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Trek Bicycle Recall: What Went Wrong?


About a month ago, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced that bicycle manufacturer Trek was recalling about a million bikes due to defective quick release levers, or “skewers,” as they’re sometimes called. When not properly adjusted, these levers can become lodged in the disc brake assembly, suddenly stopping the motion of the front wheel and potentially ejecting the rider over the handlebars.

The company is aware of three serious accidents related to these levers so far. One of the riders became a quadriplegic as a result of his injuries. Another fractured his wrist, and a third suffered facial injuries.

What went wrong with these levers, and why did Trek wait until now to replace them with those that won’t cause this problem?

Maladjusted Quick Release a Common Problem

Many of the “higher end” bicycles come with a quick release on the wheels so that riders can take them on and off easily. This helps make transporting and maintaining the bike more efficient and flexible. With a quick release lever, for example, riders can remove a wheel to put the bike in the trunk of a car, or more easily fix a flat tire.

Novice riders may not know exactly how to operate these releases, however. According to an article in Bicycling Life, bike shop owners say that the quick release is “one of the most commonly miss-adjusted part on bicycles owned by people new to cycling.”

If bicycle owners know this, than surely a large manufacturer like Trek should have known it, too. Should they have provided more visible instructions on how to properly adjust the lever? Added warnings where new users couldn’t miss them to reduce the risk of accidents? Those who end up in the hospital because of an improperly adjusted release would probably think so.

Problems with a Maladjusted Lever

The problem is that adjusting this part incorrectly can have serious consequences. On the Trek bikes, as the person rides around, the release can gradually open up farther and farther until it collides with the disc brake. The result is sudden and dangerous. The wheel stops rotating, and the rider usually crashes, hard, typically head first.

The bottom line is that the release must be properly adjusted and then properly closed. The rider tightens or loosens the lever to achieve the desired tightness, and then must swing the lever from the open position to the closed position to lock it down.

What seems to have happened in the accidents reported to Trek was that the riders left the lever open somehow, though it could be that the lever was too loose, as well. Either way, since the lever can open to about 180 degrees, it eventually got in the way of the brake.

Experienced bikers also caution that positioning the lever rearward or forward can make the difference between a safe and unsafe ride when trail riding, as a stray branch or mound of dirt could potentially flip a lever pointing forward, maneuvering it into an open position without the rider being aware of it.

Why Not Design the Right One the First Time?

The quick release that Trek is recalling is unlike older models, in that it opens up much farther, increasing the risk of collision with the brake assembly. Though Trek has resisted calling the design defective, it’s clear that if it can cause this type of disastrous consequences that it is. Trek seems to underscore that point by having a differently designed replacement.


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  1. Earl Sprat says:
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    trek does readily honor their warranties. They incentivize bike store owners to avoid helping with claims by offering the owner of the defective bike a new bike at 20% off a complete bike giving the bike store owner 80% of the normal profit on a second bike. If they do finally agree to replace the defective part they take months and announce that is “goodwill”.

  2. da truth. says:
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    This same quick release can be found on numerous other manufactures bikes.The replacement skewer can be installed on the spot at a Trek dealer.

  3. Bob Turner says:
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    I had no issues with the recall. The dealer had the part in stock and replaced it with no questions on the spot. I have been told by my neighbors that even some of the non-Trek dealers in town have the parts and are doing it for no charge.

  4. larry says:
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    is there a list of models? this article means nothing without a list of models for the recall

  5. Thomas says:
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    The quick release are not defective at all. It is like anything. If you use it incorrectly you can get hurt. Also check out the owners manual. It shows you have to have the quick release in the closed position. This was user error. I hate anyone got hurt but this recall was a joke. Looks like some lawyers are trying to make some money.

  6. Slow Barney says:
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    We’ve been here before; ‘lawyers lips’ is the somewhat derogatory term given for the ‘safety drop-outs’ installed on bikes since the late80s/ early 90s following some accidents where improperly adjusted quick release skewers allowed to front wheel to come adrift.

    Whilst I am sympathetic towards the people who’ve had accidents, operator ignorance and failure to carry out basic safety checks is possibly best remedied by education (I.e. reading the manuals which are, in the case of trek, abundantly clear on how to use quick release levers).