17 April 2013


For the past few days, I've had a relapse of the respiratory illness I had during the winter.  So, I was off the bikes and generally out of commission.

I finally got out today, to go to the store.  Along the way, I saw a bike that normally wouldn't capture my attention:  one of the many department-store "mountain" bikes you see parked on the street.  However, something struck me as odd about this one:

Did you notice what was off?  Here's a shot that might give you a clue:

Did you notice that the brakes are mounted to the rear of the fork?  That was the first thing that tipped me off to something else that's wasn't quite right:  Look at the angle of the fork legs.

Yes, the fork is mounted backward.  Was it deliberately installed that way by some kid who wanted to make his bike "different"?  I don't know whether that's more or less disturbing than the other probable explanation:  Whoever assembled the bike simply didn't know any better.  

Look at how far the front wheel is from the rest of the bike:

It's not merely an aesthetic concern, however. I simply cannot imagine how the bike rides with the fork in such a position.  I would expect the shopping carts in the local supermarket to have quicker, more responsive and more accurate steering than the bike with a fork mounted that way.  In fact, with such handling, I'd be afraid to ride the bike, especially in traffic.

I wonder whether the bike's rider notices anything odd or unusual about the ride.  Perhaps he or she has never ridden anything else and so has no basis for comparison.  Perhaps  this person thinks that bikes normally handle like that one.

Now that's a scary thought--at least to me.


  1. I've seen a few photos of bikes at Walmart that were assembled with the forks backwards but they've all been cruiser style bikes. Never a suspension fork. I've also seen bent forks intentionally turned backwards so the wheel doesn't hit the down tube.

  2. That looks like a bent fork to me of the variety that Randy mentions.

  3. Love the title! A few bikes with this configuration get donated to the Bike Exchange in Trenton each year. We always attribute it to the Walmart bike assembler's lack of familiarity with bicycles.

  4. Randy and Steve--I've also seen bent forks turned backward in the way you describe. Somehow, though, the bend seemed even more extreme (at least to me) on the fork in the photo.

    Unknown--I am sure that almost any establishment like the Bike Exchange (or any thrift store that sells bikes) sees its share of bikes with such a configuration. I always wonder whether the person who donated the bike knew what was wrong--or ever tried to ride it.

    The problem is probably attributable to, as you say, the "Walmart bike assembler's lack of familiarity with bicycles." Somehow, though, I think such a misassembly is a more serious problem with a suspension fork than with a conventional one.

  5. Back in my dark mysterious years I worked at a mass merchandiser that sold your typical crappy department store bikes, Huffy et al. While everyone assumes that some 16 year old flunky from Sporting Goods is the one assembling these bikes, in actuality it's usually an outside company (in the case of the retailer I worked for, Huffy Service First) doing the assembly (along with other items like grills and patio furniture.) I had a conversation with one of those assemblers once, and they told me how they are taught to assemble bikes "by intuition", meaning they were discouraged from looking at things like assembly manuals. This makes sense if you look at capitalist economics (build those bikes as fast as you can!), but not necessarily from a practical/safety angle.

    So when I see stuff like this, I think of that conversation I had way back in the mid-90s. Looks like nothing has really changed.

    And it also reminds me of the whole IKEA giving everyone a crappy mountain bike for Xmas debacle from a few years ago. There was a news story about it, featuring an IKEA employee riding around the store with a backwards fork. I'm sure that's not the publicity that IKEA wanted to get from that!

  6. Adventure!--I write, draw, take photos and do some other things by intuition. But I don't assemble or repair bikes that way. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to follow my intuition on rides!

    I guess I shouldn't be shocked by that conversation you recall.

    About IKEA...Were crappy bikes more of a PR fiasco than meatballs made from horse meat?