Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lost Rack Screw: I Got Some Splainin To Do

Location last seen: holding rear rack on a commuter bicycle

For a longer time than I am prepared to admit, the rear rack on my commuter bicycle felt as if there was a screw loose, particularly when going up or down a curb. I would stop, check for loose screws on the top connections, which felt like (for some unknown reason) the likely location of loosening, yet everything would be tight. This is, mind you, with my commuter pannier attached, containing at least a few pounds of clothes and stuff, along with a laptop computer. Something wasn't right, but a quick glance and wiggle couldn't locate the problem. I think I must have had a mental block, or lacuna, about the probability of the actual problem.

Taking a closer, more thorough look, eventually, though, I found that one of the lower attachment screws was just completely missing! How is that even possible? That was what I was wondering. That's not a rack screw next to the gaping hole, by the way, that's a rear fender screw. With that rack screw missing, there were only three other screws holding the rack onto my bicycle. Checking them, one of those three was also slightly loose. It just seems remarkable to me that the whole thing didn't just tear off the bike entirely, embedding my pannier w/laptop through my rear wheel, sending me cartwheeling into the swirling slightly salty waters of the Arizona Canal. I chalk it up to the really solid top mounting brackets on this rack. Unlike others I have seen, these are beefy hunks of steel, which appear to me more than up to the task. Thank you, beefy hunks of steel rack bracket designers for the overly generous margin of safety. The replacement screw has been installed, this time with thread locker. And I spent a good twenty minutes checking the rest of the screws, nuts, and fasteners on the bike. Before the whole thing just falls apart on me.

Next time I get that slightly wobbly feeling back there, at least I'll know what's going on, and not keep riding around with only three screws between myself and an unplanned canal swim. Now I just have to make sure not to try to tighten them TOO far. I've already posted enough about excess torque.


  1. Now you are bothering me about that rattle on my road bike...

    1. I need an an extended ABC+ check that causes me not to ignore the feeling that my rack lost a screw: Air Brakes Chain plus anything that could bend into the wheel and cause me and my cargo to cartwheel into the canal. I should probably check for that, too.

  2. I've been riding my mountain bike for a while now and the ride's been feeling soft. I've checked the tire pressure, the rear axle, the headset, but not the screws...yet. I feared a frame failure. Maybe it's the danged rack! I'm glad you found out the problem. I take all the screws for granted, that they'll stay put through hell and high water. But we all should know better and check these things at least once a year.

    1. anniebikes since the load would shift whenever I went up or down a curb, it felt a lot like the rear wheel was soft, or loose, or somehow wrong. The feeling was definitely wrong, but I couldn't logically connect it with "lost rack screw". I need to trust my THAT FEELS WRONG voice more.

  3. I always notice weird s*** on my bicycle when I am riding it and get amnesia the moment I put it away.

    Somehow I was reminded of this:

    Contraption Captain used to work in SF and sometimes leave his Tour Easy bicycle chained up at the Caltrain station. One day he discovered that the pin for the front wheel was gone =( He staggered home without it because he is awesome.

    Since recumbent pins on the Tour Easy are odd and extra long, I have always thought glumly that it was an act of random vandalism :/


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