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  1. #1
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    A catastrophic fork failure and a question on braking

    I manage a blog for design engineers and we posted this article describing a failed mountain bike fork. My readers are questioning the author's statement "mountain bikers routinely turn the front wheel sideways to give better braking." Can any of you experts weigh in on this issue and illuminate us on whether this is a common practice, or are we crazy? Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Uh, mountain bikers routinely turn the front wheel... to change direction. We don't do it to brake. And even then, we don't turn the front wheel sideways (that pretty much results in going straight over the handlebars).

    There's got to be some kind of complete miscommunication going on if the author is talking about this sideways braking malarkey.

  3. #3
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    I can think of scenarios where I have been hard on the brakes with the wheel slightly turned, but it's not a routine thing. In fact I'd say most all of us try desperately to avoid the sideways front wheel.
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  4. #4
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    I dont even understand how one would go about "sideways braking" without fear for their life. If I need to brake, I do that no gimmicks I put 2 fingers on my lever and pull with a force towards my body against the resisting force of the brake lever, hydraulic fluid then pumps through the hose in the direction of the caliper, activating a piston which clamps 2 organic brake pads around a 185mm rotor which is attached to a 26" wheel, the resulting force slows said wheel, the more pressure I apply the faster the wheel is slowed, if you want to know what turning the wheel and braking would be like without actually doing it, grab a hard handful of the front brake at speed and report back.
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  5. #5
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    hrmm. design engineers who insist that turning a wheel makes it stop?
    did they skip out on rotational dynamics part of class?
    A wheel spinning and maintaining it's momentum will continue spinning (now pointed in another direction) and therefore take the person in THAT direction.
    Won't stop them.

    the author is definitely incorrect.

    Only way to overcome the rotational characteristics of the wheel and induce the wheel's tread into a sideways traction situation (braking/skidding) is by running the wheel SO forcefully sideways that it's rotational momentum is completely lost.

    A wheel turned that abruptly sideways would throw the rider over the bars and into the trees, and yes it could be argued that that DOES stop the bike without the rider, but it's certainly not a maneuver anyone does deliberately.
    A wheel turned sideways the way ALL wheels are turned sideways (be it in a car, motorcycle, bicycle or plane) results in a directional shift, not a braking point.

    The closest thing to braking one can accomplish is SKIDDING.
    And woe be unto thee if you try if with your FRONT wheel only on something with only two wheels that relies on the vehicles being LEANED over sideways to turn forcefully.
    (the forces involved apply to motorcycles as well as bicycles)
    There are plenty of riders who will skid the BACK tire, keeping the front wheel pointed where they want to go. It actually doesn't help your braking much (unless you only HAVE a rear brake) but it does allow a skilled rider to shift direction in a panic situation by forcing all the directional traction on the front wheel and letting the rear wheel "swing around". (rear wheels as I'm sure you know, affect all steering inputs as they follow a different arc around a corner)

    Point of note: if the wheel's turned sideways and the person's trying to stop his bike, doesn't your DE realize that the person is now braking while pointed in a direction that they weren't going in before?! how does the DE reconcile the simple idea that on a trail 3 feet wide surrounded by trees or ridges or drop-offs... that their "sideways wheel braking" would invariably put the biker OFF the trail?
    I'm confused as to how someone trained as a DE could make such an elementary mistake.
    I can see him thinking the REAR wheel skid as being a braking technique, but as it doesn't apply to the front fork I'm not sure why he'd mention it so I'm assuming that's not the case?

    Give him a bike, and tell him to try his maneuver in the parking lot.
    If he does everything as he says he thinks it works: bring bactine and road rash patches.
    He might be misinterpreting what he's seen and the forces he's claiming might be coming form a different event altogether.
    In which case you can observe what he's doing and point out his errors.

    I miss Mech. Eng. Tech. Des. classes.
    I'll check into your blog though.
    Cheers!


    EDIT: just read the blog... did NOONE check to ensure the pinch bolts weren't over-torqued???
    those alloy legs are THIN, you over-torque the bolts and you effectively crimp a stressed alloy tube.
    Why would the stress fractures start at the front of the leg? It's not being clamped uniformly!
    That assumption is why the conclusion is incorrect. Look at the pinch bolt locations.

    Those pinch bolts will effectively ovalize the clamp area a fraction, leading to stress risers on the OUTSIDE of the fork leg (opposite to, and right where the slot for the pinchbolts is cut into the crown)
    So we've got the tips of the ever-so-slightly ovalized tube acting as PERFECT stress risers.
    There's a bloody reason this design isn't used anymore, you have to deform the crown so much to get adequate force clamping on the legs that sometimes the interface between crown and legs is adversely affected.
    That's why the failures started on the outside of the fork legs, not the front.
    Last edited by byknuts; 08-21-2009 at 08:11 AM.
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  6. #6
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    I'm calling bull sh!t on the "teenage son who races mountain bikes"
    This whole thing rest on what some kid told his dad about how he races his mountain bike?
    Seems kind of crazy. Why have MIT involved if every thing could have been solved by this wonder boy?

    If this kid knew how to "race" his mountain bike he would know to use his brakes to slow down before he needed to turn the bike.

    People trying to argue that it's the same as a car. It's not!!
    In a car it's under steer. The geometry of the front suspension of the car causes the weight of the car to push the front tires forward until they scrub off enough speed to gain traction to change the cars direction.

    I do not turn my wheel on my mountain bike, road bike, BMX or any bike I'll ever ride to slow down while braking.
    next time

    [QUOTE=spazzy] Might as well sell your bikes, E-riding is much more productive.

  7. #7
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    I can't find my copy of it, but I believe I remember William Neely (sp?), author of the book Mountain Bike! mentioning such a technique for slowing down on very loose, steep surfaces, skidding the front wheel. A technique he mentioned took practice to perfect, and then only useful in certain situations. So not so sure about "routinely." I've never even bothered to practice and use the technique, and I'm sure most mountain bikers have never attempted it, or known that anyone else has.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Karen13
    I manage a blog for design engineers and we posted this article describing a failed mountain bike fork. My readers are questioning the author's statement "mountain bikers routinely turn the front wheel sideways to give better braking." Can any of you experts weigh in on this issue and illuminate us on whether this is a common practice, or are we crazy? Thanks!

    It's my understanding that you use the front brake hard while traveling straight and feather off of it, and use the rear as you enter and start . I'd contact both the author and the editor to see if that was a correction error or a typo, or taken out of context. Sometimes Editors modify and edit or delete sections of paragraphs and in the process, butcher the article and make the writer look like a complete jackass.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by byknuts
    hrmm. design engineers who insist that turning a wheel makes it stop?
    did they skip out on rotational dynamics part of class?
    A wheel spinning and maintaining it's momentum will continue spinning (now pointed in another direction) and therefore take the person in THAT direction.
    Won't stop them.

    the author is definitely incorrect.........

    EDIT: just read the blog... did NOONE check to ensure the pinch bolts weren't over-torqued???
    those alloy legs are THIN, you over-torque the bolts and you effectively crimp a stressed alloy tube.
    Why would the stress fractures start at the front of the leg? It's not being clamped uniformly!
    That assumption is why the conclusion is incorrect. Look at the pinch bolt locations.

    Those pinch bolts will effectively ovalize the clamp area a fraction, leading to stress risers on the OUTSIDE of the fork leg (opposite to, and right where the slot for the pinchbolts is cut into the crown)
    So we've got the tips of the ever-so-slightly ovalized tube acting as PERFECT stress risers.
    There's a bloody reason this design isn't used anymore, you have to deform the crown so much to get adequate force clamping on the legs that sometimes the interface between crown and legs is adversely affected.
    That's why the failures started on the outside of the fork legs, not the front.
    Agreed with the above.

    I read the linked article and some of the comments. The above is the first mention of the pinch bolt design issue I read.

    The pinch bolt crown to stanchion design may still be used on very cheep low end single crown forks, I'm not sure. But for mainstream brand name single crown forks pinch bolt crown design has not been used since about 1999 or so. Since the turn of the century or so stanchions of single crown forks such as this have commonly been machine fit and the stanchions are pressed into the crown.

    The fork that broke may have fatigue accumulated over 10 or more years.

    And like the above post mention the pinch design puts irregular or ovalizing stress on the stanchion tubes. This most likely would have focused inicial fatigue at the outside edges, and the side loading from turning in corners and forward and backward action riding and braking would spread the stress from the early fatigue weakness starting point.

    The the young rider's comment about turning the front wheel to help braking may have been mis-communicated, and may have meant to refer to skidding the REAR wheel sideways to brake and turn. Expert riders often brake very lightly with both wheels while turning into corners. Cornering, turning, whether braking or not does indeed side load the fork.

    Every part of a bike will fatigue if used and potentially fail. The joints and butts and corners of parts and where parts meet are normally the first areas to fatigue.

    Unfortunately, this sound's like a case of an early suspension fork design that failed from fatigue, and probably far past a manufacturer defect warranty period.

    Riders are responsible to inspect for wear and tear constantly. Mountain biking is dangerous.

    I hope the rider recovers OK.

  10. #10
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    No shortage of fishiness in the entire article.

    Fork in question isn't mentioned specifically but it appears to be a mid 90s Manitou. This could mean that either the fork or the entire scenario is about 15 years out of date. I agree with what byknuts is saying about pinch bolts, but I don't think applying any "modern" ideas about bike handling or part longevity has any relevance here.

  11. #11
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    I dont turn my tire when I brake, good way to land on your face.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by derby
    The pinch bolt crown to stanchion design may still be used on very cheep low end single crown forks, I'm not sure. But for mainstream brand name single crown forks pinch bolt crown design has not been used since about 1999 or so. Since the turn of the century or so stanchions of single crown forks such as this have commonly been machine fit and the stanchions are pressed into the crown.
    Pretty sure the orange Z1 from 2007 had bolt crowns, and I know some of their later DJ forks did as well. That particular Z1 was kind of a "throwback", but of course having such a design introduces the possibility of improper torque, especially when trying to make the stanchion thickness just enough for the forces involved.

    In any case, the fork does appear to be an early Manitou, relatively small stanchions were prevalent back then, and hitting the front wheel against stuff is going to bring out the weakest link eventually. All SC forks have had the stanchions and steerer significantly beefed up, in addition the steerers are now 1.5 on some forks, as this is the "weakest" part of the fork. A little tortional flex may not steer well, but it usually doesn't result in a failure. Fore-aft movement on the other hand can quickly accumulate and end a fork. Marzocchi built a SC Mx fork at one point for some stupid reason. The damn thing snapped in much the same ways as explained in the article above.
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  13. #13
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    My wife instructs mountain bike skills camps. They would never instruct someone to brake and turn their wheel sideways (or even turn their front wheel sideways sans braking) as a technique to slow themselves down.

    Also, most forks with pinch bolts where the crown meets the stanchioins are older models (late 90's or early '00's - depending on brand). That leads me to believe the fork was heavily used and likely had lots of fatigue.

    EB

  14. #14
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    I can't speak for the rest of the analysis, but the "sideways braking" makes no sense to me. I agree w/others that it probably refers to the practice of skidding the rear wheel around as a way of showing-off. Kids like to do that a lot.

    When I brake hard, I actually take pains to straighten out the bike. The harder I brake, the more important it is to be going straight, and to have the wheels aligned in the direction of travel.

  15. #15
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    The last time I turned my front wheel sideways while stopping, resulted in a huge crash and a front wheel in the shape of a taco. Mountain bike wheels don't take too kindly to side loads equalling the force experienced in-line.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee
    Better suited to non-aggressive 125# gals named Russell.
    I ride so slow, your Garmin will shut off.

  17. #17
    oh Lucky me
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    this guy turned his wheel while braking...look what happened...



    yeah, okay so he really didnt turn his wheel while braking (to the best of my knowledge) but im sure that doing that, would result in something kinda similar...
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    sorry exodus, wrong..
    remember the tire is supposed to be SIDEWAYS... TURNED, for "maximum braking effectiveness"



    gawd.. i walked away from this thread fuming that a professional would so blithely hop onto the "stupid biker!" bandwagon, and return giggling that the fellow stupid bikers with engineering knowledge (and those that just have riding experience) spoke up.

    and I pray that no school ever teaches front wheel drifts as an "effective way to scrub off excess speed"


    END result, inform your author that there's no such thing as INTENTIONAL sideways braking with the front wheel.
    It's called out of control skidding.
    OR crashing.
    Remind him to consult experts in the field (oddly enough there ARE bikers who have engineering degrees!) before believing something which has no basis in fact simply because someone "told me bikers brake better with their wheel turned sideways".

    Again, how he could even wrap his head around the notion of the possibility of sideways braking somehow cancelling the rotation of the wheel but retaining enough forward momentum for the rider NOT to be thrown off smacks of a lack of ability in foreseeing one force's effect on the rest of the assembly.
    In this case the forces of the "assembly" affected includes the rider.
    Last edited by byknuts; 08-21-2009 at 03:56 PM.
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    I use that technique for sick cartwheels.

  20. #20
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    thats the difference between "Book Smarts" and "Street Smarts"
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    aluminium has a tendency to fail when you need it most. i.e. you end up with a bad day.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem
    In any case, the fork does appear to be an early Manitou, .
    Oh that explains it. I will never again own another Manitou after having a Minute explode on me after bunny hopping off a 10 inch curb. Nothing like taking a handlebar to the groin and then sliding across the concrete with a short sleeve shirt on.
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    uh...if you lived in SoCal you would understand the importance of having a blingy bike - seriously, it matters

  22. #22
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    I am assuming its a Manitou 2 crown

    The article looks like it was written so that the plaintiff'$$ lawyer could point to something a "MIT" engineer wrote. Clearly it's a misleading article with no research put into it, thought MIT produced more thorough engineers.

    When I saw "sideway braking" I was think ya, your son is a skidiot.

  23. #23
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    Wow ......at the comment by beaterdriver on that web page. My head hurts from trying to make sense out nonsense since I thought I'd give him the benefit of the doubt.

  24. #24
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    well in quick stops i've adopted a small "weaving" pattern, basically i weave from side to side a bit, it uses up more distance than moving in a straight line, that little bit more distance is more time for you to slow down.

    lets say that the side to side movement is the X-axis and that the foreward and back movement is the Y-axis.

    you are moving foreward on the Y axis... say from the Origin to the coordinate (0,10) which is a straight line that we will call "Line A"

    now, add some side-to side movement (X-axis) to the foreward movement from the Origin to (0,10)
    lets say that that movement is 3 units on either side of the Y-axis for every 2 units of Y-axis (foreward) movement all the way to point (0,10). We will call this line "line B"


    due to the side to side movement of line B, the overall distance traveled is greater than line A, even though that the foreward distance traveled is the same.



    Now, i'm pretty sure that the extra distance isn't that much but in an emergency situation that distance could make a difference.

    i'm not sure if i explained it completely right but it makes sense to me

  25. #25
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    Great first post, Karen

    BTW turning your wheel sideways will bring you to a stop. I did this once on a 'beer and bike' ride. Then I was told I'm supposed to have a cold one after the ride.
    CRAP... I'm in the wrong gear

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlexJK
    well in quick stops i've adopted a small "weaving" pattern, basically i weave from side to side a bit, it uses up more distance than moving in a straight line, that little bit more distance is more time for you to slow down.

    lets say that the side to side movement is the X-axis and that the foreward and back movement is the Y-axis.

    you are moving foreward on the Y axis... say from the Origin to the coordinate (0,10) which is a straight line that we will call "Line A"

    now, add some side-to side movement (X-axis) to the foreward movement from the Origin to (0,10)
    lets say that that movement is 3 units on either side of the Y-axis for every 2 units of Y-axis (foreward) movement all the way to point (0,10). We will call this line "line B"


    due to the side to side movement of line B, the overall distance traveled is greater than line A, even though that the foreward distance traveled is the same.



    Now, i'm pretty sure that the extra distance isn't that much but in an emergency situation that distance could make a difference.

    i'm not sure if i explained it completely right but it makes sense to me

    Ummm, if you are threshold braking you will be able to stop faster in a straight line then if part of your overall traction is going to change direction........

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem
    Pretty sure the orange Z1 from 2007 had bolt crowns, and I know some of their later DJ forks did as well. That particular Z1 was kind of a "throwback", but of course having such a design introduces the possibility of improper torque, especially when trying to make the stanchion thickness just enough for the forces involved.

    In any case, the fork does appear to be an early Manitou, relatively small stanchions were prevalent back then, and hitting the front wheel against stuff is going to bring out the weakest link eventually. All SC forks have had the stanchions and steerer significantly beefed up, in addition the steerers are now 1.5 on some forks, as this is the "weakest" part of the fork. A little tortional flex may not steer well, but it usually doesn't result in a failure. Fore-aft movement on the other hand can quickly accumulate and end a fork. Marzocchi built a SC Mx fork at one point for some stupid reason. The damn thing snapped in much the same ways as explained in the article above.

    Confirmed that the 2007 Z1 RC2 has pinch bolts.

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    That is the stupidest thing I have ever read, and goes against even the most basic motor sport technique: BRAKE IN A STRAIGHT LINE (AKA holding the wheel straight). People defending the argument don't know that they are talking about, because they have obviously never done it (if they had, they would not be defending, and would instead be pointing to a scar to prove their point). The dad needs to ask his son what's really going on before spreading nonsense.
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  29. #29
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    Perhaps "sideways braking" is MIT parlance for "the Bubba Scrub".

    I would be interested in learning the intended user weight limit for various mfg's frames and parts.

  30. #30
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    is this like 'braking' with your toe-edge while snowboarding and facing down the fall-line?
    Honestly... ahh I give up

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by 006_007
    Ummm, if you are threshold braking you will be able to stop faster in a straight line then if part of your overall traction is going to change direction........
    by doing that you are sacrificing braking traction for lateral traction, thus reducing your maximum stopping capacity
    traction circle folks, it's simple
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  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by byknuts


    sorry exodus, wrong..
    remember the tire is supposed to be SIDEWAYS... TURNED, for "maximum braking effectiveness"



    gawd.. i walked away from this thread fuming that a professional would so blithely hop onto the "stupid biker!" bandwagon, and return giggling that the fellow stupid bikers with engineering knowledge (and those that just have riding experience) spoke up.

    and I pray that no school ever teaches front wheel drifts as an "effective way to scrub off excess speed"


    END result, inform your author that there's no such thing as INTENTIONAL sideways braking with the front wheel.
    It's called out of control skidding.
    OR crashing.
    Remind him to consult experts in the field (oddly enough there ARE bikers who have engineering degrees!) before believing something which has no basis in fact simply because someone "told me bikers brake better with their wheel turned sideways".

    Again, how he could even wrap his head around the notion of the possibility of sideways braking somehow cancelling the rotation of the wheel but retaining enough forward momentum for the rider NOT to be thrown off smacks of a lack of ability in foreseeing one force's effect on the rest of the assembly.
    In this case the forces of the "assembly" affected includes the rider.
    hmmm...did you not read the rest of the post the part that said
    "yeah, okay so he really didnt turn his wheel while braking (to the best of my knowledge) but im sure that doing that, would result in something kinda similar..."
    ...Dying is the easy part, its living that's the challenge...

  33. #33
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    idiotic

    As an engineer, and a biker, and a frequent reader of Design News, I'm astounded that the author/investigator fails to understand the operation of the product and apparently hinges the outcome of this evaluation (and court case, it appears) on one ill-advised opinion. Amazing, naieve, incomplete, and idiotic.

    That published article should be an embarrasment to Design News and Ken Russell.
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  34. #34
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    Enough fun with this one... I think we all agree the guy is lunatic. Let's move on to the next one!!!

  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by byknuts
    :
    remember the tire is supposed to be SIDEWAYS... TURNED, for "maximum braking effectiveness"

    ...

    Remind him to consult experts in the field (oddly enough there ARE bikers who have engineering degrees!) before believing something which has no basis in fact simply because someone "told me bikers brake better with their wheel turned sideways".
    Uh, perhaps it was meant to be "maximum breaking effectiveness"

    and

    "bikes/bikers break better with the(ir) wheel turned sideways"

    These would make a lot more sense.


  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by rinseflow
    Uh, perhaps it was meant to be "maximum breaking effectiveness"

    and

    "bikes/bikers break better with the(ir) wheel turned sideways"

    These would make a lot more sense.

    "Break" is right.....
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  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by rinseflow
    Uh, perhaps it was meant to be "maximum breaking effectiveness"

    and

    "bikes/bikers break better with the(ir) wheel turned sideways"

    These would make a lot more sense.


    lol, I think you got it

  39. #39
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    Ah, Copy that Houston,

    Quote Originally Posted by 006_007
    Confirmed that the 2007 Z1 RC2 has pinch bolts.
    that's a Firm. From Left to Right. 1997 Mr.T 4",2002 Monstor T,and the 2007
    10 Year Tribute to the Mighty Z1. No comment on the crazy thread. Peace.


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