BY LYNETTE CARPIET
TRENTON, NJ--More than a year after the Wal-Mart and Dynacraft lawsuit brought quick release safety to the fore, the ripple effects are expanding.
New Jersey lawmakers recently approved a bill that would ban the sale of bicycles with quick-release wheels unless the secondary retention activate automatically when the wheel is placed in the fork dropouts and that it always prevent wheel separation.
However, no bicycles currently for sale in New Jersey are equipped with automatic secondary retention. And should the law pass as written, retail sales of bicycles in the state would take a major hit as would store owners, who could face fines starting at $10,000 for not complying.
“It would put us out of business,” said Brendan Poh, general manager of Cycle Craft with two stores in New Jersey. “I don’t think they understand the economic impact.”
Poh said Cycle Craft ensures customers buying bikes with quick-release wheels understand how they work and in his 14 years working there has never heard of a customer who has crashed as a result of quick release misuse.
“No system always retains the wheel,” said Bob Burns, Trek’s legal counsel and spokesman for the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association, which is leading an industry effort to defeat the bill. “Even the bolted axle, if the bolts aren’t on right, the kid’s in trouble.”
Burns also said that state-by-state regulation of bicycles would make it costly for manufacturers and retailers to sell bicycles in the United States.
The Bill’s Evolution.
Assembly bill A2686, introduced in February 2006, passed the state assembly last month by a landslide vote and caught the industry off guard. For the past year the BPSA had been working with Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, the bill’s primary sponsor, on alternate language that would not prohibit the use of quick releases.
Renown as a consumer advocate, Moriarty is a member of the assembly consumer affairs committee and former consumer protection reporter. He originally drafted the bill to “stem the rash of senseless injuries to children” after hearing and reading national media coverage of the Wal-Mart case.
But since its introduction, the bill was amended to include bikes with wheels larger than 20 inches, including adult bikes. “It’s being promoted as a bill intended to protect children but the language would make every bicycle with quick release currently for sale in New Jersey illegal,” said Burns. “This bill is not intended just for children’s bikes.”
While it’s likely the bill as written would be pre-empted by federal regulations under the Consumer Product Safety Commission defining how quick releases should perform, the law would still be in effect and could be enforced until a successful legal challenge was mounted in the courts.
For now, the senate version (S2837) awaits review by the commerce committee. While it’s not expected to come up for a vote in that house until after the November elections, the industry is keeping a close eye on its progress, and working to make changes to the bill or defeat it altogether.
The BPSA is hiring a lobbyist to work at the state level with legislators. It’s also reaching out to retailers, suppliers, advocacy groups including Bikes Belong and the League of American Bicyclists, and the National Bicycle Dealers Association to form a united opposition.
The Quick Release: Then and Now.
Tullio Campagnolo introduced the first quick release in the mid 1920s as a way for racers to quickly remove a wheel for repair, and the design and concept hasn’t changed much since.
Through the years, as quick releases moved from higher end racing bikes downstream to middle and entry-level bikes, different forms of secondary retention, including the Brilando clip, recessed dropouts and tabbed tips were adopted.
One alternative to current quick releases that’s gaining traction in the industry is the CLIX designed by Montague Inventive Technologies. The system is also one that Matt Weng, legislative aid to Assemblyman Moriarty, said they’re aware of and think is a safer alternative.
Weng insisted, however, that the bill’s language wasn’t written to cater to the Montague system, and that other alternatives to quick releases, while not commercially available, exist. He couldn’t name which ones, however.
Trek and Pacific bikes spec’d with CLIX will soon hit retail floors, according to David Montague, president of Montague. He said other bike companies have also adopted the system, though he declined to name them. The CLIX is still patent pending.
“The reason we invented the CLIX is because we think that the current technology, if used properly is great, but the problem is that it is often times not used properly,” Montague said, adding that he has spearheaded a two-year effort to revise the ASTM standard to require stricter testing on wheel retention.
“The problem with the current quick release is you can use it as a wing nut,” he said. The CLIX, designed for use on ramped forks, can be operated with one hand and doesn’t require users to reset wheel tension each time they swap out a wheel. It also has a secondary retention that automatically engages, making it less prone to user error, Montague said.
Tougher Standard Imminent.
General consensus among bike suppliers, retailers and even standards organizations including the ASTM is that current quick releases, when correctly adjusted and installed, are time tested and proven to be safe and secure. Nonetheless mounting concerns have put them on the CPSC’s radar and prompted both it and the ASTM to consider revising wheel retention standards.
“Wheels on quick-release hubs don’t come off because something breaks or fails,” said Dave Mitchell, chairman of the ASTM subcommittee on bicycles that’s drafting the wheel retention standard. “Virtually 100 percent of cases where wheels have separated from bicycles have always been an operator error situation. What we’re trying to do is come up with a tougher wheel retention standard so that misuse doesn’t permit wheel separation.
“We want a proof test we can apply to both quick-release and nutted hubs that will confirm the wheels are more secure,” he added.
Mitchell said the standard doesn’t focus on quick releases and is not intended to mandate a particular design. He expects the new voluntary standard to be approved by year’s end.
Currently the CPSC calls for front wheel retention to withstand up to 25 pounds of force applied to it in a direction that could separate it from the fork. The new number would exceed that by a “large amount,” Mitchell said, and would apply to quick-release hubs as well as nutted hubs.