What is a Quick Release Anyway?

In bike news this week, Trek Bicycles has recalled nearly a million of their bicycles due to problems with their quick release levers. First of all, if you have a Trek bicycle, go here to learn more about the recall. Second, we’ve had a number of folks ask us the question above, what is a quick release anyway? Well, the short answer is that a quick release lever makes it easy to install or remove something on your bike. Usually–such as in the case of the Trek bikes being recalled–this means a wheel, but it can mean other parts too. Most often, you’ll encounter a quick release lever while doing one of three things:
  1. Adjusting your seat height, like on a Capital Bikeshare bike
  2. Taking your wheel(s) off to fit your bike in a car or other small space
  3. Changing a flat tire
It’s important to know both where your bike has quick release levers and how to recognize when they’re correctly fastened. It’s not too difficult and once you learn, you won’t forget. This is just one of the great pieces of bike knowledge you can get from our City Cycling classes, by the way. Check out our calendar for the next class near you. They’re just $10 to sign up in advance, or you can show up the day of class for FREE. Now, let’s look at a quick release. Go ahead and take a look at the center of your bike’s front wheel. It should look something like this:  

Quick release lever in the “CLOSE” position. this is how you want yours to look. Image via www.crodog.org

  Notice that you can read the word “CLOSE” printed on the lever itself. If your quick releases are properly secured, you should be able to read the word “CLOSE” on them. If they’re not secured correctly, you’ll see the word “OPEN” like on this lever:  

Quick release lever in the “OPEN” position. This is definitely not what you want to see on your bike. Image via www.jimlangley.net

  Alright, so you’ve found your quick releases and checked to make sure that they’re closed. If they are, fantastic! You’re all set. Have a great ride. But what if they’re open? You don’t want to ride with a quick release open, but you also want to make sure you close it correctly. First, don’t simply spin it down until it’s tight like a wingnut. That might keep your wheel secure, but it might also put the lever into your spokes. Try this instead:
  1. Hold the lever open with one hand and slowly tighten the nut on the other side of the wheel with the other.
  2. Every half turn or so, try closing the lever.
  3. If it swings closed with no resistance, tighten the nut and try again.
  4. You want the lever to meet resistance about halfway closed (perpendicular to the plane of the wheel)
  5. Then push the lever closed. It might be a little hard, but it shouldn’t be so hard that it hurts your hand.
Here’s a diagram:  

Diagram of a quick release lever. Image via www.montaguebikes.com

  Remember to check your quick releases before you ride. In fact, you can use the handy phrase “ABC Quick Check” to remember all of the things you should take a look at before you get going. “Quick” stands for quick release, but to get the rest, you really should come to one of our City Cycling classes, happening all around the Washington region this spring! You can see the full calendar here, and if you have any questions, you can email education@test.waba.org.