Severe pull to the right

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dirtman

Finally riding a big boys bike
I have an early 50's Columbia balloon tire bike which came to me apart as part of a bunch of other bikes and parts, this is the 5th bike out of the lot I'm beginning to piece back together.
As found, it was a bare frame and fork with the cranks, chainguard, and rear fender attached. The front fender, wheels and handle bars were tagged an in a box that came with it. I pulled it out of storage yesterday and did a few basic checks before going through it well enough to see if it was a viable bike or not. I pulled the cranks and fork, I mounted the bike in the stand and got out my frame guage for a quick check. I checked across the head and seat tubes to make sure it wasn't hit or bent, and both dropouts looked fine left to right. I stuck a wheel in the rear frame and noticed it was a bit closer to the right seat stay than the left, but would center fine in the chainstays. I checked the wheel dish and all was fine.
I connected the chain and centered the wheel in the chainstays and tightened it up.
Before puttingthe forks back on I gauged them as well, and found them only slighly off to the left, maybe 3/16" or so, which I corrected.
I went ahead and installed the fork and front wheel, I used its original bars and stem and stuck an extra long seat post an modern saddle in it for a test ride.

The bike pulls severely to the right at almost any hint of movement. It feels like it takes about 50 lbs of force to keep the bike going straight pushing the bars left to center and it all but refuses to make left turns. I've had bikes with bent frames or forks but never felt anything this drastic from a bike that has no real visible damage.

Back on the stand, I go further in taking measurements. I already made sure the forks were dead on, and the perfectly dished front wheel fits perfect. I go back to the rear and the fact that the wheel is about 1/4" closer to the right seat stay no matter what I did. I take a few more measurements and figure that the left dropout is 3/16" higher than the right one.
Now with that in mind, I'm thinking that it took a downward hit, some kid jumped a ramp and bent the rear triangle. I stripped the frame back down, I find two modern crank bearing adapters and a tube to slide through the bb, and I put an equal length rod in the rear dropouts.
I also took a few readings off the top of the chain stays, and both are dead level, the difference begins at the dropouts.
Both dropouts are fully inserted and secure, I see no sign of one working loose or moving.
The top of the seat stays are slightly off, the rise begins at the left dropout and continues to the seat tube.

My take is that the bike has likely been this way since new. Its not enough to cause such a bad pull. The headtube is 90 degrees to the bb, and within 3 degrees of the rear axle. The wheel sits leaning to the left compared to the front wheel by 3/16" of difference at the top. Its not turned left or right and no matter what that would be adjustable when mounting the wheel.

I have bikes that have far worse alignment issues front to back and they don't pull. I even swapped in another set of wheels thinking maybe somehow it was the tires but no change.

Before I go through the trouble of trying to pull the left dropout down 3/16", I want to make sure I'm not missing something here.
If I pull down on the dropout, its going to align the wheel better but make the left chainstay lower by a bit to get the dropouts aligned perfectly.
I even tried putting the forks back over to the left a bit but it made no difference in the pull.
At minimal balance speed, I've got two hands on the bars trying to go straight. Even in a leaning left turn, the thing is trying to pull right.
I also swapped in a different headset just for fun, but it didn't change anything. I feel like the pull is equal to my weight, any further than a few hundred foot ride and your exhausted trying to fight the bike to go straight.
I wouldn't think a bike could pull so hard and so bad. Just walking with the bike I don't feel any pull.

Has anyone ever had a bike with a severe pull like this?
 

Autocycleplane

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
Use a string or Park tool to check the frame alignment from side to side at the seat tube when using the head tube and rear axle mounting location as references. The other Park tool is really useful for getting the dropouts/fork ends properly aligned, maybe take a look at those for ideas on a homemade version.
 

juvela

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
-----

sounds like you have performed all of the proper checks ;)

dissimilar seat stay length is one of the most difficult alignment issues to deal with

one cheat is to raise the lower portion of the dropout on the long side and pull it downward on the short side

this technique is capable of only limited adjustment as one must leave adequate space for the hub axle

in the event it does not solve the pull problem the only two options are to replace one of the seat stays or junk the frame...

-----
 

Autocycleplane

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
If you are absolutely sure the frame is straight from the headtube back to the rear axle, couple of other things to look at:

  • Is the wheel true, dished properly, and does it has sufficient spoke tension?
  • Is the inside of the rear fork end all chewed up from the locknut of the hub? (hub slips, gouges up frame and wheel won't align)
  • Dropout/rear fork end alignment - are they parallel to each other and also inline with the frame?
 

dirtman

Finally riding a big boys bike
I have all the Park frame tools, the frame is not curved or bent left or right.
The wheels work fine on another bike, they are dished correctly and dead true.
The rear dropouts are aligned as best they can be with one being slightly higher, they are parallel to each other and the
wheel clamps down fine.
If I hold the forks dead straight, the bike goes straight. Its not a matter of the thing wanting to ride in circles, its a matter of the steering wanting to turn. I put a 98 lb lady friend on it and she said is barely pulls for her, and it don't pull without a rider, I walk the bike along at a fast pace and it don't pull or turn right on its own. Yet if I get on the bike, I'm fighting it steering to the right.
Its got to be a caster type of pull.

It even pulls right if I lean hard into a left turn, as in making a U turn on the street, I have to force the thing not to turn hard right.

I started to grind a bit off the top of the right dropout slot, I probably went about half way but didn't want to open up the slot so much it wouldn't hold an axle. I was able to get the wheel a lot better but it didn't change a thing.
I pulled a fork and wheel of my '49 Columbia, which fit, and it still pulls, so its not in the fork.

What gets me, with as bad as it pulls, I'd think the issue would be obvious. The rear wheel is now sitting less than 1/8" closer to the right stay than the left at the top, but straight ahead in the chain stays, but it still pulls. The dropouts are dead center in relation to the seat and headtubes and the headtube and seat tube are parallel.

I hopped on another bike, and did a few tests, if I lean to one side while riding, the bike doesn't pull to one side, If I lean left, the bars go left, if I lean right, they go right, but on this Columbia, the bars will not go right when I lean left.

I've been around bikes my whole life, worked in shops as a kid for years, this one boggles my mind. I don't see how a rear wheel leaning slightly would steer the bike, I highly doubt that's got anything to do with it, if so, every bike with a poorly dished rear wheel would pull to one side.

What I'm seeing is that the more weight on the bike the harder it pulls. That means its a caster issue somehow.
If I get on the bike, (I'm around 300lbs, and just over 6ft 3in tall), and ride down my dead flat concrete driveway at the slowest possible speed I can keep it balanced in a straight line, I have to use more than what I'd call considerable force to keep it steered straight ahead. The pull right doesn't get any worse as I go faster. If I get off and walk the bike at that speed or faster, I don't notice any pull and can guide the bike by the saddle with no hands on the bars. Which I really don't understand how that's possible if the bike is bent or out of alignment that bad.

I have a 73 Schwinn Varisty that I got for free when it was new, the bike was bought back for being mis-built and supposed to be destroyed, instead of cutting it in half, I took it home. (It was my size and free). The headtube is tilted 8 degrees to the right, and its enough to be obvious when you look down the frame. The bike rides just fine, other than the fact that it eventually wears the right side of the front tire and the left side of the rear tire a bit more, it feels fine when you ride it. I've put thousands of miles on it over the years. It will ride hands free, turn fine either way.
So I don't see how a leaning rear wheel can make this balloon tire bike pull like it does?
If I shift the rear wheel off center on my Typhoon, it don't pull, it just makes the chain a bit noisy.
I'd guess the the rear dropout issue was like that from day one, but then again, so may have the pull to the right?

One thing I did notice, is that the dropouts are pretty hard on these bikes, a brand new Nicholson file won't touch them, I had to get out an angle grinder to grind on the dropouts.

I may try and pull the left side of the rear triangle down a bit, but if I do so I'll be making the chainstays un-level with the bottom bracket. Right now, they're both dead level.
To do so I'd have to make up a jig on a big plate of steel, something to hold the frame secure by the bb shell, seat tube, and headtube while I pull down on the left rear. I could probably get away with just putting a 2x4 through the chain stays on an angle and pushing down but I'd be leery of maybe denting the tubing.

A frame guy said to try bending one fork blade further ahead, the one on the side it pulls to, but that would only be masking the real problem.
 

OldSkipTooth

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
I think this issue is related to the weight once you or any adult is on the bike. It’s a hunch, but it could be the frame and or fork crown is flexing with weight on the bike, and it could even be from the top of the seat tube area where all the weight is transferred to the rest of the bike.
 

Autocycleplane

Cruisin' on my Bluebird
You've got the right tools and approach but are stumped like the rest of us. The fact is doesn't pull as much with the 98 pounder and appears straight when unloaded does lend some credit to the above observation that the bike just may not be built sturdily enough for larger humans. I am one myself, some of these old bikes can be pretty flexy.

Dumb Q: you looked it over well for cracks, etc?
 

dirtman

Finally riding a big boys bike
I've pried and twisted at this thing enough to say there's no cracks and its not creaking or making any odd noises.
I think I eliminated any fork issues when I swapped in the forks off my '49 Columbia, that fork doesn't pull on that bike, but made no change to this one, and this fork doesn't pull on the '49 model. They're pretty much identical bikes, other than a few decals being different and a newer style chainguard, they're the same bike.
I have four of these, all in the same age bracket and all tankless, boys bikes. They were part of a large lot of stuff I picked up a number of years ago. All but four of the bikes were apart and boxed up, the few that were together had mixed up parts from other bikes in the lot for no apparent reason. So far I've assembled about 8 bikes, with probably another 20 or so that appear to be mostly complete. Most were 1950-1965 model single and 3 speed lightweights, with a half dozen balloon tire models in the mix, an four middleweights.

With the laid back angle of the headtube, and the rake of the forks, I would think it would be nearly impossible for a bike to pull like this.
Something I did notice is that its worse on a crowned road than it is on flat concrete pavement. Riding on the oposite side of a crowned road also lessens the pull to the right. What I don't understand most is how it can still be fighting to turn right while leaning to the left in a turn.

At this point I think I'm going to dig out one of the other frames and swap everything over and let this frame just hang on the wall for now. The '49, which was together when I got it, rides fine, although its a bit small with the stock seat post.
I need to get the seat up about 8" and back a few inches. I may weld up a custom seat post for it or find a shorter pair of handlebars that don't hit my knees. I have a few Schwinn bikes and those have a lot more room, all I do on them is switch to a 12" seat post.
 
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