David wants to know if he can adopt 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.
Question: I actually have two questions:
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?
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 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 dropouts. 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.
- Five-speed and newer track hubs are 120 mm.
- Road 6 and 7 speed is 126 mm.
- 6 and 7 speed is 126 mm.
- Road 8, 9, and 10 speed and seven-speed MTB is 130 m
- 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 wide choice. However, 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 galvanized have a dull finish.
- Your second choice is to buy a factory-built pair of wheels. Again Mavic makes some of the best, but then Shimano, Campagnolo, Fulcrum, ZIPP, and others make excellent wheels, you need to see what you can afford and which will work with you gear system.
We hope this helps David