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Drop out spacing on an older bike

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Drop out spacing on an older bike

Old 06-01-12, 01:06 PM
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Drop out spacing on an older bike

I recently acquired a 1986 Azuki Imperial. It seems to have mostly original components, including the Suntour 5 speed freewheel (Pro-Compe 14-28). I am looking to replace the freewheel with something that has a bit more range, perhaps topping out at 30 or 32 teeth to help with the hills. I have seen some 6 speed freewheels that look promising, and want to ensure that I can fit them in them.

I just measured the space between the drop outs, and it seems to be about 123.5 mm. I was expecting 120mm.

Could this just be due to age and "play"? Anything to worry about? If I was to try and fit in a 6 speed freewheel, would I need to spread the frame, or just gently "urge" it in.

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Old 06-01-12, 01:21 PM
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For 1986, I would expect 126mm dropouts. I'm surprised it only has a 5 speed freewheel. (Maybe the original was 6, and it got replaced ?) You could measure the axle length locknut to locknut. That will give a more clear answer.
You have a variety of options. You can buy a 6 speed freewheel. Your axle may be a bit short for a 6 speed. If so you can work around it a bit by adding a washer to the drive side of the axle under the locknut, and possible have to re-space a bit to get enough axle extension on that side.

If your axle is 120mm, You can look for a Suntour Ultra-6, that will fit in the space of a 5 speed.

Or, buy a 130mm wheel with 8, 9 or 10 cogs on the cassette and force the dropouts open to fit the wheel in. Optionally you can do it the "right" way and have the frame "cold set" to 130mm permanently.
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Old 06-01-12, 01:23 PM
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There were frames made back then to a sort of transitional standard for spacing between the older 120mm and the more 80's standard 126mm. I think the spacing is close enough that you can squeeze in a 6 speed 126mm spaced hub/freehwheel with not too much effort. It's also close enough that you might not even have to consider cold setting the rear triangle to 126mm, and if you feel that it's just to much effort to squeeze in the rear wheel between the slightly narrower spacing, cold setting by a competent bike shop, or even yourself, if you feel up to it, will not be too hard. Just make sure you read up on posts in the forum about how you do it, so things don't get messed up for you.
It is a bit unusual that this one is still narrower than 126mm at the back as by the mid 80's, that was the norm and was actually starting to move over to 130mm to accomodate the newest 8 speed systems that were just coming out......But weirder thing have happened to bikes.

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Old 06-01-12, 11:02 PM
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The standard for 5-speed freewheel hubs was 120mm, but I can imagine that some of these inexpensive Asian bikes played fast and loose.
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