Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Quick Release Patrol

I seem to be designated as the "Quick Release Patrol" of the Burke-Gilman Trail. This very used trail is a popular bike commute route into Seattle used by many - me included. Being Bike Geek and former Bike Shop Rat, I can't help but to check out every bike that I pass heading to work and home. A quick glance of the make, model, check out the rider, etc. I'm sick that way.

Occasionally, or more often then you would think - I pass someone with the quick release incorrectly holding the front wheel in place - tightened like a cork screw, lever poking out at the wrong angle. Not to stereotype, but 99.9% of the time it's a woman riding a lower end road bike, hybrid or mountain bike. Usually dressed in street clothes and using the bike as basic transportation. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. We could use, uh - maybe a few thousand more folk doing just the same thing.

Many times as I cruise past, I'll mention the quick release and how they could lose their front wheel. Usually this is followed by the woman quickly pulling off the trail and me showing them how to correctly use the quick release. I think some get this 30 second demo and others don't.

In any case, I feel better seeing them ride off with the wheel now securely in place. Having nice people like this arrive at work or home sporting road rash (or worse) from losing a front wheel - not cool at all.

Not often, but it happens - I'll spot a guy buzzing along with his quick release screwed up. I remember one guy last year riding a Fuji road bike at a nice clip, with corkscrew style release action in full swing. As I slowly passed him, said something like, "Dude, you're gonna lose your front wheel - quick release is wrong." He snarls back annoyed, "Its fine!!" Okay then, have a nice ride. Wacky enough, I spotted this dude a few mornings in a row to witness it again. Yikes.

On some of the bikes I've checked, the quick release was barely tightened corkscrew style - scary. Others are so tight, but wrong, probably pretty safe anyway. All modern forks have safety tabs now, sometimes called "Lawyers Lips", that keep the wheel in place despite a loose quick release (you hope). Old school forks were truly quick release, no tabs - wheel pops right out - as intended. The good old days. I've read the number one law suit in the bicycle industry is loosing the front wheel due to incorrect quick release use. I don't doubt that. Maybe I saved a few scrapes and possible lawyer involvement. Who knows.

If I'm late for work or cranking at nice clip - I will blow past some folks, ignoring my duty as "Quick Release Patrol". I'm not a saint or psycho over this. Commuting one morning this week - late - passed a woman as described above. I blew past in a rush to work. She caught up to me however, while I was stopped at a light where the trail cuts through the U District, taking the time to pull off my jacket.

While she sat there waiting for light to change, I tapped her on the shoulder - "Hey, your quick release is on wrong." Sometimes I just can't help myself.

Ride safe.


  1. I have a couple that I guest live on my street that ride their Walmart bikes in the afternoon. I can hear them come from a mile away. Rear D needs adjustment or a new cable or something. I just want to stop them and so I can fix the damn bike.

    "Friends should not let friends ride junk"!

  2. All the people I help are on decent bikes - bike shop quality level at least. Still, some have no idea what to do with a Q/R. Scary.