Thursday, June 18, 2009

The College Dropout

It's becoming increasingly hard to innovate in the world of bicycling. The double-diamond frame has been around for well over a century, and the spoked wheel has been around even longer. With the basics long since established, you can either fiddle with minutia or make tremendous mistakes.

Or, if you try really hard, you can do both.

Which brings us to the new Stolen dropout design:

Now, BMX dropouts have come a long way in the past 30 or so years, from this to this to this. Then, of course, some companies had to go and get all carried away. I'm pretty sure this Taper Lock dropout falls into the latter category.

You read the interview, right? Looked at the photos? If you didn't, go back and check it out.


So, best as I can tell, here's how the Taper Lock dropout is supposed to work. First of all, the taper on the dropout looks to be even from front to back:

The similarly tapered washer sits in that groove:

And as you tighten it, the axle slides back in the dropout. As Dave from Stolen said in the interview, "we only hand-tightened the axle in the dropout and the wheel still wouldn’t move forward when hit with force." Very good. That's one problem solved. Not that it couldn't be solved using a current dropout and a big socket wrench, but still.

However, a few questions:

1) Seeing that the taper is consistent from front to back, won't the wheel keep getting pulled backwards with every turn of the wrench? Well, until the washer bottoms out on your hub, at least. It makes sense that it seats perfectly when hand tightened. But if you really torque down on your axle nuts—like to, say, hold your pegs on—won't your chain end up way too tight? I suppose you could grind down the back of the tapered washer so it stops at the perfect point every time, but that would seemingly lock you into one gear ratio. Which brings us to the second question.

2) What happens when your wheel is hit with force the OTHER way? If you catch a peg on an upright, won't your wheel slip backwards and loosen up? Unless, that is, you torque it down super-hard or run your chain super-tight, in which case why not just do the same thing with normal dropouts?

So yeah. Neat idea. Would probably work fine for a singlespeed city or mountain bike, or maybe a fixed gear. BMX? If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Please.



Anonymous said...

Again, that cardinal frame is re-introducing a dropout that has created years of issues that have now been solved.

How do I tension the chain?

The biggest issue to conquer with a single speed conversion is achieving proper chain tension on a frame with vertical dropouts. Maybe you'll select the right gear combination, and perform your SS conversion while all of the planets simultaneously fall into perfect alignment. This will, of course, give you perfect chain tension without requiring the use of a chain tensioner. Pretty unlikely.

aids blood said...

i wouldnt ride that drop out on my bike if i was stricken with the aids virus and it gave me the cure!

ps, i like the cardinal drop.

Anonymous said...

I like the cardinal drop-out too... if i was running gears. That is what a vertical drop-out was designed for. And for a non-geared bikes the horizontal drop-out was invented to solve the issues associated with vertical drop-outs and single speed drivetrains. fact.

Anonymous said...
Patent holder...

Anonymous said...


Looks familiar too...

Anonymous said...

check bike guide, Bears is not the patent holder.

Curtis said...

It could be worse. At least they're looking at ways to prevent common annoyances (wheel slippage) instead of wondering where they can "safely" remove weight from any given part.

I'll stick with socket wrench torque and, of course, integrated tensioners that work magically.

Anonymous said...

new sprfls shirt: picture of a chain tensioner with "have you seen me?" surrounding it?

Russ said...

Fuck chain tensioners.

Mr B said...

Personally I'm really glad that Stolen and Cardinal are stepping up with new dropout technology, it's one of the few places on my bike that I don't have a range of ridiculous options for. It's just a pity Eastern have invested so heavily in slotting machinery that they can't play along as well.

digahole said...

I don't think the idea is that the wheel slides back in the dropout as you tighten it - just that when you put the wheel in place and tighten it, it cant move forward.

I guess it's your chain that stops it from moving backwards.

You'd have to be pretty brave / trusting / stupid to shell out for a frame with a whacky dropout setup that's unproven.

SpaceBagels said...

The more I look at this system the more I find things could get wrong in addtion to the chain getting too tight.

Some thoughts.

The spacing of the hub to be used with this 'system' must be as close as possible to the width of the dropouts that get welded to the stays. The dropouts must also be as parallel as possible to ensure this system works as it is intended to once the hub has been tightened.

I would guesstimate even a slight deviation of a few milimeters and/or degrees COULD affect how the affectiveness of how this system works, and by using pegs and heavy street would complicate things further and it could get worse than normal dropouts down the road.

Also, having the peg hang on without any support at the top of it is asking for trouble.

I'm in no way playing down this idea. I'm just throwing in the possibility of things going wrong given that the spacing and parallelness of dropouts on bmx frames aren't exactly as precise as other bmx components given the inherent design and the way they are welded to the stays.

I currently use a Homer hub with normal dropouts without any chain tensioners and I beat the fuck out of it, had some unfortunate hang ups on rails and the axle hasn't moved at all.

I'd be skeptical this system would work as satisfactory as it is intended to for BMX application. Then again I'd be curious to see these things be put into action in the real world.

Meh said...

Stolen basically stole (haw) this idea from a Tiawanese company and claim it as theirs.

Shitty shitty idea as well. Oi!!! Stolen!! What’s the patent number? This World Wide P.A.N.T.S nonsense is nothing that I’ve heard of from any kind of patent office! I call bullshit on all accounts!!!

Word: condier

Beat that

robbosstache said...

i like how they've designed and machined a complicated to dropout to replace the concept of greasing threads and not being an ignorant pussy. hopefully, they can beat eastern to the punch for bar extenders.

Anonymous said...

UnKnown Bike Co were showing this idea (like, the exact same dropout and washer) a few months ago saying it was "their" design. Im sure wedge dropouts arent the reason UK bikes died, but Im pretty sure they didnt think of the design either.

oolex said...

There are things called chain tensioners that do this exact job but better.

Anonymous said...

"check bike guide, Bears is not the patent holder."

Yeah, it's even older :o

Verification word: supsews

SeanMurphy said...

I really dont give a shit about any of this or any of your comments, this was a really funny post that I got a kick out of... but the funniest part was the "world wide pat" nonsense.

none of these companies give a shit about patent in reference to 20' bikes, the only thing "patent" in BMX is the leather on your pad set.

cleanshitup said...

super anal - but damn, clean up the product photo a tad before submitting it to the world... sensor dust and crap all over the stolen photos...

they seem like a bunch of...
(word verification) "slacons"... fucking awesome.

trask said...

I'm assuming the side that has the writing on it will be the inside of the dropout/facing the hub, so you have a flush surface for your axle nuts?

also, when your chain stretches, you're going to have to re tighten just like any other dropout anyway, so why bother?

At least it's a different take on things, but to see if it works, we'll wait and see I suppose.

t.f.a. said...

drop outs that help you run your wheel hand tight, one piece bar/stem combo, grooved fork/stem set up, built in seat seems like you don't have to evan have a muscle in your body to ride anymore. eventually the sport will be full of stick thin kids that weigh the same as their bikes. fuck it, i'm gonna drink a glass of milk and head to the gym.

Jimmy said...

Digahole is right.

The taper on the dropout is way too mellow to work in the way described in the post.
The taper is simply to prevent the wheel from moving forward once tightened.

With this in mind SpaceBagels' comment becomes irrelevant.

The major problem that I can see with this system is if you wanna run pegs. Although the system can be modified to work better with pegs.

Having the flat surface on the outside is not an option because that would mess with dropout spacing as the wheel moves backward/forward in the dropout.

SpaceBagels said...

This thing fundamentally uses the wedge and the inclined planed principle. How does that make my post irrelevant?

Also have you ever experienced the "axle tightening game" where you have to tighten each side of the nut equally? Well if you get even a SLIGHTLY unparalleled dropout it gets worse. Go to a bike shop and measure each of the dropouts in each frame and I assure you dropouts aren't as precise as everyone think they were because they were welded to FOUR tubes.

With this taper lock system aligning the wheel is going to be much more of a bitch.

couch said...

Jimmy is the only one in here that knows anything, obviously. SpaceBagels, I see where you are coming from but even if the spacing was off or if your hub was wider/narrower, it wouldn't matter all that much. No where near as much as you are saying.

Tightening your nuts/bolts won't move the wheel back. Same reason you don't slide down your driveway when you step out of your car. Sure, it is angled, but it is nowhere near steep enough to automatically slide back when being tightened.

If you want to run pegs with this you will need to remove the wedge washer and it will work exactly the same as a current frame end.

Stolen NEVER claimed to be the designer of this system. If you guys actually did some research before running your mouths like a bunch of idiots you would know this.

SPRFLS, this doesn't happen very often, but I don't agree with you at all about this post. Mainly because you are slagging off a product you obviously don't understand. Better luck next time.