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why use light bars, stems and carbon forks?(57 posts)

why use light bars, stems and carbon forks?gtx
Dec 8, 2003 10:07 AM
Given Doug's post below, and the obvious danger of having any of these parts fail, why would anyone use these, especially for recreational purposes? (I'm leaving out pro or semi-pro racers with pro mechs who can inspect and swap out parts frequently.) The total weight saving of these three items combined can't possibly exceed one pound over more solid and proven components. Is it worth risking life and limb for a pound or less? You can still build up a nice, weight weenie-ish bike and choose slightly heavier and durable parts where it counts most. Personally, I'll never ride carbon forks or stupid light stems and bars. Obviously, a steel fork and quality stem or bar COULD fail, but the chances of a failure will be much less than a carbon fork with a carbon steerer, magnesium or whatever stems, and bars weighing less than 280 grams.
As far as carbon forks are concerned...kevinacohn
Dec 8, 2003 10:26 AM
I think when people get a carbon fork, it's usually for the comfort it provides as opposed to the weight savings. Of course, I could be wrong about that.
what was the name of EE rider who crashedcyclopathic
Dec 8, 2003 10:26 AM
out of '02 Vuelta due to fork failure?
Roberto Leiseka(sp?) and...zero85ZEN
Dec 8, 2003 10:36 AM
...and I thought it was something else...hub failure, or he hit something in the road or something.
Several riders in 2002 TDF 2nd ITTgeeker
Dec 9, 2003 5:57 AM
(Stage 19?) had trouble with a Deda bar/stem interface, which went loose and cost them major time. Including Rumsas (!) Little has been said about this, not clear if it was equipment fault, mechanic error or both.

I like to calculate cost of 1 gram weight saving. To me, $1/gm is a "sanity threshold". Lightweight stems seem to have about the highest cost per gram, often over $10. Lightweight handlebars don't seem like any bargain, either. [Disclaimer: I'm a recreational/fitness rider, so wouldn't purchase the products in question.]
I'll tell you why...zero85ZEN
Dec 8, 2003 10:27 AM
...because if you are smart and use these products within the parameters of their intended use, and take the time to inspect them, and replace them as recommended, they are "perfectly safe". (Of course nothing is really "perfectly safe", especially when you engage in a potentially risky activity like cycling....)
What is your budget?gtx
Dec 8, 2003 10:47 AM
To do what you say, if you ride a lot, your fork, stem and bar budget would probably exceed $500 per year, assuming you never crashed. You'd also want to invest in a very nice torque wrench and do a lot of research to make sure you were getting only the best and most proven stuff (difficult since a lot of the high end lightweight stuff changes every year).
My budget is actually pretty low...zero85ZEN
Dec 8, 2003 2:21 PM
...that is why I have a few bikes to spread the "use load" around on. I've worked in shops for years and have a friend who ownes a shop so I trade labor for parts at cost, and I weigh only 135 lbs when I'm in riding shape. So I can get a couple of seasons or more out of parts before I replace them. But I DO replace them when I start to get that uneasy feeling, or when it simply "is time". (And I don't sell them off on eBay either to put some other poor shmuck at risk.)
for meThe Human G-Nome
Dec 8, 2003 10:28 AM
my Primas weight 199 grams and i'll be "upgrading" to carbon bars from my sponsors that weight 230grams because of the shape and the flat top that i prefer. not worried about "catastrophic failure" though.
Weigh, weigh, weigh, weigh, weigh, weigh, weigh, weigh, weigh, wMel Erickson
Dec 8, 2003 4:31 PM
Sorry, got carried away. Just a pet peeve of mine and you got the brunt of my frustration. I see the word weight used, where weigh should be used, so frequently I just boiled over.
Any bike under 20 lbs for everyday use is stupid-lightContinental
Dec 8, 2003 10:35 AM
There is no doubt that as a bike weight drops under 20 lbs there are compromises with safety, reliability, and comfort (and of course price). You can't just visually inspect critical parts and determine if they have been damaged to the point of being unsafe. Parts for every day use need to have a large safety factor which means extra weight. When there is over emphasis on weight cutting, the safety factor is compromised.
I agree! nmwspokes
Dec 8, 2003 10:42 AM
Disagree with you.mexican-JUMPING-frijoles
Dec 8, 2003 10:42 AM
My bike weighs under 20lb, probably around 18lbs. C-dale Caad 4 frame with stock carbon fork, Mavic Cosmos wheels, Ultegra components inlcuding pedals, Sram PC-89 chain, Salsa/3T handlebar, Mutant stem, flite saddle and thomson seatpost. I use this bike for training, commuting and racing.

Please explain how I am compromising safety and reliability.
Remember the thread about C-Dale warranty?Continental
Dec 8, 2003 11:01 AM
Why are there life time warranties on steel and Ti frames that build up to 20 lb bikes and not on lighter steel, aluminum, Ti, and carbon frames? Because the manufacturer has made compromises affecting durability and safety. Mavic Cosmos wheels may be pretty tough, but 32 spoke 3 cross Open Pros are more reliable and safer (Just ask Uncle Al). Same with tires--25 or 28 mm with a thicker tread and Kevlar belts will weigh more, but be more comfortable, durable, and hardly ever go flat.
I understand...mexican-JUMPING-frijoles
Dec 8, 2003 11:47 AM
You can always find a tougher product, such as why not use 36 spoke wheels or even 40 spoke wheels like in tandems with 28mm tires, kevlar belts and slime.

One thing about alumimum frames is that while they do have a shorter life compared to some steel and ti bikes, that shorter life span might be, for example of 100 years compared to 1000 years of a steel or ti bike. FWIW - my aluminum mtb does have a lifetime warrenty. It's not lightest, but it gets the job done.

In my case, I like the ride of an aluminum bike, and while it might not last as long as a steel or ti, I tend to get a new frame every two years, so durability is not an issue for me. For my cross bike though, I did purchase a steel frame because I do plan on keeping that bike for years to come.

While I do agree that steel and ti may last forever (unless rusting occurs), I don't agree with the sub-20lb bike not being reliable.

just my 0.02
20 lbs hang up...zero85ZEN
Dec 8, 2003 3:08 PM're painting with a broad brush there.

And there are so many fatal flaws in your logic that are so obvious that it is not worth arguing this point any further.

Peace out, man. Enjoy riding your heavy steel bike. Remember it's not about the bike anyways.

Just get out and ride something.

20 lbs seems arbitrary (and HEAVY) just like...zero85ZEN
Dec 8, 2003 10:43 AM
...14.999 lbs (or whatever the UCI limit is in pounds.)

Common sense should play a role in the whole equation somewhere along the way though.
14.991 lbs = 6.8 kg, which is the actual UCI minimum limitkevinacohn
Dec 8, 2003 10:45 AM
Always weighed on a metric scale, I believe... 14.9914338 is just what that translates to in pounds.
20 lbs not completely arbitraryContinental
Dec 8, 2003 11:08 AM
A good steel or Ti Frame and fork, 32 spoke 3-cross wheels, no light weight stem, handlebars, or seatpost, or QR levers, 23 mm or wider tires with good tread--it builds up to a 20 lb to 22 lb bike depending on size. Show me a lighter bike as safe and reliable as this proven design.
Dec 8, 2003 11:39 AM
My 'cross bike (58cm Ritchey Swiss Cross) built with Dura Ace (except for a 105 BB), 3-cross wheels w/ Open Pro rims, Thomson seat post, Ritchey stem and bars, w/ 32mm 'cross tires is about 20 lbs or just under (I've not weighed it in a while, and I've swaped out a few components).

Other than a lightweight bar, Richey WCS at about 215g, the bike is built plenty strong and used on and off road regularly. It has a steel fork too.

You can have a bike that is plenty strong and comfortable that's under 20 pounds.
You seem to be agreeingContinental
Dec 8, 2003 11:56 AM
You give an example of a very safe, reliable bike that weighs in at 20 lbs using top-of-the-line components. Where are you going to cut weight without compromising safety and reliability?
sort oflaffeaux
Dec 8, 2003 1:05 PM
My point was my bike is 20 lbs and is a 'cross bike with knobby tires. I'd guess coming in under 20 pounds for an equivalent road bike would be easy, reliable and safe.
20 lbs not completely arbitraryzero85ZEN
Dec 8, 2003 2:25 PM
Just about any bike in the pro peloton is lighter and safe and proven.

You are clinging to OLD technology with your description of "a good steel or Ti frame and fork..."

It's the 21st century man, plastic is fantastic!

Pro peloton vs everyday useContinental
Dec 8, 2003 3:08 PM
Bikes for everyday use should withstand many years of long term stresses and a little abuse and neglect without constant professional inspection and maintenance. There's no way that a Pro peloton bike meets that description. Maybe your bike gets kid glove treatment, but most bikes get dropped, scratched, crashed, run into potholes, and bounced around in transit. 2 or 3 lbs is insignificant for the performance of these bikes. True performance for an everyday bike is being able to lay it down and slide on the road at 20 mph with no damage except scratched paint, run over an unseen pothole at 30 mph without posting, then just keep cruising along at 99.8% of the efficiency of a Pro Peloton bike.
My "Everyday use" bikes...zero85ZEN
Dec 8, 2003 3:15 PM
...aren't subjected to any of the abuse you mention. In fact "abuse and negligence" should NEVER be applied to a piece of percision equipment such as a bike. Routine maintenance and inspections is simple COMMON SENSE, not some exotic "pro mechanic" "kid glove" treatment.

If you choose to abuse and ignore your equipment, by all means you better buy and ride overbuilt products (at the cost of performance...and probably still a large margin of safty, after all ANYTHING can fail).

Why should a bike be able to withstand a crash and keep on tickin? Does your car do the same? How 'bout a jet airliner?
not necessarilygtx
Dec 8, 2003 10:44 AM
I haven't done the math but I'm guessing I could build a 56cm bike in the 17-18 pounds range for approx $3k that would be rock solid--ti frame, steel fork, Thomson stem, some 300 gram bar, DA parts.
I disagree.MShaw
Dec 8, 2003 12:01 PM
My S-Works comes in at 17-18# depending on what wheels I have on it and it isn't built with anything "stupid light." Between the Ritchey Pro stem and bars (not WCS), the Syncros AL seatpost, and the Dura Ace, I have a functional durable bike that'll last a bunch of years with no worries.

I'm going to disagree with the "large safety factor" not being present. There's hundreds of professional racers testing parts for the major companies. They put more stress and mileage on their bikes in one year than the average Joe will in a lifetime's use.

If you weigh lots, I agree with your assesment of weights and safety. I have a friend that weighs 135# soaking wet. He can ride the featherweight stuff with no issues. I try that at 180#, and I have to be very careful. There's a weight limit on some parts/frames for a reason.

One problem is people don't agree on what's lightweight.Fez
Dec 8, 2003 10:36 AM
What is lightweight and/or fragile?

Some things are so well manufactured that even though they are light, they are also very strong and reliable.

Some stuff is just weak, regardless of weight.
an error in your perception...divve
Dec 8, 2003 10:43 AM
...just because a fork is made from carbon doesn't make it inherently weaker. Same thing goes for light stems and handlebars. For instance, I have a carbon fork on my MTB and the carbon handlebar with aluminum stem combo weighs 80g less compared to my road bike combo, but you can count on those parts being stronger than anything you can buy for a road bike.
an error in your perception...gtx
Dec 8, 2003 10:51 AM
Most carbon forks with carbon steerers are designed with some sort of "perfect" stem in mind--the clamp must be just the right design/shape and torqued properly. Most carbon forks also bond the steerer to the crown, and the fork tips to the fork legs. Maybe I'm too old fashioned but I personally wouldn't trust any of that stuff.
You are old-fashioneddgangi
Dec 8, 2003 11:32 AM
Given your perception of carbon, you are definitely "old fashioned".

Trek and many other companies build entire road frames out of carbon. Hell, even the Trek Fuel and Giant NRS mountain bike frames are now built from carbon. Are those bikes "unsafe"?? Nope. They are time-proven designs. In fact, there are some tests that prove these designs are stronger than their steel counterparts.

NASA uses carbon fiber in the space shuttle. NASCAR and Indy race cars have many carbon fiber components. Why? Because carbon fiber is lighter and stronger than steel. And because carbon fiber is a proven material.

Anybody who claims carbon is unsafe in this day and age needs to come out of the dinosaur ages and get a reality check.

I know I am, butgtx
Dec 8, 2003 11:40 AM
I worked in a lot of shops and got to see all the cool and interesting ways things could come unbonded. Most OCLV warranties in my experience had somthing to do with the dropouts or cable guides, etc., becoming unbonded. I know they get better at this all the time (I also got to see andplay with the early Vitus and Look attempts in the 80s). Carbon is great by itself, but then you gotta glue it to something else, or clamp something to it. Most frame failures won't cause you to crash, so I wouldn't lose much sleep over a carbon frame, but a fork, stem or bar failure generally will cause you to crash (I have a friend who survived his stem breaking at high speed--he still doesn't really know how he did that).
I talked to a tech at Reynolds...zero85ZEN
Dec 8, 2003 2:32 PM
...when they test new fork designs they only cast a few dropouts and reuse them from fork to fork. You know how they get them off the "old" forks when they want to recycle them? They have to BURN them off. Literally burn away the carbon. That is the only way to seperate them from the carbon legs once they have been bonded.

The (il)logic that some of you are applying here would lead to one never flying in an airplane, or riding an elevator, etc, etc....
good infogtx
Dec 8, 2003 2:43 PM
If I was going full weight weenie and still wanted to sleep at night I'd probably go Reynolds fork, Ritchey WCS stem and ITM Pro 260 bar. All of these seem quite well proven. But I'd STILL inspect frequently and replace after a few seasons.
i never see people replacing their carbon forks. should they?colker1
Dec 8, 2003 3:00 PM
and never heard of pinarello or colnago recommending replacement of their carbon forks. not that i'm saying you are over reacting, just curious about the facts (and my fork is steel)
Carbon steerer forks should be replaced periodically...zero85ZEN
Dec 8, 2003 3:17 PM
...but it is a factor of milage not simply the passage of time, of course....
not going to buy a used race bike. nmcolker1
Dec 8, 2003 3:23 PM
Carbon steerer forks should be replaced periodically...dgangi
Dec 8, 2003 6:30 PM
Why? Carbon doesn't fatigue like metal does.

Dec 8, 2003 6:42 PM doesn't fatigue like alloy, but when it fails it fails instantly. I guess it is a matter of debate as to replacement periodically or not to replace. You should certainly inspect it annually. I would prefer to err on the side of caution when it comes to my fork steerer. A new fork every 3 to 5 years is pretty cheap compared to a lengthy hospital stay or perhaps worse....
Dec 9, 2003 8:29 AM
Again, I don't quite understand. Carbon doesn't fatigue so it should, in reality, NEVER fail unless it cracks due to abuse. I guess I could take off the fork every year and inspect it for any obvious signs of the following:

1) Cracks
2) Gouges/deep scratches
3) Any other signs of stress

But these are the same things than can weaken a steel or aluminum steerer tube as well. So I'm not sure why carbon should be treated specially.

Hey! That's pretty much my set-up!Gregory Taylor
Dec 9, 2003 7:42 AM
Ouzo Pro fork
ITM Pro 260 Bar

I went for an ITM stem, not the Ritchey.

I too t-boned a car at 20 mph a while back -- the fork didn't break. I did toss it, however. Ditto the frame, even though it visually looked okay.

Finally, I have first-hand experience as to what it takes to wrench a drop out from a Serotta-branded carbon fork. My bro-in-law dropped his front wheel in a pavement crack -- the bike tipped up and the back end came around. Things got interesting when the top tube hit the handlebar. The whole bike (and his carcass) kept rotating and, because the top tube was trapped by the handlebar, all of the rotational torque was imparted to the fork and wheel. The fork failed at the the fork ends, literally wringing the drop outs off of the fork legs. The glue didn't fail: instead, the carbon around the joint broke, taking a core sample from the fork. The steerer, which was steel, had some small cracks near the crown. I was impressed that it held up that well. The bike itself was a banana, with a crease in the top tube from where it hit the bar on its way around.
an error in your perception...MShaw
Dec 8, 2003 6:39 PM
I'm proof that carbon forks are tough mothers! I ran into the rear end of a Toyota at 40+mph with carbon forks. Nothing seemed wrong with the fork legs, but the crown was rotated around the steerer.

You are making incorrect assumptionsdgangi
Dec 8, 2003 12:06 PM
Your assumption is that lightweight = fragile. This is completely untrue. A properly engineered lightweight item will outlast a heavier one that is not properly engineered.

As a kid I broke MANY steel handlebars on my BMX bikes. These bars were not "lightweight". So does my experience with steel bars mean that all steel bars are unsafe? Nope.

The same goes for aluminum, carbon, and any other material. Properly manufactured, these products are plenty safe for consumer use. In many cases, new products made from aluminum and carbon are stronger than their older steel counterparts. The "lightweight" aluminum cranks on my mountain bike are probably 5 times stronger than the single-piece steel cranks that were on my 1979 Mongoose.

And exactly what defines "lightweight" anyway? That is a very relative term. From a 1950's point of view, anything less than 50 pounds would have been considered "ridiculously lightweight". From a 1970's point of view, anything less than 30 pounds would have been "ridiculously lightweight". Today, 20 pounds is on the heavy side for a good road bike (ridiculously lightweight, in my opinion, is anything less than 16 pounds).

I thought lightweight...PsyDoc
Dec 8, 2003 12:51 PM
...was in reference to an "average." So today, if the average bar weighs 250 grams, then one weighing in at 225 would be considered lightweight.
You are making incorrect assumptionsgtx
Dec 8, 2003 2:20 PM
I understand that a Serotta is going to be tougher than a Huffy (unless it's a Serotta-built Huffy). My point is a Steelman or IF steel fork will be more dependable than just about any carbon fork, that a nice Thomson stem will be less likely to fail than some of these crazy lightweight stems like THE STEM or whatever, and that an ITM 260 bar will be more dependable than a ITM 180 or whatever bar.
You are making incorrect assumptionsdgangi
Dec 8, 2003 6:25 PM
Again, your argument is rather invalid as you are making some assumptions that may not hold true. Your Thomson stem example is interesting. I remember when that stem came out in the mid-late 90's. It was considered "ridiculously light" back then. Today it is "average" in weight. But is it strong? You bet. It's engineered very well. So 5 years ago I would have told you the Thompson stem is in your "ridiculously light and therefore dangerous" category.

I would consider a Ritchey WCS stem a "crazy lightweight stem" (125g) and it has proven to be VERY strong. There will be other stems that will come out in the next few years that are stronger and lighter than the Thompson. Will those be "dangerous"??

And your assertion that a steel fork will be more dependable than any carbon fork is also not necessarily true. Carbon fiber is much stronger than steel. Since carbon fiber is not a metal, it does not weaken over time with stress like steel or any metal does. Why would NASA spec carbon fiber for the space shuttle? Why would 200mph race cars use carbon fiber? Personally, I would trust a carbon fiber fork over ANY other material.

You are making incorrect assumptionsMShaw
Dec 8, 2003 6:42 PM
You guys don't remember Columbus Max forks do you??

Those forks would fold at the crowns, and they were steel...

it's simple, really...PmbH
Dec 8, 2003 12:20 PM
Why do people use light parts? Because they think the parts are safe enough for the riding they are doing. The benefits (light) outweigh the risks (failures) to those people, and they buy and use the parts.

It's that easy...

And others feel the benefits of heavier parts (strength) outweigh the risks, and they buy heavier parts.

Seems pretty straight-forward to me.

FWIW, I use a mix of some light parts with some strong parts, and usually ride a 22 pound steel bike with overbuilt wheels, carbon fork with alu steerer, strong stem, medium-light bar.
Broader perspective on failure rates defines "stupid light"Continental
Dec 8, 2003 1:32 PM
Hypothetical example: If a your stem had a failure rate of 0.01% in a 15,000 mile life, chances are that from personal experience you and all of your riding friends would consider it safe, durable, and reliable. From the broader perspective of a manufacturer, insurer, or anyone concerned with the safety of the entire cycling community, a 0.01% stem failure rate is a disaster. The point is that it's not valid to use your own experience as proof a design is acceptably safe.

Undoubtably there is needless pain, suffering, and death in the cycling community because companies promote and people use stupid-light bicycles for everyday riding. Most of the failures go unreported, and cyclists pedal along in ignorant bliss. If anyone every tallied up the carnage, stupid-light would get regulated or sued out of the market.
re: why use light bars, stems and carbon forks?tarwheel
Dec 8, 2003 1:41 PM
The point that gtx is making, and I agree, is that you shouldn't cut corners on certain components. Handlebars and stems are the prime example. There is very little weight savings to be gained from a $200, sub-200 gram handlebar. But the risk of failure on a super-light bar like that has got to be greater. I'm not talking about carbon, per se, but some of the very light aluminum bars. How many cyclists take the time to unwrap their bars and inspect them regularly? Not many, unless they are pros with mechanics handling it.
re: why use light bars, stems and carbon forks?desertmd
Dec 8, 2003 6:17 PM
I ride lightweight components by most standards, and have nothing less than complete faith in them. I believe their enginering is sound, and that the notion of "the risk of failure on a super-light bar like that has got to be greater" is purely speculative, and not based on anything other than anecdotes. By the time I have put enough miles on my bike to worry about fatigue, I will be looking for a new bike - and I bet my life on that every time I ride.
re: why use light bars, stems and carbon forks?dgangi
Dec 8, 2003 6:39 PM
Definitely agree with you. I think the entire argument is completely speculative. There are nowhere near the statistics necessary to make any scientifically accurate conclusion about this argument, which is based on the false assumption that "lighter -> weaker".

There are some well documented product failures on MTBR.Com for BOTH heavy and "crazy light" products...and everything in between (if people would take the time to post review on RBR, maybe we would have some of that evidence on this board as well). Based on that information, I could falsely conclude that "cheaper -> weaker" or "heavier -> weaker" or a number of other conclusions. And I'm sure none of them are true.

Most of science involves things prior to well demonstrateddjg
Dec 10, 2003 7:17 AM

I dunno. You may be right. Or not.

But it seems to me that there are a couple of reasons to be suspcious of the lightest-of-the-light. First, there are simple and straightforward mechanical reasons to think that lighter--all things equal--is "weaker." Removing material from a structure does not tend to make it stronger. That's not a primitive superstition or a fantasy.

Now, it is true that not all needs to be equal here. Materials innovations, for example, might allow us to make something lighter that's equally strong (or stronger). But where things get lighter without any obvious materials (or other) innovation, there's a good and grounded reason to wonder about their integrity.

Second, we might have a non-scientific but nonetheless reasonable suspicion about component makers pushing the envelope as far as optimizing both weight and structural integrity go. Notice the many failures in recent years on TV--there's no good statistical analysis of the set--and maybe no real agreement about what goes in the relevant set of phenomena for analysis--but there do seem to have been quite a few prototype failures in the pro ranks, without us actually watching all that many pros. These are the sorts of pre-theoretical observations that give rise to systematic investigation in my view. And they may be good reasons to wonder before choosing the lightest of the light.
re: why use light bars, stems and carbon forks?Woof the dog
Dec 8, 2003 10:13 PM
so you are saying that you could detect something in the al. bar before it fails?

it seems that it would happen without any visible signs beforehand.

Replacement suggestionssuperdog
Dec 8, 2003 9:27 PM
My bike has a Deda Newton bar and stem. After reading these posts I'm a little paranoid about riding with my 2.5 year old bars. (new stem) I'm probably done with racing so I'd like to know what suggestions you have for a bar/stem combo that isn't "stupid light."
Replacement suggestionsdivve
Dec 9, 2003 12:43 AM
The Deda Newton has been tested in the German Tour mag as one of the strongest road bars and stems available. I don't know about 2.5 years but you can replace what you have with the same model...just don't follow the 8Nm torque specification for the stem bolts...according to the test your risk stripping the threads or break bolts. Instead, they found 5Nm for the clamp section and 4Nm for the face plate to be of the reasons I don't use torque wrenches on bike parts. It's very common for manufacturers to spec according to bolt diameter without taking the actual part they secure into account.
why use light partsngl
Dec 10, 2003 9:07 AM
For the most part I agree with you. There is a risk when using stupid light parts especially when safety is compromised. I guess it comes down to acceptable failure rates.

It is a fact that failure rates are not directly related to weight. Example; Is a +/- 6 pound frame made of carbon steel stronger than a +/-5 pound frame made of tensile steel or a +/- 4 pound frame of 4130 steel or a +/- 3 pound frame of drawn columbus steel? As technology advances we are able to create stronger alloys which can give us the same strength and weigh less.

On the other hand, I do not agree with the philosophy of machining a 200 gram stem down to 120 grams just to save weight and dramatically increase failure rate.

In summary, I guess there is a risk associated with every time we go for a bike ride... cars, dogs, potholes when in a pace line, speeding down a hill and getting a flat, or, equipment failure.