Robot’s Useless Reviews – Quick Release

In the days when you were fixing flats more often, quick release was a real savior. Not only did it save you time, it kept you from having to carry wrenches around with you, which made you .002% faster than you would have been otherwise. Because weight. Never mind that the axle interface might have been .02% less stiff as a result. Really, who wants to do the math, though?

The point is, riding a bike got easier because you could quickly release things when releasing them became necessary. Quite why we went through a decade and more of quick release seat posts is a bit of mystery to me, as if our inseams were yo-yoing up and down in our Lycra, or maybe because we were sharing our bikes with people of various heights. I spent some years locking my bikes to parking meters, and then removing the seat post and saddle to carry around with me, because ne’er-do-wells could be counted on to steal the aforementioned by quickly releasing it from my bike. But, like any good bike nerd, I proudly carried my seat and post around with me like some bizarre badge of honor, because odd inconveniences are also a big part of riding bikes.

Now Campagnolo makes this device, for quickly releasing corks from wine bottles

It bears mentioning that the entire Campagnolo component dynasty (such as it is) was actually predicated on Tullio Campagnolo’s invention of the quick release axle for racing cyclists in the 1930s. Of course, he followed that up with the rear derailleur, which eliminated the need for racers to stop and either flip their wheels around or manually change to another cog to change gears. These were undoubtedly good inventions that drastically improved bike riding for professionals and amateurs alike, and it led to generations of “serious” cyclists paying 25% more for gruppos (and the non-ironic use of the word gruppo) to have the name Campagnolo stamped on their stuff.

But, do we want things to release quickly anymore?

Thankfully we gave up on quick release seat posts. Now thieves couldn’t possibly get ahold of your carbon fiber post and fancy Italian saddle by simply turning a 5mm hex key a half dozen turns. We’ve also more or less abandoned QR road wheels with 9mm axles. We bolt our wheels on now and seal our tires with liquid latex, reducing the likelihood of flats and thus fast tire/tube changes. Many riders are carrying that hex wrench again, though, just in case.

There are some quick release thru-axles out there. Old habits (and needs) die hard.

The bike world isn’t the only place quick release technology has thrived. Tear away sweatpants, popular with pro basketball players, are an exciting example of quick release’s potential. Frankly, I’m not sure why ALL pants are not quick release. Look what it did for the Magic Mike film franchise.

Speaking of which, Hulk Hogan’s tank tops were all quick release, too, which was helpful when underscoring his frequent point that “Hulkamania is running wild, Brother!” It’s difficult to run wild with a tank top on, especially when said task is so clearly aided by the display of a waxed, oiled, muscley torso. I have, thus far, gotten through my whole career without quickly releasing my own (not very impressive) torso, but maybe, just maybe, that’s what’s been holding me back.

The quick release is a great example of a bike technology that we all really want, until we don’t want it anymore. It was revolutionary and paradigm shifting (pun intentional) until it was passé and the avatar of another time. Will our children even understand the concept of a ratcheting lever? Will they ever need to?

Join the conversation
  1. khal spencer says

    I have three sets of wheels for one road bike and two for a couple other ones. Count me as still being happy for quick releases. Faster than unscrewing a thru axle, and no tools required. I understand that bit about disk brake torque being a possible failure mode for watching your front wheel bounce down the street as you go A-O-H, but otherwise, if it ain’t a broken technology, why fix it?

  2. khal spencer says

    Hey, Robot. Speaking of stuff having nothing to do with this post, are you guys gonna make a long sleeved version of the black CI t-shirt?

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      Khal, I’d love to, but we need to sell through all the short-sleeved ones first.

  3. alanm9 says

    I’m the proud owner of a unicorn frame. My 2017 Vitus Zenium Pro has a QR front through axle and a rear QR dropout. It’s perfect; the benefits of the rigid front end with easy wheel removal for hanging in the garage, plus easy rear removal for cleaning the drive train. Setting up a new Fulcrum wheelset was “fun”, though.

  4. dr sweets says

    I ditched QR forks in ’00 with the advent of the Marzocchi ’00 Z1. Technically they called this the QR 20, but there was not really anything quick about it. A bigger factor for me was less the issue of the quick release and more so the axle diameter. The lateral stiffness for me was noticeably improved once the wee axles were gone. I was thoroughly pleased to see them disappear from rear axles in the ’10s as well as I have never once missed 9mm axles. That said even today you can find large diameter front and rear axles with QR mechanisms. I’ve personally never liked them and went for a a standard hex bolt attachment when I could. It is simply a matter of less being more. Less crap to fiddle with and less moving parts to fail.

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