Quick-Release New and Old
EDITORIAL

Quick-Release Axles vs the Rise of Integrated Tools

Words AJ Barlas
Photos AJ Barlas
Date Jan 17, 2018

Remember those piddly little metal skewers that slotted through a thin hollow axle? They secured the wheels of our mountain bikes in a manner we'd now deem precarious, but 15–20 years ago they came stock on even high-end bikes. Many of you can probably remember a bike that you sent hurtling through the forest with wheels affixed via that simple fragile locking mechanism. How many times have you seen someone on the trails with the locking lever fully open, threaded in as tight as it could be in hopes that it was the right way to tighten the wheel to begin with? A few, or more? 


Quick-Release skewers

These things to hold your wheels on? No thanks. Thankfully we've moved onto larger versions with the lever integrated into the axle. 

Things have come a long way in the years since the old quick-release, and while still used today – more commonly on department store or casual low-end mountain bikes – we don’t see them on the trails very often. The QR is still out there but seeing them is more of a spectacle now. The quick-release of today is attached to a 12 or 15mm through-axle rather than the little metal skewer, but are its days numbered as well?

When putting together the parts for a recent build, I subbed out the quick-release axle that came with the 36 fork Fox's Kabolt axle. RockShox also has an option to ditch the lever for a bolt in axle and as always, there are a number of frame manufacturers that forego the lever style rear axle in place of a bolt in. Taking note of these changes got thoughts racing around. Why do we still use quick release levers for the wheels of our bikes.

Ease of use comes to mind, especially for the general consumer. Riders that don’t care too much for fads, who just want something to quickly and efficiently remove the wheel. Taking wheels off to fit it in a car still happens and I imagine more so for general consumers. But what about the tools we carry around now or the number of Specialized bikes out there with integrated SWAT tool systems? There’s also new integrated tools like OneUp’s EDC or the All In Multitool. 


The neat and tidy Fox Kabolt through-axle

Fox's neat and out of the way Kabolt through-axle.

I don’t recall carrying a tool around with me when I started riding. I owned one and carried it around the shop  where I worked, but it never made it onto the trails with me. Call it stupid but it’s probably more common than we imagine. Now though, things are so different that even the most stubborn anti-pack riders among us have a number of options for carrying a tool on their rides. There’s always the pocket but the risk of injury from falling on your tool is real and even riders who wear a pack are at risk. Remember the rider who suffered spinal injuries from a shock pump in his back? That is possible with a multi-tool too. 

Many riders now carry some form of tool, thanks in part to the options available, but how many are still riding with a quick-release through axle? Is it really necessary if you are carrying a tool anyway? It can’t possibly take more than a couple of extra seconds to grab the tool from where-ever it’s stored and pull out a bolt on axle than it would with a QR, so why bother?   


RockShox Maxle and Fox's Quick-Release Axle

They're solid and pretty much idiot-proof, but that extra material for the lever while minimal, can still get in the way on the trail. 

Some will say that the bolt on style axles are cleaner looking, and while aesthetics aren’t the be-all-end-all, it’s definitely a nice touch. Furthermore, when you snag a rock with your QR lever the thing quickly begins looking pretty haggard. Worse is the possibility of stopping dead in your tracks when you snag that lever, so there’s one functional bonus of going without too. 

Do we still need quick-release through-axles for our wheels? Every rider, no matter how casual, should carry a tool, so is the QR warranted or should it go the way of the dinosaur?* 

*until resurrected as a new product in 15 years

Do you carry a multi-tool on your rides and would you be happy to see QR levers gone for good? I know I wouldn’t complain if suddenly bikes didn’t have them but that’s just one idiot on a keyboard. Let’s hear it.  

Comments

cxfahrer
0
cxfahrer  - Jan. 16, 2018, 11:23 p.m.

I had to push my bike home once because I forgot to carry the tool for my rear axle and could not change the tube - Murphy's Law.
Another point when things get hectical (shuttling): With a lever you can see whether the axle is tight or not.

Reply

zigak
+4 Pizza-Diavola natbrown Kenny Merwinn
ZigaK  - Jan. 17, 2018, 1:22 a.m.

It always amazes me how little thought is put in to dissing the lowly QR. The tiny axle is not designed to bear shear or any other forces, its sole purpose is to assert tension that provides enough friction between the hub shell and the dropouts.

By the way, I am amongst the many that can remember that bikes made for hurtling through the forest were built with wheels affixed via that simple "fragile" locking mechanism. How many times have I seen someone on the trails with failed QR? Or heard about it from someone? Zero. None.

26", 3xFD, gripshift, qr  luddite # (where do I put these hashbrowns?)

Reply

aj@nsmb.com
+2 grambo Jonas Dodd Metacomet natbrown
AJ Barlas  - Jan. 17, 2018, 7:47 a.m.

I've personally broken and bent several QR skewers/axles in the past and know a number of others who had similar. I've seen a number of QR through-axle levers snapped after impacts with obstacles on the trail. Also seen and had (rear levers especially) come loose after connecting with obstacles. These things do happen.

Reply

hongeorge
+1 Jonas Dodd
hongeorge  - Jan. 17, 2018, 9:19 a.m.

I've seen pics of Pikes where the maxle lever has taken a hit, and bent in far enough that it punctured the lowers.

Maxle Stealth ftw

Reply

zigak
+1 natbrown
ZigaK  - Jan. 17, 2018, 11:16 a.m.

I don't think we are talking about the same thing?

Are you saying you have broken or bent the skewer rods on the picture with the caption "These things to hold your wheels on? No thanks. Thankfully we've moved onto larger versions with the lever integrated into the axle."?

Edit: Now as I have read more comments it seems I understand the confusion. There are three different modes of attaching the wheels to the fork or frame: 

(1) traditional QR 9mm with open dropouts, 

(2.1) through axle with threaded dropouts and 

(2.2) TA with some sort of quick release lever that doesn't require a tool to uninstall the wheel. 

Obviously I am an old person and refer to (1) as QR, but other people in this thread refer to (2.2) as QR too.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+2 Jonas Dodd Metacomet
Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 17, 2018, 12:30 p.m.

One month ago my brother-in-law stopped partway up the climb when he noticed his front Maxle wasn't done up. He stopped to close it (not forcefully - I saw it) and it snapped off in his hand. This was the second or third snapped axle in the nsmb circle of fam&friends in the past year. On the one hand, he only knew it wasn't done up because the lever was a clear indicator. On the other, that snapped Maxle was the end of his ride. Replacement cost: $80. The kicker: no one even had one in stock.

Reply

cooperquinn
-1 Joseph Crabtree
Cooper Quinn  - Jan. 17, 2018, 1:26 p.m.

So.... Sitting on the fence on this one, then?

Pick an axle and be a dick about it, Pete.

Reply

Lowcard
0
Lowcard  - Jan. 17, 2018, 5:09 p.m.

QR axles. The Donald Trump of bike parts. #controversial

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 17, 2018, 5:28 p.m.

Nope, I'm Switzerland here. I haven't personally had trouble with axles/Maxles/QRs, but there are other things I can be a dick about. I'll leave this one to the other richards.

Reply

kekoa
0
kekoa  - Jan. 17, 2018, 11:22 p.m.

Had a boss at work that really objected to me using 'dick', so I just started using 'Richard'. Worked a treat.

Reply

fartymarty
0
fartymarty  - Jan. 17, 2018, 6:30 a.m.

The first thing I did when I got my Pikes was to ditch the QR Maxle and put in a bolt in axle.  It looks cleaner and you have less chance of snagging it or it opening by mistake when riding.  

As I am running tubeless (like probably 95% of people) if you ever have to take the front wheel off when out riding then it is going to take you a while to install a tube anyway and unbolting your wheel is the least of your worries.  If the bike goes in the car its not a biggie to unbolt it either.

On my rigid forks I still have an old style QR albeit without the lever (5mm hex head type bolt thru) and that still works fine.

Reply

Lowcard
0
Lowcard  - Jan. 17, 2018, 6:31 a.m.

I've always supported bolt on axles, mainly because of those pesky levers sticking a mile past your frame. But also, because they save a little weight, and offer a more secure fit (if you actually tension the bolts).

Reply

cooperquinn
-1 ZigaK Joseph Crabtree Lowcard
Cooper Quinn  - Jan. 17, 2018, 8:55 a.m.

How.... is it a more secure fit? You don't "actually tension" your quick releases?

Reply

cooperquinn
-1 ZigaK Joseph Crabtree Lowcard
Cooper Quinn  - Jan. 17, 2018, 1:27 p.m.

I've been downvoted, but no one has provided an answer. Gotcha.

Reply

Lowcard
+1 tashi
Lowcard  - Jan. 17, 2018, 1:36 p.m.

You’re grumpy. Go ride your bike or take pictures of your Fritan

Reply

cooperquinn
0 Lowcard Joseph Crabtree
Cooper Quinn  - Jan. 17, 2018, 1:42 p.m.

Y U NO ANSWER QUESTION PARSNIPS?

I'm not grumpy, I'm just curious. Cam thinks I'm angry, too?! 

<3

Reply

Lowcard
+2 Cam McRae Cooper Quinn
Lowcard  - Jan. 17, 2018, 1:53 p.m.

Definitely grumpy, or just nerdy. Hard to tell. I might downvote you again hahaha

cooperquinn
0 Lowcard Joseph Crabtree
Cooper Quinn  - Jan. 17, 2018, 1:58 p.m.

All of the above, @Lowcard.

cam@nsmb.com
+1 Lowcard
Cam McRae  - Jan. 17, 2018, 2:27 p.m.

You've been outed... Formerly grumpy internet poster. Lowcard that is.

Reply

Lowcard
0
Lowcard  - Jan. 17, 2018, 2:31 p.m.

Cooper isn’t old enough to be that grumpy. Seems fishy (formerly REALLY grumpy internetter)

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 17, 2018, 5:29 p.m.

Maybe it's your smug-faced avatar.

Reply

FlipFantasia
+4 natbrown Kenny Mammal Cooper Quinn Brumos73 Bogey
Todd Hellinga  - Jan. 17, 2018, 6:46 a.m.

why would anyone want to have to use tools to remove wheels? I'll keep using maxle or similar style, thanks.

Reply

Lowcard
0
Lowcard  - Jan. 17, 2018, 12:38 p.m.

With rear ends getting wider, the chances of bashing the outside of your bike becomes more frequent. I hit my rear axle lever a few times last year. Probably user error, but if I can tuck the end of that in an extra 20mm or so then its worth carrying a tool. Plus, bolt on axles aren’t an issue in dirtbiking, so why are we so different? They get flats as much as we do.

Reply

cooperquinn
-1 Joseph Crabtree
Cooper Quinn  - Jan. 17, 2018, 1:41 p.m.

We're different because its experiencing completely different loads, and with different weight requirements. Unless you've suddenly gotten a lot stronger than last time we rode, you're not putting out as much torque as a dirtbike. 

The width argument is ok for rear ends, but does a closed QR actually stick out beyond the fork lowers? Certainly not 20mm. 

Also, I'd say dirtbikers take wheels off less frequently - they tend to load in trailers and pickups, etc, not the back of a station wagon, or a fork-mount bike rack.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+1 Joseph Crabtree
Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 17, 2018, 5:32 p.m.

Upright and riding, I'd concede that, but taking tight lines with the rear wheel tracking inside the front as well as crashes (I'm good at those) have given me some dinged up rear axles in the past.

Reply

bogey
0
Bogey  - Jan. 17, 2018, 7:02 a.m.

I haven’t yet converted all of my bikes to thru-bolt but soon enough I’ll have them switched over. Even my road bikes is thru-bolt right now which has the added bonus of being marginally more aerodynamic. I always carry a tool so it’s no big deal to remove my wheels.

Up until recently I want in a rush to swap out to thru-bolt axles but I had a Maxle Lite break the day before a race and had to scramble to find a replacement. The guys of the QR part are pretty flimsy. 

For me, the only advantage to the tool-free thru-axle is that they protect the frame and fork somewat. If you clip a rock, they may just take the hit instead of damaging your expensive magnesium, carbon or aluminum.

Reply

Vikb
+3 Cooper Quinn Metacomet AJ Barlas
Vik Banerjee  - Jan. 17, 2018, 7:28 a.m.

If I have to remove my wheels regularly I'd want a QR of some sort. Like for transport in a car. Since I don't have to do that I prefer a bolt on axle at both ends.

Reply

andy-eunson
0
Andy Eunson  - Jan. 17, 2018, 8:28 a.m.

We’ve come full circle. My first mountain bike was a 1983 Stumpjumper Sport. It had nutted axles. If you are removing the front wheel or both even to load the bike into a vehicle, the quick release is nice to have. I don’t need to do that so through bolts wouldn’t bother me. It amazes me that people are not shown how modern through axles work though. On rides this summer I saw many people that did not know that the DT Swiss lever can be repositioned so that it didn’t hang down. One guy had broken his and carried a crescent wrench to undo it. Another still had the red plastic shipping cover on his front Fox through axle. Or the woman who was running a broken Rock Shox maxle where the lever was spinning around freely. She said her shop told her that it was tight enough and it was safe. She had it repaired next ride. So for some, a through bolt might be preferable as they are more fool proof.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+5 grambo AlanB Andy Eunson natbrown Mammal
Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 17, 2018, 12:34 p.m.

Orange warning tabs left on disc brakes make me twitch, but if I saw the red shipping cover left on a Fox axle lever, I'd probably pee a little.

Reply

davetolnai
+1 Prokop NVan
Dave Tolnai  - Jan. 17, 2018, 12:45 p.m.

In my humble opinion the DTSwiss lever is the perfect lever.  Turn it until it is tight and re-position it to where it belongs.  Perfect and simple.  I wish this was how it worked on forks.  It still seems odd to me after this many years I still need to open and close a QR a few times until I get the perfect tension because I never seem able to make it happen on the first try.

That being said, the only QR I have ever broken was a DTSwiss rear lever that I caught on a rock on lower skull.  It was fine, but I had to carry a crescent wrench around to open and close it until I got a rather expensive replacement.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+1 natbrown
Cam McRae  - Jan. 17, 2018, 2:30 p.m.

Uncle Dave... aka Andy Eunson's friend.

Reply

davetolnai
+1 Andy Eunson
Dave Tolnai  - Jan. 17, 2018, 3:09 p.m.

Huh?

Reply

andy-eunson
0
Andy Eunson  - Jan. 17, 2018, 3:14 p.m.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Reply

gt-dad
0
GT dad  - Jan. 17, 2018, 8:31 a.m.

I have fox 36 ith 20mm axle that has a qr for each leg. It is bombproof and an aluminum qr lever weights 3 grams.(next to nothing) My rear is still on an old school QR even though I have all the parts to run a 12mm maxle) not the flawed maxle light). I just have not had any problems ever.

Reply

cooperquinn
+3 Prokop NVan Todd Hellinga Brumos73
Cooper Quinn  - Jan. 17, 2018, 8:54 a.m.

I routinely take my front wheel off to load my bike in the truck; having to use tools for that would annoy the eff out of me. So frustratingly, I agree with @Todd Hellinga.

And what's better about the Kabolt, other than "it doesn't have a lever" and "it doesn't stick out as far"? (I've never really had an issue with trail strikes, and feel like if you've hit your QR lever hard enough to do damage, it probably just saved you from smoking your fork lowers on the same object. The 40g weight bonus is pretty minimal.) 

Its not like there's pinchbolts or anything, so really, its almost advantage QR here - with the current crop of quick releases its quick and easy to tighten your axles to the same tension every time w/o a torque wrench, and you can visually see if there's a problem or its loosened.

Reply

DanL
0
stinky_dan  - Jan. 17, 2018, 10:07 a.m.

I didn't get a choice. I got a new (for me) bike, it has a great fork - Pike - it has a QR 15mm whatever thing that holds the round thing to the upright thing. Seems to work really well. Does it now mean that this is silly and old or is this a preference over removal? Did Rockshox spec a good fork with something poor and now I have to buy a new axle? 
I have no goddamn idea how to upgrade, spec or replace any part of my bike now, and it was built in 2015. (I'm just glad I have a really good bike shop near me to answer any questions I have).

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Jan. 17, 2018, 2:31 p.m.

I'd like to see you see a problem non-visually.

Reply

cooperquinn
0
Cooper Quinn  - Jan. 17, 2018, 2:34 p.m.

Its hard to see things aurally, I'll be second to admit.

Reply

woofer2609
+1 Pete Roggeman
woofer2609  - Jan. 17, 2018, 9:32 a.m.

"Many of you can probably remember a bike that you sent hurtling through the forest with wheels affixed via that simple fragile locking mechanism"

I remember riding QR's on my old hartail last weekend, in fact. Truth be told, I didn't, and don't, feel that cam style QR's, when used properly, are a liability. 

The weak point was the 9mm axle if you're huckin', but otherwise, no worries.

I like the 15mm Maxle, but I feel secure on both.

Reply

Brumos73
+1 Cooper Quinn
Brumos73  - Jan. 17, 2018, 9:32 a.m.

Why would you want to use a tool to remove a wheel? Just makes no sense. I'm perfectly happy with a quick release.

Reply

mammal
+2 Todd Hellinga Cooper Quinn
Mammal  - Jan. 17, 2018, 10 a.m.

At this point, with the departure from 9mm QR, it seems like more of an aesthetic choice. So I say include the quick release option, and leave the bolt-on to aftermarket. 

Agree with Todd and Cooper.

Reply

cooperquinn
+1 Todd Hellinga
Cooper Quinn  - Jan. 17, 2018, 1:26 p.m.

Agreed, when I say "QR", I definitely don't mean "open dropout 9mm quick release". I'm talking proper thru-bolt QRs.

Reply

alexdi
0 Bogey Todd Hellinga
Alex D  - Jan. 17, 2018, 10:13 a.m.

The TAs on my current ride didn't come with QR releases. I wouldn't seek them out; what's the point? Why am I going pull the wheel off on the trail? The tires are tubeless and near-impossible to remove, they either work or the ride is over. Same with the wheel itself. If, because of ride duration or civilization proximity, I need the ability to do serious trailside maintenance, I'm bringing proper tools. Getting the wheel off the bike is it the least of it. 

The calculus applies the same on a road bike. It took me over an hour to mount my Schwalbe tubeless tires, and that was in my garage with a full array of steel levers. No way I'm trying that roadside unless it's absolutely necessary; I'd sooner call an Uber.

Reply

cooperquinn
+2 Prokop NVan Todd Hellinga
Cooper Quinn  - Jan. 17, 2018, 10:56 a.m.

Some people (including me) regularly take wheels on and off for transport or storage. Its not JUST because of mechanical issues. 

But there's not many drawbacks to not having quick releases if that's not an issue for you.

Reply

metacomet
+1 Bogey
Metacomet  - Jan. 17, 2018, 10:21 a.m.

I really like tooled thru-bolt, and always hated open dropouts.   How many times have I seen maxles/QR's fail?  A handful but not a ton.  Getting smashed and broken or bent out of shape mostly.  Have also seen a few singlespeeders pulling their rear wheels out of tension or completely out of the dropouts because the QR couldn't provide enough clamping force to hold the rear wheel in place.  

Have always found that maxles and QR's are just needlessly exposed and delicate hanging off the side of your bike like that, and I also really like the look and security of having a tooled thru-bolt.  I don't at all mind the minor inconvenience of pulling out a tool to remove the wheel for the added security and durability.

Reply

dtimms
+3 Todd Hellinga Mammal Metacomet
dtimms  - Jan. 17, 2018, 10:55 a.m.

Of all the things I have bent/ broken/bashed on rocks and sticks, the quick release has not been one. I see a need for it and also understand why people don't want. What is really cool, we can have whichever we want without the bike industry making one obsolete so we are forced to what they want. That is nice!

Reply

UFO
0
UFO  - Jan. 17, 2018, noon

I've snapped a front axle on an old 9mm front hub attached to a 150mm Marz Jr. T after a botched landing to flat. The Qr held it together and stayed basically straight.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+3 Jonas Dodd Metacomet Mammal
Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 17, 2018, 12:38 p.m.

Gotta hand it to you, AJ, your article about one of the smallest bits on a bike has led to quite a bit of conversation.

Reply

jonas-dodd
0
Jonas Dodd  - Jan. 17, 2018, 1:28 p.m.

Back in the day I had a green DeKerf team with a colour matched Judy and green ano ringlé skewers. I loved that bike more than life itself and it took my riding to new levels. One day I was JRA back to mountain highway on the baden powell on Fromme and hooked the lever of the rear skewer on a stout root, right at the top of one of those janky rocky sections and proceeded to have one of my scariest crashes as my bike came to a sudden halt and I supermanned off trail into the chunder. Didn't really get hurt but was spooked every time I rode past it afterwards.

In those days the only tool I carried was a 5mm allen key to drop my 425mm Syncros pro-post for descending. Loved that post and the matching 140mm Syncros cattleprod stem in an almost fetishistic way. Of course, I cut my Raceface flat bars down to the point where there was only enough room for the shifters, levers and grips (probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 450mm). Such good times but I'd never trade them for my current ride, a transition partol carbonium.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 17, 2018, 5:35 p.m.

Pics of that bike, please!

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Jan. 17, 2018, 2:35 p.m.

While I'm not rushing to swap out my QRs - the only axles I've had come loose have been Maxles, DT Swiss or some sort of 15mm QR up front. i.e. - nothing with a non-QR thru-axle and/or a pinch bolt. And I have had them all come loose multiple times.

Reply

GladePlayboy
0
Rob Gretchen  - Jan. 17, 2018, 2:36 p.m.

Ditch the QR handle on axles gets my vote.     I prefer the simplicity of this approach.

Reply

tashi
+1 GOrtho
tashi  - Jan. 19, 2018, 2 p.m.

I hope both options stay available. I haven’t experienced any of the downsides that have been mentioned (although I’ve seen almost all of em), and I often take my wheel off as I use a fork-mount in my truck about 25% of the time. Every second counts when it’s 4 re-attachments/bike/ride and my stashed tools never seem to stay in my truck for long. For that reason alone I moved the “qr” from my 32 to my 34 when I swapped. 

Current Maxle seems pretty sweet, I really didn’t like the last one as it always seemed to wear out and have to be re-ground where the lever meets the “nut”

Reply

GOrtho
0
GOrtho  - Jan. 19, 2018, 5:42 p.m.

A quick release mechanism makes sense in racing formats where seconds count but you don’t automatically lose if you flat. For me, since I ride with everything including derailleur hangers for my buddies bikes, I’m always going to have an Allen wrench.

Reply

grambo
0
grambo  - Jan. 22, 2018, 7:06 p.m.

I've  had the rear DT Swiss 12x148 axle on my trail bike come loose a few times now. While riding too so aside from obvious safety concerns there is the risk I damaged the axle/frame/hub by riding it for a bit. 

For forks on trail bikes I don't mind the QR style thru-axle as there's an obvious visual queue if it's loose, it doesn't protrude as wide and you are more likely to be taking the front wheel off for putting the bike in a car yada yada. For rear end, I am going to switch to a bolt on axle. On my DH bike it's obvious bolt on both ends and I like the security of torquing it down.

Reply

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