Technical FAQ: filing off ‘lawyer’s tabs’

Is it OK to file off 'lawyer's tabs' on mountain bike forks?

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Feedback on last week’s column regarding filing lawyer tabs:

Dear Lennard,

Would a pro mechanic file the tabs on a mountain bike fork as well? I can understand removing them on a road bike — they do nothing useful. But after your article last year about disc brakes and quick release skewers, I’m sure not taking mine off.

In fact, I thought it was really cool that my new Fox fork came with some killer retention shoulders, and a cleverly angled slot. I was hoping my bike would come with QR-15 wheels, but this will do just fine.

And the since I have DT wheels, I got one of those clever screw-on skewers you mentioned. Now that is a clever idea.


Dear Steve,

As the below letter points out, I totally missed that part of the question and was not thinking mountain bikes. Absolutely, I think it’s a poor idea to remove the wheel-retention tabs on a mountain bike fork when using disc brakes.

As I’ve written here before, the problem is that once the brake is applied, that point on the rotor then becomes the fulcrum, and the momentum of the wheel and rider is working to force the axle down, out of the dropouts. The skewer must be extremely tight (again, the DT screw-on skewers are the way to go).

Once the wheel starts moving, it tends to taper the magnesium dropout, so the further the axle moves down, the looser the skewer becomes. And I’ve seen this movement action wear away the lawyer tabs over time. This is why Fox came up with the front-opening QR dropouts and why so many fork companies embrace through-axles for even lightweight bikes.

I asked our own tech editor, Zack Vestal, who used to be a Trek/Gary Fisher team mechanic, and he had this to say: “You know, there are guys out there that want it done, and the mechanics will do it. But on my team (Trek-VW), never. I never went that far. Wouldn’t surprise me if JHK had Matt Opperan filing tabs, and I know Roland Green used to have Gary file his tabs off. Gary Wolff now works for Geoff Kabush, and might be doing it for him, but honestly in my experience most MTB guys, even the most picky, prefer the sense of security from tabs. That said, the new SID forks from RS have some huge tabs, and I bet they get filed down at least a little to speed things slightly.”

When reading Zack’s quote, keep in mind that Roland Green’s heyday eight years or so ago was still the era of cantilever brakes in cross-country racing.



I can make fun of these; I’m a lawyer. They’re stupid. If QR’s are so unsafe, why don’t we have bolt-on axles with cotter pins through the nuts so dummies can’t under tighten them? The whole deal reeks of a deficiency in early childhood education.

Anyway, I just filed the nubs off my road bike fork as you mentioned. On a Wound Up fork they’re just two little nubs.

On my ATB it was a problem since the RockShox fork end cups around the quick release and removing the recess would require some major metal work and paint damage, with the risk of weakening the metal. Not to worry, however. Neuvation, the wheel outfit, sells (or did, when I bought mine) a nifty quick release skewer with a little release tab on the handle. Open it the regular way or if it vibrates open and it opens enough to make the skewer loose, but it won’t drop out, as the lawyers intended. Release the little tab while opening, however, and it opens far enough to clear the nubs and drop the wheel straight out.

The nice feature is that there’s no re-adjustment of the QR needed. When it goes back on and the handle is clamped all the way, it clamps down tight as it did before. Which is the whole point of a quick release, isn’t it? Tullio must be spinning in his grave.


Dear Larry,

FYI: Neuvation’s wheel business is so good that it has ceased selling these skewers.


An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.