How to Change Bike Pedals – It’s Not as Hard as You Think

Have you become unstuck when trying to remove the pedals on your bike? This task can be one you perform daily, or annually depending on your collection of bikes and what you use them for. Regardless of the frequency with which you perform this job, there are a few common pitfalls to avoid, in this article we look at the process of removing and fitting pedals, common mistakes and some handy tips to ensure that it becomes a smooth and trouble free part of your maintenance routine. Keep reading and by the end of this article, you will know exactly how to change bike pedals.

1. Tools You Will Need:

This job doesn’t require a plethora of tools and equipment, depending on the pedal system you are using you’ll require the following:

  • 15mm Pedal Wrench
    • This is thinner than a standard 15mm wrench to allow access to the flats on your pedal axle, a 15mm cone spanner should not be used as it will struggle to cope with the torque needed to remove pedals
  • 8mm Hex Key
  • General Purpose Grease
  • Gloves (Optional)

2. Removing Pedals

The most important thing to remember when removing and fitting pedals is that the threading on the driveside and non-driveside are NOT the same. The driveside (right hand) crank arm has a standard thread (tighten clockwise) whereas the non-driveside (left hand) crank arm has a reverse thread (tighten anti-clockwise). There is a very easy way to remember these directions which we will get to later on. DO NOT default to the rhyme of “Lefty-Loosey, Righty-Tighty” as it isn’t applicable to the non-driveside pedal!

The first thing you need to do is determine what tool you will require for removal and re-fitting. The vast majority of pedals feature flats where the axle sits next to the crank arm. These allow a 15mm pedal spanner to grip the axle and turn it. You will not be able to unscrew by gripping the pedal body as the bearing allows the body to turn independently of the axle.

Some pedal systems (mostly clipless MTB pedals e.g. Shimano SPD) do not feature any spanner flats on the axle but instead, have a cavity in the end of an axle to fit an 8mm hex key and allow you to grip and turn the axle.

The easiest way to remember which way to turn when you are removing your pedals is to first place your spanner/hex key onto the pedal so it is facing at 12 O’Clock i.e. directly upwards. Now, with the pedal you are working on facing you, loosen the pedal by rotating the spanner/hex key towards the back wheel. This method works regardless of whether you are working on the driveside or non-driveside but remember, you must be standing on the same side of the bike as the pedal you wish to remove!

Depending on how long the pedals in question have been in situ, corrosion and whether any grease or thread-locking agent was used when the pedals were fitted, it may require considerable force to start the axle moving. Because of this, it is important to ensure that you will not be injured should the tool you are using slip, or the crank suddenly move. To reduce the risk of injury take the following precautions:

  • Wherever possible, have the bicycle on the ground with both wheels fitted so the force is applied through the tires and not the dropouts which may slip.
  • Cover chainrings with a towel so that in the event of a slippage they are less likely to come directly into contact with your hand.
  • Hold the opposite pedal/crank in your free hand to stop the crank spinning when you apply force, by doing this it is possible to apply force in both directions to aid removal.
  • Use the longest pedal wrench you have available, this will increase the leverage available to you which enhances control and also moves your hands further away from the chainrings which can cause injury.
  • If the pedal you are trying to remove is corroded solid, coat it with as much lubricant as you can and leave for a few hours to penetrate. A more unusual tip is that leaving the corroded parts in Coca-Cola for a few hours really seems to help loosen components that are seemingly welded together!

If the pedal you are trying to remove is corroded solid, coat it with as much lubricant as you can and leave for a few hours to penetrate. A more unusual tip is that leaving the corroded parts in Coca-Cola for a few hourAfter the initial seal is broken the pedals should unscrew without much resistance. If there is very high resistance the whole time whilst unscrewing the pedal, this may indicate that the pedal was cross-threaded during installation.Once the pedal is removed it is a good opportunity to check it’s condition. Use a cloth to clean the threaded section that mounts in the crank, check for any damage to the threads or metal filings that suggest damage to the threads in the crank. Spin the pedal body and feel for any roughness or excessive drag, wiggle the axle and pedal body against each other to ensure there is no play between them, these are all signs that the pedal bearing is worn out and may require replacing.really seems to help loosen components that are seemingly welded together!

3. Fitting Pedals

The first job when fitting pedals is to determine which one is left and which one is right. For clipless pedals, this is more obvious as the cleats will only engage in one direction. For flat pedals, you will probably need to refer to references on the pedals themselves. Almost all pedals will have markings somewhere indicating driveside, or non-driveside. Whilst the pedals will only properly fit the side they are designed for it is of vital importance that you check and don’t just guess, if you try and force the pedal onto the wrong crank arm you will almost certainly cause damage to the threads of either the pedal, the crank or both which can render them beyond repair!

Inspect the crank threads to ensure there is no damage or loose material sitting within the threads, if there is clean it out thoroughly. Apply a small amount of grease to the threads of the pedal axle to prevent the pedal and crank corroding and fusing together at a later date. You should not use any type of thread-locking agent as this will seriously impede removal at a later date and is not required to keep the pedals secure.

Insert the pedal and begin turning to engage the threads, remember, if you are fitting the driveside pedal turn clockwise, and if you are fitting the non-driveside turn anti-clockwise. Always begin threading pedals by hand and not with a wrench or hex key. It is vitally important that the threads align correctly to prevent damage, with correct alignment the axle should wind into the crank easily with only finger pressure. If you cannot thread the pedal most of the way in with your fingers it is likely that the threads are not aligned properly, in this case, unwind the pedal completely and start again ensuring the axle is perpendicular to the crank arm.

By beginning with the leverage offered by a wrench or hex key it is very easily to force the threads together whilst misaligned, causing irreparable damage.

Once the pedal is threaded all the way in use your pedal wrench/hex key to tighten fully. You do not need to exert massive torque in order to tighten the pedals, in fact, the act of pedalling will tighten your pedals should there be any slack after fitting. Herein lies the logic in the non-driveside crank being reverse threaded; should the threading be regular on this side then pedalling would slowly unwind the pedal axle and remove it from the crank!

If none of things above is helpful for you. Let take a look at this video, surely it should help you a lot

4. Exceptions:

The main exceptions from the above when fitting pedals concern pedal systems which contain power measurement hardware such as Powertap P1, Garmin Vector and BePro pedals. Some of these products have additional hardware that needs to be fitted and/or must be fitted with specific levels of torque. For pedals such as these, you should refer to the manufacturer’s installation instructions.

So as you can see, although there are a few important things to remember, the fitting and removal of pedals is a workshop task that is achievable by even the newest mechanics. By remembering the rule of front wheel/tighten and rear wheel/loosen you can be sure you have the right technique even if you have no manuals at hand to reference. If you are still having trouble removing or fitting your pedals then refer to your local bike shop for assistance, all maintenance tasks carry a risk of injury to yourself or damage to your equipment if not performed correctly.

Do you have any other tips regarding how to change bike pedals? If so then please leave a comment below so other readers can share it!

Robert Parker

I am Robert who is a founder of cyclistchallenge.com. As any true cyclists I love my bike, and like to review bikes is fulfilling to me.When I do not ride, I write reliable and fully independent guides on cycling tips, best place to for rider, how to find the best bikes available, including mountain, road and hybrid bikes,...Welcome to Cyclist Challenge.

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