Have you ever thought about how many separate moving parts your bike has? Wheels, cogs, levers, cables, bearings, a chain, and a couple of pincers. All of which need to be working — more or less, anyway — for your ride to go off well.
Here’s a mental exercise to do sometime while riding: think about all the moving parts in your bike’s drivetrain, starting with your cleats and working all the way through your pedals, cranks, bottom bracket, chain, derailleur(s), freewheel (if you’ve got one) and wheel.
Makes you dizzy, doesn’t it?
Like a car, a modern bicycle is crazily sophisticated. But you can ignore all that complexity, because actually using the bike is simple, reliable, and worry-free.
Most of the time.
The Genius of the Quick Release Skewer
I have, on occasion, stared at the quick release skewer at the front of my bicycle and marveled at it. It’s an almost impossibly elegant design, performing a crucial task with an absolute minimum number of parts: Tighten on one side to a certain point, then use the clever cam-shaped lever to cinch it tight. No tools required. Voila, your wheel stays put.
It’s too perfect a design, frankly, to have been designed by humans. I suspect aliens from the future brought it too us, at the same time they revealed that vinegar and egg whites could be combined to make mayonnaise.
Where was I? Oh yes: the quick release lever. It’s a marvel. It does its job exactly, intuitively, and reliably. I have never, in my entire life, created anything so perfect.
About a week ago, though, a quick release skewer just about made me throw up.
Easy as Pie
I’ve been riding the Tibble Fork trail – my favorite trail in the world – a lot, lately. The route I take makes for an intense climbing workout, followed by an exquisite downhill, all on ridiculously beautiful forested singletrack.
I’ve been trying to open up a bit more on the downhill, figuring that my big wheels should make up for my slow reflexes and timidity. And they have been. I’m a little faster going down than I used to be, though nowhere near as fast as any of my riding friends. That will never change.
Anyway, following a terrific climb and very good downhill, I rolled up to my car, ready to take my front wheel off so I could put the bike on the truck’s fork-mounted rack.
The front wheel’s quick release skewer just plopped open.
No effort required.
So I sat down and gave myself some time to let the wave of nausea pass, thinking about what I had lucked out of.
Not the Only One
The thing is, I know this same thing has recently happened to Dug — except his skewer actually flopped open while the bike was rolling, calling Dug’s attention to it.
Brad tells me it’s happened to him, too.
Is it the extra torque disc brakes put on the skewer? Is it that skewers just wear out and need to be replaced every so often? Am I just getting old and forgetful?
Hardly matters, really. I’m freaked out no matter what the answer is.
And you may rest assured that I now check the lever plentysix times per ride.