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Bike "alignment" problem

Old 04-06-17, 10:10 PM
  #1  
oldpuck81
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Bike "alignment" problem

I'm titling this "alignment" problem, for lack of a more accurate term. When riding a bike free-handed, some bikes tend to lean and I have compensate by leaning a little, usually to the left. Other bikes track dead-straight. I have a 5 year old mtn bike that tends to cause me to lean to the left when going "look Mom, no hands", but my new mountain bike and my road bikes tend to track straight up.
So did I mount the front wheel in the dropouts wrong? Or is the frame/fork not quite straight/plumb/square etc.?? Did I beat up the frame so it's no longer in alignment with the bikes centerline??
In my 50 years of cycling, I've never been able to figure out the solution to this little annoyance.
thanks.
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Old 04-06-17, 10:23 PM
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If the annoyance is just little live, ride and enjoy otherwise.


If you really want to understand this stuff prepare for a long and involved path.


Bike alignment consists of both of the bike (frame, wheels being the two biggies) and rider. Both can be "off".


Bike alignment is far easier to understand and pursue to a 'correct" end then the rider's aspect.


Here's a list of the big aspects of bike alignment. Wheel dish and spoke tensions. Fork splay, blade lengths, twist and steerer deformations. Main frame twist, off planeness. Rear frame centering, uneven stay lengths. So at least 10 different aspects that can effect alignment.


No one can tell you which single/combo is your problem with out doing a thorough assessment of your complete bike. And most people who talk about this stuff don't fully understand/consider/access the entire system. Andy.
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Old 04-07-17, 07:38 AM
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Something as simple as a shift or brake cable cut too long or too short could be pushing or pulling on the bars.
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Old 04-07-17, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by DaveSSS View Post
Something as simple as a shift or brake cable cut too long or too short could be pushing or pulling on the bars.
+1 for the Occums Razor approach. Something as simple as a tired seat rail causing the rider to shift weight would easily be overlooked.

In any case, I am inclined to agree with Andy. There's about 10 different ways it could be "wrong" and the only sure way I can think of would be to clamp the frame up in a jig & tweak as necessary. Frame alignments can be done for a fairly nominal cost if the bike is already stripped down.

What comes to my mind actually is a twist in reference to the rear drop outs and head tube. A left of center contact patch on one tire, combined with a right of center contact patch on the other would drive a bias to turn. Or a slight bow causing the rear tire to want to track right making the bike go left. Does the bike have horizontal drop outs? Is the tire centered between the stays?

Has the bike done any rock hopping or been hit by a car?

Could the crown of the road have an effect. How does it do on a flat level ground like a tennis court?

I'm just kickin' out ideas.

Aaron
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Old 04-07-17, 12:22 PM
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...something as simple to adjust as your rear wheel not straight in the dropouts, or incorrectly dished can cause the problem you describe. As stated already so eloquently by others, it's a conceptually simple problem (rider mass centered over the plane of the bicycle wheels), but with many potential causes. I remember I'd been riding a bike that required some lean for a couple of years before I finally felt compelled to figure it out.
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Old 04-07-17, 12:43 PM
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I had the same problem when my bike was new. After much measuring with string, to insure front and back wheels were in alignment, and with a carpenters level, and with considerable pondering, I discovered when one wheel was plumb, the other wasn't. Further measuring and pondering revealed that the front wheel dropouts were inserted incorrectly. This resulted in the axle being misaligned. The geometry is such that if the axle is off by a fraction of a mm, the wheel at the rim is off by about 4 or 5 times as much. Once certain of the problem the wheel was brought back into alighnment by filing the dropout with a round file.
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Old 04-07-17, 01:25 PM
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My latest theory is that crown race misalignment might be one of the bigger factors.

I too have pondered the no-hands dilemma. No-handing is a big deal to me. It allows me to arch up my back and relieve stiffness and pain in the lower back.

Since acquiring a fork/steerer crown race facing tool, --I've noticed that every new fork I get does require some facing to be square. I never worried about that before. I also noticed on my recent new commuter build (where the new fork needed facing badly) resulted in a build that seemed much easier to no-hand than with the previous fork. I'm waiting to find another build that seems very awkward to no hand --so I can dismantle the steerer and headset, and reface/reinstall the crown race. Fun puzzle for now.

Last edited by dbg; 04-07-17 at 01:28 PM.
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Old 04-07-17, 05:05 PM
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Originally Posted by oldpuck81 View Post
I'm titling this "alignment" problem, for lack of a more accurate term. When riding a bike free-handed, some bikes tend to lean and I have compensate by leaning a little, usually to the left. Other bikes track dead-straight. I have a 5 year old mtn bike that tends to cause me to lean to the left when going "look Mom, no hands", but my new mountain bike and my road bikes tend to track straight up.
So did I mount the front wheel in the dropouts wrong? Or is the frame/fork not quite straight/plumb/square etc.?? Did I beat up the frame so it's no longer in alignment with the bikes centerline??
In my 50 years of cycling, I've never been able to figure out the solution to this little annoyance.
thanks.
In the absence of obvious frame damage...

1. Remove both wheels and have each wheel properly dished.
2. Check both fork and rear dropout alignment using the usual T-Handle tool with adjustable cups. (5 min job)
3. Install both wheels, centered in the fork crown and between the rear chainstays aligned with the seattube.

If at this point the bike continues to pull to one side, you have eliminated the wheels.

The focus then becomes fork and frame alignment.

=8-)
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Old 04-07-17, 05:42 PM
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If you are putting your front wheel in your dropouts, then you are putting the wheels on the wrong end of the bike.
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Old 04-07-17, 06:15 PM
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i worked on a Walmart road bike last summer... it had a front wheel alignment problem... checked wheel dish... it was off by about 3/16"... redished wheel... STILL out of align... hmmmm... swapped wheel 180 deg.... wheel still out of whack in the same direction... YEP! the fork dropouts were out of level! A bit of work with a rat tail file fixed things up! The FACTORY assemblers had REDISHED the wheel to make it LOOK better.... no files in the assembly area, i guess! The Bike owner gave me a ten dollar tip, then rode the Seattle To Portland tour on it the next weekend... once the wheels have been properly dished, and you still see a misalignment, then the frame is the issue.
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Old 04-07-17, 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by AlexCyclistRoch View Post
If you are putting your front wheel in your dropouts, then you are putting the wheels on the wrong end of the bike.
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