Fitness

1.5M bikes recalled; faulty quick releases blamed

A jogger and a cyclist make their way around Lake Michigan in Chicago, March 21, 2014. (REUTERS/Jim Young)

A jogger and a cyclist make their way around Lake Michigan in Chicago, March 21, 2014. (REUTERS/Jim Young)

Last April, bikemaker Trek recalled almost one million disc brake-equipped bikes due to a problem with quick release skewers that attached wheels to its bikes. Since the quick release in question was broadly used by a number of bike companies, the question was whether—and when—additional recalls would be announced.

Tuesday, we got a partial answer, as 17 brands announced a coordinated recall of the affected QRs, totaling 1.5 million bikes. The brands included in the recall are: Access (the house brand for retailer Performance Bicycle), Breezer, Cannondale, Civia, Diamondback, Felt, Fuji, Giant, GT, Haro, Jamis, Novara (REI’s house brand), Norco, Raleigh, Ridley, SE Bikes, and Specialized.

 

The recall is being coordinated through the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Here’s what you should know.

1. It’s an “open-and-shut” issue. As in the previous announcement by Trek, to be subject to the recall, three conditions must apply: The bicycle must have disc brakes; it must have wheels that are attached to the bike with quick release skewers; and the skewer lever must open more than 180 degrees from the closed position. The risk is that, when open, the lever can get caught in the disc rotor, stopping the wheel and causing a crash.

2. It’s not just about new bikes. The recall affects a class of quick release skewers across several brands that supplied them to the bike makers. Because of that, and the range—affected models were sold as far back as 1998—bike makers have largely not provided lists of exact models and sales years affected. Instead, the recall uses a quick test any rider can do at home to determine if he or she has an affected bike. Some bike makers that are minimally affected, like Giant, have provided specific model and sales year info on their websites.

3. Everything’s documented on a website. There is a central website—quickreleaserecall.com—from the BPSA with information on the affected bikes, including the home test, which essentially comes down to whether you can fit a pencil between the quick release skewer lever and the disc rotor when the lever is in the fully open position. If you can’t, the QR is affected and you should take the bike to a licensed dealer for that brand for a free replacement.

4. It’s not the designers’ faults. It’s important to underscore that this is not a manufacturing or even a design flaw. Properly closing a quick release should be part of regular bike maintenance routine, and the potential safety issue comes into play only when the quick release lever is left open (when the bike shouldn’t be ridden) or has been improperly tightened like a wingnut, with the lever in the open position. (Here's the proper way to securely close a quick release lever.) The BPSA recall, as with the Trek recall in April, is a voluntary recall. The BPSA notes that, out of 1.5 million recalled bikes, it has seen three incidents of crashes connected to this specific issue. One resulted in injuries.

5. Stay tuned for more recalls. Lastly, and most important: This may not be the last announcement. There are several BPSA member brands that are not part of this recall. But the scope of the problem, namely that the affected quick releases were made by several suppliers to the bike brands, and the length of time they were used, suggest that they were widely used in the bike industry and some of those brands may have affected bikes.

Ray Keener, Executive Director of the BPSA, was not able to answer our question about whether more recalls are on the way. Our advice is to do the pencil test on any disc-brake bike equipped with quick releases, regardless of whether that brand is part of the recall. If the QR is affected, contact the bike company to see if it will replace the skewer.