandsilver View Post
    Are the guys at my LBS going to think I am insane or annoying to be bringing in a bike with a (potential) problem that is neither readily visible nor noticeable on a test ride?
    How does the wheel fit in the frame? You mention that you think it's off-center, but by how much? If it's off by an easily measurable amount at both the chainstays (by the BB) and up by the brake bridge, then that'd be reason enough to bring it back for me. Measuring with a caliper between rim and stay at both positions with the wheel "normal" and flipped should give ample proof if all is well or not.
    If you haven't got a caliper, a simple workaround is to cut paper tabs until they're a perfect fit in the gap, and then measure the tabls with a ruler. Far more precise than eyeballing a ruler held somewhat in position.
    Quote Originally Posted by inkandsilver View Post
    I don't mind being assertive if there's a real problem, but this one seems like it has potential to be over-anxious noob syndrome.
    Even a noob deserves a straight frame on a store bought bike.
    Quote Originally Posted by inkandsilver View Post
    Does this seem like a problem?
    It's not as it should be, unlikely to lead to the collapse of the bike, may well lead to exaggerated tire wear, make the bike hard to ride no-hands, and may cause it to pull towards one side.

    Quote Originally Posted by inkandsilver View Post
    If so, what's the best way to approach the matter?
    If flipping-and-measuring gives a solid indication (anything in the vicinity of 1/10" is definitely worthy of attention) that the wheel isn't centered, bring it back and introduce it as a question:"is my wheel aligned properly?"

    It looks like you bike has vertical dropouts, which is an advantage in this case. With (semi) horizontal dropouts it's possible to tweak the wheel seating in a way that has it looking OK by the stays, but still will have it misaligned with the rest of the bike.

  4. #4
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    Before assuming the bike is a problem, and spending lots of time making measurements, first determine that you're mounting the wheel correctly.

    The dropouts are designed to center when wheel when both ends of the axle are fully to the top of the slot. A common error is mounting wheels with the bike in a stand. This means you have to fight gravity and it's easy for one side or the other not to seat properly.

    Put your bike on a smooth, level surface open the rear QR, jiggle the wheel to make sure the frame drops onto the axle solidly then close the QR. Now take a look and see how it fits. If it's still off center, flip it (freewheel on left) and see if the error mirrors indicating a wheel dish problem, or stays on the same side indicating a frame problem.

    Also mount the wheel as above but without a QR skewer, and rotate the axle with the bike on the ground. If the wheel moves you have a bent axle.

    Those are a few basic DIY checks, and if you have any unresolved questions, or feel it's still off bring it to the shop. Since it's new they should correct any error, or explain what you're doing wrong at no charge.
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    Since you have already checked for wheel dish, it seems apparent your rear triangle is misaligned. If this is a bike you bought new from a dealer, they probably will just get you another one from Jamis. Their warranty support is good, in my experience. If for some reason the frame is not under warranty, and if it is a steel frame, then it is relatively easy to correct with either a 2x4 or a proper frame tool (big lever.)

  6. #6
    Senior Member inkandsilver's Avatar
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    Thanks to all for the very helpful responses.

    I've followed most of the advice here and tomorrow will complete a few more checks. I re-did the string test the right way (thanks dabac) and still came up with a very small difference, about halfway between 1/8 inch and 1/16 inch.

    I think what I've decided is (if I don't find anything else clearly wrong) to ride it more and see how it feels. Then next time I am bringing it in to the shop for something else I'll have them take a look. I'm open to other advice, though.

    Many thanks, again. This place is great.

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