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  1. #1
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    How necessary is a replaceable dropout

    I've been mulling over which frame to get. Forget most of the details because I can choose the bulk of them for myself. But I am looking for advice based on experience to answer: Does a steel frame need a replaceable derailleur hanger?

    From my experience, I've bought a used steel Dean hardtail with breezer dropouts (similar to ritchey dropouts or wright dropouts). It came to me with not only the hanger was somewhat bent, but the whole dropout along with it. So even after straightening the hanger the best I could, it would move depending on how hard you clamped the QR skewer. Obviously this was annoying as you could adjust the derailleur with the skewer clamped, then if you took the wheel off and put it back on, it could be out of adjustment. Add to this the fact a "bent-back" hanger is never quite straight, and it was a PITA. However, I did not experience the actual incident that caused all this bending. So I don't know what it takes to do that kind of damage.

    However, last year on my Ellsworth Truth (thin replaceable hanger) I once had the derailleur go into the spokes when I was pedaling very hard in a pretty low gear (lots of torque). I think I had struck it earlier in the ride. It broke six driveside spokes, the hanger, the derailleur bolt, bent the derailleur cage into a Z shape, bent the chain in one place and snapped it in another, and bent the steel bolt that fixes the cage to the derailleur body. The frame was fine but I couldn't even put weight on the wheel and had to walk for over an hour to the trailhead. I feel like this would have destroyed a steel frame. I also had two lesser accidents involving bent hangers but with few casualties (one spoke).

    Needless to say, I hate these accidents and they happen frequently enough that it is a big concern now that I'm looking for a new frame.

    I feel like a thin replaceable hanger can turn dropping the bike into a bent hanger, leading to a derailleur into the spokes causing over $100 damage, hours of work and days of downtime. Whereas a non-replaceable steel hanger would be unaffected by 95% of derailleur strikes, but if a big enough stick jumps into the spokes, the frame is finished.

    So the choices are like a Chromag with beefy steel hanger:


    Or a Transition Transam with a thin replaceable hanger:

    Or a frame with thick swapouts, like the On Ones that are coming out in April:


    The On-Ones seem like the best option, resistant to bending yet totally replaceable. Not to mention they are the cheapest. But I am kind of in-between their 18 and 20 inch size, and they aren't available yet. The 24" ETT of the Transam or Chromag Kamui is perfect, and I like their cable routing and aesthetics better.

    Can anyone weigh in on this or offer pros and cons that I haven't thought of?
    Last edited by fc; 11-10-2012 at 11:33 AM.

  2. #2
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    Another option would be to use a breakaway derrailleur bolt on a frame with a beefy steel hanger. That way if the derrailleur takes a hit that's hard enough to bend the hanger, the bolt will snap in half to save the frame from serious damage. I have a bike with Ritchey dropouts, way back in the day I did something incredibly stupid which slammed the derrailleur into the spokes. The breakaway bolt snapped and the hanger only had a minor bend in it which was easily straightened.

  3. #3
    Never trust a fart
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    The best way to straighten out a derailleur hanger, regardless if its replaceable or not is with the rear wheel clamped into the frame along with the use of the Park Tool Rear Derailleur Hanger Gauge DAG-1.

  4. #4
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    Mutantclover,

    Sorry to hear you had such trouble with your Dean. I bought a used IronHorse Maverick (aluminum dually with replaceable aluminum derailleur hanger), and the aluminum derailleur hanger was bent. I was able to rebend it, no problem, using an adjustable wrench. I didn't need any fancy Park tools, I could literally eyeball it, and the shifting was great. However, it was an 8-speed cassette, and the more speeds you go up the tighter the tolerances get.

    I think the bottom line with your case is your experiences have been so bad: an inability to get the hanger on your Dean good enough, and that catastrophe with your Truth!

    For myself, I've been lucky: the aforementioned case, and one where the hanger on my aluminum KHS Alite hardtail broke - my shifting went wonky, I looked at the hanger, and it was partly cracked and coming apart. I was able to walk home.

    When I went to the dealer to get a replacement hanger for my Alite, the replacement was made out of cromoly. I remember being incredulous, holding that heavy thing in my hand: the dealer seemed a bit defensive, "It's made out of steel so it won't break!" Uh, I'm really glad my hanger just broke and not my frame or whatever else?!!! When I got home I literally tried to drill a couple holes through the thinnest midsection to make it sacrificial, but the stupid thing was so hard it was a no-go.

    Then, there's the case of another used bike I bought, a Giant STP, that also came with a bent hanger. No problem, I thought, I can bend this one, too. Nope, it was too far gone and cracked when I tried to bend it.

    I think the bottom line is that dropouts and derailleur hanger designs are six-of-one-half-a-dozen-of-the-other. One thing is for sure, though: steel is a lot easier to repair than aluminum.

    Check out these guys: http://www.yellowjersey.org/zito.html

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