French dropouts cost time

French puncture

A tiny detail for today but sometimes that’s what the Inner Ring is all about. French teams take longer to change wheels in the event of a front wheel puncture than other teams.

It’s because French law requires all bikes, including those taking part in a race, to keep the so-called “lawyers lips” on the fork drop outs. These tiny tabs on the end of the forks stop a wheel popping out in case the quick-release skewer comes undone and you have to unscrew the skewer a few turns to open it. A not-so quick release.

Lawyers lips
Fork in hell, look at that

Consequently many riders file them down, including almost every pro team.. except the French ones. Once these tabs are removed, a punctured front wheel can be removed in two seconds and the new one can be put in place and the skewer clamped in place within a few more seconds. Done right, a front wheel change happens in less than 10 seconds. But the French team mechanics have to undo the skewer, unscrew and above all, screw the new wheel in place before clamping the quick release. With practice the time penalty is hardly noticeable but it exists. The next time you see a mechanic toying with a front wheel on a French team, you know why.

28 thoughts on “French dropouts cost time”

  1. Holy poop, I cannot imagine the French teams are actually following that rule.

    I would imagine the rider himself would have the foresight to release the front wheel before the mechanic got there, thus saving a step.

  2. I’m with Starr. Why a rider cannot have the front wheel ready is beyond me.

    Same as having the rear in the 11 and front on the 53 to a rear wheel change. Have a look though in the next race and note how many do this. For those that don’t they, most times, take longer to change the wheel.

  3. Those tabs are there for a reason: they save folks from crashes, injury or death. The faster you ride, the more devastating the accident can be so it makes sense pro should follow it.
    Just the other day the mechanic I go to forgot to tighten the front release clamp and I rode it as is. Thank god for the lawyer lips!
    Everyone makes mistakes, even pros — those pejoratively named lawyer lips are a very real safety net.

    Folks wailing against these thing that they are being, tough, cool, macho, or efficient (think of that on your hospital bed!) but really they are no more enlightened then the old cab driver refusing to put his seat belt on.

  4. In light of Michael Barry’s op-ed piece earlier this week, I wonder if riders/teams/UCI might come around and follow the French practice, which seems to have safety and riders’ well-being in mind.

  5. The heading should really be ‘French riders cost themselves time’.

    I agree with the above, annoying the tabs might be however there’s good reason for their presence.

  6. Oliver, I understand your point, but it’s essentially the same as saying that accidents happen, therefore Formula 1 should be banned. Pro teams and mechanics tend to use quick releases that are very robust (like internal cam shimano, mavic and campy) and also tend to use what many would consider excessive force in the act of closing them. This is very different to what many consumers do.

    Further, steel forks never had tabs and I can’t recall wheels falling out. The introduction of tabs has much more to do with absurdly litigious markets like the USA than it does with any risk of a wheel coming loose if installed properly.

    Also, while some riders do remove wheels for changes, many do not because they are instructed by their mechanics not to. It can be very difficult to replace a wheel when a rider has half started a job, or in the heat of the moment made a mistake like knock a brake caliper or the like. Many riders are under instructions to signal front or rear (left hand up means front) change to 39/11, release brakes and do no more, unless there is a rider on the team who needs a wheel and support is not present.

  7. I thought the lawyer lips were required by the American market?
    Are they required in France too? Or are the French pros the only ones who don’t file them off?

  8. As an old roadie I filed the lips from my forks, including my mountain bikes, what do I need such OTT safety stuff for? I know how to do up a QR. BIG mistake, popping a wheelie for a surface transition on the way to work on a track on a ATB how suprised was I to see my front wheel ahead of me “doing it’s own thing” bowling along, a split second before the face plant knocked me out. How? I don’t know, Just happened the once in 40yrs of cycling but I reckon unless your racing, leave the lips alone. I now use allen key QR’s on some of my bikes (they come in bling colours, nice.)

  9. This sort of detail is why Inrng is so good. It’s just the sort of thing that other blogs wouldn’t notice/think twice about but it makes the reader that little bit more informed and therefore involved. Chapeau Inrng!

  10. Originally these tabs came into requirement by the Consumer Product Safety Commission CPSC in the United States. What other country in the world has such a litigious society? These clowns were the same organization that required Campy to bend their QR skewer levers so the potentially protruding lever would not kill you. Obviously it’s easier to manufacturers to capitulate to the US market that produce products specific for that market. Curiously I wonder what Mavic’s position is on this as they do neutral support for the biggest Euro races. I’m surprised to hear this and will ask the FDJ mechanics when I see them this summer. First thing I did on my TIME bicycles was file these buggers off.

  11. Great post, made me smile. A great example of French efforts at egalitarianism: we have safety lips on our bikes, so should the pros. I wonder whether there are national laws on chain-catchers as well?

    And I read today that the French police stopped Alberto Contador because he didn’t have lights on his bike. Apparently they were concerned that he might crash in the Galibier’s tunnels and forced him to use the team car. It is comforting to know that Alberto isn’t above the law, at least in France…

  12. Oliver, lawyer lips do not exist because QR skewers are dangerous. They exist because untrained civilians do not know how they are supposed to work (they tighten them by screwing them tight with the lever instead of clamping it correctly). Team mechanics are trained to use QR skewers and they are just as safe as track nuts would be. So, lips may prevent accidents but only when there is a user error involved. I would even say that it is more error prone to need to adjust the nut every time instead of having it in correct tightness all the time.

    Sheldon Brown has a good article about them. He has a good article about pretty much everything.

  13. Riders are instructed to not do wheel changes? If true I’ve heard it all now.

    Add that to doing as they’re told on a radio honestly what sort of input do they have outside of spinning pedals and eating?

  14. How many bikes with front forks without these obnoxious lips are out there just waiting to kill or maim idiots? Someone should start a worldwide search for all these dangerous bicycles and destroy them before they claim their next victims!
    Poor Tullio Campagnolo must be spinning in his grave thinking what these morons have done to his wonderful invention. If Q/R skewers were so unreliable, it would seem that lots of bikes would be flying off car racks every day, not to mention the front wheels flying away in bike rides and races around the world. I’ve been a pro wrench since 1987 and have NEVER seen a properly secured Q/R fail. If you’re unable to properly secure a front wheel on a bicycle, I question your ability and judgement in the riding of one as well.

  15. This post reminded me that, a couple of years ago, I came across a product recall in the United States of certain Cannondale bicycles, because they did not include the spoke protector disc between the cassette and the spokes. I guess the theory is that somehow the chain can get jammed in the spokes while you’re shifting, lock your wheel, and cause you to crash.

    See here

    When is the last time that you saw one of these on a bike during your group ride (much less a race)? I bought two bicycles in the U.S. since then, and neither of them had a spoke protector disc installed.

  16. While knowing nothing of French law, I have to wonder about enforcement/compliance of this. Are gendarmes really going inspect pro team bikes and fine (or more) riders? And yet it doesn’t apply to French riders in French races but competing on non-French teams?

    Related: Assorted companies have sold “long travel” quick release skewers over the years, which have enough motion to open around flared fork tips with no winding/unwinding required. The French teams would do well get some and put their wheel sponsor’s logo on.

  17. I agree that properly used QRs make lawyer tabs unnecessary. US regulations also require reflectors on all bikes that are sold (although I don’t see them anymore on high end bikes). And, of course, let’s not forget the plastic spoke protector. It looks cool and it is super aero. 😉

    What I find annoying about lawyer tabs is that often if you file them off, and then your fork breaks in half at the crown, the manufacturer will not honor the warranty. Thankfully, I have an Enve fork, and they are reputedly more practical about these matters.

  18. How many photos have we seen of a broken “plastic” fork with the dropouts and fork tips still securely clamped onto the front wheel? Quality, properly installed Q/R’s simply do not fail in my experience. Some of the flimsy, lightweight gizmos people use to secure their wheels instead of the quality ones from Campagnolo, Shimano, etc. do scare the crap out of me. I wouldn’t ride a bike with those, “lawyer lips” or not!

  19. Yep – with regard to the n=1 MTB comment, I’d be interested to know if there were disc brakes involved, as the forces generated completely change the equation.

    Also, Nick – does it really surprise you? Pro cycling means that yes, most of the time riders are paid solely to spin pedals, eat, and DO AS THEY ARE TOLD!

  20. Btw, the US is a litigious society because there is no healthcare to speak of for regular folks. Often with an accident or after an illness one is left with a massive bill. This is why folks are prone to sue: because it is the only recourse to pay one’s medical bills. Give us proper healthcare like most other western countries and the lawsuits will go away…. No such lawsuits in France for example…

    The folks who get irritated about this basic life saving safety measure must have some sort of ideological axe to grind, because I honestly doubt they are so fast on a bike that 10 seconds matter….

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