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Old 01-26-21, 06:55 PM
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I'd say in general, for a steel frame 2-3mm spread/squeeze is considered safe. Getting to 5mm is sub-optimal. More than 5mm get riskier as the distance increases. 15mm is nearing insanity.

It's not only how far you're bending the frame tubes, it's also about how far out of parallel the dropout faces will be if you're squeezing them that far. Lots of uneven clamping force on the rear axle, significantly higher chance of bent/broken axle.

So, yes, use spacers. Best solution to make like easier is to position the spacers under the axle locknuts, so they're not all loosey-goosey every time you take out the rear wheel.
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