I have an old Sutter bicycle. I recently hit a curb which knocked my rear wheel out of alignment. When set all the way into the dropouts, the wheel touches the frame. I can fix this by putting the left side of the wheel only part-way into the dropouts, but since the dropout is not totally horizontal, I am not sure this is the right thing to do.

Can I tighten the wheel only part-way in the dropout?

Edit: The wingnut for tightening on the chain-side has very limited motion due to the gear mechanism getting in the way. The wingnut on the left side, the side I want to set part-way in the dropout, has a full range of motion.


Tire touching frame: Tire Touching Frame

Side not to the end of dropout: Side not to the end of dropout

Chain side to the end of dropout: enter image description here

  • 2
    Does it touch the frame all the time as you spin the wheel, or just at one spot?
    – Chris H
    Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 12:31
  • 1
    Welcome to Bike Exchange. Would you edit your question to add a couple/few photos of the dropouts on each side, and even the tire-rub area? It would be very helpful in getting a solid, educated answer from this group. I think I can picture your problem, but a real picture is worth a thousand words.
    – Ted Hohl
    Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 18:34
  • 1
    Was it all the way in the dropouts before? If so, something is bent now. Maybe the axle. Maybe the wheel is out of true. Maybe the whole rear triangle or the dropouts.
    – Michael
    Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 21:36
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    @ChrisH it touches all the time. I don't see any obvious warping of the wheel.
    – Matt
    Commented Dec 4, 2022 at 14:45
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    @Michael I'm not sure whether it was all the way in, since the last person to attach the wheel was a bike mechanic.
    – Matt
    Commented Dec 4, 2022 at 14:46

1 Answer 1


I am unfamiliar with this brand of bike, but two possibilities come to mind.

  1. Wheel is untrue (ie dented) which should be visible if you free spin the wheel with the bike in the air, and look at the rim not the tyre. It should be pretty consistent as the wheel turns. If not, there are plenty of answers here already about wheel truing/straightening.

  2. The wheel has moved in the dropouts. There are plenty of dropout examples where the right-hand side is fully in the top of the dropout, and the left hand side is set whereever the wheel is centered.

This kind of dropout enter image description here

Plus this kind of hanger: enter image description here

Notice in the first image that the witness mark from the nut is NOT at the rear of the dropout.

I suspect yours has been moved by the impact, so the fix is to back off both wheel nuts, make sure the right-side is all the way at the back of the slot, and tighten it. Then squeeze on your rear brake with a clamp or assistant, use one hand to put the wheel rim equal-distant between the chain stays, and use your other hand to tighten the left-side axle nut.

  • 1
    Thanks for the answer. Is there anything in particular I should be doing to ensure the nuts are tight enough, or is it ok just to tighten as much as I can by hand?
    – Matt
    Commented Dec 4, 2022 at 14:54
  • 1
    @user67749 it may be safer to remove those glorious wingnuts and use conventional hex nuts in stainless steel, with a flange on the underside like a more-modern bike. I suspect the underside of those wingnuts is worn smooth and work-hardened so it doesn't grip as well as it used to, which may have contributed to the axle moving in the dropout at impact.
    – Criggie
    Commented Dec 4, 2022 at 18:04
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    I agree with that last comment. I've got a bike where the back wheel doesn't want to sit nicely in the dropouts and it takes way more torque to keep it straight than you'd get with wingnuts. BTW don't use a tool to tighten a wingnut, too much risk of snapping off the wing either then or when undoing. Loosen with a tool if you have to
    – Chris H
    Commented Dec 4, 2022 at 20:59
  • @user67749 The wingnut looks awesomely retro - but the right-hand side one has only half its threads engaged. Next time you service the rear hub, shift the axle to the right to engage more threads.
    – Criggie
    Commented Dec 4, 2022 at 22:23
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    @user67749 You might also be able to add texture to the underside of the wingnuts to help it bite onto the dropout better. I've done this on a QR nut, using a small triangular file to add radial slots to the face.
    – Criggie
    Commented Dec 4, 2022 at 22:25

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