No Lawyer Nibs

For this afternoon, a short meditation on one of modern life’s stupidities. I write this rant in my head every time I have to take the wheel off my bike. Here is why. All modern bicycles use a quick-release mechanism to attach the wheel to the bike. By modern, I mean all bikes made after 1930 or so when a small company called Campagnolo in Italy invented it.

The quick-release works using a spring-loaded lever. You adjust the spring tension so that when the lever is closed, the wheel is very secure. How secure? If you watched the Tour De France, you may have noticed the fleet of cars that follow the race, one for each team. On top of these cars, you may have noticed half a dozen bikes or so, each attached to a roof rack. These cars drive at crazy speeds up and down mountains and around hairpin turns for 2500 miles over three weeks, and no bike ever falls off the rack. They are attached to the rack using exactly the same quick-release as you would use for your wheels. One can say that for all intents and purposes, a properly adjusted quick-release will be more than sufficiently secure.

For decades, cyclists lived in a time of bliss and wonder. To remove the wheel, you just pop the quick-release and take it out. To put the wheel back, you just stick the wheel in the frame and close the lever. There was generally no need to actually adjust the lever itself. Thus, the quick-release lived up to its name, making wheel attachment fast and easy.

Then, somewhere, someone crashed a bike because a quick-release was not well- adjusted, and some lawyers got involved and ruined everything. Now, on every production bike frame you can buy in this country and perhaps the world, when you pop the quick release open, the wheel does not come out of the frame. Instead, it just jiggles there against two little protrusions at the end of the fork which I, and many others call the lawyer nibs, or nubs, or hooks. I have heard people blame Ralph Nader for these offences against God. If this is true, then that’s as good a reason as any to never elect that nut-ball to political office.

The lawyer nibs are a “safety” device. The theory is that if you don’t adjust the q-r correctly, and you take the bike out on the road anyway, the nibs will keep the wheel from falling out. This might be true if you happen to enjoy riding a bike at 5mph on nothing but flat roads. If you were stupid enough to get up to full speed or go over a bump, you would instantly crash and hurt yourself badly. They are in fact useless for actually holding the wheel on the frame. All they do is make it impossible to remove the wheel quickly.

Instead, they force you to adjust the quick-release every time you put the wheel in the frame. Rather than a quick flip and pop the wheel out, now you have to pop the quick-release and turn-turn-turn-turn-turn-turn-argh- turn-hate before the wheel comes loose. On the way back in it’s the same thing, but you have to make sure you adjust the quick-release just right. Every time you do this, you have a chance of doing it wrong. Therefore, every time you take the wheel out of your frame, the lawyer nibs force you to do something that you will eventually screw up and then you will crash.

In other words, what the nibs do is completely destroy the perfect utility of a fantastic piece of human invention and replace it with something that is both less safe and completely useless! Clearly this calls for a round of applause. Way to go.