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Horizontal vs vertical dropouts?


matt slegg
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Can someone please explain to me the benefits of horizontal dropouts to vertical?

To me horizontal look like more hastle whereas with vertical the wheel cannot move so there is less maintenance and a sprung tensioner can sort out your chain.

Am I missing anything? Are horizontals used to save money, weight and for aesthetics?

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Horizontal dropouts will usually end up with a simpler, lighter and more compact setup because you can just use integrated tugs or snail cams rather than having a mechanism with springs, pulleys etc. Obviously if you use a hacksaw blade with a bit of moulded/3D printed plastic or whatever that difference becomes minimal. Traditionally vertical dropouts came from running mechs and gears on small mountainbike frames and that kind of stuck on stocks (do we still use mod and stock?) until fairly recently. These days manufacturers seem to be picking up on neat integrated tensioners and bolt through axles which is nice to see.

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The only drawback I have ever seen with horizontal is the changing length of your chain stays. This can become an issue now a days if you want to run a ratio differently to what was intended. This can be sorted though by running horizontal slammed with a heat sink style tensioner if you end up messing around with ratios away from intended design. However that said people have messed around with ratios for years and think most people settle on the standard ones intended by the manufacturers.

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5 hours ago, matt slegg said:

How does it affect a disk brake ? If there is range for a rear wheel to move can it affect the operation of the rear disk?

It doesn't really make a noticeable difference. Unless your chain is ancient and stretched out massively, it shouldn't cause any issues at all.

Fixed dropouts (either through axle or vertical dropout) with a sprung tensioner have a slight benefit if you're using screw-on cranks and hubs as the sprung part of the chain tension system can take up the variable level of tension you get courtesy of the screw-on parts of the drivetrain. Most FFW setups will have a bit of 'bob' thanks to the threads being machined on the cranks not perfectly concentrically with the axle.

I'm more of a fan of the simple design of horizontal dropouts, although part of that comes down to the way that my hub works with my frame. On my Arcade, when I need to take the rear wheel out I can loosen the non-drive axle bolt then take the drive side axle bolt out fully. With that bolt out fully, I can shift the wheel forward to remove the chain, then take the wheel out. It means not having to adjust my chain tugs so my wheel goes back in the same place every time (I have to take both wheels off to fit my Arcade in my car, so essentially every ride I have to do this...). If you had a conventional trials setup with snail cams I can imagine it being more of a faff.  

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If you get flats all the time, horizontal is the worst.  Also, heavier riders (i.e. me) tend to complain about wheels moving about with quite a few of the horizontal tensioning options. With horizontal dropouts, no matter what style of tensioner I was adjusting the rear wheel a few times an hour to keep it centered.  That being said, before the crewkerz style tensioner, vertical dropout tensioning systems all had something working against them

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8 hours ago, Mark W said:

On my Arcade, when I need to take the rear wheel out I can loosen the non-drive axle bolt then take the drive side axle bolt out fully. With that bolt out fully, I can shift the wheel forward to remove the chain, then take the wheel out. It means not having to adjust my chain tugs so my wheel goes back in the same place every time.

After close to 6 years I think I finally may have learnt how to do this without too much hassle! Just need to get the brake in line with my disc again some day. :P

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As a self professed weight weenie, I was all about horizontal drops for a long time, but I'm totally over it now. Too many bent chaintugs and the ever drifting chainstay length finally got the better of me. I'm not completely sold on rear through axles, but my last 3 bikes have used them so the industry seems to be going that direction. I think the shortest possible chainstay and the extra chain wrap of the newer 2 wheel tensioners makes up for the weight penalty. My vote is solidly for vertical or through bolt dropouts.

I hope this doesn't turn into the new 'V brakes vs Maguras" ;-)

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