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I bought a cheapish (£350) hybrid bike to use during lockdown.

I covered about 350 miles (560 km) on tarmac and pavement. 8 months ago i was riding, about 11k into the journey and was on a tarmac cycle path.

Next think I knew was when the paramedics were bringing me round. It seems the front wheel skewer snapped. There's a slight bend in it with a small piece still secured in the nut. Seems the wheel came clean off and I hit the ground at 15mph (24km/h) according to my phone app.

I received a fractured neck- c5 and c6, facial scarring, whiplash to neck and back, concussion and general bruising. I still have physio and possible scar correction operation.

I have no recollection of what happened. The bike was in new condition and was riding normally with nothing untoward.

Has this happened to anyone else? enter image description here

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  • Sounds a bit weird. It's extremely rare for a skewer to snap, and normally I'd expect there to be a few seconds of warning before the front wheel completely failed. It's possible that something was improperly assembled. Aug 6 at 0:08
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    I'd bought it in late july 2020 but didn't use it much (have a heart condition so long or hilly rides are out) as local gym and pool reopened. It was given a free 6 week once over service after maybe 150 miles. Other than that I inflated the tyres and checked brakes etc before any ride. In the 2nd lockdown I used it more often and did the same checks.
    – RUSH2112
    Aug 6 at 8:26
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    Never left the bike unattended. No witnesses or cameras at the location. Passers by found me and called 999. One of whom is a keen cyclist and retrieved the detatched wheel and nut. He said the bike had failed as did the attending police officer. Im waiting for a solicitor to assess and progress my claim.
    – RUSH2112
    Aug 6 at 8:40
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    I’ve broken a quick release skewer in the past. I was young and stupid and used too much force. It broke at the nut where the threads end. Fortunately already happened while closing the quick release lever, not while riding.
    – Michael
    Aug 6 at 12:37
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    If indeed the failure was due to the skewer breaking (vs the damage to the skewer being due to the crash), the most likely cause of failure would be over-tightening. Aug 6 at 22:51
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Thanks for adding the photo. Obviously, it's hard to be certain from afar, and you don't have a first hand account. You seem to have been told that the front skewer rod snapped. If it snapped, it would have let your front wheel come out of the fork, which would cause a crash.

Bikes do have little lips on the fork ends to reduce the probability that the wheel comes out suddenly if someone doesn't tighten the skewer properly. They're called lawyer lips. Presumably they didn't work here.

I don't know that data on failure rates is public. It does seem odd that the skewer rod snapped. To my knowledge, the skewer clamps laterally, and I think it doesn't take much vertical stress while you're riding or if you hit a bump. The wheel axle, which you slip the rod into, is the component that should take that load. Also, on a cycle path, you shouldn't be hitting any bumps big enough to bend an axle (likely steel, possibly aluminum or titanium on high end bikes, but those shouldn't get bent just riding on a path either). In any case, if the skewer did precipitate the crash, then it seems likely that it's a quality control failure of some sort. I don't know for sure, but I would guess that it could be possible to break a rod by overtightening the skewer - except you would have to crank down really hard, and I'm not even sure that many skewer cams could generate enough force to make the rod fail (probably the skewer cam would fail first).

If I am correct, then I think you might want to think about contacting a lawyer. Be aware that fault might be tricky to prove conclusively in a civil court proceeding. Your side would probably need to show that the bike wasn't assembled or maintained negligently - and I'm not sure what that could entail. Also, you could have had the skewer loose when you set off for the ride, and I guess it's possible it could have broken in the crash, rather than causing the crash. However, I believe a personal injury lawyer would at least assess your options for free.

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    Thanks for all your answers. Thats more info than ive had in 8 months since the accident from my previous solicitor! I think i did land head first but was wearing a helmet. That probably saved my life or at least long term disability! I definitely wont ride again....i have a heart condition anyway so anything too tough wasnt possible. Its not worth the risk of any other kind of fall. Hopefully my new solicitor will be able to progress matters and at least obtain an engineers / metallurgists report. At least I will know 1 way or the other if I have a valid claim or not. Thanka again.
    – RUSH2112
    Aug 7 at 4:23
  • The skewer and the lock-nut look corroded, which is strange for the skewer because they are stainless steel for most of the time. Had the bike been sitting outside or in a damp garage? The snap might be corrosion related, possibly electrolytic corrosion. Do you live by the sea?
    – Carel
    Aug 7 at 7:24
  • 6 miles from the sea. It would only get wet if it was a rainy ride. I did get caught in 1 or 2 downpours but surely any bike part should withstand thator thered be 1000s of problems?
    – RUSH2112
    Aug 8 at 9:46
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I am not a qualified accident investigator

A skewer snapping sounds more like a result than a cause. The skewer holds the wheel in place, and breaking is a consequence of some other event.

I would get an impartial person to inspect the bike closely, and document what they find. Don't fix anything though.

  • front wheel spoke trueness and dents/bent spokes
  • fork alignment, has it been bent.
  • Brakes - do they tell you anything ?

I'd also get a very clear macro photograph of each end of the broken skewer to see if it shows anything, like "tide marks" or if its all one clean break.

Were there witnesses at all? Who called the ambulance? Did they see what happened? Are there any traffic cameras or "public safety" cameras in that spot ?


Looking at the photo, the skewer has clearly parted. At first I thought "that's a lot of skewer sticking out of the hub" then realised that the wheel is not in the fork, so the extra length visible is what would be passing through the fork dropouts on both sides.

The tip of the skewer is interesting - looking at the break I can see:

  • Red lines show the edge of the thread, both the crest and valley
  • Green line shows the metal that is inside the thread at one point on the circumference
  • The inner Red circle is the core and is solid metal

We can see a clear delineation between the Blue shaded area and the part closer to the thread. I would guess that the Blue-shaded area is rusty, and the other part is cleaner - because it only recently gave way while the blue part was damaged for a while.

""

Estimating from the depth of thread visible, this parted in about the middle of the dropout, about exactly where the axle-tube ended.

So my guesses would be one or more of:

  • QR was damaged by overtightening in the past - if anyone has used a tool other than their hands to close the QR, then this is too much.
  • QR was very loose and the fork-dropout was pressing down on the QR, not being held by the axle.
  • Approx 2/3 of the QR was already separated, and that last third gave way suddenly, dropping the fork clear off the end.

At that point the whole front wheel twisted sideways in the frame, bound-up against the fork and stopped suddenly. The rider still had momentum which continued and pushed you over the bars.

I would guess that you hit the ground face-first, and your hands/arms were scraped up from instinctively trying to protect your head. Presumably you were wearing a helmet which minimised the shock to the skull/brain and kept the impact from being even more severe. If you weren't wearing a helmet, you're amazingly lucky for not be more-injured.


Solutions

Obviously you need to heal first. Get a medical opinion of fitness before progressing - an injury on an injury is more than twice as bad.

You need a new helmet too. Dispose of the old one, don't keep it as a "spare"

Mechanically your bike needs a new quality skewer. However in your position some reluctance to use skewers is reasonable. For confidence reasons, I'd suggest replacing the hollow QR axle with a solid axle that uses ~15mm nuts on each side to secure the wheel.
A more-expensive solution is to replace the wheel/fork with one that uses a through-axle. These are essentially a large special bolt that replaces the axle and uses sealed bearings.

Proceedurally, a periodic once-over of the bike should show looseness before it becomes a problem. A monthly "M-Check" is a great idea, where you push/pull things, twist, spin, squeeze and shake to look for badness.

Don't let this event put you off riding. QRs are normally quite safe.

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  • If you can add some photos to your original question, that could be useful. The skewer, the bike, and maybe even the location (a streetview link is good)
    – Criggie
    Aug 6 at 1:53
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    Id bought it in late july 2020 but didnt use it much (have a heart condition so long or hilly rides are out) as local gym and pool reopened. It was given a free 6 week once over service after maybe 150 miles. Other than that i inflated the tyres and checked brakes etc before any ride. In the 2nd lockdown i used it more often and did the same checks. Ive no recollection of the accident - probably due to concussion - but had no warning signs or reasons to stop to check the bike. There were no witnesses but passers by found me and called the ambulance.
    – RUSH2112
    Aug 6 at 8:36
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    Regarding rust: When did OP take the photos? They mention the crash happened some months ago. If the photos were only taken recently rust could have developed in the meantime. I also somewhat doubt it’s rust, the rest of the skewer and bike looks very pristine.
    – Michael
    Aug 7 at 8:07
  • @Michael torn metal won't have any kind of protection layer on it, the rest of the skewer will have something applied to the outside, like the frame has paint and the rotor has chrome. So the fresh exposed metal of the damaged area will rust over time. Was that fresh metal exposed to the air before the accident ? We don't know, but I do comment how the right-side as pictured is a different colour, and since the accident, nothing more would be exposed.
    – Criggie
    Aug 7 at 14:26
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From the photo it looks bent, not just pulled apart from over-tightening. It also looks a bit like something rested on the skewer and abraded it (where it comes out of the axle). Was the axle really seated in the dropout? It also looks like a lot of skewer sticking out.

I think in general there is some advice against using quick release skewers on front wheels with disc brakes. If you use them, make sure to get some good skewers, make them tight but not too tight and check them regularly.

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  • Hi. Photos were taken about 10 days of the accident when i was able. It was a damp day when i crashed so assume any rust is from that
    – RUSH2112
    Aug 7 at 8:47
  • Literally tens of millions of bike shave been made with QR and disks on the front since the later 1990's. The advice not to use QR's comes out theory carried out an paper and less then half a dozen instances (or of tens of millions of bikes), and coincidently and profitably came out about the same time as thru axles were developed.
    – mattnz
    Aug 7 at 20:19

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