August 04, 2006

No Lawyer Nibs

by psu

For this afternoon, a short meditation on one of modern life's stupidities. I write this rant in my head every time I have to take the wheel off my bike. Here is why.

All modern bicycles use a quick-release mechanism to attach the wheel to the bike. By modern, I mean all bikes made after 1930 or so when a small company called Campagnolo in Italy invented it.

The quick-release works using a spring-loaded lever. You adjust the spring tension so that when the lever is closed, the wheel is very secure. How secure? If you watched the Tour De France, you may have noticed the fleet of cars that follow the race, one for each team. On top of these cars, you may have noticed half a dozen bikes or so, each attached to a roof rack. These cars drive at crazy speeds up and down mountains and around hairpin turns for 2500 miles over three weeks, and no bike ever falls off the rack. They are attached to the rack using exactly the same quick-release as you would use for your wheels. One can say that for all intents and purposes, a properly adjusted quick-release will be more than sufficiently secure.

For decades, cyclists lived in a time of bliss and wonder. To remove the wheel, you just pop the quick-release and take it out. To put the wheel back, you just stick the wheel in the frame and close the lever. There was generally no need to actually adjust the lever itself. Thus, the quick-release lived up to its name, making wheel attachment fast and easy.

Then, somewhere, someone crashed a bike because a quick-release was not well-adjusted, and some lawyers got involved and ruined everything. Now, on every production bike frame you can buy in this country and perhaps the world, when you pop the quick release open, the wheel does not come out of the frame. Instead, it just jiggles there against two little protrusions at the end of the fork which I, and many others call the lawyer nibs, or nubs, or hooks. I have heard people blame Ralph Nader for these offences against God. If this is true, then that's as good a reason as any to never elect that nut-ball to political office.

The lawyer nibs are a "safety" device. The theory is that if you don't adjust the q-r correctly, and you take the bike out on the road anyway, the nibs will keep the wheel from falling out. This might be true if you happen to enjoy riding a bike at 5mph on nothing but flat roads. If you were stupid enough to get up to full speed or go over a bump, you would instantly crash and hurt yourself badly. They are in fact useless for actually holding the wheel on the frame. All they do is make it impossible to remove the wheel quickly.

Instead, they force you to adjust the quick-release every time you put the wheel in the frame. Rather than a quick flip and pop the wheel out, now you have to pop the quick-release and turn-turn-turn-turn-turn-turn-argh-turn-hate before the wheel comes loose. On the way back in it's the same thing, but you have to make sure you adjust the quick-release just right. Every time you do this, you have a chance of doing it wrong. Therefore, every time you take the wheel out of your frame, the lawyer nibs force you to do something that you will eventually screw up and then you will crash.

In other words, what the nibs do is completely destroy the perfect utility of a fantastic piece of human invention and replace it with something that is both less safe and completely useless! Clearly this calls for a round of applause. Way to go.

Posted by psu at August 4, 2006 09:00 PM | Bookmark This

You have inspired me to see how easily they come off with a grinder. I'll have to look at it and see if I can do that without ruining my bike.

Posted by Doug at August 5, 2006 02:39 AM

I hate those things too. If upon buying a new bike someone told me that for $45 I could have the nibs removed, the area they came from sanded and painted I'd take them up on it. If I had to sign a waiver for them to do it, so be it.

Riding a bike amongst cars is by its nature dangerous. Riding down mountain trails is dangerous. Riding in a race with no cars whizzing by is dangerous. It turns out that bike riding carries an element of danger. To nib for safety seems a pointless afterthought, like banning smoking in an asbestos factory.

Posted by Will C at August 5, 2006 03:21 AM

Except that smoking and asbestos together are associated with a much higher cancer rate than the sum of the activities would suggest. Probably because nicotine paralyzes the cillia (have I spelled that correctly?) in your lungs. You don't cough up as much as you should smoking and the stuff asbestos stays lodged in your lungs.

Posted by Doug at August 5, 2006 11:27 AM

Is that what those bloody things were? When I bought my first bike with a quick-release wheel, I thought to myself "what kind of imbecile designed the QR so that I had to UNSCREW THE BOLT anyway?"


Posted by Dr. Click at August 5, 2006 01:08 PM

Haven't seen them here in Australia yet, this type of thing is ruining the natural selection process.

People who can't work their quick release mechanism should in the natural order of things have a spectacular crash and either seriously disfigure themselves or die, thus limiting their ability to procreate.

Those that can work their quick release ride around safely looking cool and get laid, we weed out the weakness and the whole race is better off.

If you treat people like morons they'll act like morons!

Posted by Brownbot at August 6, 2006 11:09 PM

Thanks for the explanation. I always thought I was doing something wrong because it took me so much time to get the wheel off using the QR.

Posted by Julie at August 7, 2006 11:53 AM

The quick-release has another fun feature, which is that it takes approximately 2.8 seconds for a thief to make off with your front wheel, thereby ensuring that if you forget to lock the wheel with the frame, you're walking home.

The lawyer nibs were designed to counter this, by making it SO FRUSTRATING that instead the thief will head to Iraq where he can help punish the nation responsible for this crime against humanity.

Posted by Benoit at August 8, 2006 08:26 PM

By which I mean: ==Julie. I didn't know they had a name (though if I'd considered it, it's obvious that they would), but my god have I cursed and sworn at them.

Posted by Benoit at August 8, 2006 08:28 PM

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