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Mother of woman who died on Winnats Pass could challenge inquest verdict

Family feels there was an issue with bike’s brakes

The mother of a student who died when she crashed while descending Winnats Pass in the Peak District says she may challenge the coroner’s verdict. Elizabeth Barber-Atkinson argues that police evidence didn't satisfactorily answer what may have gone wrong on her daughter’s bike.

August Atkinson is said to have screamed “my brakes have gone” shortly before hitting a drystone wall while out on a ride in April 2014.

Kieran Patel, with whom she was riding that day, told the inquest: “I guess we had a little bit of apprehension about going down Winnats Pass, but nothing major.

“Going down I was cycling in front. I was constantly using my brakes on and off. August was behind me, coming down steadily, my speedometer said I was going at about 20mph.

“Then, August came past me on the right-hand side. She was getting faster; she must have been travelling at 30 to 40mph. She shouted ‘My brakes have gone’. She was freewheeling, she couldn’t stop.”

Patel and Atkinson’s father Trevor had changed both inner tubes on the bike and inflated the tyres before they set off. Atkinson had then noticed a problem with the quick release lever on her front brake, but they sorted the issue and continued their ride.

Assistant Coroner Peter Nieto recorded a conclusion of accidental death after police found there were 'no significant issues' with the brakes.

However, Barber-Atkinson, told Mail Online: “I feel the police evidence didn't satisfactorily answer what may have gone wrong on the day in relation to August's bike. We're not satisfied with the outcome of the inquest.”

Atkinson was riding a Genesis Equilibrium. She had owned it for around eight months but had only been out on it a few times.

In his conclusion Nieto said: “August's family considers that the model of brake callipers fitted to her bike were faulty in that they could have spontaneously and unintentionally opened in which case the brake blocks would not make contact with the wheel rims.

“They also consider that even if the safety levers on the callipers were just 3mm from the closed position the brakes would be ineffective.”

Barber-Atkinson sent the coroner a statement from Andrew Elston, a qualified bike mechanic who works at Langsett Cycles in Sheffield, saying that he had replaced identical brakes to those on Atkinson's bike after another rider reported problems.

She also highlighted that cyclists had used online forums and blogs to raise concerns about the same type of brakes.

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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22 comments

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alansmurphy | 6 years ago
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Do we know whether they were rims or discs yet? When I was a little more novice I sprayed some frame protection type stuff on my frame and it got into the front pad. It would stop me when I started out but as the liquid water etc al got into the pad it got progressively worse. Pretty sure an ascent like Winnats and I'd have struggled to stop at all.

Potentially one brake failed, the other had something like WD40 on when they 'loosened' the qr. As all have siad it was likely a combination of factors but unlikely to be the mechanics of both failing at the same time...

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Yorkshire wallet | 6 years ago
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Surely if the brakes where knackered from non-use then this would have become apparent fairly quickly when she first started to ride it? That would make perfect sense if she'd crashed on the first descent she came across but it doesn't seem like that happened. 

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Canyon48 | 6 years ago
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The other thing I'm struggling to grasp here - if there was an issue with the brakes, what are the family going to get out of it?

Imagine a situation where the brakes were set up poorly leading to insufficient braking force. A few things which could cause this;

  • Glazed pads
  • Brake quick releases left open
  • Insufficient cable tension
  • Overheated the pads
  • Poor cable outers (spongy brake levers)
  • Rusty brake cables
  • Pads not centered

When I first started cycling and doing my own bike maintenance, it took me a little while to understand and grasp all of these (and my first bike suffered from appaling braking at times), now that I've got a decent bit of experience these things are blatantly obvious and simple to fix.

If one or more of these issues were present, all it points to is that the rider had insufficient bike maintenance knowledge and rode an unsafe bike (albeit unknowingly). So I fail to see how this would make the family feel any better about the events that caused the crash.

After 8 months of owning a bike, the shop that sold the bike can't be blamed for poor set up - that's a lack of maintenance. I seriously struggle to believe that the OEM can be at fault, a brake calliper is simple and rugged and very unlikely to suffer mechanical failure.

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fenix | 6 years ago
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I've had tektro brakes on my fixed wheel for years. Never had a problem.
It does sound like another detailed assessment of the bike is called for though.
She must have been a decent cyclist to get up Winnats and presumably had practice coming down similar hills to have that fitness in the first place ?

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Albec1 | 6 years ago
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I purchased an Equilibrium 20 rim brake bike a year ago for commuting and winter rides and have been very happy with it. However, the first thing I did was replace the brakes, even before the tyres.

I am not suggesting at all that there is a fundamental issue with the brakes supplied on these bikes, but I was surprised at their low quality and would be interested to hear what any other owners have experienced.

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Gus T | 6 years ago
2 likes

Just looked at the original S** article, it quotes a problem with the quick release lever on her brakes and other info states it was a £1000.00 Genesis Equilibrium which would make it an Equilibrium 10 with caliper brakes. I have the same bike and have never had any issues with the brakes on mine including some steep descents, admittedly not as long as Winnats Pass, but as stated in the 1st article, the bike had been stood for over a year without being maintained.  Looks to me like a maintenace issue rather than a manufacturing defect on the information available. Having said that it's still a tragic loss of a young life.

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alansmurphy | 6 years ago
3 likes

On the last article many many potential issues were raised including wondering who did the assessment (given the amateurs in the Alliston case). It's a hell of a leap from the parents though to go from knowing nothing to becoming experts on a brand of caliper...

I hope they find peace but find it highly unlikely they'll get it by chasing a big manufacturer with little chance of proving anything...

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Canyon48 | 6 years ago
1 like

Kind of struggling with this concept...

From what I understand they were Tektro brakes, they're a pile of rubbish really (or at least the ones I've used were).

It also sounds like the bike wasn't kept set up well, which is evident by the friend saying they had some sort of mechanical issues at the start of the ride. Maybe the rider wasn't very proficient with bike maintenance?

The brakes may well have been setup wrong and poor performing. But to suggest that there was some significant mechanical failure caused by negligence of the manufacturer or bike dealer - I struggle with that.

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oldstrath replied to Canyon48 | 6 years ago
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wellsprop wrote:

Kind of struggling with this concept... From what I understand they were Tektro brakes, they're a pile of rubbish really (or at least the ones I've used were). It also sounds like the bike wasn't kept set up well, which is evident by the friend saying they had some sort of mechanical issues at the start of the ride. Maybe the rider wasn't very proficient with bike maintenance? The brakes may well have been setup wrong and poor performing. But to suggest that there was some significant mechanical failure caused by negligence of the manufacturer or bike dealer - I struggle with that.

Tektro may not be the greatest brakes, but no problems for me coming down off  Cairngorm or the Lecht  (and I'll bet I'm a bit heavier than this poor lass). 

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Awavey replied to oldstrath | 6 years ago
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oldstrath wrote:

Tektro may not be the greatest brakes, but no problems for me coming down off  Cairngorm or the Lecht  (and I'll bet I'm a bit heavier than this poor lass). 

Id agree, but we highlighted before, they dont have quite  the same feel of rim brakes if you arent used to them, and its very easy to end up feeling like you have no brakes if the setup is slightly less than optimal.Certainly on my Spez with carbon forks, the amount the QR skewer is tightened up does impact on the alignment of pad to disc.

but I dont think we'll ever understand fully what went wrong, the police comment in the Mail talks about a under inflated rear tyre, albeit checked 3 days after the crash, and that the brakes maybe overheated, which highlights the kind of technical expertise they brought to the investigation.

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Dogless | 6 years ago
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It's sad that they don't seem to have been able to consult someone who knows what they're talking about, as all of the stuff they're saying reeks of people who know nothing about setting up bikes and it's making matters harder.

Seriously though, if it was a hydraulic system, could she not have overheated the pads/hydraulic fluid if dragging and descending cautiously? 

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cyclisto replied to Dogless | 6 years ago
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dglsdms wrote:

It's sad that they don't seem to have been able to consult someone who knows what they're talking about, as all of the stuff they're saying reeks of people who know nothing about setting up bikes and it's making matters harder.

Seriously though, if it was a hydraulic system, could she not have overheated the pads/hydraulic fluid if dragging and descending cautiously? 

I think it would be really hard for both brakes to fail simultaneously that catastrophically in conditions that are far from extreme (female therefore probably light rider, not descending a 2000m col, new bike). Brake manufacturers wouldn't let something like that to happen, not because they are that caring for human lives, but because they would lose lots of money. Something else has happened here. Somebody here suggested hand fatigue, I wouldn't rule it out especially if it was combined with poor brake setup and a novice rider.

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Paul__M replied to cyclisto | 6 years ago
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cyclisto wrote:
dglsdms wrote:

 

"I think it would be really hard for both brakes to fail simultaneously.. "

Tragic case, but the above is the key point to me. The two brakes are totally independent, so a circumstances would have to arise to cause both to fail. I just cannot see that happening, as well as the issue of them apparently working again at later tests. It seems much more plausible that a combination of poor/badly set up brakes on a long steep hill caused a 'non-current' rider to lose control , for example by being unable to maintain sufficent hand pressure on the levers. A common issue is lever setup not being ideal for small hands, don't know if that could contribute here. You have to deduce an element of totally understandable panic. A cool head would have chosen a crash into the grass verges at the earliest possible moment (I've once walked up that verge carrying my paraglider). That sort of stunt would be second nature to a MotoGP rider, but in reality the most natural reaction is likely to be to frozen with fear. We should never underestimate the danger that goes alongside the fun of big descent, we aren't generally used to those speeds, and we don't have the roadholding of a motorcycle. 

 

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DrG82 | 6 years ago
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Unless someone has really done their job poorly here the bike will have been thoroughly assessed so any issues here would have been identified.

Surely this needs to be put to bed now and the family must accept the verdict of accidental death.

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Grahamd replied to DrG82 | 6 years ago
5 likes
DrG82 wrote:

Unless someone has really done their job poorly here the bike will have been thoroughly assessed so any issues here would have been identified. Surely this needs to be put to bed now and the family must accept the verdict of accidental death.

It must be hard for the family and if they have questions that remain unanswered then why must they accept the verdict? Am sure none of us would want to be in their situation, closure is difficult at most times, if they feel that asking for a review will help, then I wish them well.

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DrG82 replied to Grahamd | 6 years ago
0 likes
Grahamd wrote:
DrG82 wrote:

Unless someone has really done their job poorly here the bike will have been thoroughly assessed so any issues here would have been identified. Surely this needs to be put to bed now and the family must accept the verdict of accidental death.

It must be hard for the family and if they have questions that remain unanswered then why must they accept the verdict? Am sure none of us would want to be in their situation, closure is difficult at most times, if they feel that asking for a review will help, then I wish them well.

So how far do they keep chasing? if they go to the next review and they get the same answer will they then decide that is good enough or will they go to a higher level again and again until when?

There are thousands of these brakes out on the roads and as far as I know there haven't been loads of complaints and a recall. The people involved admit that they aren't familiar with bike mechanics and maintainence, and admit that the bike had been left unused to deteriorate and had an issue before the ride which they didn't seek advice for.

And at the end of the whole process what will they gain from many more months of this (it's been going on for 3 1/2 years already)? this mysterious concept of "closure" that people go on about (often confused with a fat cheque/retribution). This woman's dead and that's that, it's sad but, there's no way back.

Avatar
Grahamd replied to DrG82 | 6 years ago
2 likes
DrG82 wrote:
Grahamd wrote:
DrG82 wrote:

Unless someone has really done their job poorly here the bike will have been thoroughly assessed so any issues here would have been identified. Surely this needs to be put to bed now and the family must accept the verdict of accidental death.

It must be hard for the family and if they have questions that remain unanswered then why must they accept the verdict? Am sure none of us would want to be in their situation, closure is difficult at most times, if they feel that asking for a review will help, then I wish them well.

So how far do they keep chasing? if they go to the next review and they get the same answer will they then decide that is good enough or will they go to a higher level again and again until when?

There are thousands of these brakes out on the roads and as far as I know there haven't been loads of complaints and a recall. The people involved admit that they aren't familiar with bike mechanics and maintainence, and admit that the bike had been left unused to deteriorate and had an issue before the ride which they didn't seek advice for.

And at the end of the whole process what will they gain from many more months of this (it's been going on for 3 1/2 years already)? this mysterious concept of "closure" that people go on about (often confused with a fat cheque/retribution). This woman's dead and that's that, it's sad but, there's no way back.

Asking for another opinion is considered reasonable in many aspects of life. So long as those opinions are seen to come from reasonably competent professionals then acceptance of those opinions is more likely. Sometimes all it takes for acceptance for a family is to hear a second opinion confirm the first.

Closure is different for everyone, whether it be needing answers, perceiving that knowledge could stop somebody else having a similar experience, etc. I find it distasteful to even mention money in this context.

 

 

Avatar
Grahamd replied to DrG82 | 6 years ago
0 likes
DrG82 wrote:
Grahamd wrote:
DrG82 wrote:

Unless someone has really done their job poorly here the bike will have been thoroughly assessed so any issues here would have been identified. Surely this needs to be put to bed now and the family must accept the verdict of accidental death.

It must be hard for the family and if they have questions that remain unanswered then why must they accept the verdict? Am sure none of us would want to be in their situation, closure is difficult at most times, if they feel that asking for a review will help, then I wish them well.

So how far do they keep chasing? if they go to the next review and they get the same answer will they then decide that is good enough or will they go to a higher level again and again until when?

There are thousands of these brakes out on the roads and as far as I know there haven't been loads of complaints and a recall. The people involved admit that they aren't familiar with bike mechanics and maintainence, and admit that the bike had been left unused to deteriorate and had an issue before the ride which they didn't seek advice for.

And at the end of the whole process what will they gain from many more months of this (it's been going on for 3 1/2 years already)? this mysterious concept of "closure" that people go on about (often confused with a fat cheque/retribution). This woman's dead and that's that, it's sad but, there's no way back.

Asking for another opinion is considered reasonable in many aspects of life. So long as those opinions are seen to come from reasonably competent professionals then acceptance of those opinions is more likely. Sometimes all it takes for acceptance for a family is to hear a second opinion confirm the first.

Closure is different for everyone, whether it be needing answers, perceiving that knowledge could stop somebody else having a similar experience, etc. I find it distasteful to even mention money in this context.

 

 

Avatar
Ratfink | 6 years ago
1 like

The original article says disc brakes.

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janusz0 replied to Ratfink | 6 years ago
0 likes
Ratfink wrote:

The original article says disc brakes.

So, correct from an engineering perspective, but unhelpful in this context.

Could it be that she was scared of using her front brake?  Lots of novice cyclists are.  The article said that she was skidding - so maybe using her rear brake only.  Without a time machine, nobody is going to discover the true reason.

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crazy-legs replied to Ratfink | 6 years ago
0 likes
Ratfink wrote:

The original article says disc brakes.

There's been a whole host of mixed and confused messages around this case. The previous article said something about a wrong turn and they'd climbed Winnats Pass twice but then still had to descend it. How is that possible?!

This mentions the quick release on the front BRAKE (which would imply road calipers) whereas previously it was cited as the QR on the front WHEEL. There's confused messages about whether the tyres were simply inflated or the tubes on one or both wheels being replaced.

I'm not even sure there's been a definitive statement as to the exact make and model of bike and brakes. This article makes it sound like rim brakes, the previous article definitely said discs.

Maybe I'm being overly cynical but it sounds like the first steps of them chasing a "no liability accepted" payout from the bike and / or brake manufacturers.

 

Avatar
Darkhairedlord replied to crazy-legs | 6 years ago
3 likes
crazy-legs wrote:
Ratfink wrote:

The original article says disc brakes.

There's been a whole host of mixed and confused messages around this case. The previous article said something about a wrong turn and they'd climbed Winnats Pass twice but then still had to descend it. How is that possible?!

This mentions the quick release on the front BRAKE (which would imply road calipers) whereas previously it was cited as the QR on the front WHEEL. There's confused messages about whether the tyres were simply inflated or the tubes on one or both wheels being replaced.

I'm not even sure there's been a definitive statement as to the exact make and model of bike and brakes. This article makes it sound like rim brakes, the previous article definitely said discs.

Maybe I'm being overly cynical but it sounds like the first steps of them chasing a "no liability accepted" payout from the bike and / or brake manufacturers.

 

 

The confused messages are down to lazy road cc writers citing sensationalist daily mail journalists. 

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