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Balloon tire Columbia pulls hard to right?

Old 07-05-20, 10:24 AM
  #1  
rustymetal
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Balloon tire Columbia pulls hard to right?

A few weeks ago I dug out an old Columbia balloon tire bike that belonged to my dad, the bike is from the late 40's or so. Its a typical cantilever frame bike with 26" x 2,125 tires.

I pumped up the original tires, lubed the chain and figured I'd see how it rode.
I hadn't ridden it since I was a kid back in the early 70's.
It was a bike my dad bought in high school.
The tires are still what I assume are the original Carlisle Lightning blackwalls it came with new.
The bike is 'well used' but was always fully functional. I hung it where it sat over 40 years ago up in the trusses of the garage.
When I tried to ride this bike the other day, it pulled HARD to the right at any speed. so much so it was nearly impossible to ride.
I looked the bike over and really haven't found anything wrong or 'changed' from back in the day.
I pulled the front wheel and forks, checked the forks in my Park fork alignment tool, both blades are straight and perfectly aligned, the headset is like new but needed some fresh grease.
I put that back together and tried it again. It made no difference at all. I flipped the front wheel around, that also made no change in the pull.
I put the bike back on the stand, pulled the rear wheel off and checked it for dish and true and it didn't need any adjustments.
The back wheel sits straight in the frame, with no noticably angle or tilt.
I used a frame gauge and checked the frame from the headtube back to the rear dropouts and its identical on both sides.
When fully assembled, both wheels are perfectly aligned with each other..
Nothing I've done has helped the pull. As far as I know the bike has never been wrecked or hit. Even the both fenders are still perfect on this bike.
I rode it the day I hung it in the rafters, dad had gotten too old to ride and it wasn't my kind of bike so it got hung up for storage. It hung from three big hooks off its wheels two hooks on the handle bars, and one around the rear of the top tube. The bike was then covered in a huge plastic bag with the air sucked out with a shop vac. In hopes that the tires wouldn't rot and to keep it from getting covered in dust. I hadn't intended for it to be up there that long but it sort of got forgotten.

The bike pulls almost the instant it begins to move. Its impossible to get up and speed since the faster you go the worse the pull.
I've been working on bikes for years, I never seen anything like this.
What's worse, I've got an old Monark ladies bike from the same era that's a total wreck, the rear tire sits crooked in the rear frame, centered between the chain stays but nearly touching the seat stays on the right side, and the front forks are bend back about a half inch yet it rides just fine. Its been my go to the store bike for 30 years, sort of a 'so ugly no one would ever touch it' type of ride. I keep it lubed and serviced and it keeps going.

I went through this Columbia now head to toe, I cleaned and regreased everything, checked every possible alignment on it and nothing made any difference.
I even tried tweaking the fork blades to the right a bit and it made zero change in how hard it pulls.
I even tried swapping the wheels from the Monark over to it and still no change, (The Columbia wheels also ride perfect on the Monark).
So far I can say for certain its not the wheels, its not the fork, and its not the headset, and that the frame measures out well within spec.
The old Monark is so bent up that each wheel leans to a different side, the left wheel almost touches the left seat stay and the right wheel sits off to the right in the forks due to a weld repair on the one fork tip, yet it rides fine and don't pull.

Any ideas?
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Old 07-05-20, 11:08 AM
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Rear wheel is probably slightly askew in the drop outs or possibly, the rear axle is bent or maybe even broken.
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Old 07-05-20, 11:45 AM
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Pulls to the right? Maybe you need to be more liberal with the grease...I agree on aligning that frame/tire in the rear.
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Old 07-05-20, 12:02 PM
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Originally Posted by rustymetal View Post
A few weeks ago I dug out an old Columbia balloon tire bike that belonged to my dad, the bike is from the late 40's or so. Its a typical cantilever frame bike with 26" x 2,125 tires.

I pumped up the original tires, lubed the chain and figured I'd see how it rode.
I hadn't ridden it since I was a kid back in the early 70's.
It was a bike my dad bought in high school.
The tires are still what I assume are the original Carlisle Lightning blackwalls it came with new.
The bike is 'well used' but was always fully functional. I hung it where it sat over 40 years ago up in the trusses of the garage.
When I tried to ride this bike the other day, it pulled HARD to the right at any speed. so much so it was nearly impossible to ride.
I looked the bike over and really haven't found anything wrong or 'changed' from back in the day.
I pulled the front wheel and forks, checked the forks in my Park fork alignment tool, both blades are straight and perfectly aligned, the headset is like new but needed some fresh grease.
I put that back together and tried it again. It made no difference at all. I flipped the front wheel around, that also made no change in the pull.
I put the bike back on the stand, pulled the rear wheel off and checked it for dish and true and it didn't need any adjustments.
The back wheel sits straight in the frame, with no noticably angle or tilt.
I used a frame gauge and checked the frame from the headtube back to the rear dropouts and its identical on both sides.
When fully assembled, both wheels are perfectly aligned with each other..
Nothing I've done has helped the pull. As far as I know the bike has never been wrecked or hit. Even the both fenders are still perfect on this bike.
I rode it the day I hung it in the rafters, dad had gotten too old to ride and it wasn't my kind of bike so it got hung up for storage. It hung from three big hooks off its wheels two hooks on the handle bars, and one around the rear of the top tube. The bike was then covered in a huge plastic bag with the air sucked out with a shop vac. In hopes that the tires wouldn't rot and to keep it from getting covered in dust. I hadn't intended for it to be up there that long but it sort of got forgotten.

The bike pulls almost the instant it begins to move. Its impossible to get up and speed since the faster you go the worse the pull.
I've been working on bikes for years, I never seen anything like this.
What's worse, I've got an old Monark ladies bike from the same era that's a total wreck, the rear tire sits crooked in the rear frame, centered between the chain stays but nearly touching the seat stays on the right side, and the front forks are bend back about a half inch yet it rides just fine. Its been my go to the store bike for 30 years, sort of a 'so ugly no one would ever touch it' type of ride. I keep it lubed and serviced and it keeps going.

I went through this Columbia now head to toe, I cleaned and regreased everything, checked every possible alignment on it and nothing made any difference.
I even tried tweaking the fork blades to the right a bit and it made zero change in how hard it pulls.
I even tried swapping the wheels from the Monark over to it and still no change, (The Columbia wheels also ride perfect on the Monark).
So far I can say for certain its not the wheels, its not the fork, and its not the headset, and that the frame measures out well within spec.
The old Monark is so bent up that each wheel leans to a different side, the left wheel almost touches the left seat stay and the right wheel sits off to the right in the forks due to a weld repair on the one fork tip, yet it rides fine and don't pull.

Any ideas?
How did you check the front and rear wheel dish?

=8-)

Also, spray some water on the ground. Force the bike to ride in a straight line - hold - ride through the water, continue for about 15-20 feet.

1 track = good
2 tracks = wheels not dished OR if dished not centered in dropouts properly.

=8-|
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Old 07-05-20, 12:26 PM
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The first think I thought of is the fork blades are splayed off to one side. Number two is the head and seat tubes don't share the same plane (as in main frame twist). If one were to view the bike from dead behind or in front and sight along the wheels' sides do the sides liik parallel or cocked relative to each other? Andy
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Old 07-05-20, 12:30 PM
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A wheel out of dish usually wont affect pull. while i understand everythung looks aligned, the problem with a pull is usually with the frame or fork. if the fork is straight as you say it is, then i would check for headtube twist, when compared to the bottom bracket. the only thing that really used to check that was the park frame alignment stand that they no longer make.. a frame can appear aligned and you could still have a twisted headtube causing an issue.
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Old 07-05-20, 01:16 PM
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If the OP had included a location and if it was close to me I would have offered help with frame alignment. Others here are skilled enough to do this stuff too. But as we don't know where the OP is... Andy
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Old 07-05-20, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by mrrabbit View Post
How did you check the front and rear wheel dish?

=8-)

Also, spray some water on the ground. Force the bike to ride in a straight line - hold - ride through the water, continue for about 15-20 feet.

1 track = good
2 tracks = wheels not dished OR if dished not centered in dropouts properly.

=8-|
The wheels were checked with a dishing tool.

I didn't use water to check it, but used some chalk dust. The bike tracks straight that way.

I also took two 7/8" aluminum bars, one in the fork tube, another down the seat post. I did this to give me a better line of sight on the frame, I cannot see any 'twist' between the headtube and the seat tube. If its off there it minuscule. In comparison, the old Monark is off by a half inch, the frame is twisted to the point where each tire wears on opposite sides yet it don't pull.

Walking the bike by hand doesn't give a noticeable pull.
I did have someone else ride the bike at and away from me and they said they didn't notice any pull, yet when I get on the bike the pull is severe.
There's a 300 lb or so difference between me and the other rider.
I also feel like I'm looking down the right side of the bike when I'm riding it, as if the bike is leaning to the left, but with another rider, I don't noticed this.

The pull is so severe I can't imagine the issue isn't obvious. It takes a ton of force to correct the pull, so much so I pulled the grip off the left side.
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Old 07-05-20, 02:07 PM
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Do you think the frame might be flexing? Possibly a bad joint in a lug you might not can readily see.
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Old 07-05-20, 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
The first think I thought of is the fork blades are splayed off to one side.
+1 this. That was my thought as well. Checking fork alignment can be tricky, as there are at least three aspects to alignment: offset must be the same on both blades, the midpoint of the hub axle must be coaxial with the centerline of the steer tube, and the dropouts must be equally spaced from the centerline of the steer tube.

If there's a shop nearby with a fork alignment tool, that might be the best approach.
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Old 07-05-20, 03:52 PM
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Originally Posted by rustymetal View Post
The wheels were checked with a dishing tool.

I didn't use water to check it, but used some chalk dust. The bike tracks straight that way.

I also took two 7/8" aluminum bars, one in the fork tube, another down the seat post. I did this to give me a better line of sight on the frame, I cannot see any 'twist' between the headtube and the seat tube. If its off there it minuscule. In comparison, the old Monark is off by a half inch, the frame is twisted to the point where each tire wears on opposite sides yet it don't pull.

Walking the bike by hand doesn't give a noticeable pull.
I did have someone else ride the bike at and away from me and they said they didn't notice any pull, yet when I get on the bike the pull is severe.
There's a 300 lb or so difference between me and the other rider.
I also feel like I'm looking down the right side of the bike when I'm riding it, as if the bike is leaning to the left, but with another rider, I don't noticed this.

The pull is so severe I can't imagine the issue isn't obvious. It takes a ton of force to correct the pull, so much so I pulled the grip off the left side.

Grab a very long piece of dental floss or string....

Wrap it around the front head tube high and tie at symmetrical locations at the rear dropouts.

Wrap it around the front head tube low and tie at symmetrical locations at the rear dropouts.

In both configurations, measure the distance from the string to the side of the seat tube on both sides.

You judgement of the data per string position AND contrasting the two string positions will reveal the frame condition.

Fork is a different method.

=8-|
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Old 07-05-20, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by rustymetal View Post
1.Walking the bike by hand doesn't give a noticeable pull.
2.I did have someone else ride the bike at and away from me and they said they didn't notice any pull, yet when I get on the bike the pull is severe.
3.There's a 300 lb or so difference between me and the other rider.
Those three sentences say a lot. The bike tracks fine when walked, other riders don't have the problem and a 300(!!) pound rider difference makes it apparent. Which way does that 300 pounds go, are you the heavy rider?
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Old 07-05-20, 04:51 PM
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There's no need for a string, I have a park frame gauge that can measure offset across the headtube and seat tube back to the rear dropouts on each side. The thing is dead on that way.
What is bothering me about this whole deal is that it didn't do this when it was put away years ago, I rode the bike the day I hung it in the rafters to make room to put the car in the garage here. It hung up there forgotten about till just recently.
If it didn't pull back then, I can't imagine what went wrong with it just hanging there all those years that would make it pull now. It wasn't in a place where someone could just grab it and ride it, it was buried up in the rafters, hoisted in place with a block and tackle and secured to the roof trusses along with two other bikes and some old fishing gear.

I can set the bike on a table here and eye up the headtube and seat tube and both are inline, I also put an extra long rod through the rear dropouts to also sight in that plane as well. If they were off even a fraction I'd see it with the 30" long rods. The distance off would be exaggerated by the length of the rods.

If the frame was bent all these years, wouldn't it have pulled back then too? Its so severe that there's no way anyone could have ever rode it like this. I'm a grown man in his 50's, 6ft 2in tall and 399 lbs and I can tell you its a real struggle to keep the bars pointed forward while riding it. It doesn't just 'favor' one side, it PULLS hard to the right and is downright difficult to make go left. Yet with a lighter rider, a 90lb woman, it seems to ride just fine?
This is a fillet brazed frame, with stamped rear lugs. Very similar to a Schwinn frame of that period.

The thing that I'm not getting here is why the Monark, which is obviously bent in all sorts of ways with the rear wheel canted to the left in the frame doesn't pull a bit.
That thing is so out of shape it wears the rear tire on one edge and the front on another yet it rides as if nothing is wrong. This is the only bike I've ever had that pulls to one side like this. I've got an old Schwinn Racer that I hit a tree with as a kid, its forks are bent back to the point where I had to remove the fender to steer it, and other than it looking bad, it rides straight as an arrow.
How far does something have to be off to make it pull?
I have the tools to bend this thing anyway it needs to be bent but I don't see where its out of shape in any way.
I have a Park FT-4 fork jig, FFS-2 frame straightener, an ***-2 gauge, and FFG-2 dropout alignment tools, plus an Eldi frame holder and an HTS-1 head tube straightener. Plus I've got various other custom bending tools that fit into the BB shell, seat tube, and head tube to measure and bend if needed via hydraulic force.
Normally if a bike pulls right, tweaking the forks to the right a bit solves it. I tried that and it does nothing, has zero effect on the pull. At a minimal speed, just barely enough to stay upright, the steering wants to go full right. Its constantly trying to turn the front whheel 90 degrees to the right. Let up even slightly and it yanks the bars full right. Get off the bike and run or walk with it and it don't pull.

This after noon, on top of trying the Monark's wheels, I swapped in another fork, this one from an old Rollfast but it it fit. Again, no change. I've substituted all bolt on parts so the issue has to be in the frame, but I just don't see where. With weight on the bike, I see no movement anywhere. If something was moving it should be pretty obvious, the distance between the tire and stays would change. When I'm riding the bike with both fenders now off, I can see the wear area on both tires is only on the left 1/4" of the tread, as if the bike is leaning to the left hard. This doesn't change with the road crown, it does it no matter which side of the road I'm on. When I try and turn left, it leaves black scuff marks on the white concrete driveway.

I also tried using a straight edge across both tires, with the bars held straight, the sidewalls of both tires contact the straight edge, so both wheels are pointed straight ahead. (That's not the case with the Monark, its rear tire appears pointed to the left a bit).
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Old 07-05-20, 06:12 PM
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Try new tires.

Maybe pull the front wheel off and mount it so it rotates the other way. See if it pulls the the left than

A bent frame/fork will make the bike crab but not pull.
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Old 07-05-20, 08:49 PM
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You still haven't explained that 300 pound rider difference and why other riders don't have the pulling problem.
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Old 07-05-20, 09:16 PM
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The aspect we are left with is the rider. Or I am wrong... The problem with this medium is that we have to either trust the OP or not. Does the OP really know how to check this stuff? Did they somehow change in their riding? This is why I posted the reference to location, to get another experienced view of the bike. So many of these types of threads are black holes. No verified data and a singular focus that has an agenda. Of course that agenda is not wrong, just distracting. Andy
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Old 07-08-20, 07:01 AM
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Weight will affect the effects of caster in the front forks. A ligher rider may not be imparting enough added weight for the forks to overcome the resistance of the tire on the road and the force applied to the bars.
If the frame is flexing enough under the OP's weight then the pull is only a symptom of something far worse that will sooner than later become obvious.
A 1950's Columbia doesn't have lugs, its either electro welded or fillet brazed.
It takes a lot to bend one of those old cantilever frames, it takes even more to bend it back. I just got done straightening the frame on a Goodyear Hi-Way Patrol also made by Columbia that a buddy found at a yardsale cheap. The rear triangle was bend or mis-welded somehow, the right rear dropout was an inch higher than the left one.
The rear wheel was even in the chain stays, but nearly touching the right seat stay. They had just twisted the rear dropouts to align them. The bike didn't pull though, it rode with a lean and pedaled hard because of some tire scrub I suppose.

What it took to straighten that one was to secure the bottom bracket shell to a stand, and also the head tube, then I used hydraulics to slowly pull the left dropout downward where it needed to be.
My guess was some kid thought he was Evil Knievel and jumped something and gave that bike a couple of really hard landings a few too many times.
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Old 07-08-20, 08:10 AM
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Originally Posted by curbtender View Post
Pulls to the right? Maybe you need to be more liberal with the grease...
I see what you did there.

Dan
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Old 07-08-20, 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by rustymetal View Post
There's a 300 lb or so difference between me and the other rider.
Not to be indelicate (I'm a big guy myself) but what you're saying is that when the bike has a ~400lb rider, it pulls right, but with a ~100lb rider, it doesn't? I'm guessing that the bike was not designed for such a rider. The weight may be distorting the frame.

Originally Posted by rustymetal View Post
There's no need for a string, I have a park frame gauge that can measure offset across the headtube and seat tube back to the rear dropouts on each side. The thing is dead on that way.
Again, this is in the spirit of helping with the problem: Is the alignment preserved when you get on the bike? Your chalk test kind of indicates that the alignment is preserved. Going back to what others have said: How is the fork alignment? Is the fork alignment preserved when you are on the bike?

Originally Posted by rustymetal View Post
This is a fillet brazed frame, with stamped rear lugs. Very similar to a Schwinn frame of that period.
I'm quibbling here (but I'm an engineer, so that's my hobby), but I suspect not fillet brazed. First, most Schwinn bikes were welded in the 1940s (see ad here). Looking at pics of 1940s Columbias, it looks like they used welded frames, too. Fillet brazing is a very expensive method of joining frames, as it's slow and requires great skill. Schwinn did do a lot of of it, but only for the higher end bikes (later in the "Xtra Lite" (spelling?) class of bikes like my Superior, or the Schwinn Paramount tandems. The later low-end Schwinns (like the Varsity I had) were make of steel strip that was rolled and welded into tubes or stamped into headset halves and welded. The stampings for the headset and bottom bracket had tapers stamped in to mimic fillets. I don't think that Columbia ever used headset stampings. (Could be wrong, if so, post a pic!)

Originally Posted by rustymetal View Post
have a Park FT-4 fork jig, FFS-2 frame straightener, an ***-2 gauge, and FFG-2 dropout alignment tools, plus an Eldi frame holder and an HTS-1 head tube straightener. Plus I've got various other custom bending tools that fit into the BB shell, seat tube, and head tube to measure and bend if needed via hydraulic force.
Holy cow, that's some great kit!
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Old 07-08-20, 09:05 AM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by curbtender View Post
Pulls to the right? Maybe you need to be more liberal with the grease...I agree on aligning that frame/tire in the rear.
Originally Posted by _ForceD_ View Post
I see what you did there. Dan
I liked that, too. Well done!
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Old 07-08-20, 10:06 AM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by WizardOfBoz View Post
I liked that, too. Well done!
Anyone else remember Tom and Ray (aka Click-and-Clack) on PBS's "Car Talk" with their humorous staff names at the end of the show? One was their Conservative Commentator Eileen Tudor Wright.
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Old 07-08-20, 12:39 PM
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Is it possible that there is a detent in the headset that makes it tough, impossible, to keep the bike from riding straight.

John
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Old 07-08-20, 07:25 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
Anyone else remember Tom and Ray (aka Click-and-Clack) on PBS's "Car Talk" with their humorous staff names at the end of the show? One was their Conservative Commentator Eileen Tudor Wright.
Statistical analysis by "Marge Inovera". Chauffeur: "Peekup Andropoff"... there were lots, and they were all funny.
FWIW, I won the "Puzzler" back in the early '90s and got an autographed copy of their book "Car Talk". The congratulatory letter that came with it had greasy fingerprints on the letterhead (printed, of course!).


Book Cover



Half title page



Letter of congratulations. "Custom" stationery!

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Old 07-08-20, 09:00 PM
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Maybe the spokes are loose. Likely you are way too big. Maybe not sitting centered either.
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Old 07-08-20, 10:23 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by 70sSanO View Post
Is it possible that there is a detent in the headset that makes it tough, impossible, to keep the bike from riding straight.

John
Was thinking that too, maybe headset isn't parallel.
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