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Vertical dropouts, one further back than the other. Would you file?

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Vertical dropouts, one further back than the other. Would you file?

Old 11-11-21, 02:35 PM
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polymorphself 
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Vertical dropouts, one further back than the other. Would you file?

1986 Voyageur. Got some new (cheap) wheels and threw some 35s on and it quickly became apparent to me that something was off.

1. The rear derailleur hangar was bent slightly inwards. Not sure how I never noticed before, or if a shop Iíve brought it into at some point may have done this recently. I donít believe it came to me like this and it hasnít been crashed or otherwise inappropriately stressed.

2. The rear wheel is sitting to the left. I donít know if Iíd call it aggressively, but it is apparent at a glance. Being vertical dropouts, there is no way to adjust this with a screw.

The wheels are theoretically newly built from Velomine. I brought it into a local frame builder for the rear derailleur hangar which he quickly straightened.

As to the wheel alignment, he said that it is actually dished slightly the other way, to the right, so he left it so.

Checking the rest of the alignment, but without going as far as to remove the crankset and measure both stays, his eyeball and experience (frame builder of over 35 years) told him that one dropout his slightly further back than the other, that these things happened from time to time when frames left a shop, and that the way to fix it would be some filing. But he said that itís slight enough that I would never notice it in riding and that it wonít pose an issue, even when carrying a load etc.

It does make fender clearance with 35s a lot tighter, but I donít mind going back down to 32s until I decide what I want to do.

Anyways, as with most things I wanted to see what the BF thoughts, opinions and anecdotes with such things are.

I tried to get some photos but itís difficult to show. First photo is the best example.








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Old 11-11-21, 02:41 PM
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I can't really see a difference in the clearances between tire and chainstay, even if there is a perceptible difference in the fender clearance. Considering you have an expert opinion from someone you trust, I would leave it as is and see if it keeps coming up in your thoughts or if you simply forget about it.
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Old 11-11-21, 02:43 PM
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@polymorphself

Maybe file both to square it up, one side front edge, other side back edge so you don't take off any more material than necessary.

I would also use a round file or burr, stone on a die grinder and only grind at the top where the axle sits.

I think you need some H tools.
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Old 11-11-21, 02:50 PM
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That's a lot more chainstay clearance than I've ever had on my 650B conversion. Just don't break any spokes and you'll be fine!
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Old 11-11-21, 02:54 PM
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Just angle the dropouts ever so slightly in the direction you need the wheel to move.
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Old 11-11-21, 02:55 PM
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Originally Posted by noobinsf View Post
I can't really see a difference in the clearances between tire and chainstay, even if there is a perceptible difference in the fender clearance. Considering you have an expert opinion from someone you trust, I would leave it as is and see if it keeps coming up in your thoughts or if you simply forget about it.
You're right, itís embarrassingly difficult to figure out how to show this well in photos but I swear itís more perceptible in person

I do trust him and im not too worried about it, but itís a small nagging thing nonetheless. I will try and get better photos later today for the sake of it.

But also, it will be even more perceptible if the rear wheel is dished correctly, which I will have at some point. So thatís a consideration. He left this one dished slightly to the right to mitigate this issue a bit.

Last edited by polymorphself; 11-11-21 at 03:04 PM.
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Old 11-11-21, 03:09 PM
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The difference in clearance gaps look pretty small from my seat as well. If you don't want to re-dish further to the right (understandable, though would have been my first instinct), what about adjusting the hub cones 1-1.5mm over to center the wheel better?
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Old 11-11-21, 03:16 PM
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Dish the wheel how it should be. Then either file the dropout so it matches or always set the QR slightly ahead on one dropout.
I would file- it isnt hard and it isnt an exact job since the bike has already lasted 35ish years with dropouts not being perfect. Just use a round file with the general shape of the back of the dropout and file evenly.
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Old 11-11-21, 03:38 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
That's a lot more chainstay clearance than I've ever had on my 650B conversion. Just don't break any spokes and you'll be fine!
Haha fair! I guess I was more concerned about what any effects of the wheel not spinning straight would have on the ride more so than the clearance.
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Old 11-12-21, 03:11 AM
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Easy Way To Check Alignment

Originally Posted by polymorphself View Post
Haha fair! I guess I was more concerned about what any effects of the wheel not spinning straight would have on the ride more so than the clearance.
If it were really off, the bike might tend to pull to one side.

Before touching anything with a file or whatever, if your'ra really concerned you could check the rear triangle/dropout alignment. Also the dish of the wheel.

I have all the tools to do the job but you can check the dropout alignment perpendicular to the frame with a string and a ruler and the dropout alignment with some nuts, bolts and washers or an old axle.

Two minute video on checking the alignment with a string:


Checking the dropouts from the top and the rear. Both sides of the axle should be aligned.



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Old 11-12-21, 06:15 AM
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As a frame builder, I would want to check the alignment accuracy of the front triangle as a reference to whether the rear triangle is off any before doing any alterations on the dropouts. If the rear dropouts are not equal distant exactly from the plane of the frame, then that is a possible reason the wheel is not centered. That is a different variable than the chain stays being an unequal length. verktyg's system only works if the front triangle is in alignment. If either the front or rear is out just a couple of mms, that will throw off the wheel centering process. I would never try to file the dropouts without checking with the proper tools first. As a pro those would include at a minimum, an alignment table, a straight edge with an adjustable screw and a true wheel dished very accurately. And then the dropouts need to be adjusted with dropout alignment tools (frame builders call them "H" tools because they were lettered H in old Campy catalogs). And then the dropout hanger needs to be aligned with a dropout alignment tool. Just so you know, a difference of 1 mm in chain stay length can move the rim almost 3 mms towards a chain stay. The chances that an amateur mess up filing is also very high.

The slot in vertical dropouts can be filed longer to center the wheel up by the seat stays, but that doesn't solve the problem of the wheel centering at the chain stays. If I was a betting man I would bet that there is a 99% chance someone inexperienced would make it worse than better. And their efforts would permanently damage the frame. Your best hope is that the problem lies with frame alignment and not that the chain stays are different lengths.
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Old 11-12-21, 06:23 AM
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I'd only do one of two things:

Leave it alone and do nothing, OR take it to a frame builder and have it corrected. There are only a few ways to get it right and a bunch of ways to get it wrong.
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Old 11-12-21, 06:31 AM
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@Doug Fattic makes good points above. It would take experience, good tools, and proper equipment to check alignment and make appropriate adjustments. This begs the question: "is it worth it?" Although the tire clearance at the chainstays is unequal, it appears to be adequate on both sides. Does the bike track straight (not fighting you to hold a line)? If so, leave it alone. Only a nit-picker will notice the unequal tire clearance.
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Old 11-12-21, 07:13 AM
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I have seen much worse on production frames. Leave it alone and ride, ride, ride! As one pointed out previously, 35 years and no issues so far. Doubtful you will have any issues in the future. I beg you to never look into the frame tubes from the BB shell. If this bothers you, holy smokes you will lose your mind with the flaws in there!
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Old 11-12-21, 11:49 AM
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here's the pic that will tell you everything ! Use the "H" alignment tools to make sure the dropouts are aligned. And make sure the wheel is accurately dished.

/markp

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Old 11-12-21, 12:03 PM
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Frame Alignment

Originally Posted by Doug Fattic View Post
As a frame builder, I would want to check the alignment accuracy of the front triangle as a reference to whether the rear triangle is off any before doing any alterations on the dropouts. If the rear dropouts are not equal distant exactly from the plane of the frame, then that is a possible reason the wheel is not centered. That is a different variable than the chain stays being an unequal length. verktyg's system only works if the front triangle is in alignment. If either the front or rear is out just a couple of mms, that will throw off the wheel centering process. I would never try to file the dropouts without checking with the proper tools first. As a pro those would include at a minimum, an alignment table, a straight edge with an adjustable screw and a true wheel dished very accurately. And then the dropouts need to be adjusted with dropout alignment tools (frame builders call them "H" tools because they were lettered H in old Campy catalogs). And then the dropout hanger needs to be aligned with a dropout alignment tool. Just so you know, a difference of 1 mm in chain stay length can move the rim almost 3 mms towards a chain stay. The chances that an amateur mess up filing is also very high.

The slot in vertical dropouts can be filed longer to center the wheel up by the seat stays, but that doesn't solve the problem of the wheel centering at the chain stays. If I was a betting man I would bet that there is a 99% chance someone inexperienced would make it worse than better. And their efforts would permanently damage the frame. Your best hope is that the problem lies with frame alignment and not that the chain stays are different lengths.
Originally Posted by nomadmax View Post
I'd only do one of two things:

Leave it alone and do nothing, OR take it to a frame builder and have it corrected. There are only a few ways to get it right and a bunch of ways to get it wrong.
Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
@Doug Fattic makes good points above. It would take experience, good tools, and proper equipment to check alignment and make appropriate adjustments. This begs the question: "is it worth it?" Although the tire clearance at the chainstays is unequal, it appears to be adequate on both sides. Does the bike track straight (not fighting you to hold a line)? If so, leave it alone. Only a nit-picker will notice the unequal tire clearance.
It was late and I was being lazy....

I check the alignment on all of my bikes and frames. I've been aligning and realigning frames for almost 40 years. I have everything but an alignment/layout table and fork jigs for forks that are seriously misaligned.

If it's more serious than I can do at home. I take the frame to a friends shop and either do the realignment myself or pay him to do it. A properly aligned frame is a joy to ride!

Back in the late 70's when Bikecology was flooding the market with mail order bikes and frames out of Santa Barbara, CA, someone brought in a beautiful new all Campy Bob Jackson that he'd just gotten from them. I still remember the finish on that frame. It was and still is one of the best looking I'd seen. Black with dark ivory panels, the lug lining, decals and clear coat were perfect.

The guy said that it "pulled". It was a busy Saturday but out of politeness (and curiosity) I took it for a test ride. 50 feet out the door and I wheeled it back in... The bike wanted to go in circles!

When I put it up on the stand, I immediately saw the problem: one chain stay was about 3/4" shorter than the other... How could a frame that bad get out of Bob Jackson's shop much less be assembled by some nimrod at Bikecology?

"But Wait!', i.t gets better, the fool got mad at us and wanted our shop to fix the problem for free. I suggested several times that he contact Bikecology and return the bike to them. After that I impolitely showed him which way the door opened!

Some builders had problems with vertical dropouts especially those in the UK who prided themselves on being able to "eyeball" tube lengths when they built frames! They cold set all of their errors or filed the dropouts to work!

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Old 11-12-21, 01:20 PM
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If it were me, I'd get the wheel you intend to use as a reference perfectly dished and true, put it on and check the distance to the chainstays. If it's as close as your photos I"d just leave it If the wheel is indeed slightly dished to the right, you should see the tire sitting a touch worse after correcting the dish. If so, I'd open the QR and see if I could rock the rim at the chainstays slightly to center the tire. If I could, I'd just close the QR with the tire held there. Done and ready to ride.

I've done this only about a thousand times. My regular rider is a fix gear with a double sided hub. I flip it on a regular basis. Every time I have to place the hub and tighten the nuts so 1) the chain tension is right and 2) the wheel is centered. I do it by holding the tire with my left hand at the chainstay, wrench on first the right nut, then the left. (I have to pull the wheel back against the chain. You don't. Just pushing the tire away from the chainstay as you tighten the QR might "fix" the centering issue completely. No need to file anything. Just a slight change in your wheel replacement routine. (I'm guessing there is a touch of play fore and aft in the vertical dropouts, I've never seen ones with a tight fit.}

Oh, that fix gear is a very high quality ride. Custom TiCycles. Probably as close as any to being aligned. I've missed many times centering the tire. (I flip the wheel at the top of hard climbs - never done in a gear lower than 42-24 because 42 is the smallest track standard chainring made and I've never seen larger than a 24. So those flips happen when I am not "all there". Plus chain slack is far more important than wheel centering. And guess what? The bike rides just fine with the tire out 1/2 a cm.

Edit: that bike is a quick steering bike. Rides no hands perfectly but very sensitive to wind. I've never noticed a right or left pull riding no-hands with a poor tire centering job in 20,000 miles and I ride that bike no-hands a lot because it is such a joy.

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Old 11-12-21, 01:24 PM
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That doesn't look too bad to me. If it rides no hands without you having to constantly fight it I'd not let it worry me. Like others have said, it's probably easier to make it worse than it is to make it better. And whenever you pay someone else to fix something, anything, there's always a chance they'll screw something up. Of course, if you're lucky enough to have a trusted frame guy nearby, and you want to spend the money to make sure it's perfect, go for it.

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Old 11-12-21, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by mpetry912 View Post
here's the pic that will tell you everything ! Use the "H" alignment tools to make sure the dropouts are aligned. And make sure the wheel is accurately dished.

/markp

No, That tool, as valuable as it is, doesn't tell you everything and doesn't even address the OP's issue. (Unless you adjust it to exactly equal lengths, right and left, then use it to clamp in a disk. Then you can sight down the disk. Does it line up with the seattube? The head tube? Do you do that? For that the properly dished wheel is easier.)

I love those H-tools (though it took until this thread to learn that name) they are of little help in locating the dropouts relative to the frame. Hubs (axles and bearings) love 'em.
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Old 11-12-21, 03:38 PM
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With horizontal dropouts, not too hard to fool H tools but they can guide.
With vertical dropouts, a bit harder. as if they are out of position enough, they H tools can get the faces parallel but not concentric.
If it was mine, I would remove the parts and let a framebuilder check all aspects including headtube.
Bikes are very forgiving to misalignment and still function.
Knowing it was off would bug me, and I would want the bike to pass the slight downgrade hands off, no wobble test.
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Old 11-12-21, 04:39 PM
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Lots of advice here! I think ultimately I will ride as is until I can get either the same guy or another builder to strip it and go over the whole frame, but I need to read over the above suggestions more thoroughly.

In the meantime, this is about the best photo I can manage to get showing the difference, will add to the OP as well.


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Old 11-12-21, 04:56 PM
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[QUOTE=79pmooney;22305173]No, That tool, as valuable as it is, doesn't tell you everything and doesn't even address the OP's issue. (Unless you adjust it to exactly equal lengths, right and left, then use it to clamp in a disk. Then you can sight down the disk. Does it line up with the seattube? The head tube? Do you do that? For that the properly dished wheel is easier.)

your thought about clamping a disc between symmetrically adjusted H tools is an interesting one !

To determine if the dropouts are symmetrical with respect to the centerline of the frame, take a long piece of string and loop it from one dropout, up around the head tube, and back to the other dropout. The measure the gap where the string passes the seat tube. Wish I had a pic to show you.

As for the original question about if the dropouts are symmetrical or needs to be filed - what you can do is borrow a rear wheel that is perfectly dished (remove the tire) and matches the OLD dimension of the rear dropouts (should be 125-130 mm) and then carefully measure the gap between the rim and seatstays behind the bottom bracket when the wheel is properly installed. Confirm the alignment with respect to the rear brake hole also.

/markp
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Old 11-12-21, 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by polymorphself View Post
Lots of advice here! I think ultimately I will ride as is until I can get either the same guy or another builder to strip it and go over the whole frame, but I need to read over the above suggestions more thoroughly.

In the meantime, this is about the best photo I can manage to get showing the difference, will add to the OP as well.


Well that photo makes it look worse than the other pictures. Can you get the chain out of the way and flip the wheel over so the freewheel is on the other side to see what it looks like?
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Old 11-12-21, 06:24 PM
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Yep, we have had a lot of aluminum frames come through just like that or worse. Ride it or fix it. That simple.
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Old 11-12-21, 07:29 PM
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I do a fair amount of evaluation and repair in the field, on rides, so have learned to use bike parts (and body parts) as tools.

The wheel you have is a useful measuring tool, before even evaluating it's state of dish.

What can be done here, sans any tools, is to install the wheel backwards, no need to fit the chain (but do always put some vertical weight on the saddle while carefully securing the quick release).

This will inform whether and to what degree that the wheel's dish is affecting the rim's position between the chainstays, and will also inform as to whether the frame is really off at all.

Second thing that can be done without tools, after the above procedure, is to sight along the right side of the tire (rear-to-front) to another point along the same side of the tire. Then take note of how far from the right side of the seat tube that your sighting line appears. Then compare the left side of the tire and seat tube to the right side. Any problem with chainstay effective length discrepancy between the left and right chainstay will become immediately apparent since you have already evaluated your wheel's dish as described above.
Note that if the tire is wider than the seat tube, you will need to sight along the sides of the rear tire from front-to-back, in order to see the seat tube!

Note that chain tension can/does affect the wheel's alignment in the dropout slots to some degree, so be sure to apply some extra weight on the saddle as you secure the QR lever!

I could go on as to how I might bend both chainstays toward the left or toward the right as might be needed, but for now there is evaluation that can be done at home, using the wheel you have, and without trusting anybody else's hands-on, professional or unprofessional judgement.
Better to flip the wheel and see for yourself just what degree of dish and alignment variance is possibly affecting your bike (that is if the chain tension pulling/moving the axle within the small clearance of the slot isn't the actual issue here).

Lastly, as 79pmooney mentioned, small alignment errors at the rear wheel do not seem to affect the steering at all, certainly not perceptibly. I've field-straightened a few frames where the rear end sat a good 10mm to one side, and which was not noticeable while riding!
OTOH, such lateral misalignment at the front wheel's contact patch (whether due to a poorly-dished wheel, bent fork legs, bent steerer or due to the axle having been tilted in the dropouts), will be quite noticeable if the tire contact patch is even 2mm off of the bike's centerline, causing the bike's steering to steadily pull away from the side to which the tire contact patch is offset down at the road surface (again, something that I've fixed a few times while out riding).

Last edited by dddd; 11-12-21 at 07:46 PM.
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