Ritchey Titanium Wheel Skewers

 

I’ve got a friend—a bigwig with an eyewear company—who crashed recently. Somehow, despite 20+ years of competent use of quick releases, the skewer on the front wheel came loose. He was on a top-of-the-line carbon bike, so no biggie, right? Well, as it happens the fork had no lawyer tabs. But this was a road bike, so he’s not doing jumps and wheelies, so no great whoop, right? Well, he popped the front wheel just a bit for a storm drain.

This would be where the front wheel flew out like a cat from a closet.

His injuries read like an inventory of the human body. They aren’t nearly as bad as what his wife threatened to do should he crash again.

I’m not naming names because it’s not my story and I suspect there may yet be some litigation. The unfortunate thing here is that what was arguably a lousy quick release have given the lawyers ammo for crap like lawyer lips. Ugh. Because to many people those damn tabs would have solved this problem.

No, those tabs aren’t the solution. Better quick release skewers are.

Which brings me to an item I’ve been meaning to review since before we switched presidents. These Ritchey WCS titanium quick release skewers. It just took someone else’s pain to make me act. I don’t use them as often as I’d like because so often I’m sent wheels with skewers. And most of the time, I hate those skewers. The problems range from the movement not being smooth enough to having levers that feature a little outward curve that comes to a point right where I want to use my palm to push the lever closed.

Who dreams this stuff up?

I have previously not been a fan of ti skewers because they stretched just enough to prevent the wheel from being locked in place with the same security I found in steel skewers. That’s not a problem with these. They feature levers that are a whopping 8cm long, longer than any other levers I possess, though longer may be out there somewhere. The advantage of the longer lever, as we all know, is Archimedean. And because the levers feature a gentle curve, they fit nicely in your hand and look dashing as they curl around a fork blade or dropout and chainstay.

I weighed them at 82g, exactly what Ritchey claims. How’s that for refreshing?

They retail for $69.95. That may seem a lot until you ask yourself about the price of safety.

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28 comments

  1. Thrash

    Great observation. ZIPP makes a good set of Ti skewers. The ones that came with my ZIPP 101′s were really anemic and even squeaked. The Ti were primo and solved all issues! The just set you back a few bucks.

  2. trip

    Would lawyer tabs have kept the wheel in place? Maybe. Is it worth keeping the lawyer tabs on there in the rare instance that this could happen? Yes. Unless you’re a pro who’s career can depend on seconds lost to a wheel change then I think it’s worth the extra 2 seconds it takes to spin the skewer a couple times when fixing a flat.

  3. Missed The Boat

    What exactly about the Ritchey skewers is it that is so much more mechanically secure? Better cam design? I get the longer levers part but am not sure how that prevents improper installation and premature wheel droppage.

  4. Dan O

    I wonder at times if the lawyer tabs actually cause more issues – since you need to adjust the tension of the quick release every time the wheel is removed. Even so, if even vaguely adjusted correctly, the tabs do seem to hold the wheel in place with the quick release pretty loose.

    I’ve been riding long enough and worked in a bike shop pre lawyer tab era, so wonder what the fuss is about. So yeah, I curse the tabs while removing a wheel and have considered grinding ‘em off.

    Then while commuting on the Burke-Gilman Trail, very busy trail in Seattle, I’m always amazed with how many recreational riders I see with their quick releases tighten cork screw style – not even clamped down. I’ve mentioned it to folks at times, then stopped ‘em and showed ‘em how to correctly use the quick release. I’d hate see anyone get hurt over something so simple.

    Interesting male/female response usually follows. Female riders usually thank me for stopping and keeping them safe. The male riders act like they know what they’re doing all along. So maybe the tabs are a good thing…

  5. Ransom

    I have to ask…

    How much of the Ti weight savings is offset by the longer lever arms which give you enough leverage to happily run through the Ti stretch to a firm clamping?

  6. Ian

    I use bolt-on skewers that tighten with a 5mm allen key. Definitely not raceworthy, but for normal riding they prevent theft and attach more securely than quick release skewers.

  7. Boy_Howdy

    I don’t know that the ‘improved cam’ is worth the expense and stretching nature of Ti. For half the price, and only a whopping 20g more, you can go with a well-designed bulletproof design like the Salsa Flip-Off.

  8. Chromatic Dramatic

    Re this statement:

    “They retail for $69.95. That may seem a lot until you ask yourself about the price of safety.”

    I’m pretty certain your friend would have said exactly the same thing about his skewers before they came loose. Infact I’ve never ever heard of anyone having one of their skewers come loose. So I’ll ask the question, how much of “user error” could be involved in your friends accident, or the skewers coming loose?

  9. Chromatic Dramatic

    I should also add, that I’ve heard some people say, the only levers which are truely secure are of the Shimano variety as they hold the patent for that design. Everything else, isn’t as secure.

    But like I said, I’ve never seen or heard of anyone else (until now of course) who has had an issue of a skewer coming loose.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Chromatic: My friend was a pro triathlete on the same team as Lance Armstrong back before he switched to the road. This guy is as veteran as veteran gets. I think he knows how to close a quick release. As to “the only levers which are truly secure” I’ve never had a problem with Campagnolo skewers. These Ritcheys have the advantage of being more comfortable on my hand and way lighter. It’s a combination I like.

      Adam: I have to concur that the ultimate test of any skewer is its ability to secure a rear wheel in chromed, horizontal dropouts. I did give these a try with my recently sold Torelli and they were up to the task. And I’ve definitely twisted the rear wheel in the dropouts with other skewers.

  10. Adam

    I like Mavic’s ti skewers. They clamp with enough force that I use them on an older steel road frame with chromed, horizontal drop outs, with no problems. I think that is the ultimate test of a good quality skewer.

  11. Hautacam

    Sorry to hear about your friend.

    I habitually look at other riders’ QRs on my daily commute. Don’t even think about it anymore, just happens. I’d say that once a week or so I see someone whose QR isn’t fastened properly. I always point it out, and only once have I had someone acknowledge that they knew it was wrong (and that they had left it that way on purpose). A wacky Aussie had done it up wrong — but really, really tightly — and then couldn’t get it undone, so he was riding home, where he planned to get a cheater bar to open the QR and then do it right.

    The rest of them had no idea they’d done it wrong (or, in some cases, that they’d forgotten to do it up at all). Of course if it is done up in a fashion that looks proper (lever fully closed), but lacks proper closing force, there’s no way to know.

    I reef on my front wheel QR (stock Shimano Ultegra on one bike; Salsa on the other) every time the wheel goes back on. It’s squeezing a steel fork so I don’t worry too much about “over”torquing it. Rear too, but that’s a much rarer event.

    FWIW my old-school Salsa Ti QRs have been great for holding my rear wheel in my even-older old-school Campy horizontal rear dropouts.

  12. dgaddis

    I’ve had something very similar happen to me, thankfully at only walking pace in a parking lot. Still, the injuries were enough to send me to the ER. My front upper teeth punched through my lower lip on their way to the pavement, where they were chipped and cracked. Had some cuts and scraps as well, but the lip was the worst of it. I KNOW my QR was tight when I left my apartment, I checked them before walking out the door. It was old school mtn bike turned commuter, made before lawyer tabs, but did have the little arms on the hub that hooked onto the pegs on the fork leg. Wheel still came out. Only thing I figure is I hooked the QR lever on a railing on the way down the stairs or something. It could happen to anyone.

    One last thing:

    THRU AXLES

  13. andrew

    After hearing the story of a QR coming undone on a mtb (with lawyer tabs), resulting in life changing injuries, I have allen key skewers on all the family’s bikes, 6 in all, road and mtb

    I’m not racing so don’t need a QR, I do need the peace of mind that a well secured wheel brings.

  14. Lugged Nut

    In 1990 (way before lawyer tabs) my JoyTech QR had a failure resulting in me losing (swallowing?) my two front bottom teeth in a spectacular MTB crash–since then every ride starts with me visually checking the left side of my bike for vertical/upright QR handles. I think the QR was the type with the handle bolted on–not one piece.

  15. supermank17

    Padraig: I understand it’s unlikely that your friend forgot to shut his quick-release / shut it improperly, but dumb human errors pop up every once in a while, even for the best.
    That said, I’ve always been a fan of the advice from Sheldon Brown that Grego linked to. It’s not enough to keep me from using an external-cam device, but if I’m buying a quick-release separately from a wheel, I always get the internal-cam variety.

  16. leegrimpeur

    I have been a fan of the well designed DT Swiss RWS skewers for some time and have found them far superior in design and construction than any other skewer on the market. I highly recommend a look.

  17. naisan

    After seeing the amount of stretch in Ti skewers which actually translate to perceived rim deflection in hard sprints (perceived, before you flame me), I’ve not only gone to steel, but gone all the way to DT SWISSS screw-on steel skewers.

    I can get them much tighter than almost any QR design.

  18. RPD

    I’ve had good luck with Salsa skewers. I had a couple Campy cams fail, luckily while not on the bike, and one left me stranded after changing a flat. I griped and moaned about lawyer tabs, but never filed ‘em off for fear of “that one time when…”

  19. JZ

    I have seen the most experienced cyclist occasionally forget to check or tighten quick releases. It is easy to do and probably far more likely than a skewer coming loose. Obviously we don’t know that was the case. What I see most often is someone quickly putting a front wheel back on when taking their bike off of their car rack or off of the repair stand and not fully tightening the skewer assuming they will do it later. They forget and next time they go for a ride they forget that they didn’t tighten it and don’t bother to check.

    Because of that, I have a personal rule that I never put a wheel on without tightening it fully even if I am certain I will be removing it again before riding. Even if it is pouring rain or I am late for something, I take the time to make sure it is fully secure. If I don’t, I know one of these times I will forget and assume I have fully tightened it next time I grab the bike for a ride.

  20. finishedfirst

    Another one of the Padraig I-got-a-friend-can’t-tell-you-who stories. What. Ever. Trying to sell crap we don’t need on safety a chimp can figure out.

    Darwin rules – if you don’t operate your quick release right you deserve to go down.

    Sorry.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Finishedfirst: Here’s your little reminder that this is meant to be a space for constructive conversation. You don’t have to agree with anything that’s said here, but being rude isn’t required … or appreciated.

  21. Joe

    Interesting reading. I’m looking around a bit because my crank bro’s got scratched up a bit in a crash. I have never really cared for them because I need to tighten them so tight and they hurt the hands as mentioned in first post. They fit my rear dropout really poorly because of their bulkyness. I have had them slip on the rear and is very dangerous to stop on a dime when standing to accelerate/climb. You guys have me thinking Allen head. Are they more secure?

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