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Assuming that the wheel will fit in the drops, will a rear wheel (minus the freewheel/cassette) work for a front wheel? What kind of problems could this present?

I happen to have a spare back wheel for my bike (without the freewheel on it) and wonder could I if my front gets totaled.

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The spacing between dropouts is generally different between front and rear, and sometimes the axle diameter is different, but aside from those you could use use a rear wheel, even one that still had a cassette on it. And with some wheels there are spacers that can be removed that will make it narrower (though probably not enough to reduce a 135 mm hub to 100 mm.) At a basic level a wheel is a wheel. –  Daniel R Hicks Apr 27 at 4:05
    
The spoke arrangement is generally different too. Symmetric on the front and asymmetric at the rear (to compensate for the cassette) –  PeteH Apr 27 at 10:47
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@PeteH, my wheel is dished which caused me to ask myself this question. Considering that the front wheel can experience different force vectors through turning the fork, how would a dished wheel take the force? –  BPugh Apr 28 at 0:12
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The "dished" wheel should not cause any problems -- the wheel is still symmetric, measured from the axle mount points to the centerline of the wheel. The "dishing" compensates for the offset due to the cluster, making the wheel symmetric in spite of the offset hub. –  Daniel R Hicks Apr 28 at 4:09

2 Answers 2

Most bikes use 100mm in the front and 130/135mm in the back, so its unlikely it would fit unless you knew a priori that your bike was one that could have it fit.

However, some bikes are designed for running rear hubs in the front (Surly Moonlander/Pugsley, for example).

A non-Fat Bike case is the Salsa Enabler.

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I figured that would be the case, thus my assumption in the question, though I didn't verify it with my setup. But since the Moonlander is a fat bike, do they even dish the back wheel. –  BPugh Apr 28 at 0:11
    
Updated with a link to the Salsa Enabler fork for a non-fat bike case - just takes whatever 29" rear wheel you got. –  Batman Apr 28 at 1:13
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@BPugh Moonlander and Pugsley use offset rears so the dish is reduced and the cassette is moved further from the centreline so the chainline is near the middle of the cassette (as on a standard MTB). –  Emyr Apr 28 at 7:43
    
See also DRH's comment to the main question. The main issue is getting the wheel to fit in, in the first place! –  Batman Apr 28 at 18:12

Ignoring the dropout width and axle size, absolutely.

The rear wheel supports far more weight than front wheels, so using a rear wheel up front will be perfectly fine, albeit funny looking.

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The dropout width is the main problem factor in almost all cases. =) –  Batman Apr 28 at 20:40

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