How to Adapt an Older Steel Frame to Accommodate a Wider Rear Hub


How to Adapt an Older Steel Frame

David wants to know if he can adapt an older steel frame to accommodate a wider rear hub by opening the rear ends up. We give our honest opinion and how wide it has to be. He also wants some new wheel advice. 1981 Fuji Gran Tourer SE By: Devin

Question: I actually have two questions:

  1. I have read that a steel frame can be slightly opened at the rear dropouts to allow a 10-or-11-cog cassette to be mounted. Is this true, and how much? Enough to go from a 7-cog, for instance, to an 11-cog?
  2.  If I do go with a steel [something Italian] frame, what’s a good all-round aluminium wheelset? I have difficulty finding my way through the hype. Money, unfortunately, is an object.

Hi David, Yes you can pull the rear ends of a steel frame apart to fit a wider axle, BUT it can damage the frame, weakening the chain and seat stays causing a fracture in the tube, so you do this at your own peril!

If you take the frame to a frame builder (1st find one) he will tell you if it is possible and how dangerous it could be to the frame.

The width of the rear end of a frame is measured between the inside edges of the drop outs and the hub is measured from the outer edges of the axle nuts, where they touch the inside of the frame.

An older single speed or fixed wheel rear hub width is/used to be 110 mm.
5 speed and newer track hub is 120 mm.
Road 6 and 7 speed is 126 mm.
Road 8, 9 and 10 speed and 7 speed MTB is 130 mm.
MTB 7, 8 and 9 speed is 135 mm.

So it’s up to you if you want to take the chance of permanent damage to your frame.

There are lots of wheels around, you have two options:
First you could have a pair of wheels built, choose your rims and the hubs to suit the other equipment you are using, i.e. Shimano, Campagnolo, SRAM etc. This gives you a large choice, but Mavic is still probably one of the best rim manufacturers around. Mate the best rim you can afford with the hubs of your choice and have the bike shop build them up with plain gauge or double butted spokes, stainless steel is the best, chrome is OK but can corrode and galvanised have a dull finish.

Rear End

Your second choice is to buy a factory built pair of wheels, again Mavic make some of the best, but then Shimano, Campagnolo, Fulcrum, ZIPP and others make very good wheels, you need to see what you can afford and which will work with you gear system.

We hope this helps David?

Campagnolo Wheels

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