Naild locking quick release thru axle system for road cyclocross and gravel bikes appears on Marin bikes for 2016

Already spec’d on the 2016 Marin gravel and cyclocross bikes (post on those coming soon), the Naild locking, quick release thru axle system takes everything good about thru axles and makes them better.

The system was developed by by Darrell Voss, who worked at Klein Bikes from 1984 to 1996, then started USUL Corp in 1995 while still at Klein’s then-new owner Trek to help bring North American companies to Asian manufacturing and do U.S. service and marketing for Asian manufacturers. Since 1999, they’ve been working as a service center for SR Suntour out of Madison, WI, though Voss himself is based in Portland, OR. During that time, he helped developed Suntour’s Q-Loc thru axle, which was among the first (if not the first) thru axle that didn’t use a thread-in design to secure the wheels. In Voss’ own words, “it works pretty well.”

Fast forward to the advent of disc brakes on road and cyclocross bikes and there are new load paths on the frame structure, which got him thinking…

Naild locking quick release thru axle system for road cyclocross and gravel bikes appears on Marin bikes for 2016

“Rim brakes are basically a 1:1 load force on the dropout assembly, with forces mainly going to the back of the dropout,” Voss told us. “With disc brakes, the load path on a dropout can be up to 8x higher with a 140mm rotor. And that load path is somewhat in alignment with the slot in the dropout. That’s why you’re seeing so many brands are rushing to switch to thru axles, and most of those use a threaded axle system.”

But he does admit that standard quick release dropouts do work, as long as everything’s properly installed, there’s a secondary retention device (like lawyer tabs) and the user knows what they’re doing when securing the wheel. Which is often the case when things like disc brakes were spec’d only on high end bikes purchased by experienced riders.

“As long as your current (setup) is assembled correctly with a secondary retention device, disc brakes will work fine in a standard dropout,” he says. “But these days, bikes with disc brakes are selling at all price points, even well under $1,000, so there’s a need for a very easy system that folks buying a sub-$1000 bike are able to use easily and properly 100% of the time.”

So, it comes down to safety, first and foremost.

Naild locking quick release thru axle system for road cyclocross and gravel bikes appears on Marin bikes for 2016

First, a primer on how the Naild system works: The thru axle slides into the frame or fork with the lever pointing to 12 o’clock (straight up). In this position, a tab is keyed to a slot on the frame or fork to ensure it’s in the proper position. In this position, the washer behind the lever prevents the lever from closing.

The notch holds the base of the lever in position while you rotate the lever to 3 o’clock (pointing rearward on the rear wheel dropout). Once there, you can close the lever so it’s pointing to 9 o’clock.

Naild locking quick release thru axle system for road cyclocross and gravel bikes appears on Marin bikes for 2016

On the frame or fork is a steel bayonet-style T-bolt. The 7000-series alloy axle is keyed to let the T-bolt slot into it in the 12 o’clock position, then as you turn it to 3 o’clock, it locks into the axle. Closing the lever pulls it all tight and secures the wheel into the frame.

Manitou and Focus Bicycles both use a similarly shaped retention mechanism for the axle, albeit reversed so that the T-shaped part is on the axle itself. The difference between those and the Naild system is that those brand’s systems allow the quick release lever to be closed regardless of whether the T-bolt is fully engaged. So, if you’re not paying attention and the axle isn’t fully inserted, you could theoretically close the lever and take off riding, only to have things get sideways real quick.

Naild locking quick release thru axle system for road cyclocross and gravel bikes appears on Marin bikes for 2016

The other big difference is those brand’s allow the lever to be thrown without a secondary retention mechanism (say, during a wreck or it just comes loose…which can happen for multiple reasons). With the Naild system, there’s a secondary Locit lever that has to be depressed before the lever can be opened.

Basically, there’s no way to install this improperly, no way for it to accidentally open, and no way your wheel can come loose while riding.

“OK,” you say, “but my threaded axle from Rockshox and Fox doesn’t come loose, either.”

True, but they take time to fully thread or unthread in and out of the fork or frame, which in a road or cyclocross race can make or break the outcome. Which brings us to the next biggest benefit: Speed. Like the Manitou and Focus systems, these take all of about one second to pull out and just a couple seconds to install once you’ve got the hang of it. Yes, you’ll need to do it a couple times to practice, and then it’s easy. I messed around with it on Marin’s new bikes and had it down after five or six tries.

Naild locking quick release thru axle system for road cyclocross and gravel bikes appears on Marin bikes for 2016

Voss says another benefit over competing quick-release (ie. non-threaded) systems is that the tension adjustment bezel is on the opposite side of the lever, making it less likely you’ll accidentally mess up the tension on the lever.

Naild locking quick release thru axle system for road cyclocross and gravel bikes appears on Marin bikes for 2016

Perhaps the most visually distinct part of the system has nothing to do with the axle at all. Voss also designed the Navid fork, which has an integrated ICEIT (ice. it.) metal cooling fin structure. It’s not only a heat sink. Instead of standard post mounts, that finned carrier doubles as the brake mount with purpose built pieces for each rotor size – change it out to change rotor size, no need for adapters. For starters, they’re sticking with 160mm sizes only, but they’re testing heat build up in the area for 140mm rotors. Thus far, Voss isn’t convinced 140’s are appropriate for front brakes in road.

The design is done to keep the heat buildup from getting to the carbon fork legs, particularly important on the front where most of the braking power comes from. He says a lot of fork manufacturers are using a 250ºF-cure resin in their forks, so if brake heat transfers above that level to the fork, it can alter the resin structure and potentially weaken the fork.

It’s a 6000-series alloy heat sink, and he uses internal cable routing at the top. This particular fork has a tapered alloy steerer with carbon legs.

At the moment, the entire system is likely to be a forward looking solution that’s available as an OEM option for frame and fork manufacturers only, not something you can retrofit to your current bike. That’s mainly because the frame and fork need that clocking notch for the axle’s washer, and Voss makes no apologies for that. And he shouldn’t have to, because really, how often do any of us ever change the axle that comes with our bikes? So, once you have it, it’s there, and it works with any standard thru-axle hub.

For front, he’s offering 15mm and 12mm versions, and the 12mm will be spec’d on a couple of other brands later this year. These Marin bikes use the 15mm size. For rear, there’s 12×142, 12×148 Boost and 12×157 for DH, and they have fat bike widths on the drawing board.

That said, he’s focused on road bike versions for now, which makes sense considering most mountain bike forks are already using their own systems. But quick, accurate wheel changes on road and cyclocross bikes are a real point of differentiation for their system that stands to drastically benefit those riders.


  1. I’ve been running Manitou’s HexLock on both bikes and have thought it to be a brilliant through axle set up. This one ups that brilliance a notch. Simple, quick, and looks to be lower profile than Manitou’s set up. Well done.

  2. @ObligatedToSay … the lever is always inserted in the ’12’ position … then once engaged correctly with the T-bolt on the other side, it can be rotated to ‘3’ … then the whole assembly is tensioned by the final flip of the lever to ‘9’. Hence the “12-3-9” system.

    Lever always ends up in the ‘9’ position when looking at it.

  3. Neat.
    Does the non-lever insert need to be torqued to the frame via a special tool?
    I may be mistaken, but it looks like the outer portion fastens the insert to the frame drop-out and the inner square headed “nut” is used to adjust tension?

  4. had the Manitou system. never got good with it. much prefer the simplicity of the screw in of my fox fork. never ever any issues with simple. as for seed, the fox is actually ‘consistently’ faster as you can’t screw it up with the Manitou style system. in the panic of a cross or road race, you’re more likely to be able to spin the screw in very fast (with adrenaline assist) than you are to properly align and finesse this type of system in…imho

  5. @JBikes:
    The two plastic pieces on the adjuster-assembly are mainly for protection of critical parts.
    The real heavy-lifting is done by metal parts under the cap that secure the adjuster-assembly to the frame and to adjust the t-bolt position (a.k.a. clamping tension).
    The outer plastic ring uses the same spanner wrench as a SR Suntour fork’s lock-out cap … easy to find at most local shops. The inner plastic knob is just a cap to allow hand-actuation of the tension adjustment.

    A little bonus is that there are detents within the two plastic parts to allow you to do 1-2 ‘clicks’ up or down while setting the clamping tension.

  6. Most riders get no benefit from a quick release and are better served with something simple and secure. I would rather not have the extra moving parts that do nothing I want. At least it can’t open accidentally. A simple hex end without and levers or mechanisms would be ideal.

  7. Lenzerheide XCO World Cup:
    – Scott mechanic completely replaces rear wheel for Schurter in 22 seconds, from stop to go
    – BMC mechanic completely replaces rear wheel for Absalon in 25 seconds, from stop to go

    Seems pretty OK to me, I don’t need my mechanic (= me) to be quicker than that 😉 Of course, if this solution really is seconds quicker, the pros will want to adopt it. That is, assuming there is no weight penalty.

  8. The new SunTour quick release thru axle looks like a way better system than this.

    The whole point of a thru axle is the stiffness of the axle going through the entire dropout. This setup above goes against that idea.

  9. If it takes practice to get it right it’s not good enough. The main problem with standard QRs, and even most thru-axles, is that they are not intuitive enough for the average Joe. Either perfect the “wing nut”, like DT Swiss did, or make something that just slides though and locks itself in place.

  10. Never really thought about rotor heat altering the resin structure, that’s something think about coming down the mountain.

  11. @Ryan S
    thanks for your comments …

    just to pull back the curtain on the 12-3-9 System a bit … the system does indeed go completely thru both axle-engagement sections of the fork … even on the adjuster-assembly side.
    In addition, all structural mating-faces are metal-to-metal … so no need to worry about variations in strength or security or stiffness.

  12. what generally bother me with these is that its hard to say how strong they are over time.
    the threaded axle are simple and +- as fast as road QR (heck its faster than road QR with tabs).

    also, when stuff get patented and is always different ‘n shit, it ends up costing a lot.

    as a rider without a pro team behind, while i’d happily change the wheel in 3s for free, im ok with 25s for cheaper with a larger choice of equipment 😉

  13. “to help bring North American companies to Asian manufacturing.” How nice of him to help North American companies like that.

  14. Just purchased a bike with the Nalid system 12 3 9. Do not go on a ride until you absolutely figure out how to open the system, remove the wheel, reinstall wheel, and then get safety lever shut. If you accidentally move the drive side plastic cover nuts, they realign the system and you will not be able to close the quick release lever. You will be stuck walking. Very fiddly system that must be set up just right, or the wheel will not seat back correctly.

  15. Horrible system, can’t even put adaptors on it for bigger disc like 180 mm and 203 also can’t even use it in turbo trainers to do bike fit adjustments! Don’t get a bike with this or you’re screwed

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