What Is It Wednesday: Gyros

I’m not referring to the kind you put tzatziki on for lunch, although now that I think of it –  I’m hungry. I digress… So one of my goals for the blog is to make From The Top of the Top a fully inclusive space for all kinds of riders so I am not limiting this site to just road or mountain biking. One of the What Is It Wednesdays that I am super excited about coming up is  going to be about adaptive cycling, which as a Physical Therapist Assistant I can honestly say I am stoked about writing that one. Sometime soon I will also write a bit about Cyclo Cross, so basically anything on 2 wheels will be fair game here. This week I wanted to introduce a little drop of knowledge from the world of BMX and talk about gyros, or detanglers as they’re also known.

Credit: bikeshed.projects

So why did I want to write about a piece of equipment that is really only seen in BMX which I only have experience as an observer? Well, have you seen how they work? It’s freaking cool and borders on black magic.

So the way this came about all started on YouTube, as many horrible wonderful things do.  I was watching some pretty ridiculous bike tricks and saw a few people doing some crazy things with their BMX bikes. Sure, I’ve seen people spin their handlebars or do tail whips before, and didn’t think much of it because they didn’t have brakes, so it would be easy to make the handlebars and stem spin around the headset and head tube. But I was watching a few people do it with front and rear brakes and for the life of me couldn’t figure out how the cables didn’t get jacked up. That single thought led to a night of looking up how BMX brakes work and it felt like a good topic to cover here, because hey – maybe you didn’t know either!

So I would say 90% of how the brakes work is the same as on any caliper or disc brake system – a lever when squeezed  puts tension on a cable that causes the brake to activate.

Credit: Park Tool

Nothing new there. Where we start to differentiate is the fact that BMX bikes need a full 360 degrees of freedom  between the front and rear. If you were to try and turn the handlebars on a non-BMX bike, you’d eventually be stopped by the cabling. So how do BMX bikes do it? This is where the detangler comes into play.


So let’s start at the front. The brake lever attaches to the brake cables which run down to the upper cable stop on the top plate.

Now from the rear. The cable that runs to the brake will be threaded through the lower cable stop on the bottom plate.

Credit: Park Tool

Both the cables from the brake lever and the ones running to the brakes themselves will then connect to the detangler. When the lever is pulled the unit pulls up as one piece. When inactive the top half and the detangler are free to rotate while the lower half remains stationary. Josh Bentley from Vital BMX has a short but sweet video explaining detangler magic.

So that’s detanglers in a very basic nutshell. Hopefully I have demystified them for you, and if I missed something let me know! One of my goals for 2017 is to give BMX a try and see how I like it. I have no expectations of doing flips but maybe some ground tricks wouldn’t suck so bad if I don’t land them?