The Quick Release
Legend (and actual fact, in this case. But legend is so much cooler …) has it that Tulio Campagnolo (Yes, that Campagnolo) was headed over the Croce d´Aune Pass in the Dolomites during a bike race. Much like The Boy’s bike, Tulio’s wheels were fastened to his frame with nuts and bolts. In the middle of a blizzard, at the top of a mountain pass, Mr. Campagnolo was unable to get his numb fingers to properly operate the tools to get his tire off to fix a flat. Out of frustration, he invented the quick release, started a company to make and market it, and now has moved on to the stuff of legend.
Way back when I was spending a third of my summer earnings as a summer camp counselor to buy my first “Real” bike, about all I knew was that I wanted shifters and those fancy quick release levers on the tires. So I got them.
And I dig them. It’s almost a challenge when I flat (fortunately, not very often) to see how quickly I can whip off the tire to get it changed.
Then there’s the endless debate about how to arrange them on your bike. Vertically?
In any case, they inspire me. Tulio saw a problem, and instead of whining about it like a Frenchman, he not only came up with a solution, but came up with a beautiful and elegant solution, in the tradition of Leonardo. And now legions of cyclists around the world wonder if they’re cool enough to rock Campy on their bikes.
(For the record, I am not)
The postscript to this story is not necessarily happy, and is altogether American. So quick release levers are a beautiful thing. However, like fast food, fast tire changes come with a new set of risks. Namely, if you forget to bind down the lever hard enough, the wheel can pop right out over a bump.
Preserving the grand tradition that misfortune is always someone else’s fault, apparently back in the days of legend, someone sued a bike manufacturer successfully over a wheel that popped out of a fork due to a loose quick-release. Hence these babies:
Yep, that’s right. Little tabs that stick out a fraction of an inch. On pretty much every new fork sold on a bike in America. Doesn’t add much weight, but it sticks out enough such that just popping open the quick release lever won’t result in the wheel falling all the way off. Instead, you’ve got to grab the nut on one side, and spin the lever with the other to open the gap enough to get the wheel off. Still way more convinient than wingnuts or carrying wrenches. But a hassle, nonetheless.
(And if they really bugged me, I could always file them down.)