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Technical FAQ: When should you replace your quick-release skewers?

  • By Lennard Zinn
  • Published Apr. 15, 2014
  • Updated 9 hours ago
How do you know when your quick-release skewers need replacing? Six brands weigh in on the question. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com

This week we will spend an extended amount of time on a reader question that we often overlook — that of how we should evaluate the need to replace quick-release skewers. Do skewers expire and, if so, when does that happen? To find out, I’ve asked a number of manufacturers.

When should I replace my skewers?

Dear Lennard,
Is there a way to tell when it’s time to replace skewers? How often should I replace them?
— Dave

Dear Dave,
Great question! Here are some answers from manufacturers.
― Lennard

From Salsa:

According to Tim, our product manager, there is no fatigue test for skewers that he knows about. There is only a test that it requires a certain amount of closure force.

We are aware of skewer rods stretching at times, but that is remedied by adjusting and re-tightening the skewer.

We can’t recall any skewer failures, aside from folks damaging threads or wearing out the plastic curved washer-type bits.
— Mike Riemer, Salsa Marketing Manager

From Shimano:

This is more complicated than it might first appear.

As you’re aware, due to the extreme variables in usages and conditions among users, Shimano does not provide fixed periodic replacement recommendations on any non-wearing components. While I’ve personally never witnessed any of our skewers break, my suggestion is to inspect it periodically and if it looks visually flawless, continue to use it for the life of its matching (original) hub/wheel. When replacing with a new hub or wheel, it’s probably safer not to reuse the old QR.
— Wayne Stetina
VP of R&D, Shimano American Corp.

From Reynolds:

Here’s an explanation I have used many times to answer this very good question …

Bicycle wheel design and manufacturing has been my area of expertise for 25 years. In those 25 years I have never seen a quick release fail. I have, however, seen countless situations where an injury occurred as a result of improper use or maintenance of a quick release. I encourage every cyclist who does not understand the proper use and maintenance of a quick release to consult a qualified bicycle mechanic for instruction.

Here is my answer to the specific question, “Is there a way to tell when it’s time to replace skewers? How often should I replace them?”

Here’s my rule-of-thumb when it comes to determining when it’s time to replace a quick release. It’s typical that a quick release is supplied with a new wheel. I recommend that the quick release lifespan should be equal to the lifespan of the wheel. When the wheel has reached the end of its life, I would also discontinue the use of the quick release. If the manufacturer does not supply the quick release (uncommon), I would suggest that you purchase a new quick release to be used with your new wheel.

I know many cyclists who remove a quick release from a wheel when the wheel is no longer useful, and use the quick release with another wheel. I suggest that this is bad practice. No piece of equipment has an infinite lifespan, and limiting the quick release lifespan to the wheel lifespan is a good way to ensure that your quick release will provide reliable and safe performance.
— Paul Lew
Director of Technology and Innovation, Reynolds Cycling, LLC
Reynolds Cycling Technology Founder

From Ritchey:

Structurally, I’ve never seen a Ritchey skewer fail in fatigue. So personally, I would only be looking for any degraded functionality as a reason to discontinue use. However, you will want to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation.
— Tom Ritchey
Founder, Ritchey

From Mavic:

There are no norms of standards that define how often the skewer should be changed.

Mavic does have a test, at the manufacturing facility, to check the efficiency of the clamping force of our skewer. We test 100 percent of them to make sure that the shaft remains in its “elastic” domain and never reaches its plastic/permanent distortion.

The two parts that are subject to wear are those in direct contact with the fork or frame, on both sides. Those parts have small grooves to ensure the perfect grip of the wheel on the fork/frame.

The CPSC norms even say that the skewer should leave a permanent footprint on the fork/frame dropouts (which is not possible on titanium dropouts!). If those grooves are worn out, they will not ensure that grip and permanent footprint.

So, this is what needs to be checked regularly. If they’ve flattened out, the skewer should be replaced.
— Maxime Brunand
Mavic Road Product Line Manager

From Neuvation:

I have never heard of a skewer wearing out. It would require that the cam action of the skewer would somehow have degraded and skewers are somewhat overbuilt so that doesn’t happen.

As long as you have a solid clamping action when you close the skewer, you are fine. However, if someone questions this, they should replace the skewer. Skewers, like forks, stems, and handlebars, are no place to cut corners.
— John Neugent
Founder, Neuvation

Feedback on foot positioning from last week’s column

Dear Lennard,
I read about the complaint associated with changing shoes. First, low volume or narrow feet have nothing to do with pronation. Cycling is a non-weight-bearing sport, except when standing on the pedals out of the saddle. Sidi makes shoes in narrow widths; it’s just a matter of who stocks them.

Also, what I do for some cyclists in order to determine cleat position is to x-ray the feet in the shoe and put metal markers on the shoe. This makes it easy to exactly determine where the “ball” of the foot sits over the cleat. Choosing a pedal with a higher degree of float will also compensate for the biomechanics of the foot, knee, and hip. Also, rather than using orthotics, which are truly an ambulatory device designed to control excessive motion in the weight bearing foot, I will use the bike fit wedges to compensate for the forefoot varus. The forefoot valgus foot is rarer. If someone is lucky enough to find a podiatrist that rides, he or she can surely be of assistance.
— Alan Shier DPM
Foot Care & Surgery Center
Little Falls, New Jersey

Feedback on cracked SRAM lever body from March

Dear Lennard,
I’m writing to thank you for publishing the follow-up to your initial answer to my question. I was heartened to learn from your readers that the shifter body was, in a sense, available simply by cannibalizing the 500 Single Speed Brake Lever. I’m not a fan of waste, or of unnecessary expense.

I used this article as a guide. From there I was on my own, but with some patience I figured it out, and it now works as good as new. That’s about a $100 savings (at QBP cost), plus a new skill that I’ll probably (hopefully?) never use again.
— Greg

FILED UNDER: Bikes and Tech / Technical FAQ TAGS:

Lennard Zinn

Lennard Zinn

Our longtime technical writer joined VeloNews in 1987. He is also a framebuilder, a former U.S. National Team rider, and author of many bicycle books, including Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance and Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance, as well as Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes and Zinn's Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in physics from Colorado College. Readers can send brief technical questions to Ask LZ.

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