Do you have recurring nightmares about quick-release skewer springs? Me neither. But sometimes on a long ride I think about them.
Bicycles are made up of lots of parts. Quick-release skewer springs are among the smallest, right down there with bottle cage bolts. Such simple devices, yet so often misunderstood. I am talking about the small cone-shaped springs that go bouncing off into the grass if you unscrew your quick-release all the way. As you know (which means “You may not know this”), the pointy end of the spring goes towards the middle. It matters. This is how it should look.
If you just like to ride your bike without understanding it on a deeper personal level you can stop reading now and go look up a video on how to operate a quick-release. Otherwise, read on.
What do these springs do anyway? They exert a centering force on the quick-release skewer, equalizing the gap on both ends of the axle. This, in theory, makes it easier to insert the wheel into the dropouts. Then when you clamp the lever down, the springs compress to get out of the way.
Are they necessary? No, not really. If you lose one, remove the other one and ride without them. None is better than one. In fact, on bikes with rear-facing dropouts, many riders remove the skewer to remove the rear wheel. If you change your wheel this way, the springs are completely extraneous – and think of the weight you’ll save by leaving them out. Almost a gram!
There are several ways to get quick-release skewer springs right and wrong. Here they are, from best to worst, in my opinion:
- Two springs, pointy ends inward – Correct!
- No springs -You may have to jiggle the wheel to get it in place, which you sometimes have to do even with the springs.
- One spring, pointy end inward – This pushes the skewer to one side, making it more difficult to insert the wheel into the dropouts.
- Two springs on one side, nested, pointy ends inward – I just came in from the garage and added this ingenious method of getting it wrong after seeing it on a bike I am working on, really!
- One or two springs, wide end(s) inward – This is bad. The wide part of the spring will ride over the axle. Several undesirable results can occur when you force the axle into the dropout with a spring over it.
- The axle (plus spring) won’t seat fully into the dropout, causing the wheel to be misaligned. If you’re following someone and you notice their wheel is way off-center, but not wobbly, it is probably because one spring is on backwards.
- The spring can get mashed and deformed as you jam it into the dropout. Throw that puppy away. Deformed springs will not compress cleanly and may prevent you engaging the dropout firmly the next time.
- The wheel can get stuck in the frame. I had a friend text me – including pictures – with exactly this situation, wondering how a piece of wire had gotten jammed around his axle. The spring was so mangled it was unrecognizable. It took him an hour or so with needle-nosed pliers and assorted other implements of destruction to remove the culprit and get his wheel off. That’s one rider that will never get it wrong again!
Just remember, pointy ends to the middle.
In my next post, I’ll stay on the quick-release theme and discuss the relationship between your front quick-release and “secondary retention devices”, aka lawyer tabs. I’ll show you a trick to ease wheel removal and installation. And no, I am not going to suggest that you grind off the lawyer tabs.