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Non-matching rear dropouts

Old 05-19-12, 01:32 PM
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Non-matching rear dropouts



I just recently bought an older bike that I was planning to convert to fixed-gear. It is a late '80s Nishiki Sport. When I bought it, I checked out the dropouts just to make sure that they were horizontal. I saw the horizontal dropout on the non-drive side and figured I was all set so I bought the bike. As soon as I started stripping it down I saw a problem. The drive side dropout is different - it is horizontal but very short, as you can see in the image. I haven't been able to find any information on this design, so I am reaching out to you guys. Has anyone seen this before or know why the dropouts are designed that way?

The frame is labeled as having chromoly "main tubes" and the dropouts definitely seem to be some type of steel. The metal in the middle of the dropout is only a few millimeters thinner than the rest of the dropout (it is indented from the surfaces that interface with the axle and lock nuts by about 1mm inside and out). I don't really have any metalworking experience aside from small dremel projects. Do you think it would be relatively easy to grind out the metal in the dropout so that I can tension my chain? Any suggestions of how, and what equipment might work to do this right?

I posted more photos of the bike in the vintage bikes forum as well if you are interested: https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...=#post14234098
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Old 05-19-12, 01:47 PM
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nYes it is a easy job ,even with a dremel tool it can be done . just cut out the mental in the dropout and file when done . it was put in to make it easier to line up (center ) the wheel when placing into the frame.
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Old 05-19-12, 01:58 PM
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I wonder if that "indented" tab inside the drive-side dropout isn't just a friction fit or glued in spacer and might be removable just by tapping it with a punch and light hammer or wiggling it with a pair of pliers. I'd try that first. Don't beat on it but see if it pops out with little effort.
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Old 05-19-12, 01:58 PM
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I had to grind out the dropouts for my SS build using a giant frame of similar vintage. I did it with an angle grinder and a steady hand. then I rounded out the inside end with a round file. Really wasn't hard- just loud and dramatic with all the sparks. If you think about it, only the top side of the dropout really needs to be precise, if you use an angle grinder like i did, be sure to leave some of the indented material in place and finish it with a file by hand.

I have maybe 500 miles on this frame since the conversion and haven't had to think about it once. For my own sanity, I did pick up a pair of axle nuts with captive washers.

You can kind of see the before and after in these pics-

Before-

(click for big)

after-

(click for big)

The eventual result of the build and frame mods
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Old 05-19-12, 03:40 PM
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I would use a file rather than an angle grinder. One slip and your dropout is ruined.
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Old 05-19-12, 06:05 PM
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You might not need to do anything. Most bikes have a bolt going through the drive side drop out that takes up space anyway. It holds a mount for the rear derailleur.

Just mount a wheel on the bike. Put it as far back as it will go on the short side, then use the long side to line the wheel up with the rest of the bike. If the chain fits well, you have everything you need.
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Old 05-19-12, 06:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Closed Office
You might not need to do anything. Most bikes have a bolt going through the drive side drop out that takes up space anyway. It holds a mount for the rear derailleur.

Just mount a wheel on the bike. Put it as far back as it will go on the short side, then use the long side to line the wheel up with the rest of the bike. If the chain fits well, you have everything you need.
+1. Try out the drivetrain first before cutting or grinding. I have a Mississippi Schwinn LeTour that has a right dropout like that. I converted it to single-speed, and everything works fine without any modification to the dropouts.
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Old 05-19-12, 09:37 PM
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I've heard that indexed shifting made it more critical that the derailleur was in a particular spot in the dropouts. By leaving the other dropout long, you could still align the wheel.
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Old 05-20-12, 05:44 AM
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Wait, the OP is going to keep this bike geared?

Yeah, leave it alone. Of course it works- it left the factory working, it's not like someone stripped the frame, brazed on new dropouts just to mess with future owners of the bike and then had it repainted with an identical paintjob to OEM.

If he's going single speed without any way to tension the chain though, he'll want the travel a horizontal dropout affords.
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Old 05-20-12, 07:42 AM
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Although it's tempting to start with power tools, I'd advise using a hacksaw to define the upper and lower surfaces of the DO. Hacksaws will cut a relatively straight line, which can be then refined by light touches with a file (or even a dremel tool). I have found that you can screw something up with hand tools as well as power tools, but the damage is quicker and more severe with power tools.

Good Luck

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Old 05-20-12, 08:04 AM
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Originally Posted by gmt13
Although it's tempting to start with power tools, I'd advise using a hacksaw to define the upper and lower surfaces of the DO. Hacksaws will cut a relatively straight line, which can be then refined by light touches with a file (or even a dremel tool). I have found that you can screw something up with hand tools as well as power tools, but the damage is quicker and more severe with power tools.

Good Luck

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+1. If you do saw or grind out that tab, be very careful to follow the top line of the dropout. If you make it higher or lower than the other one, or the wheel will be canted in the frame.
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Old 05-20-12, 08:43 AM
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I think it's important to stress how accurate you need to be with that upper edge, and to some extent the end of the slot... I'd use a lot of trial-and error towards the end, using a wheel I'd ensured had perfect dish.

Originally Posted by bikeman715
it was put in to make it easier to line up (center ) the wheel when placing into the frame.
Um, no? The extra metal is like having one of those fugly claws, which IMO makes it harder to line up the wheel, since you have no starting point.

Originally Posted by ThermionicScott
I've heard that indexed shifting made it more critical that the derailleur was in a particular spot in the dropouts. By leaving the other dropout long, you could still align the wheel.
That's the only thing I can think of that makes any sense, but it seems like a pretty silly reason; the B-screw adjusts that distance, and the angle (from the side) the chain hits the sprockets is immaterial. As for the long dropout, what a joke! If you need it, you're better off checking your dish... I imagine these are from a time before anyone had seen vertical dropouts.

Actually, come to think of it, a frame like this makes it just about impossible to fix a wheel's dish by flipping it.

Last edited by Kimmo; 05-20-12 at 08:49 AM.
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Old 05-20-12, 11:46 PM
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Thank you guys for the information and advise! I'm glad to know more about this and I'm happy to have some ideas on how to proceed.

Originally Posted by HillRider
I wonder if that "indented" tab inside the drive-side dropout isn't just a friction fit or glued in spacer and might be removable just by tapping it with a punch and light hammer or wiggling it with a pair of pliers. I'd try that first. Don't beat on it but see if it pops out with little effort.
Oh man, you got me excited with this one, but I removed the paint from that area and it appears to be a part of the dropout

Originally Posted by Closed Office
Just mount a wheel on the bike. Put it as far back as it will go on the short side, then use the long side to line the wheel up with the rest of the bike. If the chain fits well, you have everything you need.
Thanks, you make a good point - why try to solve a problem if it might not even be a problem... I was considering doing this, but I would like to run a flip-flop hub with two different sized cogs, so I decided that I did really want to try to get the dropout opened up a bit more.

Originally Posted by IthaDan
Wait, the OP is going to keep this bike geared?
Nope, I want to try fixed But I was also looking for some idea of why the original dropout was manufactured this way.

Originally Posted by gmt13
Although it's tempting to start with power tools, I'd advise using a hacksaw to define the upper and lower surfaces of the DO.
This seems sound to me. I'll try cutting a rough shape with the hacksaw, erring on the side of leaving extra material so that I can refine it incrementally with a file.

Thanks again everyone, I'm excited to get back into this project!
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Old 05-21-12, 05:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Kimmo
I think it's important to stress how accurate you need to be with that upper edge, and to some extent the end of the slot... I'd use a lot of trial-and error towards the end, using a wheel I'd ensured had perfect dish.


Um, no? The extra metal is like having one of those fugly claws, which IMO makes it harder to line up the wheel, since you have no starting point.


That's the only thing I can think of that makes any sense, but it seems like a pretty silly reason; the B-screw adjusts that distance, and the angle (from the side) the chain hits the sprockets is immaterial. As for the long dropout, what a joke! If you need it, you're better off checking your dish... I imagine these are from a time before anyone had seen vertical dropouts.

Actually, come to think of it, a frame like this makes it just about impossible to fix a wheel's dish by flipping it.
From what I understand, horizontal drops allowed for a frame built to lower tolerances because the wheel could be adjusted independently of the frame. Vertical dropouts are a sign of a quality frame that is pretty much guaranteed to be straight. Once the buying public caught wise of this distinction, every frame maker pretty much had to move to vertical dropouts.
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Old 05-21-12, 08:21 AM
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Yep, just grind or file it out. Be very careful!

Originally Posted by IthaDan
From what I understand, horizontal drops allowed for a frame built to lower tolerances because the wheel could be adjusted independently of the frame. Vertical dropouts are a sign of a quality frame that is pretty much guaranteed to be straight. Once the buying public caught wise of this distinction, every frame maker pretty much had to move to vertical dropouts.
I thought it was the "lawyer lips" of the rear wheel. Don't tighten the skewer enough with horizontal DOs and the wheel will slip out. Vertical DOs make it a little more idiot proof. Although vertical DOs do make it a little easier to install a wheel on a geared bike, I wish all my bikes had horizontal DOs because I like to do FG/SS conversions...
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Old 05-21-12, 10:49 AM
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When I converted my '88 Diamondback to FG, I filed the dropouts a little -- the slots measured only about 0.8" long, and I wanted more adjustability. What I did was to buy a round file that was just a little bit smaller than the axle, and set the frame on the ground so that the slots were up-and-down. That let me file *with gravity*, which helped. I used a little bit of 3-in-1 oil to keep the file moving smoothly, and checked my work frequently with a hub.

Good luck!

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Old 05-21-12, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by brysons
This seems sound to me. I'll try cutting a rough shape with the hacksaw, erring on the side of leaving extra material so that I can refine it incrementally with a file.
Here's how I've done this:

1. mark centre of rear-end of dropout where cutout should be

2. draw 10mm circle around this spot

3. draw two straight lines going forward to connect with existing drop-out slot

4. verify drawing matches slot on left drop-out

5. drill a small 2-3mm pilot hole at spot marked in #1, make sure it's on centre

6. drill larger 10mm hole over that pilot hole

7. connect front dropout slot to rear hole with hacksaw.

8. finish off with file & paint.

Last edited by DannoXYZ; 05-21-12 at 01:13 PM.
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Old 05-21-12, 01:29 PM
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is it possible these came with an adjuster on the NDS?
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Old 05-21-12, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen
is it possible these came with an adjuster on the NDS?
Mine didn't, it's solid.
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Old 05-21-12, 02:43 PM
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If you want to use DannoXYZ's technique but do not have a metric drill bit set you can use a 25/64" drill bit (0.3906") as a very close approximation to the correct 10 mm (0.3937") bit.
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Old 05-21-12, 03:35 PM
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Thanks for the extra details guys, I had been wondering how I was going to actually cut the metal out once I made the upper and lower cuts. Your solution of starting by drilling out the ends sounds perfect. I'm going to try and get this done after work one day this week and will update with how it goes.
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Old 05-21-12, 07:23 PM
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Originally Posted by IthaDan
From what I understand, horizontal drops allowed for a frame built to lower tolerances because the wheel could be adjusted independently of the frame. Vertical dropouts are a sign of a quality frame that is pretty much guaranteed to be straight. Once the buying public caught wise of this distinction, every frame maker pretty much had to move to vertical dropouts.
That's the theory, anyway. Having recently begun to work in a bike shop after a 25 year hiatus, I was disappointed to find that alignment errors of several millimeters are common even on modern production frames with vertical dropouts.
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Old 05-21-12, 10:59 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen
is it possible these came with an adjuster on the NDS?
Highly doubtful. These type dropouts appeared on relatively inexpensive frames. In that era, dropout adjusters were only used on top-of-the-line equipment.
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Old 05-22-12, 01:49 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnDThompson
That's the theory, anyway. Having recently begun to work in a bike shop after a 25 year hiatus, I was disappointed to find that alignment errors of several millimeters are common even on modern production frames with vertical dropouts.
One thing to check in this scenario is the dish of the rear wheel. I just recently bought a bike in a country where I don't speak the language. Lot of charades and phrasebook translation to get the guy to order me what I wanted. I paid in advance and when I got it the rear wheel was out of alignment. Tried to get him to exchange it but had no luck with the language barrier. Week or so later I remembered to check the dish by flipping the wheel in the dropouts and found that the frame is straight, I just had to re dish the wheel. Relief to find that what I thought was an unfixable difference in chainstay length actually just needed 20 minutes with a spoke wrench.

(not to imply that you wouldn't check this, it's just something that's easy to forget about)
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Old 05-28-12, 06:16 PM
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Hey guys, I just wanted to say thanks one more time and finish this thread with the results. I took the drill, hacksaw and file method and I think it went pretty well. I didn't pay enough attention to the edge of the flat file and it crept a little far leading to the squared off end, but the wheel seems to fit right and I think that once I get some touch-up paint on there it'll even look pretty good again, so I'm happy.



Now I just have to wait for the rest of my special order parts to come in and get this bike back out on the road!
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