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In mass consumer bicycles it is often the case that the forks dropouts are not perfectly aligned with each other; this results in the wheel not being aligned with respect the fork and being tilted to the side.

On hubs without quick release, I often try to find the right spot in the dropout for the wheel to sit aligned with the fork (and brakes correspondingly).

Now I have a bike with a quick release dropout, so it appears to me that I must fit the hub all the way in and adjust the brakes to the tilted position, in that fashion I can make use of the "quick" release, this however it doesn't seem intuitive for me as I would have to drive with unbalanced wheels which might hurt the bicycle on other ways.

Obviously aligning the dropouts are the optimal solutions but the tools can cost more than the bicycle. I wonder if you have any tips onto how to deal with it in a economical manner?

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    If its that far out that its a problem, I would replace the fork.
    – mattnz
    Sep 18, 2021 at 21:42
  • in which direction are the forks misaligned? Front-to-back probably isn't a problem for modest uses (though the handlebar angle may want adjusting, and up-down may be filed if it's only a small difference
    – Chris H
    Sep 20, 2021 at 15:44
  • @mattnz the issue might be on a BSO or something little better that a new fork is worth about as much as a new bike, but if the original fork was bad from new, a new bike isn't going to fix anything. Of course a BSO could even have a frame that was built skewed
    – Chris H
    Sep 20, 2021 at 15:45
  • Another point to check: The bike/fork may have been impacted while unattended, such as when locked to a lamppost or similar.
    – Carel
    Sep 21, 2021 at 12:04

2 Answers 2

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I'd start by flipping the wheel over, and making sure the wheel still tilts to the same side of the frame.

If the tilt flips with the wheel flip, then the error is in the wheel, not the bike frame.

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IF AND ONLY IF YOUR BIKE FORK IS MADE FROM STEEL then you can inexpensively align dropouts/ fork ends.

 If your fork is made from anything else (aluminium, carbon fibre)
 then this **won't work** and you could damage your fork.

Before we align the dropouts it's critical to make sure that the drop outs really are the problem.

Correct diagnosis of what's bent is the key to a successful repair.

Remove the wheel and take a step back from the bike and look at the fork in all directions - side, front, back. Use a yard/meter stick if judging alignment is problematic.
You want to make sure that it really is the drop out that's bent.

  • Do the fork blades align with the head tube correctly?
  • Do the fork blades align with each other? - it's possible one blade is bent and the other is straight.
  • Is one or more blade twisted?

enter image description here

If you are sure the drop out is the problem Sheldon Brown has a page with good suggestions.
The beginning of the article has several warnings:

Note, if you're not careful, you can do serious damage to your frame this way! If your frame is made of aluminum or carbon fiber, do not attempt to re-space the frame: these materials are not suitable for "cold setting." If in doubt, try the magnet test: if a magnet won't stick to it, don't try to re-space it!

Toward the middle of the article the inexpensive options are described:

Fork End Alignment with Improvised Tools
enter image description here
Sheldon has a picture of a rear drop out and he's using an axle cut in half to judge alignment.
The same principle works with two large and long bolts with appropriate washers and nuts for fork ends. You may be able to get the bend you want by applying force to the appropriate axle/bolt.

Another method to bend drop outs is to use a very large adjustable wrench.
enter image description here

I've used both of these techniques individually and together with some success.

Sheldon ends his article with this summary:

This job isn't for everybody, but it's not rocket science either. Many shops are reluctant to undertake this sort of operation, either because of fear of liability or because they want to sell you new bike. Although it seems fairly alarming to deliberately bend your frame, it is really not that cataclysmic an operation, and can be very worthwhile if it allows you to keep riding an old friend, with the advantages of a modern drivetrain.

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    Some of Sheldon's advice is becoming dated - this really needs to make the material choice more clear. This is fine for steel which is likely to be almost all of the low-end bikes, but perhaps a more obvious mention that aluminium and carbon would not react well to this.
    – Criggie
    Sep 21, 2021 at 0:46
  • @Criggie should the quote be in bold? " If your frame is made of aluminum or carbon fiber, do not attempt to re-space the frame: these materials are not suitable for "cold setting."
    – David D
    Sep 21, 2021 at 3:18
  • I've made an edit to put that info into the top line. IME people don't read all the way through and points hidden in the middle are very easy to miss.
    – Criggie
    Sep 21, 2021 at 4:43
  • Second thought - a fork with suspension needs extra care not to put the moving stanchions out of alignment or out of round too. The dropout can still be tweaked of course, but some forethought saves headaches later.
    – Criggie
    Sep 21, 2021 at 4:44
  • @Criggie Appreciate the edit. Add something about caution when working on suspension forks?
    – David D
    Sep 21, 2021 at 15:11

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