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Old 09-22-07, 09:03 PM   #1
Kommisar89
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Anybody ever swap in a 7-spd freewheel in place of a 5-spd w/no other modifications?

Just wondering. My bike seems to have plenty of room. I used to run a standard width 6-spd in place of a 5 on a similar bike and I don't think any nodifications were done to fit that. It just sat a little closer to the frame. Isn't a 7-spd the same width as a normal 6?
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Old 09-22-07, 09:55 PM   #2
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I just held a 7 speed freewheel up next to a 6 speed and the 7 was definitely wider. The cogs looked to be spaced the same, but with one extra stuck on the end.
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Old 09-22-07, 10:01 PM   #3
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A 7-sp is just a hair wider. Should be no problem replacing a 6-sp with a 7 if the frame spacing is 126mm. If the frame spacing is 120, then it will depend on the frame where the seat stay meets the rear dropout on the drive side and the size of the smallest sprocket on the cluster. For example, you might have enough clearance with a 13-t cog, but a 14-t cog might be too close to the seat stay.

Are you building a 7-sp freewheel yourself and if so, what make of freewheel?
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Old 09-23-07, 08:37 AM   #4
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If the frame spacing is 120, then it will depend on the frame where the seat stay meets the rear dropout on the drive side and the size of the smallest sprocket on the cluster.
This was the case with both my daughter's Ficelle and my Atala: a six-speed could be strongarmed in without cold setting from 120 to 126 but not a seven. In both cases it was the seatstay/dropout join that got in the way.
As usual, I say give it a shot and see what happens. A modern freewheel and ratchet-type friction shifters make an older bike a joy to ride again.
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Old 09-23-07, 10:13 AM   #5
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I just held a 7 speed freewheel up next to a 6 speed and the 7 was definitely wider. The cogs looked to be spaced the same, but with one extra stuck on the end.
You might be comparing an Ultra 6 to the 7-spd rather than a standard 6. My understanding is that there were basically two kinds of 6-spds: one that was basically the same spacing as the 5-spd with an extra cog and requiring 126mm spacing and one that used narrrow spacing so that it fit in the same 120mm spacing as the old 5-spd. Then when the 7-spd came along it used the narrow spacing to come out the same width as the standard 6-spd. That's all theoretical since I don't actually have any ultra 6 or 7-spds around to compare.

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A 7-sp is just a hair wider. Should be no problem replacing a 6-sp with a 7 if the frame spacing is 126mm. If the frame spacing is 120, then it will depend on the frame where the seat stay meets the rear dropout on the drive side and the size of the smallest sprocket on the cluster. For example, you might have enough clearance with a 13-t cog, but a 14-t cog might be too close to the seat stay.

Are you building a 7-sp freewheel yourself and if so, what make of freewheel?
Just theorizing at this point. What got me started was that back around '92 I needed to replace the freewheel and chain on a bike I had then so I asked the guy at the LBS if I could go with a six speed. He said yes but I might need to play with the axle and redish the wheel. In fact I don't think he ended up having to do that. The six speed bolted right on. It just sat very close to the dropout. That bike is long gone but I still have the old freewheel so I pulled it out last night and measured it. It's 30mm wide, 4mm wider than the 5-spd I have. There's around 5-6mm of additional clearance on the axle so if a 7-speed is no wider than the standard 6 it should fit.
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Old 09-23-07, 11:41 AM   #6
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I went from 5 to 7 on an old schwinn continental. No problems just adjust the stops on the derailer.
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Old 09-23-07, 11:47 AM   #7
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All 7-sp freewheels are "ultra" spaced - less space between cogs and the total stack is about the same width as a standard six, just a tiny bit wider. If your frame was made in the early 1980's onwards, it's likely to have 126 rear end spacing, so it should accept a 7-sp FW. Is this bike any of the ones in your signature? The Bottechia and Peugeot would likely have 120 spacing unless they have been spread to 126 somewhere in time. The best thing to do is to put the 7-sp FW on and see how the wheel sits in the frame. Don't forget to grease the threads!

My custom frame built in 1980 had 120 spacing, but was spread to 126 later on. Last year I built a 7-sp Suntour FW and everything fitted in with no problems. My biggest headache was getting all the right spacers and specific cogs for a 7-sp build on the Suntour FW body. As far as axle length is concerned, My Campy hub already had the correct axle for a 126 spacing as it had been switched when the frame was spread. If I remember, you only need to have three threads' worth of axle sticking out for a good fit in the frame.
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Old 09-23-07, 12:47 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Kommisar89 View Post
You might be comparing an Ultra 6 to the 7-spd rather than a standard 6. My understanding is that there were basically two kinds of 6-spds: one that was basically the same spacing as the 5-spd with an extra cog and requiring 126mm spacing and one that used narrrow spacing so that it fit in the same 120mm spacing as the old 5-spd. Then when the 7-spd came along it used the narrow spacing to come out the same width as the standard 6-spd. That's all theoretical since I don't actually have any ultra 6 or 7-spds around to compare.
That's possible because this 6-speed just came on a wheelset I got from a neighbor, and I've never even put the wheel on a bike, just swapped the freewheel to another. I just held a couple of 5-speed freewheels up to this 6-speed and they were just slightly narrower. Plus I am using the 6-speed on a hub that came with only 5. I also just looked at the 6-speed on my Nishiki and it is definitely wider than the other, as you say. I learned something new!
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Old 09-23-07, 05:34 PM   #9
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All 7-sp freewheels are "ultra" spaced - less space between cogs and the total stack is about the same width as a standard six, just a tiny bit wider. If your frame was made in the early 1980's onwards, it's likely to have 126 rear end spacing, so it should accept a 7-sp FW. Is this bike any of the ones in your signature? The Bottechia and Peugeot would likely have 120 spacing unless they have been spread to 126 somewhere in time. The best thing to do is to put the 7-sp FW on and see how the wheel sits in the frame. Don't forget to grease the threads!

My custom frame built in 1980 had 120 spacing, but was spread to 126 later on. Last year I built a 7-sp Suntour FW and everything fitted in with no problems. My biggest headache was getting all the right spacers and specific cogs for a 7-sp build on the Suntour FW body. As far as axle length is concerned, My Campy hub already had the correct axle for a 126 spacing as it had been switched when the frame was spread. If I remember, you only need to have three threads' worth of axle sticking out for a good fit in the frame.
OK, I grabbed my micrometer and ran down to the LBS. The 7 speeds are about 3mm wider than the six speeds. That would be fine with 126mm spacing but this is for the Bottecchia and it has 120. Actually it's not the spacing that's the problem - I pulled the wheel from the Panasonic which is 126mm spacing and it slides in with nothing more than a little pressure from my thumbs to spread the dropouts. The axle is the problem. With the six speed it just fits. I suspect the extra width of the 7 is going to be just too much.

So I could probably swap the axle and redish the wheel. I have no idea how easy new axles are to come by for Campy Tipo hubs.
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Old 09-23-07, 06:12 PM   #10
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I notice that the Bottechia is a 1972. How dedicated are you to keeping it period correct? I'm not sure if there were 7-sp freewheels in 1972. If it already has a 6-sp FW on a period correct wheel with Campy Tipo hubs, why not leave it that way? Why not leave the wheel and FW the way it is and build another wheel with a later hub (whatever brand) that has a longer axle and the 7-sp FW? That way you have a wheel to show off your vintage steed when riding with the cognoscenti and another wheel when riding with the young 'uns (keep a stoic face, only huff and chuff when they are not looking).

Let me guess, you want to put on a 7-sp FW because of that larger cog for lower gearing? That was why I built a 7-sp for that extra 26t cog, but I still have to practice that stoic, effortless expression when the road tilts up . What make of FW is the one on the Bottechia now and what are the cogs on it? Could you consider rebuilding that FW if (it might be tough) the desired cogs can be found? Could you also consider using a Suntour Ultra-6 FW with the cog sizes that you'd like? That might be feasible and can be found on ebay.

You will need luck and patience to find a longer axle for a Tipo hub. Also, it might not exist because of the period in which it was made. I'm not familiar with the Tipo models, but take a look at this :
http://www.bicycleclassics.com/hubs.html I have no idea at all if the axles are interchangeable, but Greg Parker of Bicycleclassics might be able to tell you.
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Old 09-23-07, 06:17 PM   #11
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My Bianchi frame came with 126mm spacing, and I reset Capo #1 to 128. Either frame can easily handle a 7-speed freewheel with the proper axle spacers (been there ... done that), but I currently run standard 6-speeds on both because I am too lazy to mess with the spacers and wheel dish. Also, I strongly suspect that the Bianchi's original wheelset, currently on the Capo, is Italian-threaded, and I am leery of swaping Italian and English freewheels because of the potential for damage to the hub's threads.

Capo #2 and the Peugeot both have 6-speed ultra freewheels and their original 120mm spacing.
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Old 09-23-07, 08:44 PM   #12
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OP should consult Sheldon Brown's info on this. He sez that 120 spacing can be spread easily enough to accept 126, and 126 to 130 without "cold reforming". I believe that 5 and Ultra-6 fit into 120, 6 and Ultra-7 into 126.

Axle length is also not a problem (according to SB) if going up one "size", since standard axle overhang is 11 mm (131 mm axle for 120 mm spacing), and he's comfortable with _any_ axle overhang, or even none!

Biggest problem might be redishing a wheel, since adding 6 mm to the width will move the tire over 3mm. I don't think it's just a matter of switching freewheels in and out.
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Old 09-23-07, 10:11 PM   #13
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In general I like to keep everything as original as possible but I doubt even cognscenti are going to count the cogs on my freewheel And if I need to keep up with the young'uns I take my modern Bianchi Just so everyone has all the details, the bike was originally 120mm spacing, Tipo high flange hubs and a Regina Extra 5-speed 14-28 freewheel. Currently it has a presumably mid-80's era Shimano 5-speed 14-28 freewheel because the Shimano shifts one heck of a lot better than the Regina and since it's a nice dark gold color with no visible logos or anything so it isn't obvious or obnxious.

I really have no important reason for wanting to change it. Closer spacing on the gears maybe. As I've mentioned it's more of a theoretical exercise. If it was a simple bolt on I'd swap the freewheels. If it's more trouble than that it ain't worth the effort. The derailleur isn't likely to handle anything more than a 28t large cog anyway, though a 13t might be nice on the high end. The main impediment to upgrading it is not the frame spacing which as pointed out is easily adjusted but rather the high flange hubs. They really are part of the bike's character and I would not want to replace them. Going up one "size" is easy - I did it on my old bike. Going up 1 1/2 "sizes" is trickier. If that darned 7-speed narrow spaced freewheel were really the same size a wide spaced six it would work but it's not. If I had 126mm axle it would work but the 7-speed almost certainly won't fit the 120mm axle. The outside width of the locknuts is such that the 7-speed freewheel would stick out further than the locknut and using a spacer looks like it would not leave enough thread on the axle to mount it in the frame. Or maybe it would. If I had all the parts here I could try it but I don't that I want to go out and buy the stuff just to see.
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Old 09-24-07, 10:24 AM   #14
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[QUOTE=jebejava;5318208]All 7-sp freewheels are "ultra" spaced - less space between cogs and the total stack is about the same width as a standard six, just a tiny bit wider. QUOTE]

Maybe so, but some freewheels are more ultra than others. Using a Shimano Megarange 7 on 126 mm frames, I have not had to respace the axle. Using a Sachs Maillard 7-speed, I had to space it out to 128 mm. You just have to watch out for how it will clearance out on your bike.
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Old 09-24-07, 12:39 PM   #15
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I think we have now all agreed on the question. Sheldon Brown gives the theoretical answer. I too would be curious about others experiences with putting a 7 speed freewheel on a bike spaced at 120 mm. I have been contemplating doing the same thing, mainly because Ultra 6 freewheels are very expensive and hard to find.
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Old 09-24-07, 02:49 PM   #16
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From Post #7 :

Quote:
The best thing to do is to put the 7-sp FW on and see how the wheel sits in the frame.
Check first to see if the threads on the hub are compatible with the threads on the FW. There should be a stamping about the thread sizing.
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Old 09-24-07, 05:02 PM   #17
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I too would be curious about others experiences with putting a 7 speed freewheel on a bike spaced at 120 mm. I have been contemplating doing the same thing, mainly because Ultra 6 freewheels are very expensive and hard to find.
I've done a bunch of these over the years; some were just a matter of unscrewing the 5 and screwing on a 7 and convincing the wheel between the dropouts. Others required re-space/re-dish/replace axle. Most were in between. My advice, FWIW, is try and see.
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Old 09-25-07, 08:49 AM   #18
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Late 1970s Schwinn Varsinentals are easy to convert, because the frames and rear axles were already set to 126mm to accommodate the little overshift guard outboard of 5th gear. Another hint: lose the spoke protector / pie plate, if you have one, to pick up another mm or two of valuable clearance.
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Old 09-25-07, 09:53 AM   #19
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I have converted both my vintage Treks to 7 with no problems. I also put triple chainrings on them.
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Old 09-25-07, 05:02 PM   #20
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Slightly off-topic but why oh why did Shimano make their recent freewheels with the big cog in black with Shimano is gigantic billboard sized white letters? I might sneak a Shimano freewheel on 'cause it works better but no way am I putting one of those ugly monstrosities on my vintage ride. Bleh!
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Old 09-25-07, 06:46 PM   #21
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Slightly off-topic but why oh why did Shimano make their recent freewheels with the big cog in black with Shimano is gigantic billboard sized white letters? I might sneak a Shimano freewheel on 'cause it works better but no way am I putting one of those ugly monstrosities on my vintage ride. Bleh!
You pick the oddest things to obsess about!
Try a SunRace freewheel; plain ol' chrome, and seems to work just as well. I have a 13-28 on one bike and a 13-30 on another.
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Old 09-25-07, 07:08 PM   #22
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You pick the oddest things to obsess about!

I suffer from OCP
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