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Eric T. Chaffin
Eric T. Chaffin
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The Trek Quick-Release Recall—How the Faulty Part Can Cause a Crash

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Trek maintains that its quick-release levers are not defective. It’s only when they are improperly tightened, the company says, that they may open enough to become lodged in the disc brake apparatus and cause the rider to suffer a serious accident.

Faulty Quick Release Causes Riders to Suffer Injuries

The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a recall of nearly a million Trek bicycles on April 21, 2015. The quick release lever on the front wheel hub, if left open, can come into contact with the brake, causing the front wheel to come to a sudden stop or to completely fly off the bike. Either situation spells disaster for the rider.

The company initiated the recall after receiving three reports of injuries related to the quick release lever. One rider ended up a quadriplegic, another broke a wrist, and the third suffered facial injuries.

Some bicycle experts believe, however, that it’s not just user error that may cause these accidents, and that Trek should have done more to avoid the defective design on these levers.

The recall affects any Trek bicycle from model years 2000 to 2015 with disc brakes and quick-release levers that can open more than 180 degrees. Those who own bikes like these are encouraged to take them in to the bike dealer for an inspection. Bikes that meet the recall conditions will be fitted with a new quick release lever that doesn’t cause this problem.

Two Ways the Quick Release May Open Too Far

Trek was quick to insist that when properly tightened and closed, the lever poses no danger. This may be true, but there is more than one way that the lever may end up in the open position:

Improper tightening: The rider doesn’t know how to properly tighten the lever, or to lock it down.
Something hits the lever: Trail riders could come up against an obstacle that flips the lever open.
Wear and tear: Forces from use of the front disc brake, as well as road vibration and general use over time, could all cause the quick release to loosen.

The first situation is more common than one may think, according to bike shop owners. Users often don’t know exactly how to tighten the release properly. They may neglect to tighten the nut on the opposite side, or to use a cam-action lever to lock it down. Simply tightening it by hand on one side leaves the release vulnerable to gradual loosening over time. Sometimes the lever is never properly adjusted in the first place, and leaves the store in the wrong position.

There is also a possibility that use of the disc brake itself can jostle the release enough to cause it to open up too far. The forces generated by the brake—and by certain road conditions—can gradually loosen the release. If the rider doesn’t regularly check it, and he’s riding a bike with a release that can open up more than 180 degrees, he may end up on the ground.

Why Did It Take Trek 15 Years to Change the Design?

Those who have been injured while riding a Trek bicycle may argue that the company should have swapped out the potentially dangerous levers years ago. The new lever that is replacing the old one cannot open far enough to lodge in the disc brake. In fact, most quick releases do not open this far. One wonders why this type of design wasn’t used in the first place, and why it took the company so long to replace the faulty one?