Last May Trek worked with the Consumer Product Safety Commission on a recall of nearly a million quick release skewers. At the time, I and a great many other people wondered how the recall only affected Trek. Well, as I guessed at the time, that was simply the first shoe dropping. Footwear is now falling from the sky. Thirteen companies are now working with the CPSC on a similar recall.
That’s right, a whopping 13. The list comprises Accell North America (Raleigh, Diamondback), Advanced Sports International (Breezer, Fuji, SE), Cycling Sports Group (Cannondale, GT), Felt, G.Joanou Cycle Co. (Jamis), Giant Bicycle, Haro, LTP Sports Group (Norco), Performance Bicycle (Access), Quality Bicycle Products (Civia Cycles), Recreational Equipment Inc. (Novara), Ridley Bikes and Specialized Bicycle Components.
The CPSC has calculated that the recall covers roughly 1.5 million bikes, which is substantially more than the 900,000 Trek recalled, but a much smaller number than one might expect, given Trek’s market share. I’d have thought that together Giant and Specialized could account for 1.5 million of these quick releases. Alas, the actual numbers of the quick releases recalled isn’t our purpose.
As I mentioned in my previous post, which I now admit was rather erroneously titled, “The Mother of All Recalls,” the bike industry has brought this problem on itself.
Let me be ultra-clear. I don’t see these quick releases as defective. The quick release, as most cycling fans know, has been in use for the better part of a century. Kids can be trained to properly adjust and tighten a quick release; this isn’t frame building. They can be operated correctly.
It’s important to note that little auxiliary verb, can. All it denotes is possibility. I can jump from the roof. I can run for president. One is a bad idea, while the other is bound to end in disappointment. I’ll leave you to decide which is which. The point is, possibility leaves room for bad outcomes.
Let’s try this a different way. What if music stores sold $200 violins the way bike shops sell $200 bikes? In other words, “Got $200? Thanks. Here’s your violin.”
Who would send a novice home without at least pointing them to lessons?
Given the thinking that has led us to conclude that the quick release lever is “defective,” the average consumer would similarly conclude that the violin was defective because any attempt by the untrained to play it results in a sound worse than hungry babies make. It’s worth observing that while violins are sold by music shops that often have resident instrument teachers, selling said violins isn’t a lucrative biz which is why music stores are far less common than bike shops. While we can argue about the relative merits of capitalism as applied to Wall Street, on Main Street the laws of supply and demand are surprisingly effective. To wit: Not many people want to buy violins, presumably because they are damned hard to play.
The bike industry effectively sells violins to people after Itzhak Perlman plays them a C major scale on his violin.
Your results may vary.
My point here is once again that if we aren’t going to put the time in to train people how to properly use a quick release skewer, then the bike industry needs to invent a fool-proof skewer, a device that the likes of Miley Cyrus can use without face-planting into oblivion. Otherwise, sooner or later there won’t be a recall, but a lawsuit involving a beloved Hollywood star.
Consider the lawsuit that Paul Walker’s daughter has filed against Porsche. The Los Angeles Times‘ former car reviewer, Dan Neil, was unsparing in his appraisal of the Carrera GT. It might as well have been called the Caveat Emptor. That’s not such a worrisome fact when you consider that was a car driveable by few who could afford it. Should that suit succeed, we can expect to see similar suits for injuries attributed to specialized gear.
The quick release is as ubiquitous as peanut butter, and some think as lethal arsenic. That’s a problem. Until the industry fixes that perception by inventing a new quick release skewer, one that is adopted across the industry, cycling is going to continue to struggle to grow.