Category Archives: Advocacy & Local Issues

Bicycle advocacy both local and national, as well as discussion of local bicycle incidents with the community and/or police

Trek issues massive recall of quick releases for disc brake bikes; what it means to you (non-Trek bikes suspect as well)

recalled_bikesA few days ago Trek issued perhaps the largest bicycle recall in history, affecting nearly 1 million bikes with disc brakes. I’m going to attempt to summarize the issue here.
But first, here’s a link to a video showing an OK quick release,
another that shows the recalled quick release… and why it’s dangerous.
And finally, Trek’s official release on the recall.

This affects only bikes with disc brakes. Period. Despite the photos shown in the news, displaying rows of bikes without disc brakes, you do not have an issue if your bike does not have disc brakes.

The recall is for Trek bikes right now, but it’s expected to become an industry-wide issue. The quick release style being recalled has been in wide use across nearly all major bike companies. Trek recognized and is dealing with this first, as they became aware of a very serious injury for which research pointed to the quick release design as the cause.

The problem is caused by the quick release rotating backward into the front wheel’s disc, where it can lock in place, causing the front wheel to suddenly stop rotating. This can cause a crash without warning, possibly launching the rider into harm’s way. It’s a serious problem.

Some in the industry believe this is a user-error situation, where someone has not properly installed the front wheel. In many cases, this is true. If someone does not properly install the front wheel, perhaps by screwing the quick release on instead of flipping the lever, or they simply don’t have enough pressure holding it in place, some quick release levers will drop into the disc.  The obvious solution is to properly-install & tighten the quick release, and check it frequently. Better yet to use a quick-release that can’t do that (in 2003 it was shown that it’s not likely, but possible, for a front quick release on a disc brake bikes can loosen on their own, so let’s remove every opportunity practical!).

It would appear that simply moving the quick release lever from the disc-side of the wheel to the other side would eliminate the “lock & launch” problem, but this is not a reliable solution because the mechanism is not keyed and can easily be installed either way. But if you have a non-Trek bicycle and the quick release can rotate backward enough to go into the rotor, having the lever side of the quick release opposite the disc is better than nothing. The problem is that anyone, at anytime, could reinstall it differently.

You should also pay attention to the adjustment of your quick release much more often, since the evidence is clear that they can loosen over time. Yours might not have yet, but it could. Next time you’re in a shop, have them show you what proper tension on the lever is.

Replacing the quick release is super-easy. A couple of minutes and you’re done. Replacing broken bikes and healing from accidents is not so easy. Please take this recall seriously.

Thanks, Mike Jacoubowsky, Partner, Chain Reaction Bicycles

The beginning of a business rant (why I’m heading to DC right now)

Cruising at 35,000 feet above Arizona? New Mexico? Nearing Texas? Don’t know. I’m supposed to know; this is a flight advertised by United as having wi-fi Internet available, but it appears that the “beta” label they’ve kept on it for the year since introduction is still appropriate. On the way back from the lav I noticed quite a few people attempting to seek refuge from boredom by trying to get on-line. Wouldn’t it be nice of the crew to make an announcement not to bother? Apparently that’s not in the United handbook. So I find myself looking out the window at strange geologic formations and wishing I knew what they were, as well as the now-familiar-everywhere glass fields of solar panels, curiously adjacent to similarly-shaped fields of whatever is grown in an arid environment. Would love to access Google Maps and see exactly what’s down there!

And it is, indeed, arid. Someone traveling through the US for the first time, looking out the windows on this flight, might think we’re one vast desert, nothing green that’s not irrigated, roads at every angle cutting across dirt. In some ways, it resembles a sky map showing contellations, the roads between each little square “something” being the lines between starts, depicting a lion or a sauce pan. I have no idea at all what those squares are; there are thousands of them though. In the 60s & early 70s one might have thought an ICBM complex looked like this.

So why am I flying today?

Because it would take too much time to ride to DC (plus I’d be bored to tears riding through so much desert!). What’s in DC? Bike & business issues. This is as much an advocacy mission for small business as it is for cycling, although the two are, in my opinion, very related. In the past, we’ve pushed for federal spending to create cycling infrastructure and to make the needs of cyclists a part of normal road design, not an afterthought. We’ve done very well, in some ways perhaps too well. We focused on getting our piece of the pie, making sure the tax dollars collected were put to good use. What we missed is the extent to which the local bike shop is, itself, a very important part of that infrastructure. Your local bike shop makes cycling an easy thing to do, by having a local business that’s familiar with the cycling opportunities of the area, which helps to make sure you get the right bike. And of course keep that bike running, taking care of such simple things as flat tires and as complex as modifications for comfort and terrain.

But if your local bike shop goes out of business, perhaps cycling becomes the new golf, an activity with little support at its base but an active high-end elite that can either afford concierge-type service or makes a lifestyle out of learning enough about the bike that they can do everything themselves. You can say people should learn how to do simple things themselves, but how many of us even bother to change the oil in our car anymore? It’s pretty darned simple, but most of us don’t want to deal with that end of things. If we can’t plug in something new and throw something old out, it’s too complicated.

OK, so why might your local bike shop go out of business? For one thing, we’re not an “efficient” use of space. If you’ve been into one of our two stores, you’ll see over 200 bikes on display. In each. With many more in back. And we still don’t have everything people want. Rent is charged by the square foot, and it takes a lot of square footage for all those bikes. And rents in the SF Bay Area are going through the roof, as we compete with the Googles, Facebooks and Apples of the world, with endlessly-deep pockets.

But I can’t spend a lot of thought on things I can’t do anything about. What I can do is work at being as competitive as possible, with much of that coming from sharpening pencils internally, becoming leaner & meaner. Ironically, at the same time customer service needs to be better and better. That’s the internal part. Externally, there remains a huge loophole for sales tax on items purchased on-line from out-of-state vendors. A 9% disadvantage that, on higher-end product, can be pretty significant. We lose frequent sales to people coming in and asking us for advice on what they should get (type of tire, saddle, wheelset just being a few examples) and, while talking with them, they’ll look it up on their iPhone and find somebody on-line who can ship it to them without sales tax. For a while I used to think this sort of thing was an abheration, something done only by terribly-rude people, but Amazon and Ebay have worked their tails off trying to convince people that price is everything, click here and you’ll save the sales tax and have it in two days.

Aside from the fact that I have to charge customers who live in my area the tax and the on-line vendors don’t, there’s another issue- that those sales taxes go to support local services. Fire, police, schools, roads, transit systems, water treatment plants… all the things that make your community livable. Essentially it’s a price paid for enjoying the benefits of living where you do.

So part of what we’re doing in DC (“we” being a number of leaders from the bicycle business, along with some “vocal” local shop owners) is to work with congress to plug the sales tax loopholes. Resistance to doing so comes from many who believe it’s a “new” tax when, in virtually every state, the tax has always been owed, just not collected. And yes, I’m sure I’m not taking a very popular stance with many of my customers!

Beyond that, we’ll be working towards the usual… better infrastructure, but with an eye towards more-efficient infrastructure, making use of what’s already in place. Or keeping it in place, I should say. The local bike shops. If we go away, it might be compared to what happened in Los Angeles, when they tore up the massive light rail transit system back in the late 40s-early 50s. We’re paying an astronical cost putting transit back into Los Angeles today, paying for the mistake many times over. Can you imagine if tax-paying bike shops disappeared, in favor of government-subsidized co-ops?

More to come- (they’re getting ready to close the doors on my flight from Houston to DC)
Mike Jacoubowsky, Partner
Chain Reaction Bicycles