Review: Velo Orange Anti-Theft Wheel Skewers

A few weeks ago, Perry from Velo Orange sent us a courtesy (read: “free”) pair of their new anti-theft skewers to test out.


We’ve discussed wheel security strategies in the past, and some of the drawbacks of existing “non-QR” skewers have been addressed by Velo Orange in their design. Read on!

Many of you have noticed that most new bikes (even ones billed as “urban” or “commuter friendly”) come with wheels that have traditional quick-release skewers installed. Obviously, this creates additional security headaches…without a good locking strategy, those wheels are quite easy to steal and could certainly use more protection.

Enter the non-QR skewer — replacing the cam lever with a fixed head that accepts a 5 mm hex key. While not foolproof, these non-QR skewers surely deter casual wheel thieves, but many savvy criminals now carry hex keys to swipe wheels and components off poorly-secured bikes.

Those non-QR skewers weren’t good enough for Velo Orange, so they set out to create an inexpensive alternative to Pitlock/Hublox-style skewers by using a standard “security fitting” on the head of the skewer. The Velo Orange skewer’s hex fitting has a raised “pin” in the center, defeating standard hex keys by requiring a special key with a centrally-drilled hole. Here’s a look at the VO skewer head:


And corresponding 5 mm “security” hex key:


The VO skewers are made of chromed steel for the skewer itself and anodized aluminum for the clamping ends. Most non-QR skewers on the market have serrated faces on the aluminum ends, and I’ve experienced quite a bit of slippage over the years using such skewers on horizontal dropouts. VO did their homework on these skewers, as there is a serrated STEEL face pressed onto each aluminum end. It’s an extra touch that means these things will not slip once tightened down. Here’s a look at the nonslip face:


As a test platform, and in keeping with the spirit of the Velo Orange company (lovers of all things French), I installed the skewers on my 1971 French “Astra” citybike…well, not quite. Currently, VO offers the skewers in a length to handle a standard 100 mm front hub and 135 mm rear hub spacing. My Astra has a 126 mm hub with a short axle, so I couldn’t use the VO skewer on the rear. Velo Orange indicates that other sizes will be available soon. For now, the rear skewer went onto my Xtracycle (which had a QR skewer with the lever pipe-clamped to the subframe of the Xtra).

The test platform:


As for testing these skewers, I can say this: once they are clamped down, those serrated faces do the trick. The wheel will NOT slip within the dropouts. I’m loathe to test the anti-theft nature of these skewers by parking my bike in a high-crime area, but I’m confident that these skewers will convince all but the most dedicated scofflaw to move on to easier targets.

I only have one negative to include about the VO skewers…only one special hex key is included in the package, and replacement keys are not yet available from VO. So, for now, don’t lose the key!!!

Currently, the Velo Orange anti-theft skewers are on sale for $12.00. They’re worth twice that in peace of mind.

We’ve got some other Velo Orange products in the review pipeline, so stay tuned in the next few weeks for more.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.


  1. Karl McCracken (twitter: @KarlOnSea)

    The logic for these “high security QR skewers” is flawed though.

    The whole point of having quick release is that you don’t need special tools to get the wheel off when you need to repair a puncture! So for the appearance of having QR skewers, you end up carrying (an albeit small) extra tool with you.

    If you lose that extra little tool, you’re completely knackered . . . Or looking at it the other way, with just a single key combination at just $12 a set, how long before a thieving scumbag who can work out payback calculations figures out that for just $12 he can buy the key (with a set of skewers) that’ll unlock every single one of these he comes across?

    Nope – not for me.

    I’d rather rely on a belt-and-braces lock-up method, securing the valuable components with highly visible means in a high visibility location!

  2. Ghost Rider

    Karl, these are not “high security” …merely a deterrent to all but the most dedicated theft. That’s worth it.

    Yes, you’re SOL without the key, but that could be said about many security strategies. It’s a tiny little hex key…not a problem to bring along.

    And, your scenario of a thief buying the key to have on hand is pretty unlikely. In practice that just doesn’t happen.

  3. Ghost Rider

    I meant “dedicated thief” in the first sentence.

  4. Powerful Pete

    Hhhhmmm. Great for the casual rider in low crime areas.

    I would suspect that urban riders would prefer QRs that allow them to take the front wheel off and chain it, along with the back wheel, through the rear seatstays of the frame.

    Still, for 12 USD I would buy a set…

  5. JeffS

    Karl, these are obviously not QR skewers. They are just skewers. In fact, the reviewer goes so far as to call then non-QR.

    I wonder, how much clamping force can you get with that short little wrench? I mean, would you ever attempt to use them for say, a fixed-gear hub, or on problematic dropouts – polished horizontal dropouts come to mind.

    I’m assuming not, just curious. It’s not really a dig at the product since the Pitlocks they’re competing against have the same issue.

  6. Crank Mule

    …or you could just lock the wheel up.

  7. ax0n

    $6 at Ace/True-Value will buy you a whole bunch of security bits. I have a lot of them. In fact, unless I need high torque, my primary set of hex/torx bits is a cheap set of security bits.

    This is a nice touch, and the price is right. Most thieves won’t have that tool, even if they CAN get it and it’s cheap. I call this darwinian bicycle security, or the “low hanging fruit” theory. As long as your bike is more secure than other nearby bikes, you’re probably safe enough. $DEITY knows there’s no such thing as 100% secure.

    It wouldn’t be a bad idea to replace all of your 5mm hex bolts with security-head doppelgangers from the hardware store. Find a friend with a drill press and you can (carefully) turn the 5mm allen driver on any bicycle multi-tool into a security-allen wrench. Then the quick release “problem” isn’t much of a problem.

    Also, I’ve patched plenty of flats on bolted hub wheels without taking the wheel off the bike. It’s a little tricky, but it can be done.

    All in all, I like it.

  8. Ghost Rider

    @JeffS — I have no way to test the potential for slipping on a chromed horizontal dropout (a common slipping point for many skewers), but I’m fairly confident the serrated steel faces will minimize the slipping.

    Also for fixed-gear — the skewer is too long to test with my fixed frame, so I can’t verify, but suspect the same thing…it’s somewhat unlikely to slip even with the relatively low torque that can be applied by the little hex key.

    @Pete — I never see anyone take their wheel off and lock it up with the rest of the frame. Most folks use a cable-and-u-lock combo to eliminate this step. You know, the “belt and braces” approach that Karl mentioned.

  9. Rider

    axon — what are these “security bits” at Ace Hardware?

  10. Cody

    You wouldn’t even have to buy a key, just drill your own hex.

    Get one of these: For the rear wheel and then weld one to the front if you’re that worried.

  11. Powerful Pete

    Cody, those thingamajigs really don’t convince me. The few I have seen were actually made of swiss cheese. The non-QRs reviewed here would be more valuable, IMHO, of course.

  12. FauxPorteur

    People often bring up the “but q/r skewers are so convenient/don’t want to have to carry a tool” argument(s). Well, to change a with a q/r wheel you’d need to have a patch-kit/tube and a pump. You might as well be carrying a small toool to remove/install your wheel while you’re at it.

    While no wheel retention system is perfect I can tell you that at least 95% of the people in my shop that are buying wheels to replace stolen ones had simple q/r wheels. Same goes for those replacing saddles/seatposts. If you have a q/r seatpost clamp, your likelihood of your saddle/post getting stolen skyrockets.

    q/r is for racing bikes. Death to q/r for REAL bikes!

  13. Ghost Rider

    @FauxPorter: amen! QR wheels and seatpost clamps have no business on anything but racing bikes. I wonder why bike companies insist on saddling new commuter- or urban-bike buyers with this security flaw?

  14. FauxPorteur

    @ghost rider In the 80’s only high quality racing/performance bikes had q/r and presta valved innertubes. People began to recognize this so bike companies realized they would sell more bikes by adding these, ahem, “features” to their mid/low range bikes. But as you see in other countries that have a healthy bike industry (not based on racing bikes) 15mm nuts are still pretty standard.

    Yes, I implied presta valves are dumb. 99% of rims are wide enough for schraeder, so they should have schraeder. It’s a much more robust and simple system.

  15. Raiyn

    @ Rider (non Ghost type)
    What axon is saying is that the “security” allen wrench is commonly available at local hardware stores pretty much anywhere.

  16. dukiebiddle

    Amen to FauxPorteur and Ghost Rider. I live in an urban high crime environment, and the first thing I do when I get a new bike is get rid of the q/r skewers and replace them with anti-theft skewers. I hate q/r skewers and would never go to the trouble of removing bike parts as a security strategy. I wish someone would market anti-theft seatpost clamps.

    ghostbike, I love that Astra. I see the anti-theft skewers didn’t stop the drive train from being stolen. Oh noes!

  17. dukiebiddle

    Also, I have 3 of those wrenches. To keep one on hand in the case of a flat, I electrical tape them my patch kits.

  18. Ghost Rider

    @dukie — good eye! That’s an older picture of my Astra (too rainy the past few days to get a good current photo up).

    Good tip on keeping the wrench taped to the patch kit. I’m going to fish mine out of my bag and do the same thing!

  19. Ghost Rider

    As for anti-theft seatpost clamps, one could always replace the metric bolt with a similar security fastener (hex or Torx) or use a Pitlock/Pinhead replacement.

    One inexpensive trick is to epoxy a ball bearing into the hex fitting…defeats casual thieves yet is easy enough to dig out with a screwdriver if you need to adjust your saddle height.

    All that being said, there’s an untapped market here for a true “off the shelf” anti-theft seatpost collar. Any manufacturers out there listening?

  20. ax0n

    This is identical to the set I bought from Ace or True Value or something a few years ago. It was $5.99 or $6.99. Less than $10. This place apparently sells it even cheaper. The whole damn set of most security bits you’d ever want.

  21. Max M

    I have used the even less secure Nashbar version which just uses an allen wrench and they have worked thus far. My wife and I are bike commuters in Washington, DC and there is a lot of bike theft but it leans more to the ‘low hanging fruit’ variety. These kinds of skewers are enough to deter the casual opportunist. But vicious use of vise grips can usually be enough to get most these things off. They hold on well enough for single speed bikes but I would avoid their use on fixed as most are alloy heads and they will deform with repeated applications of stress whether from wrenching with tools or with pedal power. Most fixed wheels are bolt-on anyway.

    Bottom line is they help deter theft and they are better than quick release for the majority of commuters who really don’t take their dirty wheels and seats with them into the workplace.

  22. darell

    Resurrecting this thread because I just found these on the VO site while looking for a good solution. Why, WHY!? do all these come with such a great way to grip with pliers or vice-grips? A set of cheap pliers would have these off in a moment. Make those ends hard and conical so that they can’t be gripped. THEN we could have a tiny bit of security.

  23. Raiyn

    @ Darell
    Give VO a bit more credit than that. If you look at the second picture you can see that the part that actually threads onto the skewer is a separate piece from the end cap. Because of the way it fits inside and is shielded by the non-threaded end cap you can spin the end cap to your heart’s content and all you’ll do is scrape up the paint on the drop out. Yeah. there’s knurling, but that won’t help you get the wheel off if you’ve only got pliers. Think of it this way, think of a bolt passing through an object torqued down with a smooth washer and a nut. Now try to loosen the nut while only being able to grip the washer. Not so easy. Now look at picture 2 again the only place the “nut” contacts the washer (end cap) is at the base of a conical depression and your “nut” while being cylindrical is smaller than the inner walls of the end cap while also having a rounded edge. The surface area of the “nut” in contact with the inner surface of the end cap is sufficient to hold the pressure needed to hold the wheel on, but is nowhere near what would be needed for the end cap to loosen the “nut” by friction. You could even lessen this by putting a small dab of grease on the base of the “nut”.

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