Technical FAQ: What about those tabs?

Should I remove my fork's wheel retention tabs?

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Question: I just returned from a long road trip to ride the Leadville 100. I probably put the bike on top of the car a few times a day, taking the front wheel off each time. I grew to wonder about the “lawyer lips” that turn the quick release into something with the efficiency of a wing nut.

What do the pros do? Given the efficiency with which the yellow-clad Mavic guy can change a racer’s wheel, I’m guessing that none of their forks are so equipped. Do they get special forks, or do they simply file off the excess? And finally, is there anything to the claims that the braking force of a front disc can eject even a properly clamped front wheel?

Dear Brian,
Yes, pro road teams do not have what are most commonly referred to as “lawyer tabs” on their forks, for the reason you cite.

When the team frames and forks come in, team mechanics usually line up all of the forks and grind or file off all of the lawyer tabs, production-line style. This goes for domestic pro teams as well as European ones.

Depending on fork style, if the lawyer tab (a.k.a. “secondary wheel-retention device,” “Nader hook,” etc.) fully wraps around the face of the dropout, there can be a danger in removing some material from the face of the dropout while grinding it away.

This is a no-no, because for the fastest possible wheel changes, it is imperative that the thickness of the dropouts on all of the team’s bikes be identical, so that the mechanic does not need to adjust the quick-release skewer at all but rather can just flip it closed and send the rider on his or her way.

On the other hand, some forks just have two simple nubs sticking out laterally from the bottom tips of the dropout, and those are easy to file off without changing the overall thickness of the dropout. (I know because I do this on the forks of all of my personal road bikes, which generally have Alpha Q forks with two simple nubs like this as lawyer tabs. I usually use a file, but sometimes I use a bench grinder.)

So, the experience of the mechanics and the style of dropout may dictate how the tabs are removed. Sometimes, mechanics may whip through a stack of forks, removing the lawyer tabs with a power tool – a bench grinder, die grinder or Dremel tool. Otherwise, they usually file them off by hand.

Jordan Schware, a domestic pro team mechanic (he has wrenched for professional cycling teams such as Toyota-United, Rock Racing, KBS/Medifast, and OUCH-Maxxis) and proprietor of says that he always removed the tabs from every single team fork on every team he worked for.

“I don’t see any use for lawyer tabs,” Schware said. “The only reason you’d want them is for the same reason that you’d want a lawyer.”

That said, it’s important to remember that things like warranties are usually written by attorneys, and such “modifications” may negate the manufacturer’s obligations to you in the event of a fork failure, even if that failure is not directly related to your removal of the tabs. Unnecessary as they might be for a competent rider or an experienced mechanic, you might want to think twice before removing the tabs if you don’t want to risk losing your warranty.

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.