Bicycle Disc Brake Accidents

On April 21, 2015, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced that bicycle manufacturer Trek had recalled about 900,000 bicycles in the U.S. and 98,000 in Canada because of a problem with the disc brakes. The recall involved model years 2000 through 2015 equipped with front disc brakes and a black or silver quick release lever on the front wheel hub. Release levers that could open to a full 180 degrees had the potential to come into contact with the disk brake, and cause injury to the rider.

At the time of that recall, bike enthusiasts wondered if a similar problem may exist in other brands of bicycles. Now, we have our answer. On September 29, 2015, the CPSC issued another announcement, this time involving thirteen bicycle manufacturers. Again, the issue is the quick release lever on the front wheel hub. It can open far enough to contact the front disc brake rotor, which can cause the front wheel to stop suddenly or actually come off the bike. Both of these situations can result in injury to the rider.

The attorneys at Chaffin Luhana stand ready to help those individuals who have ridden bicycles with these types of quick releases and ended up seriously hurt. If you or a loved one suffered a bicycle accident that you believe may have been caused by a quick release lever, please contact us today for a free initial consultation.

Trek Waited Nearly a Decade Before Replacing Defective Quick Release Lever

For years, Trek sold their bicycles with the quick-release lever that could cause injury, claiming to be unaware of the problem. It wasn’t until they received a report of a crash in which the rider was paralyzed that they investigated the issue.

When reviewing the report, they discovered that the release, which allows the tire to be removed and replaced quickly, had become stuck in the disc rotor. If this happens while the bike is in motion, it can abruptly stop the wheel from turning and pitch the rider over the handlebars.

Around the same time, Trek received reports of two other similar accidents involving the quick release levers, one resulting in a fractured wrist and another resulting in facial injuries. The company alerted consumers to the issue and advised them to stop using the bicycles until they could get the levers replaced. They did not admit to a defect in the lever. Instead, they claimed the accidents occurred because the lever was improperly tightened or closed.

New Recall Affects $245,000 Bikes in U.S.

The second, more recent recall involves similar quick release levers on bikes made by 13 other manufacturers, and includes 1.3 million bikes in the U.S. and an additional 245,000 in Canada and about 9,000 in Mexico. Manufacturers include the following:
• Accell North America (Diamondback, Raleigh); 2004-2015
• Advanced Sports International (Breezer, Fuji, SE); 2005-2015
• Cycling Sports Group Inc. (Cannondale, GT); 1998-2015
• Felt Racing LLC (Felt); 2006-2015
• G. Joannou Cycle Co. Inc. (Jamis); 2005-2015
• Giant Bicycle, Inc. (Giant); 2003-2004
• Haro Bikes (Haro); 2000-2015
• LTP Sports Group Inc. (Norco); 2000-2015
• Performance Bicycle Inc. (Access); 2009-2015
• Quality Bicycle Products (Civia Cycles); 2008-2012
• Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) (Novara); 2002-2015
• Ridley Bikes (Ridley); 2014-2015
• Specialized Bicycle Components Inc. (Specialized); 2002-2015

The CPSC warns consumers to immediately stop using these bikes and contact the recalling company for free installation of a new quick release on the front wheel. As was the case with Trek, the manufacturers do not admit to any defects in the releases, but simply state on their recall site ( that front-wheel quick-release cam levers “that are improperly adjusted or left open while riding” can cause the front wheel to come to a sudden stop or fall off the bike.

What’s the Problem With This Release?

The release, which is typically made by a third party, has the ability to open out to a full 180 degrees. Not all releases are made this way—some cannot open that far and thus have no risk of contacting the front disc brake area.

When properly tightened and closed down, the release causes no issues. It’s when, for some reason, the release is left open or wears open that it can cause an accident. When Trek issued its recall, they failed to admit to a design defect in the release, but upon further investigation, it became clear that the release was not the safest option for riders.

The issue went far beyond simple user error. The quick release requires a cam-action lever to lock down and close, and the action is not intuitive, putting novice riders at risk. Riders may not understand exactly how to operate it, as even tightening one side may not be enough—the nut on the other side also needs to be secured to prevent a gradual opening of the release.

Such a release can also loosen over time, or with wear and tear. If the rider doesn’t notice or regularly check the positioning, he may be at risk for injury. In addition, the release may not be adjusted properly in the first place, when the user first purchases the bicycle. In rare cases, the rider may come into contact with obstacles that flip the lever open, such as when mountain biking or trail riding.

Types of Injuries Possible with Defective Quick Releases

When the quick release does open up and come into contact with the disc brake, the following injuries may occur:
• Hand and wrist injuries
• Facial scrapes, cuts, and other more serious injuries
• Shoulder injuries
• Broken fingers
• Paralysis
• Other fractures and broken bones
• Head trauma
• Back injuries

According to Bicycle Retailer, the thirteen companies involved are working with the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association (BPSC) as a mediator to help implement the recall, which is the largest group recall in bicycling history. The BPSA was responsible for reaching out to suppliers after the Trek recall in April, when it became clear that the issue affected other manufacturers.

On the recall website, consumers are given instructions for how to check their bikes to see if the quick release is one that is included in the recall. They must open the lever and loosen the cam, push the lever toward the rotor, and measure the distance between the cam lever and the rotor. If it’s more than a quarter inch, the release is not affected by the recall.

A Quick-Release Lawyer Can Help

Trek has already settled one personal injury lawsuit related to an accident caused by a defective quick release lever, but did not release details about the settlement. It is expected that as awareness increases concerning the faulty quick-release lever, more people will come forward to seek compensation for their injuries.

If you or a loved one suffered an accident related to a faulty quick-release, the attorneys at Chaffin Luhana LLP may be able to help. We understand that bicycle manufacturers are responsible for making sure their products are safe before releasing them on the market. At the very least, they should supply consumers with appropriate instructions and warnings about the possible risks for injury.

Chaffin Luhana attorneys represent individuals in West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh, Eastern Ohio, across the country. We will give you an initial consultation for free and if we handle your case, we will not take a fee unless we win your case. Contact us today.