Disc brakes are on road bikes now
A couple of years ago, this recall wouldn’t have mattered to road riders because it was pretty rare to have disc brakes on our bicycles. But not any more. Visit your local bike shop or join a weekend group ride, and you’ll likely see at least a few disc-equipped roadsters today. Riders love the superior all-weather and all-conditions braking power for touring, gravel riding and cyclocross.
And bike makers have rushed disc-compatible frames and forks to the market, while component kings like Shimano and SRAM have quickly come out with better brakes. Plus, the governing body of road racing, the UCI appears to be ready to allow disc use in the professional peloton, too, which should open the floodgates.
Quick releases are on most quality bikes
But it’s not discs that were recalled, it was quick releases. They’re found on the wheels of almost all quality road bicycles because they let you remove your wheels without tools. That makes it easier to fix flat tires and lets you remove the wheels quickly for transporting or storing bicycles, too.
The thing about Trek’s safety recall that’s telling is that, in order for the defective quick release to result in a crash, it has to be left loose when riding. And any quick release left loose could cause a dangerous accident — even one that’s working perfectly and not defective — because the wheel could come loose or even fall off.
Misunderstood and misused
The important point is that lots of beginners and even pretty serious riders do not understand how to properly use their quick releases. Walk up to any packed city bicycle rack and look at the quick releases and you’ll probably see the word “Open” showing on levers that were screwed tight instead of clamped shut.
And even quick releases that appear properly fastened are often not tight enough to stay tight. Or the levers may be not fully closed and are sticking out to the side, which means the quick release is not fully closed or tight.
Quick release use
If you’re an expert and understand quick releases you can stop reading. But if you’re not already doing it, you might want to do what I do and keep an eye out on rides to help cyclists who don’t know how to use their quick releases.
If you’re not sure how your quick releases work, you should find out ASAP. The best way to learn is to have an expert show you while you do it. Don’t just watch them do it. Try it yourself a few times so you master it and fully understand. Ask questions until you have it down and won’t forget.
If you ride down to where you bought your bike and ask for a lesson, the bike shop should be happy to show you. Or ask a more expert cyclist to teach you.
Until you can do that, here’s an article on my website that fully explains safe quick release use, which will get you started. But, again, a hands-on lesson is the best way to master it. http://jimlangley.net/wrench/quickreleasesexplained.html
Lastly, if you have a disc brake-equipped road bicycle, and you have any concern that your quick release might tangle with your discs, borrow an old tip from mountain bikers. Instead of placing the quick release lever on the rotor side of the bike, simply move it to the other side. Besides preventing it getting near the brakes, this also eliminates the chances of touching a hot disc when removing wheels to fix flats.
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.