Wednesday, March 12, 2008

5 Human Accidents Vs. Product Redesign

Its quite needless to talk about the convenience of repair and maintenance afforded by a bicycle workstand.

But there are many who don't have one and prefer to overturn their bikes, supporting it on the floor. And there is nothing wrong with that although we all know it can sometimes get difficult to work around some areas.

Anyway, the support points while the bike is turned upside down are the floor, saddle and the brake hoods on the handlebar. While doing this, it is necessary to ensure the following :

1. The handlebar is straight, preventing the bicycle from tipping to either side.

2. All handlebar mounted electronics are either rotated away from the floor, or even removed such that they do not make contact, support the weight of the bike and get damaged in the process.

3. If you have a nice expensive saddle, it'll be better placing it on a smooth clean cloth or piece of paper to ensure that it doesn't rub against the floor or get dirty.

With the bike in this position, clothing, fingers, hands and even long hair should be kept away from spinning wheels and the sharp teeth of the chain ring. You can play macho and attempt to stop the bladed spokes of your rotating wheels with your fingers but chances are, the pain won't be fun.

Anyway, it seems to me that any fool might be aware of these things.

But consider the following situation. A passionate but slightly clumsy bike rider, wanting to either do something on his front wheel, tighten the front brakes or perhaps clean the area near the underside of the crown of the fork, whatever may it be, removes the wheel and places it aside. Also imagine that the area he's working around in is overcrowded, has little space to walk around etc. This may be a room in his house, a basement, or garage.

Filled with immense love for his bike and its shapely curves, he bends down towards the front hoping to do whatever he wanted before heading out on a ride under the beautiful sun.

In the heat of this affair between man and bike, this bike rider's supporting leg somehow slips, or he loses balance due to his bad core strength during the early part of the season. His center of gravity shifts towards the bike and off he goes, totally losing his balance.

We did mention he was clumsy. Unable to react quickly or stop his fall, the rider's head and neck goes straight towards the sharp edges of the fork dropouts.

I'd like to avoid the details of what happened an instant later, as I'm well aware you can all imagine how sharp metal contacting human skin would look like.

Such a situation seems very possible to me, although it can be rare in occurrence.

Now the interesting question is this : Should bicycle designers/manufacturers nevertheless be sensitive of such situations and implement safety in the redesign of say, the bicycle fork dropout (i.e more rounded edges, angled in a different way etc) or, like what may come to our mind first, should they not even care, leaving the rider to accept his awful injuries, learn a lesson in personal safety,buy a bicycle stand or head to the gym to do some serious core strengthening?

Plenty of engineering designs have been rethought and redone back on the drawing board due to failures. But I'm sure a good number of them have aimed to make the product in question safer to use.


  1. Good question, but I don't know if I have a good answer. I suppose anything can become dangerous in certain situations. But knowing that some people will most certainly turn the bike over and may take the wheel off while doing so, I would think that is a foreseeable hazzard that should be considered in the design.

  2. Why not dull ball point pens because sometimes people carry them and walk quickly. They might fall and impale themselves.

    I think we need to man up, as a society, teach our kids some common sense, and not be so litigious.

  3. This is funny!! Although, I do know people who would probably fall on the forks. Have a great weekend!!

  4. Ron, thanks for the info on the elliptical chain rings. My DA's are worn out and its time to replace them.

    I still haven't figured out what I'm going with, but good timing on your part. Thanks

  5. Thank you for the comments.

    I also don't think a fork drop redesign is a bad idea. Although the scenario I have shown can be rare, remember that straight dropouts do hurt people. A bike when held upright with no front wheel could slip and down goes the end of the fork into someone's feet. Moreover, AL dropouts have a possibility of getting chipped or bent if bike is kept on the fork.

    I like the common sense idea though. It probably overwhelms all the material in this post.


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