Bike Etiquette | Quick Releases


Did you know the renowned Italian bike racer Tullio Campagnolo invented the quick release skewer in 1927.

In Tullio’s day, racing bikes had 2 gears and no derailleurs. Instead, there were gears on either side of the rear wheel – one for climbing and one for all other terrain. To change gears, the cyclist had to dismount, loosen the bolts on the rear wheel axle, turn the wheel around, re-titghten the bolts, and remount the bike. One time, at the summit of a long climb, Tullio wasn’t able to loosen the nuts on the rear axle with his cold hands. And, that’s how the idea for a quick release mechanism was born.

Chas: “Wow! We have 20 gears and even that isn’t enough sometimes.”

Today, quick releases are commonplace on the more expensive bikes. They make it easier to fix a flat tire, load a bike into cramped spaces (like the back of a compact car), thoroughly clean the bike, and complete other regular maintenance items.

There is a right and wrong way to tighten a quick release. If they are incorrectly fastened, you run the risk of a wheel actually coming off during a ride. If fastened correctly, they are as safe as any other fastening method.

And, there is a right and wrong way to position a quick release. Do it right, and you will look like a pro. Do it wrong, and you run the risk of the lever opening during a ride, find it more difficult to close, and look like a newbie.

IMG_3912You might think I’m being trite.

Why does it matter how the quick release is positioned as long as it is closed properly? To some extent, this is true. However, if the lever is facing forward instead of parallel with the front fork or rear chain stay as illustrated, there is a chance it may be inadvertently opened by trail side brush (if you are on a MTB), clothing, or something else. So, it is safer to close the skewers in line with the fork and chain stays. It’s also easier to close them in this position because you can clasp the fork (or stay) with your fingers and squeeze the lever closed. And, at least to my mind, they look better in this position. The bikes lines remain consistent and cleaner. It looks like you care. And, you want to care about your bike 🙂

Just before heading out on a ride with either Chas or Lou, I straddle the top tube, lean over the bars, unlock the quick release on the front wheel, tap the top of the tire to make certain the axle is properly seated in the drop outs, and re-lock the skewer, making certain it is parallel with the fork. I do this to make certain the axle is properly seated and the skewer is closed. I will be cycling quickly, and I don’t want any mishaps. With the quick release lever parallel with the fork, it is easy to close. I place the lever in the palm of my left hand, curl my fingers around the fork, and carefully squeeze the skewer closed.

Lou: “I always wondered why you did that.”

Chas: “Me too. That makes sense.”