Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Quick, release...

Everyone knows the story.  It was November, high in the Dolomites.  On the snowy Croce D' Aune Pass, Tullio Campagnolo's frozen fingers failed him in his need to loosen the wing nuts on his race bike as he attempted to remove his wheel to flip it to the other side for a different gear.  His failure and time lost resulted in his moving from first place to finishing in fourth.  It was reported he stated "bisogno cambià qualcossa de drio."  Translated:  "something has to change in the rear."  A few years later, the quick release axle skewer, and hence, the hollow hub axle, was patented and released for sale.  

The Campagnolo skewer became the standard.  When people asked how much force should be used to secure the quick release, the answer was "you should be able to read "Campagnolo" in your palm."  There was never any doubt that your wheel was secure when using a Campy QR.  And by using the same clamping force with a Shimano quick release, you were assured a solid wheel connection to your frame and fork.

Then sometime in the early '90s the in-line quick release became popularized.  The Salsa quick release was a collaboration between Salsa Cycles and Cunningham Applied Technology.  It worked well, it was light, it was available in different colors, and, because it was easier to produce, it displaced the enclosed cam type quick release on all but the lower-end bikes.  It also needed more frequent servicing (lubing the pivot) than the enclosed cam QR.  There is some very good information on the quick release skewer on Sheldon Brown's site that I don't need to duplicate here. 

I build a lot of wheels with Shimano hubs.  In addition to being great hubs that are long lasting and easily serviced, you also get a set of outstanding Shimano quick release skewers.  When I build wheels with the other hubs I like (White Industries and Chris King), quick release skewers are not included.  My first choice for a QR used in conjunction with these great hubs is always a Shimano QR.  Second choice is a Salsa Flip-Off, but not when used with a horizontal dropout.  If you're running horizontal drop outs, make sure you are running an internal cam QR, such as Shimano, to ensure the wheel doesn't slip under hard pedal efforts.  

There's also something that just feels right about operating a Shimano quick release.  The cam action is smooth.  When you close the lever, you know the wheel is secure.  The edges of the lever are rounded and comfortable to your hand.  I can't say enough about how great this lever works.  It belongs on more bikes and more people need to get over their weight weenie tendencies in choosing a skewer that is meager at best.  I have Shimano quick releases on my main riders.  I do have Salsa skewers on some bikes that have rigid forks and vertical dropouts.

The wing-nut.  Just in cast no one has ever seen one on a bike.  They disappeared years ago.

The venerable Campagnolo quick release.

What your palm is supposed to look like after clamping a Campagnolo QR with proper tension.

I'm not even sure how these even make good sense.  They're light, but that's about it.

One of my favorite Shimano quick releases.

The old Mavic quick releases were also a nice alternative that did save a little weight at the same time they held your wheels securely.

The original Salsa quick release before the nylon or plastic piece was added.  This more accurately represents what was created with Charlie Cunningham as his quick releases don't have the plastic interface, yet are very accurate and clamp properly.

Cunningham 2
The Cunningham quick release.

The plastic insert of some in-line quick release that has been mashed to the point it doesn't to its job as well as it could.

A nice line-up of Shimano hubs and Shimano quick releases doin' that thing they do so well.

(What's playing:  Iggy Pop Lust For Life)


peter said...

those mavic alloy headed skewers were lethal, just didn't have the bite of the steel ones. I still have an inch wide scar on my skin to remind me :)

Trailer Park Cyclist said...

It takes a high level of talent to listen to Iggy Pop and write about bicycles at the same time. Thanks for the tech post...they are my favorites after the ride reports. And the What's in the Stands...and the Mt Tam history lessons, and...oh well, you get the picture.

I have only been a student of the two-wheeled scene for a little over a year now; but one reality is certain: if you have a question about bicycles, St. Sheldon covered it. It is uncanny.

Chris said...

long been a Salsa Flip-Off fan so they are probably my fav for nostalgia sake... I have been using the Ultegra skewers that came with my Ultegra/OP wheels on my 2011 Salsa Casseroll because I had read about wheel slip with an open cam design... The Shimano's are nice, for sure... I'll still use Salsa's though if I can... I'm just bummed it looks like they quit making the ti skewer in Rasta...

james said...

Hi Mke,
Do you see much difference between the high end Shimano (Dura Ace / XTR) and the lower level skewers in regards to clamping force and durability? Also, with loose ball bearing hubs, like all Shimano, can you "over clamp" the skewer and slightly distort the axle within the hub thus causing abnormal wear on the cones, bearings, and races?
-James B

blackmountaincycles said...

James B, that's the beauty of the Shimano QR. Even the lower end Shimano quick releases have the same feel and clamping ability as the high end. The only tangible difference between the many Shimano QRs is the material and finish. Function is on par across the board.

Regarding your other question, I've been meaning to write something on this for a while, so I'll try to answer that in a new post in the next couple of days.