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« Justifying ingrained behavior | Main | Dealing with the reality of injustice »

Fork failure and recalls

Gary Lanoue (Left.) from Rehoboth, MA died on Monday when, it appears, his carbon front fork failed.

He was found in the road by a police officer on his way to work.

Gary was wearing a helmet but suffered a severe head injury; apparently no other vehicle was involved.

Gary was riding his Cervelo Soloist bike, one that was subject to a recall in August 2008 because the True Temper Wolf SL fork had been known to fail. I can only assume that Gary did not know of this defect, because who would ride a bike with a suspect front fork when a company is offering to replace it for free?

But then again, I had not heard of this recall either until now, which is why I am writing this to get the information out to a few more people. No one had been killed previously from these fork failures, and it is sad that someone had to die in order for this problem to surface again and a few more cyclists (Including me.) are made aware of it.

Cervelo is a reputable company, the problem didn’t show up in the normal required testing; only later did these forks start to fail, and when this happened the company immediately made the recall announcement.

Unfortunately this was after some 5,800 of these bikes with the Wolf SL fork, were sold. That is a scary thought, how many more people are riding these bikes, oblivious to the fact that their steering tube could break at any time.

I don’t know what other brands of bikes used the True Temper Wolf SL fork, but if you have a bike that pre-dates 2008 it might be prudent to check.

When the major Auto Companies issue a recall it makes National TV, newspapers, and other media outlets; everyone hears about it.  A bike recall on the other hand, is announced on a company’s website and maybe makes it to a few bicycle trade magazines.

All Cervelo dealers would have been aware of the recall, and most bike shops would have heard of it initially, but this recall had been out there four years; not all bike store employees would not know about it. Then only if a customer brings his bike into a store to be worked on are they aware of it; many bike riders do their own maintenance.

One final point, on the subject of helmets: The first thing that will hit the road if you go over the handlebars is your forehead. Your helmet should be no more than the width of two fingers above your eyebrows (1 ½ inches or 4cm.) I wear mine one finger above my eyebrows, (3/4 inch, or 2cm.)

Gary Lanoue leaves behind a wife and three adult children; my condolences go out to them and the rest of Gary’s friends and family.

Remember there are thousands of these bikes out there, many will still have the original defective front fork. Please help spread the word in any way you can; don't let anyone else die because of this. My thanks to Ted Delaney for bringing this story to my attention


Update 5/22/12: The front fork was apparently not the recalled model. See this article. 


Reader Comments (15)

I live in the area and regularly ride the stretch of road where Mr. Lanoue was found. The local reports have changed a bit and they are now reporting that the front wheel cane out of the fork.


April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIl Bruce

Similar story re: wheel coming off? http://www.stephanchallenge.com/marks-story/

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve (Chicago)

Il Bruce,
This is just one report, all the facts are not in yet. Cervelo is not dodging the issue, they are talking about it on their website in the community section. http://forums.cervelo.com/forums/p/9911/68723.aspx#68723

Regardless as to whether or not Gary's death turns out to be a result of fork failure, there is a defect and recall and people need to be aware of it. This is why I chose to write about this now while the story is still fresh, rather than wait until we have all the facts.

April 12, 2012 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Good point about properly wearing a helmet, Dave! In the picture at the top, Gary's helmet appears to be perched rather far back (and also looks on the small side for him). Unfortunately it appears to be a fashion statement for women and children to wear their helmets perched far back on their heads to show their hair. Many men wear their helmets on top of ball caps for whatever reason.

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

Location of crash (I rode past it last night)

between that view and the big tree. Smooth road through there.

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeWilli

Keep in mind that the media (and the police) are generally clueless about bicycling. Don't put too much faith into very vague indications of the cause of an accident, especially, from early reports.

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdavep

Gary is my brother in law. Favorite brother in law, actually.
Providence Journal has their story incorrect and they are (allegedly) going to update it.

Fork broke at the top where it goes into the frame. Wheel didn't come off the fork. (?) I'm no cyclist myself, but was at the hospital. The police are not cyclists - but knew by the look of the bike it wasn't something found at the local department store, and did research and emailed the manufacturer before the detective came to the hospital.

State police are assisting in the investigation. The fork model has not been confirmed as being the recalled one... yet.

As for his injuries - - - well his forehead didn't seem to be injured, though he had massive head injuries.

Obviously we're all devastated beyond belief. Every wonderful thing people say about him is true times a hundred. He made an event just by being there.

Keep this story alive - I understand Gary's the first fatality on one of these bikes - please get the word out so he's the last.

My sister is very thankful for the way Rehoboth PD has handled this, from finding him to contacting her to the invest and following up with her. Other people stopped simultaneously, so the thinking is he'd just gone down when he was found.

Oh - another thing - contacting her - the ONLY way they knew to all her was because of an emergency ID bracelet she gave him. Something to remind yourselves, to make sure you have on your person - not just in a saddlebag.

Thanks for talking about it... he loved to ride, loved to do the "Ride the Rhode" with his team "Beer Gutz" . The ride was the highlight of his summers.

Thanks again, stay safe out there.

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermtc

Hi Dave, I think Cervelo bike retailers (former or current) should make an effort to contact any customers who have purchased this model. Most shops keep good records of bicycle sales (probably on computer data bases) enabling them to seek out owners of these bikes. One problem is if someone sells their bike to another person privately. It would be nice if Cervelo gets help from mainstream media (TV, radio etc...) as well as all media in the cycling business.
As for the helmet fit, you are correct, but I might add that the shape of some peoples heads sometimes can prevent the proper fit you suggest. This might be cured by retailer personnel recommending a different helmet that fits correctly.This is, of course, if the retailer has such a selection to choose from. Also, some people are offended when one trys to correct them even if it's for their own good. And then the "fashion statement" comes to mind. At least "they" are wearing a helmet. I can't tell you how many times I have seen riders wearing their helmet on the handlebars instead of atop their head while riding. How foolish is this ? I feel for this man's family as it's truely sad he lost his life for a defective fork. As strong as carbon fiber is, in my opinion, I feel it has that
"shatter" failure versas a "metal" steerer which might "bend" or give some type of warning (if the connection isn't via bonding). This should be a stern "heads up" to all manufacturers to thoroughly test their products with rider simulation tests and fatigue tests to ensure the failure rate is well beyond it's intended use.

April 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

Dave thats a very sad story and all our thoughts are with his friends and family.Im sure I am not the only one whose loved one worries when they ride alone and often without ID.
On the fork failure: 30 years ago one of my old clubmates was a semi pro rider in Belgium and many mechanics hammerd a wooden dowel into the forkcrown/ steerer area to give a little protection if the steerer failed at the crown.

April 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJimm

I've often worried about carbon steerer tubes. I have one on my 2005 Six Thirteen (Cannondale) that I worry about even more after reading these stories. Does anyone know if carbon steerers are that much of a hazard? Certainly, carbon fails less gracefully than steel or aluminum. If I ever replace that fork (should one replace a fork with a carbon steerer after so many years?) I might go with a heavier but less brittle material.

April 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkhalil spencer

Gary did NOT reside in Rehoboth. He lived in Attleboro...

April 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGil Gomes

I wonder if part of the story is that very light weight race bikes are designed for light weight riders, and are frequently being ridden by people well over 200 pounds

April 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDWhite

I wonder if part of that story is that manufacturers build light frames and then don't clearly advertise weight limits? Bike's also need to be able to handle hard forces from riding, if it breaks because a 200lb rider gets on it as opposed to a 150lb rider then it's going to break within a couple of years due to stress.

April 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTom

and really the author of the post I'm replying to disgusts me.

RIP poor guy.

April 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTom

DWhite - you MAY poke around before you spew ignorance.

From the Cervelo website:

Sam says:
March 28, 2012
Hi Damon, looking at getting either an R3 or an R5 - is there a rider weight limit to these frames please? I weigh 210 and race pretty regularly. Many thanks.

Damon Rinard, Cervelo Engineer says:
April 02, 2012
Hi Sam, No rider weight limit. We design with 240 pounds in mind and include large safetyy factors so you should be fine riding and racing hard. When the R3 was introduced in 2006, it was the lightest frame and was ridden by the heaviewst rider in Paris-roubaix. We still test to the same hgih standards now for all our frames. It's a Cervelo thing: we don't compromise performance or strength even in our lightest frames. Cheers, -Damon

April 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermtc
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