Bike Maintenance 101 – How to Take Pedals off a Bike the Best Way
Most people are familiar with the thought of assembling bicycles before taking them out for a ride, but there are times when some of the parts have to be taken apart. This is especially true when it comes to the bike’s pedals, which also happen to be trickier than they look.
There are plenty of reasons why bike pedals have to be removed. Despite being one of the smaller bike components, they tend to stick out to the sides, and can still add to clutter when storing the bike. When mounted on the back of a vehicle, the pedals can come in contact with the hood, scratching and damaging the vehicle’s paintjob.
One of the most common reasons why bike pedals have to be removed is for shipping the bike. The bike itself must be small enough to fit in a box, and it is only possible by removing all the parts that stick out of it, including the pedals.
In some cases, the bike pedals have to be removed for maintenance purposes. This is especially true for mountain or hybrid bikes, where the mud can get into hard to reach gaps that even a narrow cleaning brush can’t get into. Stock pedals also have to be removed when upgrading them to aftermarket parts.
Regardless of the reason, taking the pedals off a bike has to be done properly. Carelessly pulling or forcing the pedals off the peg can cause damage to the pedals and the bike itself. Although removing the pedals isn’t a straightforward process, it’s still a relatively simple task as long as the right tools are available.
Important – Although pedals are available in all shapes and sizes, they can be categorized into pedals that can be loosened or tightened with an Allen wrench or a standard wrench. We’ll get into more detail later on in this guide.
Benefits of Proper Pedal Removal
Not all cyclists are aware of it, but properly removing a pedal actually has a few benefits
- Less wear and tear on the crank arm tread – this is very important since it can be difficult to secure even a new set of pedals with a worn-out crank arm tread
- Removed pedal will stay in good condition and can be reused
- Proper removal means easy cleanup before installation of new pedals
- Less chances of misaligned pedals caused by worn-out treads after reinstallation
1. Know the Material and Treading
Different materials used for making pedals can pose different sets of problems. For example, stock pedals on low-end bikes are usually made of plastic, but the crank arms are made of aluminum or steel. If removed the wrong way, the treads on the pedals themselves can get severely damaged. The opposite can happen with steel pedals, which can damage the tread on the crank arms.
Another thing to keep in mind when taking the pedals off the bike is that the left and right pedals have opposing treads. The right pedal loosens if turned counterclockwise, while the left one loosens if turned clockwise. Pedals are made this way to prevent the left pedal from accidentally getting loosened and falling off while on the road.
2. Get the Right Tools
While most pedals can be loosened with an Allen or standard wrench (depending on how it is secured), there are also specialized pedal wrenches. Pedal wrenches are narrower than usual for extra reach and feature longer handles for better leverage.
Conventional wrenches may be too short, but a simple trick can fix that problem: by slipping a hollow pipe on one end of the wrench, it’s possible to “extend” the handle length and gain that last bit of leverage needed to properly loosen the pedals.
Choosing between an Allen and a standard wrench is the easy part: if the pedals have flat spots on the axle near the crank arms, it can be loosened with a standard wrench. Otherwise, the pedals will have a whole or engraving at the end of each pedal’ axle, and can only be opened with an Allen wrench.
3. Secure the Bike
One of the most common mistakes when taking the pedals of the bike is failing to secure the bike. When turning the wrench, the pedal and the crank arm may go with the wrench as it turns, causing the wheel to move and the bike to fall down. This can not only cause damage to the bike but also cause minor injuries.
Another common mistake is forgetting to shift to one of the larger chainrings. The pedals are very easy to move when at the smallest chainring. Accidentally pushing on the pedals while trying to work on the pedals can send the crank arm reeling; this can cause a hand to slip into the sharp gear teeth.
Some will recommend removing the chain altogether to help keep grease off the hands and arms, but this could make the pedal swing in free motion and may end up being more dangerous unless there is some other way to secure the crank arm axle.
Removing other parts of the bike may be necessary to get the components out of the way. These parts include the bike stand, chain guard (rare), and even bottle holders. However, this isn’t always the case, since these parts are usually well away from the pedal.
4. Lubricate the Pedals
Pedals that are caked with mud and rust or stuck because of freezing temperatures can be very difficult to remove even with the right tools. While some may consider warming up the pedals with a blowtorch but the lack of experience may lead to overheating and warping the crank arms. Instead, one can use penetrating oil to help ease up the pedal before attempting to turn the axle with a wrench.
If there’s need for more leverage, the crank arms themselves may have to be removed from the bike with the pedals still attached and secured to a vise. This allows a wider range of movement and force without the danger of moving the bike (although putting them back will require extra work).
5. Turn the Wrench
Because the crank arm and pedals are not stable, extra care must be taken when turning the wrench. When using a standard wrench, it’s best to have it at a small angle, slightly parallel to the crank arm for better stability. However, there must be some distance between the wrench handle and the crank arm so the wrench can still twist the pedals loose.
Although some force may be required to loosen a stubbornly locked pedal, it’s important to avoid putting too much effort on turning the wrench. The wrench may accidentally get knocked loose from the pedal and the extra force can cause it to hit something else, or the momentum from turning the wrench can knock one off-balance and get injured.
Replacing the Pedals
Now that the pedals are removed, the only thing left to do is have them replaced. This is the perfect opportunity to make the process of removing the pedal easier next time it has to be done. Here are a few general tips on putting the pedals ON the bike:
1. Tighten Them Just Enough
Tightening the pedals too much not only makes it more difficult to take the pedals off the next time, but also causes unnecessary wear and tear on the treads. It’s important that the pedals are locked in just tight enough to avoid loosening without being too tight.
2. Lubricating before installation
Unnecessary friction can also cause the pedals to get stuck. Fortunately, this can be avoided by adding lubricant on the treads before the pedals are installed. However, too much lubricant can “leak” outside the joint and cause dirt and debris to stick so excess lubricant must be wiped clean.
3. Start with the Hands
A good way to speed up the installation process is by making the first few turns into the axle by hand. This also makes it easier to tell if the pedal is already getting to the right tightness. Once turning by hand is no longer possible, the pedals can then be turned using the wrench until it’s sufficiently locked in.
4. Checking the Pedal
A poorly installed pedal may not be properly aligned with the crank arms. Over time, uneven force on the pedal can bend or warp the treads. This can be checked by listening for subtle clicking or ticking sounds as the pedal turns. If the pedal is making a lot of noise, it should be removed and reinstalled properly.
Removing the pedals is one of the things that any cyclist must learn. By being aware of the proper steps, it’s possible to extend the pedals’ lifespan, as well as the rest of the bike. Do you have any experiences related to taking off your bike’s pedals? Share it with us thru the comments section.