A Contributing Factor “Up Close And Personal”


I have been talking recently about the ideas behind Causal and Contributing Factors in getting at the theory behind any given accident. Cyclists like to isolate on the motorist involved in any accident and often want to pin the blame on the bigger, heavier, faster vehicle. But they are seldom as willing to engage in self-examination where their actions might be contributory. Here is a rather interesting glimpse into just how these “contributing factors” come to be:

Source: Rear flip-flop GENO hub

Posted by Vitaliy on October 13, 2012

Geno Flip-Flop Hub (rear)

Howdy Chainlink!

Recently I received a new wheel which was meant to be for the front, but instead it is from the rear. I wanted to buy a front hub instead and relace the wheel myself. The thing is I did a google search on the brand of the hub and I havent gotten any results. The hub is a red GENO rear flip-flop hub. I could give more details or even a picture. Actually ill post a picture. Help me clear things up, thanks!

Reply by Albert 9 hours ago


Reply by Vitaliy 9 hours ago

Okay thats kind of good, but i need the price for the hub itself.

Reply by James BlackHeron 7 hours ago

If you buy a front hub odds are the spoke lengths you will need will not match what you have currently. It’d be a long shot for a front hub to have the same flange diameter AND the same flange->center measurements. But it does look like that hub has no dish so at least you don’t have to worry about the spokes being shorter on the drive side than the non-drive side due to it being a flip-flop.

If you DO ahead and do this and re-use the spokes make sure that you keep the inner and outer spokes segregated when you disassemble and be careful to get them back into the same position (inner/outer) on the new hub. The heads are bent at different angles and if you mix and match them this is going to cause all sorts of issues in the future with tension/true.

For the work, the cost of a new hub, plus the many new spokes if these won’t fit, you are going to be in the hole over buying a whole new pre-built wheel most times doing something like this. The used hub isn’t going to net you anything on the used market -not even the price of a new front hub I wouldn’t think unless you were downgrading on it. If you have never built a wheel yourself be prepared for the first one you do really sucking and having issues sooner rather than later.

But if you really want to do it then go ahead. You might enjoy it. If I were you I’d pick up a junk wheel from working bikes and tear it apart and rebuild it a few times to get some experience first. And there is always Sheldon’s required homework reading.

Reply by Vitaliy 6 hours ago

James thank you for the information. I was considering recycling the spokes, but how would I take them off? I still need to find that front hub of the same make. I dont get what you meant by the third paragraph when youre talking about the used market. Please explain

Reply by James BlackHeron 5 hours ago

You take the spokes off just like you put them in -only in reverse.

By the used market I mean selling the rear hub on Craigslist or other website like here. There really is no real reason to buy the same brand name front hub unless you care about matching. Even if you get the same brand/model of front hub it probably won’t be the same size flange diameter or distance apart. -you can find other hubs in that color I am sure.

By the time you buy a new hub and spokes it’ll cost as much as a complete built-up wheel. They sell wheels for much less than the sum of all the parts they are made out of at the prices ordinary folks like us can buy them for. The wheel manufacturers buy hubs, spokes, nipples, & rims in bulk and pay less than half of what we do. Then they lace them on machines in china where the labor cost to run them is less than the shipping to bring the wheels here.

Reply by Vitaliy 4 hours ago

Sigh… OR! I could order a custom wheel set and keep the front and sell the two rear ones for an okay price, so that I break even or lose like 20$. Or i could return the two rears saying they sent me the wrong stuff and ask for refund. Lol tell me what you would recommend because Im basically using a rear wheel as my front

Reply by Vitaliy 3 hours ago

Is that bad?

Reply by James BlackHeron 3 hours ago

A new hub is going to cost you $20 and a spoke set is probably going to probably be well over that again -especially in red.

Reply by Vitaliy 2 hours ago

So i figured Im not going to relace it. I might just keep it, but Im wondering if its okay that i have a rear as a front. I did remove a bolt from each side because the axle didnt fit into the drop out, it was too wide, so to make space i removed a nut. do you know what i mean?

Reply by James BlackHeron 2 hours ago

Those nuts you removed are the locknuts that keep the bearing cone nuts locked in place in the right location. Now there is nothing to keep them from moving in or out except the tension of the outer nut against the fork drop-out. Most likely, unless this is a sealed-bearing hub, your bearings are going to either get too tight or too loose as you ride.

Those nuts are there for a reason -nut just as spacers. If it is a cartridge-bearing hub it probably doesn’t have a second set of nuts so I’m going to assume this is a loose-bearing type hub.

Reply by Vitaliy 2 hours ago

It is sealed, I tightened those nuts not too much but enough so that I couldnt loosen with my hand

Reply by James BlackHeron 2 hours ago

I’d get a proper front wheel in there ASAP. You might be OK riding like this for a while -or you may blow up the bearings. There are a few different designs of how sealed bearings fit into hubs from manufacturer to manufacturer. Not knowing exactly how this one works offhand, I can’t tell you that it isn’t going to end badly.

Reply by Vitaliy 2 hours ago

What would I have to do to give you a better idea?

Knowing Your Limitations

I have probably made every mistake in the book when it comes to bicycle repair. I learned early on that some things required study and practice. When I broke my very first spoke on an upright Cannondale bicycle I was riding at the time, I was at least prepared enough to know to open my brakes to allow the wheel to rotate freely past the point where it was no longer true. This all happened on the I & M Canal Path a bit west of the Channahon parking lot.

When we got back to our van I drove immediately to my local bike shop and inquired about getting replacement spokes. They needed to know the length and kind I needed and that made me aware of the fact that this would be more than a simple spoke replacement if it was to be done correctly.

That day I ordered a wheel truing stand, a spoke tension meter, some spoke prep compound, a complete set of extra spokes for the wheel that had the broken spoke and most importantly I purchased the book The Bicycle Wheel by Jobst Brandt a fellow I had been communicating with for quite some time on the internet via something known back then as Usenet. There were one or two others whose knowledge I valued. A fellow by the name of Sheldon Brown had loads of information that he could share. He later put together a web site to archive much of what he had been sharing on Usenet.

When all of the things I had ordered arrived a few days later I set to work trying to rebuild my wheel. I felt a keen sense of accomplishment and wondered whether I had perhaps reacted too quickly in purchasing these tools. Would I ever even need any of them again? I really had not idea of how often I was to need those wheel building skills going forward.

What did become quickly impressed up me was just how simple the bicycle was in some ways and complex in others. I was suddenly aware that few things have only one cause. And often finding that cause can take hours. We rode a recumbent tandem in those days made by Dick Ryan of Ryan Recumbents. It was the Fleetwood model and was later renamed the Duplex. I guess Dick got some grief for using the Fleetwood name without being licensed to do so. Too bad because that bike was very, very long and rode just like a Fleetwood.

The ChainLink conversation above really caught me by surprise. Why?

Urban cyclists seem to be all about getting their bikes tricked out. Fixed gear bikes are all the rage and frankly before I would ever decide to ride one I would want to research the handling issues and safety concerns thoroughly. So imagine my surprise when it turns out that the fellow in this thread is working with a hub that he may have made unrideable but he is not certain whether that is the case.

Now ask yourself what might have happened had he been out and about on this wheel (a rear wheel stuffed into a too narrow front fork sans some nuts that may or may not be critical) and got into an accident that resulted in severe injury to either him or another cyclist or pedestrian. Once the lawyers got their hands on this information during discovery his chances of having a quick settlement would be worsened. At least a settlement in is favor.

And had this accident involved a motorist he might just have been “all over the poor driver” about his lack of attention to the presence of a bike rider, etc. What however may have been a key issue here was his inability to steer and control the bike in a tight maneuver resulting in a collision with the auto. Most accidents are somehow the result of a “Perfect Storm” of factors that result in someone getting hurt or killed and everyone pointing fingers.

Cyclists need to know much more about their bikes than is often the case. I ride the Chicago Lakefront Trail on a fairly frequent basis and I cannot tell you how often I have come across riders walking bikes with flat tires or crank arms that have dropped off or wheel with broken spokes that no longer turn freely. And in virtually all of these situations these riders have not a single tool with them to even begin to make a rough repair.

What is more they seldom seem to know how to employ those tools, so it probably is of little consequence that they are without them. But I wonder how it turns out that bikes in the hands of people so ill-equipped to keep them running are riding them in situations where the margin of error is so critical.

If this rider had decided to venture through a very busy intersection on a red light and suddenly lost control of the bike while attempting a track stand to wait for oncoming cars from the right to pass before continuing through we could be reading about him in the newspaper and not in this forum.

Critical Mass Rides would be a very good place to learn some simple “in the field” bicycle maintenance tips. Instead a missed opportunity occurs when it devolves into a ride around town on bikes that are probably in need of routine maintenance and inspection.

At the most recent Four Star Bike Tour a fellow came around and checked tire pressure of attendees. It was indicated on the website that if you bike was deemed unrideable you would not be allowed out on the course. Does anything like this happen at a Critical Mass Ride where hundreds of riders show up (a good many of whom may be riding “unrideable” bikes)? My guess is no. We are far too busy being activists and failing to take care of the things that could help prevent further loss of life.

We are far to busy finding new and creative ways to lay the blame for the death of a fellow rider at the feet of yet another motorist and all without knowing what the contributing factors in that tragedy might have been. It seems we have more than enough time to create posters and handouts and stickers to “get the word out” when someone dies. But we have no time to teach ourselves the basic facts of life about riding our bikes.

How many of us have helmets on that are poorly adjusted? Do we even know what a properly adjusted helmet even looks like. Are we wearing clothing that is inappropriate when riding a bike which lacks a chain guard and spoke shields in the rear? Does anyone ever help us consider what kinds of reflective clothing to wear on a Critical Mass Ride.

Do we have lights on our bikes? Do we even have reflectors? Or are we too busy trying to consider the rim color for our next “fixie” without knowing much about the quality of the work done on the bike and our degree of proficiency in riding such a beast.

Maybe it is time to use Critical Mass Rides for something really useful. Helping teach newbies and not quite so newbies how to dress for greater visibility. How to ride so as to be predictable. I seldom see bicycle riders ever give hand signals. And when I do it is so seldom that the experience sticks out in my mind. Why should hand signals be the exception rather than the rule?

I see so few cyclists who wait at each stop light and honor stop signs that it draws my attention. Why is that? Why are not Critical Mass Rides more about training riders on how to negotiate streets and less about critiquing the control of the ride by the leaders so as to avoid “bunching” at choke points?

Sometimes I think we pay more attention to what kinds of stuff folks transport on their bikes (e.g. water heaters, swivel chairs, etc.) than we do to the efficacy of the strategies we employ when riding streets that have no designated bikes lanes.

We are often more about style than substance. That needs to change.