The wheel-holding mechanism is closing in on 100 years of age, and we still aren’t operating it as intended
It’s amazing that quick releases have been holding wheels on bicycles for a century, give or take, and we still can’t use them properly. Don’t think that’s true? Trek’s recent recall of more than 900,000 bikes in the U.S. for front QR replacement says otherwise—if people were properly tightening and closing their QRs, there almost certainly wouldn’t be a problem with the levers flopping into the front disc rotor. (Because we can’t be trusted, though, the recall was completely reasonable.)
To give us the QR education we apparently desperately need, we reached out to Calvin Jones, director of education programs for Park Tool. Here’s his advice.
Define what “closed” means. The lever on the skewer uses an “over center” cam design that pulls (and keeps) everything tight. To get to the closed position, the lever should be pushed over until it’s parallel to the wheel. If it’s sticking out, it’s not really closed. Just as important to note: If you leave the lever open and just tighten the nut as much as possible, the QR still isn’t closed and won’t work as intended.
Set the tightness. Not sure how to set the initial tightness? Try one of these two options.
Option One: Open the lever, then push it toward closed. You should start feeling resistance at the halfway-closed point, where the QR lever is sticking straight out from the bike. From here, use your palm to see if you can push it completely closed.
Option Two: Open the lever fully. Hold the nut still, and spin the lever around and around to tighten the nut. Continue until the lever stops spinning. Now, back the nut off one full turn, and try to close the lever.
Note: With either option, the final push to closed should take a good bit of force. “Get these T-I-G-H-T!” Calvin says, adding that overtightening the part is rarely a problem.
Use the QR nut to fine-tune the position. Is the QR so hard to move that you can’t get to the “closed” position? Open it up and loosen the nut opposite the lever by one turn and try again. Lever close easily? Tighten the nut. You want it to be both tight and fully closed.
Know the best placement. “Don’t close a QR directly over a tube or fork leg,” Calvin advises. “That makes it difficult to open next time.” His recommendations: Have the rear lever land between the seatstay and chainstay; have the front lever just in front of the fork. If you’re using a QR with disc brakes, be warned: Disc rotors get hot.
Stay clean and straight. Give the QR an occasional wipe-down for cleaning, with a drop of light lubricant at the cam (where the lever turns) to keep things moving easily. Beyond that, check for rust (a sign of wear); now and then, spin the skewer in the hub when the wheel is out of the bike. If it wobbles, it’s bent. Bent skewers are weaker. Time for a replacement.
If you want to make sure your quick-release is secure every time, and the rest of your bike is running safely and smoothly, check out Bicycling’s Quick and Easy Bike Maintenance e-course, which makes caring for your bike super easy.)