Thursday, June 21, 2007

The New Jersey quick release ban: My two cents

The recent New Jersey Legislation, which has led to a ban on the sale of bikes with quick release wheels in that state, is a perfect example of politicians trying to protect us and our children from ourselves, and in doing so cause more problems than they solve.

It seems the legislation calls for bicycles with quick release hubs to be fitted with some fail-safe mechanism. Whereby, when the bicycle wheels are inserted in the frame they lock in place on their own and will not fall out even if not fastened properly. No such mechanism exists and if it did it would be extremely costly to produce.

We have other safety devices in our lives that are not fail-safe. Car seat belts do not work unless you put them on. Child-proof caps on medication containers do not work unless an adult replaces the cap correctly.

Why does this piece of legislation call for a bicycle wheel, which somehow magically fastens itself? All that is needed is a solid axel with a pair of hex nuts on any bike that should never have been fitted with a quick release hub in the first place.

When Tullio Campagnolo took out the first patent and later produced the first quick release hub in the 1930s, it was born out of a need for the racing cyclist to remove their wheels quickly and easily. A simple device that has remained the same and works well for the purpose it was intended.

Why it ever made its way onto almost every other bicycle produced, including children’s bikes, is beyond me. There are two reasons why a quick release is not a good idea on all bikes. Kids of all ages think it is a huge joke to flip the quick release open on someone’s bike.

How many times have I watched “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and seen someone on a bike pop a wheelie only to have the front wheel drop out. Like your momma always said, “It’s only funny ’til someone gets seriously hurt.”

The other reason QR’s are not a good idea on all bikes. People, especially children, cannot grasp the concept of a cam mechanism tightening something. They take the nut in one hand and the lever in the other and screw it tight like a wing nut, instead of using the nut to adjust and the lever to tighten, which is how they are designed to work.

The bicycle industry needs to take care of this problem itself before we see legislation like this in other states or even nationally. Only racing bicycles and other high-end bikes need quick release hubs.

All other bikes and especially children’s models should have solid axels and hex nuts. If you can carry a repair outfit to fix flats, you can carry a wrench to remove the wheels. If you have no repair outfit, you are screwed anyway, and being able to remove your wheels quickly is of little use.

Having a quick release wheel that won’t come out when it is not fastened, kinda defeats the purpose of a quick release. A little like having a “fire proof” match that won’t burst into flame when you strike it.

Two cents worth from someone no longer connected to the bike industry, and with no personal agenda to push.


Anonymous said...

totally off topic, but... beautiful FUSO up on ebay in a few hours... out of my price range.

John Natiw said...

Great post Dave. I appreciate the history behind the QR. Makes the issue very clear to me. Now what's this about a Moulton bike on ebay???

Anonymous said...

Good post, good blog, good point.... Just some background info on this topic, (I have been reading it a lot lately). There is one alternative QR and that is the CLIX ( that is supposed to the the implied saftey mechanism in the legislation. But to date that is the only QR that I can find to meet the safety requirements. But I agree, with Dave's points, certain bikes should and should not have QR's. Also LBS workers need to take the time to explain the importance and the functionality of the QRs.

Jeremy Schultz said...

Wow, that's completely insane, thanks for sharing. I've recently wondered why QRs are so ubiquitous because I recently purchased a Townie that is all QR, including the seatpost clamp. One thing the guy at the shop mentioned is that the QR easily provides the required torque to properly hold the wheel in place, while a lock nut requires a lot of force to get it appropriately tight. That makes sense, but I thought, "So what, you guys have a torque wrench, don't you?" So the QRs make the bike easier to maintain, but instantly create a security issue at both ends of the bike. Since I don't have the Mavic moto following me around town as I gather my groceries, it really doesn't make any sense to have the QRs, just as you said.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. Company in Massachusetts invents fail safe quick release. New Jersey just below Massachusetts the first state to implement mandatory use of said device.

Anonymous said...

Dave, you say "Only racing bicycles and other high-end bikes need quick release hubs." You could say the same thing about drop handlebars and narrow tires and you'd already have your wish, the SUV of bicycles, the abominable mountain bike.

John B.

Anonymous said...

MAGURA changed their latest ATB front suspension fork wares to protect against 'lost wheel' troubles.
Viewing a bicycle frame, minus wheels, chained to post or tree reminds me good intentions can often be ill advised.
Apparently young children are now being offered a dérailleur equipped bicycle.
Wonders never cease,

Anonymous said...

I heard of this law on and was searching for more sounds to me like more over-legislating. I ride a bike now that doesn't have quick release, so I carry a 15mm wrench everywhere...not a big deal, but then neither is learning how your bike works. Parents need to lighten up, kids need to learn to be careful and notice if other kids mess with their bikes, and anyone who rides a bike should understand how it works or ride with someone who can take care of it for them. Next law will be to limit how the brake calipers works--it is easy to undo those--like when you take your wheel off--and forget to put them the brakes don't work. Then, let's make a law that requires kids to ride on the sidewalk (more dangerous than riding on the street, but most parents don't know that). Instead of all this legislation, how about parents 1) teach their kids to be careful and 2) notice if their kids are not careful. There are so many other political issues that deserve more attention than this.

Anonymous said...

That's crap. Living in an urban center, I love my quick release. It lets me secure my bike more effectively against robbery of parts without needing extra tools. Learning how to properly secure a quick-release is a totally brain dead operation.

With quick-release I can strip off the "stealable" parts in seconds and secure them with a single U-lock, without needing to carry around a chain as well. I would not want a non quick-release bike.

Unknown said...

To me quick release wheels are a no brainer - and result in having to carry one less tool, which is always a good thing.

I also read about this on roadbiker's newsletter, and decided to research the subject. The MA company connection is very suspicious.

Anonymous said...

Oddly enough, you can thank a former customer of yours, John Howard, for making himself available as an expert witness in a product liability case during the mid 1990s. His testimony helped lead to most all racing bicycles of the time being sold with sheet metal "lawyers lips" that prevented the QR wheels from being removed quickly.

ohmypolarbear said...

anonymous 2:37 pm, I also live in an urban center. The first thing I did when I got my bike was replace the wheel and seat quick releases with locking skewers that require a special key to open. I keep the key attached to my bike lock key... never go anywhere without both.

MrEthiopian Registered Independent said...

Apparently you have never flatted in the woods of New England on a hot summer’s day. If you had you would know what QR is all about, getting back on your bike before you’re munched by a million mosquitoes. I have been ridding w/ QR for the last 20 years, 5 years w/ disk breaks and have never had a problem. If you’re too inept to be able properly put on a QR then sell your bike and go watch TV.


Unknown said...

Have you got a link to a .pdf of this bill as it passed the NJ legislature? It would be an interesting read.