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Cold Steel Frame Stretching

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Cold Steel Frame Stretching

Old 02-22-22, 11:42 PM
  #1  
Eric Sakai
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Cold Steel Frame Stretching

I have and old 6-speed which now has a 1990s Campy 10-speed. I removed one of the thick aluminum washer from the axle hub, and just spread the rear drop outs a little bit to install. In doing so I have about 127mm axle width.
Now I want to put this Eddy Merckx bike on either Wahoo Kickr or Tacx Neo.
Both of these require 130mm axle width.
What is the chance the frame can be stretch to 130mm without cracking the metal?
The tubes is Columbus SLX.
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Old 02-23-22, 12:51 AM
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Pretty good chance I'd say.

The question you should be asking though is; how will my dropouts remain aligned while I brute force my frame into a shape it wasn't meant to be?

SLX is lovely stuff and steel Merckx bikes are in demand, so the best thing would be to sell it on and put the proceeds towards a bike that doesn't need bending out of shape
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Old 02-23-22, 04:21 AM
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IMO, as stated above, probably will not be a problem, but the dropouts may need to be re-aligned. I have cold set 2 steel frames, one from 126 to 130, and one from 120 to 130. The latter is a Fuji Ace that I would not have been happy, but not too upset, if something went wrong. Both times I used the same method and homemade spreader as RJ the bike guy, Youtube video. The Fuji, surprisingly, ended up with the dropouts still aligned, the other, Ochsner road with Aelle tubing, needed the dropouts re-aligned. I did that using another RJ video and homemade tool. They did not come out perfect, but close enough for me. If the Ochsner had been messed up from this procedure, that would have bothered me. If the drop outs are not parallel, the odds of the wheel slipping in the dropouts are high, especially when putting a lot of torque into the pedal stroke.

In reality, if being used just on the trainer, not being dismounted, spreading it enough by hand to get properly mounted and left there, I would not bother cold setting it. The only other thing I can add, I am nearing 70, and trying to spread the rear by hand was just too much of a pain. I am not as strong as I once was, and arthritis in my hands makes it challenging to do such things.

In the end, I do not regret cold setting, and would not hesitate to do another frameset. One just has to accept the possibility that it could do real harm, from fixable issues to destroying the frameset. If you can live with that, go for it.

Last edited by delbiker1; 02-23-22 at 04:26 AM. Reason: add more info
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Old 02-23-22, 09:25 AM
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Cold setting old steel frames is incredibly common.
If you arent comfortable doing it, see if there is a frame builder in your area. But really, it isnt difficult, just follow any number of youtube or website steps. You can also just spread the dropouts as they are and see how that goes. I have used a few 126mm frames on my TACX smart trainer and they work fine.
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Old 02-23-22, 10:32 AM
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Just FYI…there are videos out there (with your specific measurements) on how to DIY make an inexpensive tool for doing this, and step-by-step instructions.

Dan
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Old 02-23-22, 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Eric Sakai View Post
I have and old 6-speed which now has a 1990s Campy 10-speed. I removed one of the thick aluminum washer from the axle hub, and just spread the rear drop outs a little bit to install. In doing so I have about 127mm axle width.
Now I want to put this Eddy Merckx bike on either Wahoo Kickr or Tacx Neo.
Both of these require 130mm axle width.
What is the chance the frame can be stretch to 130mm without cracking the metal?
The tubes is Columbus SLX.
If you already have 127 mm width, 130mm is not an issue. Unlikely dropouts would need to be aligned either. I put a wider hub in a Columbus SLX frame and rode it for many thousands of miles. After a while (didn't keep track of miles, but maybe 5,000) the frame no longer needed to be spread by hand to put in the wider hub. It had cold set while riding. I would say you face zero issues.
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Old 02-23-22, 12:09 PM
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...there are a lot of threads on this, over in Mechanics, and probably some in C+V. Not sure if I'd do this to fit a nice bike like a Merckx on a trainer. You don't say if your plans include going back and forth, from trainer, back to functional bike (using your old wheel.) I can see where that might created some problems. Most of the stress related issues with cracking and breaking would be exacerbated by this back and forth bending. SLX is desirable because it was a little lighter and drawn thin, with some reinforcing spirals in the seat tube near the BB. Great in a road bike, but for your trainer you'd be a lot better off buying some junker off the local CL for 50 bucks that has the spacing you need and running that on your trainer. The frame weigh on a trainer doesn't matter, nor does the ride quality.

If it's just a one time deal, where this now becomes your trainer bike, it's kind of a waste, but it ought to work out OK.
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Old 02-23-22, 08:48 PM
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You can bend it into a pretzel without cracking it (which I have found out the hard way).
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Old 02-24-22, 05:21 PM
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1. I would never cold set anything aside from a bike rack.
2. I would never buy a frame that had been cold set by the previous owner
3. I would not mount a steel framed bike on a trainer unless it is a throwaway bike, due to rust problems.
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Old 02-24-22, 06:05 PM
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I had a frame cold-set by a pro, starting at 126mm and going to 130mm. It is fine now, but it is worth paying someone who really knows what they are doing to do it correctly and to check the alignment of the stays and dropouts afterwords.

Also, it is not really that hard to crack a steel frame.

I would definitely think twice before putting that frame in a trainer.
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Old 02-24-22, 09:23 PM
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Originally Posted by icemilkcoffee View Post
1. I would never cold set anything aside from a bike rack.
2. I would never buy a frame that had been cold set by the previous owner
3. I would not mount a steel framed bike on a trainer unless it is a throwaway bike, due to rust problems.
Why wouldn't you cold set a frame? It's 2mm more per side. Many times, a 126mm steel frame can just be spread each time the wheel is inserted.

Why wouldn't you buy a frame that's been cold set?

As for a steel bike on a trainer, if you do even a minimal amount of cleaning, it's fine. I have the top tube and top half of the downtube covered in pipe insulation that cost like $1 8 years ago and is reused each winter. Then an $8 thong to cover the top tube and headset.

It's perfectly fine. My bars will corrode before anything happens to the frame.
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Old 02-24-22, 09:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Polaris OBark View Post
I would definitely think twice before putting that frame in a trainer.
Some simple prevention and basic cleaning(what I would do with an aluminum or carbon bike too) is all that's needed to keep a steel frame bike in good condition on a trainer.
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Old 02-24-22, 09:39 PM
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Originally Posted by icemilkcoffee View Post
1. I would never cold set anything aside from a bike rack.
2. I would never buy a frame that had been cold set by the previous owner
3. I would not mount a steel framed bike on a trainer unless it is a throwaway bike, due to rust problems.
WoW. Why.
In theory it is possible to weld frames in a jig and not need to cold set them.
Even with a proper jig and well mitered tubing, cold setting is necessary.
Heat from the brazing will slightly distort alignment, so it's best to cold set as each joint is brazed.
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Old 02-24-22, 10:01 PM
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Originally Posted by easyupbug View Post
WoW. Why.
In theory it is possible to weld frames in a jig and not need to cold set them.
Even with a proper jig and well mitered tubing, cold setting is necessary.
Heat from the brazing will slightly distort alignment, so it's best to cold set as each joint is brazed.
There is a big difference between it being done by a professional on an alignment table, vs done by some guy with 2x4's on his garage floor. I just don't like any irreversible changes to a classic bike.
In any event a steel Eddy Merckx should not be used on a trainer. A cheap aluminum bike is good for that.
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Old 02-24-22, 10:23 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Some simple prevention and basic cleaning(what I would do with an aluminum or carbon bike too) is all that's needed to keep a steel frame bike in good condition on a trainer.
I was thinking more in terms of stressing the drop-outs and/or the chain and seat stays on an Eddy Merckx bike. I do perhaps tend to be slightly paranoid (as you know ).
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Old 02-24-22, 10:42 PM
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Originally Posted by icemilkcoffee View Post
There is a big difference between it being done by a professional on an alignment table, vs done by some guy with 2x4's on his garage floor. I just don't like any irreversible changes to a classic bike.
In any event a steel Eddy Merckx should not be used on a trainer. A cheap aluminum bike is good for that.
Classic Merckx bike frames used SL, SP, 753, 531, Thron, Max, 653 tubing and more. None of that is inherently delicate.
Old Tange 1 frames have been on trainers without issue and that tubing is thinner than at least some of what Merckx bikes used.
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Old 02-24-22, 11:25 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Classic Merckx bike frames used SL, SP, 753, 531, Thron, Max, 653 tubing and more. None of that is inherently delicate.
Old Tange 1 frames have been on trainers without issue and that tubing is thinner than at least some of what Merckx bikes used.
Not a strength issue. Rust! From the sweat dripping.
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Old 02-25-22, 12:02 AM
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Originally Posted by icemilkcoffee View Post
Not a strength issue. Rust! From the sweat dripping.
That's been addressed a few post up. But to each their own.
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Old 02-25-22, 10:07 AM
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Originally Posted by icemilkcoffee View Post
1. I would never cold set anything aside from a bike rack.
2. I would never buy a frame that had been cold set by the previous owner
3. I would not mount a steel framed bike on a trainer unless it is a throwaway bike, due to rust problems.
Nonsense. What do you think happens during the construction of a steel bike? How do you think the forks "acquire" their bend?
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Old 02-25-22, 12:31 PM
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a lot of bunk information about "cold setting" a frame in this thread
I have cold set many many high end steel frames during my near half century as a bike mechanic
Reynolds 531, Columbus SP and SL, Vitus, mid grade Cro-Mo, and cheap HIGH-10
crashes happen, and new wheels with different hub spacing is common
IF you do it properly, the frame will be just fine, no you do not need special expensive tools
a LOT, and I mean A LOT of older 120mm frames were spread to 126mm with no issue what so ever
in the OP case, going from 126 to 130 is not going to hurt anything, that said, I agree finding a frame that fits the trainer is a better option
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Old 02-25-22, 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by KerryIrons View Post
Nonsense. What do you think happens during the construction of a steel bike? How do you think the forks "acquire" their bend?
I am far from being a metallurgist or a frame builder, but I would agree with this statement. While not a professional thing to do, one can check the alignment of the frame using the string method, the dropouts with a dropout alignment tool. The Ochsner I cold set needed the dropouts re-aligned and the frame did not. The Fuji I did recently I have not bothered checking either other than by visual inspection, and then riding it. They both track straight and have no issues. The dropouts can be checked by mounting the wheel and tightening in the drops enough to hold it, then look at the interface of the drops and the axle/hubs. The Ochsner I could visibly see the misalignment, the Fuji looked square.
I do understand having concerns for a frameset that has been cold set by a previous owner, but if one really wants it, and does not think they can determine the alignment, take it to a bike shop that can do it. If the seller has a problem with that, walk away. By the way, this some guy did not use 2X4's on the garage floor to do the spreading. The bike was in a very stable, fork mount type repair stand and strapped to the stand around the BB.
Before I started acquiring tools and learning how to do the work and maintenance on my bikes, I never would attempted this. I was a bit nervous the first time, took my time, and it was not hard at all. The second one, the Fuji, no hesitation what so ever to spread from 120 to 130.
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Old 02-25-22, 04:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Eric Sakai View Post
I have and old 6-speed which now has a 1990s Campy 10-speed. I removed one of the thick aluminum washer from the axle hub, and just spread the rear drop outs a little bit to install. In doing so I have about 127mm axle width.
Now I want to put this Eddy Merckx bike on either Wahoo Kickr or Tacx Neo.
Both of these require 130mm axle width.
What is the chance the frame can be stretch to 130mm without cracking the metal?
The tubes is Columbus SLX.
Aloha,
Eric
This was a normal modification. But DO NOT do it yourself. A good bike shop will have the correct tools to make sure that the stays are properly bent and CENTERED. When done properly the 130 mm 10 speed wheels will drop right in. And the rear wheel will be centered between the forward end of the stays and the center of the brake bridge and directly between the brake pads.

Last edited by RiceAWay; 02-28-22 at 12:00 PM.
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Old 02-27-22, 10:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Eric Sakai View Post
I have and old 6-speed which now has a 1990s Campy 10-speed. I removed one of the thick aluminum washer from the axle hub, and just spread the rear drop outs a little bit to install. In doing so I have about 127mm axle width.
Now I want to put this Eddy Merckx bike on either Wahoo Kickr or Tacx Neo.
Both of these require 130mm axle width.
What is the chance the frame can be stretch to 130mm without cracking the metal?
The tubes is Columbus SLX.
Aloha,
Eric
So much nonsense and bad info in this thread. DIY cold setting is a well accepted, safe and well documented DIY project.

Using the multitude of online sources, including bikeforums, Sheldon Brown, YouTube and other vido sources, I cold set my 80's era SLX frame from 127 to 130 (I used a padded vice and brute force vs. the other leverage methods that are well described), checked frame alignment with strings, and squared up the dropouts using a DIY tool I made based on common sense and seeing what a commercial dropout alignment tool looks like. I don't think SLX is any more or less finicky than any other high quality steel of that era.

Look online for "cold setting" and "DIY" or "homemade" dropout alingment, or some such terms.

It's technically very easy, although some brute force is involved.

Here's the dropout tool I used. I posted it previously in the mechanic's forum #25 in "Show us your home made tools" thread. It seems to have worked perfectly, still squared up, many, many years later.


Parts needed.

Attached to dropouts - nuts and washers on both sides to keep the rod square to the drop out.

Bend drop outs so the nuts square up with each other to make dropouts parallel. You can also see the strings I used to check overall frame alignment - a well documented procedure online.

Last edited by Camilo; 02-27-22 at 11:05 PM.
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Old 02-28-22, 11:16 AM
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spreading the stays is the easy part
the tricky bit is keeping the wheel centered
(use a piece of string)
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Old 03-01-22, 02:57 PM
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Just so this thread has a lot of info for future searches, here's some videos on cold setting and frame alignment. There's a lot more but these are pretty good.
A couple of methods for cold setting/spreading rear spacinghttps://youtu.be/egkPr0Ory_Y

Check frame alignment with stringhttps://youtu.be/dUPAKqS3dt8
adjust frame alignment (used alignment tool but can be done with string)
use of homemade dropout alignment tool (this one looks s little better than mine above)
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