Thursday, September 1, 2011

If a Branch Falls in a Forest...

Branch...
On the day after Irene we had beautiful weather and I went for a 40 mile ride on the Seven roadbike that I scandalously still have on loan (and will soon be reviewing). Though a preliminary cleanup of the roads had already taken place, branches and other debris were still scattered in some areas and I thought the biggest challenge would be cycling on narrow tires. However, that part was fine - the wheels rolled easily over the occasionally unavoidable obstacle, with the bike either retaining or quickly regaining stability every time. But toward the end of the ride I began to feel as if the rear wheel had an odd little bounce to it. It was barely perceptible, but I decided to stop and check it out - thinking it was probably a flat tire. What I saw was very different: The quick release of the rear wheel was open and the wheel was sitting completely loose in the dropouts. At first I thought that the lever was broken or the skewer had somehow snapped. But everything was fine and once I re-secured the wheel the bike was good to go. My theory is that a tough little branch must have gotten jammed in there, prying open the quick release. I suppose it was lucky that the wheel did not come out of the dropouts entirely, and lucky that the branch did not jam the spokes.

Later I told the Co-Habitant about my mishap. "This is why you need to face the quick release lever inward and not outward," he warned. I don't actually remember how it was positioned before the incident (and honestly I think it's possible for things to catch on it regardless), but I will keep it in line with the chainstays from now on.

As tempting as it is to derive lessons from this, I think these things can happen regardless of how many precautions you take. I had been debating whether to take the Seven on that ride or a wider-tired, fendered bike - but it would not have mattered; this could have happened to any bicycle with quick release wheels. I think the only lesson here is that it's important to pay attention to your bike - even to what may seem like subtle weirdnesses in handling - and stop to check it out if something feels odd. It could be nothing. Or it could be your wheel about to come off.

39 comments:

  1. I think it's the subtle attention/connection between rider and cycle that makes cycling so particularly rewarding a form of transportation. Glad your experience wasn't too dire!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I had been debating whether to take the Seven on that ride or a wider-tired, fendered bike - but it would not have mattered, as this could have happened on any bicycle with quick release wheels.

    Actually, riding a fendered bike over loose branches can be even more dangerous. Branches can get caught between the stay and the spokes, jamming the wheel entirely.

    Your experience with the quick release argues in favor of the CPSC's mandate that dropouts have lawyer lips. These prevent the wheel from slipping out of the dropout when the QR is opened. The QR has to be unwound several rotations before the wheel can be removed. This partially defeats the purpose of the QR, but in examples such as yours, it's kind of a nice feature.

    ReplyDelete
  3. When I was a kid a friendly LBS owner advised me to always close the lever so it points backwards (reverse of your photo), just for this reason.

    ReplyDelete
  4. JW - Why? That is the exact opposite from what was suggested to me.

    somervillain - Very true about fenders!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yeah, I definitely am of the belief that facing the QR lever toward the rear of the bike is the best way to go.

    Here's more on the topic:
    http://www.bicyclinglife.com/HowTo/UseAQuickRelease.htm

    ReplyDelete
  6. MelissatheRagamuffinSeptember 1, 2011 at 1:51 PM

    I think the best possible review of that bike is that you so obviously enjoy riding it.

    Dear Seven: Please let Veloura keep that bike. I'm just not the kind of person who will ever have a road bike, but if I were going to buy one I'd definitely consider a Seven just based on what I've read here.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Ha Thanks Melissa! I cannot keep the bike, because (1) that would be unethical, and (2) it is too big for me. So I will be returning it very soon. But that does not mean I will not have a Seven of my own some day : )

    Anon - I think what the CH meant by "facing inward" is that the lever does not stick out in a way that things can easily catch on it. Maybe he will stop by and chime in.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have fenders installed on my Rivendell and I live in an area that experiences very little annual rainfall (Arizona). I'm almost inclined to think that removing the fenders would be a good idea.

    This seems prudent, with the possibility of a very serious accident occurring if an object could jam the wheel (especially the front wheel).

    I have a rear light installed on the fender and still like the appearance of the fenders, so I haven't resolved to remove them.

    I've noticed recently that Mike Kone has a very explicit warning about the hazard of fenders on his Rene Herse/Boulder bicycles website: "Danger - use of fenders has risks - if debris gets caught between a front fender and wheel, the bike can flip causing an accident with terrible consequences. Use fenders with caution!"

    ReplyDelete
  9. I meant close to the chain stay so nothing can jam it. I like to put mine underneath.

    I don't like the "conventional wisdom" way of pointing the rear QR backwards, but I certainly didn't mean to make that comment public since, as it turns out, people feel strongly about their own QR theories.

    In any case, I think I recall seeing it pointing rearwards and thinking to myself I wonder who put it that way, and more importantly, I wonder if it's tight enough.

    I would guess--and we'll probably never know--that it was closed very lightly. A properly tightened QR wouldn't open.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wow, I hadn't realised Rene Herse/Boulder bicycles has that warning. That is very honest. At the same time, I do not want to turn this into a fender-bashing fest or make people think that "fenders are dangerous." A lot depends on how fast you ride your bike and over what terrain. On a transportation or touring bike I cannot imagine being without them. On a fast roadbike I prefer no fenders. But regardless, I think that *watching where you are going* is crucial - avoiding cycling over branches even if you do have wide tires is generally a good idea!

    ReplyDelete
  11. MDI - It was I who had put it that way (rearwards) at some point; I've taken the wheel off a couple of times. I do not remember how the RSC initially installed it. Intuitively, I guess I agree with you over the "conventional wisdom" method, because it seems easier for a branch to have enough leverage with the lever pointing outward. So I will do it your way from now on. But this is not meant to be "advice" for anyone else; I think that either way of positioning it can have drawbacks.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'm so glad you and your bicycle were safe.
    My bicycle doesn't have the quick release.
    But I pay attention to unusually behavior of my bicycle.

    ReplyDelete
  13. When the rear quick release lever points forwards it can easily snag any small object in its' path as the bicycle rolls forwards.
    All other options are worse.
    Therefore the rear lever tip must be quite close to the chainstay. Some riders prefer it by the seatstay and now we're splitting hairs.
    MDI has it exactly correct.
    Front lever snug to the fork blade.
    The closer the lever fits to the frame tube the harder it gets for persons of limited hand/finger strength to cope. So most people cheat a little bit. And that's usually OK.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I've always set my QR lever pointing slightly in and up. Essentially hugging the seat stay as much as possible. I never really researched it but thought it was the best way to avoid snagging on anything. I have nothing to prove that it's the best solution but I haven't had a problem in 30 years of riding. Your main point is a good one: pay attention to your equipment.

    ReplyDelete
  15. This reminds me of the time my first bikes's (an Electra cruiser btw) fender split in half as I was coming to a stop at a busy intersection. I felt the back wheel stop spinning rather suddenly. I thought perhaps I had a stone or twig wedged between the wheel and fender - it has happened - but instead I found that half the fender had split at the bolt and folded itself in between the remaining portion of fender still affixed to the bike and the wheel. The bike was less than a year old but the cheap aluminum alloy fender couldn't take shock of Toronto's pothole-ridden streets I guess. I was lucky this happened as I was stopped and not cycling at high speed. I was also only a block away from my destination and was fortunate that the friendly bike couriers that hang out in front of my local coffee shop were kind enough to remove the fender for me (I don't carry any tools with me but I knew they'd have some.)

    ReplyDelete
  16. I think the "conventional wisdom" of rear QA idea is that if it's facing rearwards, catching something while the bicycle travels forward is less likely to open a cam.

    However, I think that being underneath the chainstay it is more protected against something being used as a lever against the handle. You also have to think about wheel rotation.

    Whatever. Most importantly, I think it has to be closed tight. How tight? Perhaps tight enough that your "average" user might find opening it difficult. I've seen silly things like "should leave a mark on your hand."

    ReplyDelete
  17. You saying I didn't close it tightly enough? : )
    I suppose that's possible, though I generally find QR levers on modern bikes easier to open/close than the ones on vintage bikes.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I agree with the statements that the quick release lever should be positioned closely to the fork blade on the front and the stays on the rear (I have mine close to the chainstay).

    Having the quick release lever so positioned also allows you to get additional leverage on the quick release lever as you tighten it down (using the fork blade or stay to squeeze it tightly closed).

    ReplyDelete
  19. This is why I check my quick releases after I mount the bike on a car rack.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I think it's generally a good idea to check them before every ride. I did before I left the house that day, which is how I know it happened en route.

    ReplyDelete
  21. While I'm always one to complain about how way-too-tight the bike shops set my levers, I'm inclined to agree that no matter what position you had it in, it had to have been too loose. An obstacle should nearly knock you off the bike before it'll pry your release open. I'm more inclined to think it was just loose in general and opened up on you. I've had quick releases since the '70s and never had a stick open one up, but have occasionally failed to tighten them sufficiently and felt the consequences.

    Also, is that your hub? I had a set like that on my Specialized Roubaix but was told my LBS couldn't get the spokes for it anymore. Don't know if I miss it but it was a cool-looking hub.

    ReplyDelete
  22. There are as many rational arguments for QR positioning as there are positions. If it's snugged down sufficiently and levered over all the way than you've probably done all you can do. I'm always amazed at the number of bikes I see where the lever is all the way open and the wheel was secured by twisting the skewer till it squealed. NFG.

    I think position should be dictated purely by aesthetics. I like my front skewer on the non-drive side pointing up behind the right fork blade, the rear HAS to be angled up between the stays at a jaunty angle of approximately 70 degrees. If you cant use this position because the drop-outs on your bicycle preclude it than you need to get a REAL bike. Like mine.

    And while I usually file the lawyer lips off the few bikes that I have that have them, my friend Kurt adds a dab of braze to the tips of his forks if they don't. He pulled a wheelie when he was 14 and the front wheel fell off. After it was all over and he woke up from surgery to have his spleen and liver patched up he found that he had been converted.

    Spindizzy

    ReplyDelete
  23. Mountainbikes can be bad for loosening QRs, if you remove the wheel and get mud or grit between the tab and the QR it can get loose if the crud works it's way out(at least that's my theory).

    Spindizzy

    ReplyDelete
  24. Peppy (the spokes are for stokes cat)September 1, 2011 at 6:53 PM

    Spindizzy--I am trying to picture how you got the QR lever behind the rear fork blade from non-drive side and I like your style. I am all about the spokeless wheels, too.

    ReplyDelete
  25. MelissatheRagamuffinSeptember 1, 2011 at 7:38 PM

    I'm curious - why would it be unethical? It can no longer be sold as a new bike. If they're not gonna let you give it away like that Pilen they should sell it to you at a discount. :-D

    ReplyDelete
  26. Melissa - It's a demo model and was test ridden by lots of people before me (they lend their bikes out for long test rides, group rides and such). It will continue to serve that function after I return it.

    The option to buy the bike at a discount is there, but the bottom line is that the bike is not the right size for me - and if I'm going to get an expensive roadbike (even a demo bike at a discount is still expensive), I'd rather pay more for it to fit me perfectly. I will talk about this in the review, or maybe have a separate post about the costs of roadbikes and the different options available.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Yeah, twigs and branches. I've had the same thing happen with squirrels.

    The 7 is still "scandalously" on loan. Heh Heh. Good work!! You know how weeks can turn into months, months to years. Next thing you know... ah well.

    GRJ where are you?

    ReplyDelete
  28. Don't have much to add to the QR debate, but I did run over a branch on the Charles river path, only to have part of it fly up and jam my toe. I'm pretty sore and I'm hoping the toenail won't fall out! Yikes!

    ReplyDelete
  29. I miss you too Bif.
    Agree on the not tight enough skewer closure, regardless where it's pointed.
    You should do a pre-ride bike check post.
    This kind of shit happens but it's minimized if you have a systematic check list.
    The 7 needs to go.
    You're kidding - a twig?

    ReplyDelete
  30. I come from the "a quick release is not properly set until it's nearly impossible to move by hand" school.

    I use my teeth.

    Glad you are okay, V. When stuff acts "wrong", it's right to stop and check.

    CK

    ReplyDelete
  31. Oh yes... Watch the quick release levers. About two weeks after getting my first road bike I had my wheel pop off while crossing a busy highway. It wasn't fun running across the street with my bike and wheel in different hands while holding up a few lanes of traffic... I had never ridden a bike that had quick release wheels before this, and after this incident, I learned to make sure they were tightened properly. I've never had a problem since, although I think I should adjust things a bit and get some new handlebar tape, but that is not all too dangerous.

    ReplyDelete
  32. The stick-against-the-fender-stay issue... Is this a valid concern or more of a persistant anecdotal myth? Are there many reported cases of this happening historically (to the extent that a company like SKS develops those hideous break-away front fender brackets) beyond the danger presented by objects jamming in the wheels generally, whether or not a bike has fenders?

    Is the thought that the fender stays will break and the entire fender will... What? Flop about suspended from the fork crown and/or brake bridge connections? The stays will break if the stick (branch!) is big enough and will break the stick otherwise. Right?

    If an object jamming against the fender stays and halting the bike suddenly IS a concern then I'd think there would be a much greater fear of this happing generally for ALL bikes, again, whether or not a bike has fenders: on a fender-less bike there are the ever-present fork blades and seat stays just waiting to intercept a wandering stick, à la www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0_XdM85mvU

    ReplyDelete
  33. I pick up some good information at this blog site. The only thing I can add is my rear quick release came open once and as soon as I felt something different, I stopped. At that time I was loading my bike in my vehicle instead of a bike rack and I think thats when it came open. Its always good to do a quick check of the bike before heading out. I recall that not positioning the quick release facing rear is so no one else can easily pull it open if they ride by. Maybe that was originally a racing precaution?

    ReplyDelete
  34. In theory mudguards can jam a front wheel, but it all my years of cycling I've never had it happen. My recent bikes have SKS Chromoplastic mudguards and these come with their Secu Clip quick release system which is supposed to stop this. You can buy the clips separately, but how effective they are with other makes of mudguard I can't say.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Velouria, because as you roll forward the lever can get caught on things and open up.

    ReplyDelete
  36. From an article by Chris Juden of the CTC
    "With a quick-release that means holding the lever in the open position and tightening the adjuster until when you fold over the lever it leaves and imprint in the palm of your hand! As a rule of thumb, the lever should become snug when halfway closed, i.e. sticking out in
    line with the axle."

    ReplyDelete
  37. +1 for sure on stopping for suspicious noises.

    A couple weeks ago we were pedaling along when I started hearing a click or pop sound, and I could tell it was the chain. Shawn at first just suggested that my front derailleur needed adjusting, but I *know* what that sounds/feels like, and I insisted on stopping. Lo and Behold: my chain was broken. Hanging on by half a link.

    Not as dangerous as your situation, but still!

    ReplyDelete
  38. Curse you Pepe for a supercilious feline! You have exposed me at last...

    Spindizzy

    ReplyDelete
  39. I have long been paranoid about not securing my quick releases properly...it's one of the reasons I decided to switch to this new kind of bicycle quick release I found - I don't have to worry about tightening it the right amount, just opening and closing the lever when I need to take the wheel off. I suppose I'd still be susceptible to the same kind of difficulty with the brush that you were though.

    ReplyDelete