How to Remove and Install Bike Pedals

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Removing and replacing the bike pedals are indeed doable for the average bike owner, provided there is access to some basic tools like a wrench and lubricant. 

Learn how to perform the replacement in a few easy steps we outline below. The process can be completed in just a few minutes if you don’t mind a bit of elbow grease.

Basic Bike Parts

First, let’s learn the terms of the bike parts we’ll be dealing with. Most people know what the pedal is; this is the part that you set your feet on as you propel the bike forward. 

The other essential part is the crank arm. This is the metal rod structure that the pedals are attached to and allows the rider to transfer force to the pedal and get the drive chain moving, in turn setting the bike in motion.

The chain ring is also the gear-like piece that moves the chain. It is also the piece that the crank arm is attached to. This piece, along with the attached crank arm and pedals, is known as the drive-side or drivetrain.

The Tools You’ll Need

  • Hex key wrench or spanner wrench
  • The new set of pedals to replace the existing set
  • Bike oil lubricant
  • A towel (optional) for grabbing the pedal to maintain leverage

A Note on Wrenches

The precise wrench you’ll need depends on the shape of the pedal. If the pedal has a surface that’s parallel between the crank and pedal body, then the best tool to use is a 15 mm spanner wrench. For all other pedal surfaces, a hex key wrench should suffice. 

Most modern bikes also come with a tool kit with a wrench designed to remove the pedals. Always default to the bike’s tool kit wrench, if available.

Removing Bike Pedals Step-by-Step

Follow these steps to take the old pedals off your bike:

  1. Secure the bike upright, either by using the kickstand or by propping the bike against the wall.
  2. Begin with the right-side pedal or the pedal with the drive-side. Position the wrench on the nut that connects the pedal and crank arm and turn counter-clockwise to loosen. 
  3. Remove the right pedal and set it aside.
  4. Remove the left-side pedal or the pedal on the non-drive-side. Position the pedal so it’s in the nine o’clock position. Position the wrench on the nut and loosen. As opposed to the right pedal, turn the wrench in a clockwise position to loosen the nut. Keep in mind turning a wrench clockwise tends to tighten a nut. In this instance, it’s the opposite. As you turn the wrench, hold onto the opposite pedal for leverage. Hold with a towel to help maintain a solid and consistent grip.
  5. Remove the left pedal and set it aside.

What if the Pedals Won’t Come Off?

People face a common problem with the pedals refusing to come off, and you can’t even get the wrench to turn. Two troubleshooting methods may work here. The first is to spray the end of the pedal spindles using a lubricant like WD-40. Lay the bike on its side and let it sit for 10-20 minutes. This should loosen the connection between the pedal thread and crank arm.

A second method is to tap the end of the wrench with a rubber hammer. This gives you additional leverage for getting the wrench to turn.

Inserting New Pedals Step-by-Step

Here’s how to correctly put your new pedals on:

  1. Apply waterproof grease to the threads of the new pedal holes. The lubrication makes the pedals easier to remove should you need to do so to make adjustments. 
  2. Identify the new right pedal. This should have an “R” stamped into the metal. Insert it into the right crank arm so that just the end of the pedal is resting on the crank arm.
  3. Use the wrench to tighten the pedal into place. Turn the wrench in a clockwise position.
  4. Repeat steps two and three with the left pedal, though this time, turn the wrench in a counter-clockwise position to tighten the pedal. 
  5. Check both pedals by lightly pulling on them. Tighten further if you feel any looseness. Be careful not to overtighten. 

What to Do After Replacement

You may notice that the newly installed pedals don’t spin as freely. This may lead some people to believe that they have overtightened the pedals. However, new pedals need time to break in, so this is entirely normal. 

It’s a good idea to ride the bike around the block a few times to get adjusted to the new pedals that may feel a little stiff. Don’t worry; they will eventually loosen up. Getting new pedals to break in is like breaking in a set of new running shoes.

A Note on Lubrication

It’s not uncommon for DIYers to forgo greasing the pedal threads before inserting them into the crank arm. You must lubricate the pedal interior.

If you don’t grease the threads, the pedals can fuse with the crank arm over time, especially if exposed to moisture that leads to interior rusting. This can cause the two separate components to become attached permanently. If this happens, you’ll need to replace the entire crank arm just to replace the pedals.

We recommend an oil specifically formulated for bike lubrication. Wax-based lubricants may work as well.

Avoid oils that are too viscous. This includes castor and motor oil. Regular cooking oil should be avoided for the same reason.

What Do You Do with the Old Pedals?

If both of the old pedals are still in usable condition, then we recommend saving them instead of discarding them. They can come in handy if you ever need a temporary replacement. It’s not unusual for people to reinstall the old pedals if the new ones for any reason fail to provide satisfactory performance.

Tips on Selecting New Pedals

There are two primary pedal types to consider when making replacements: flat and clipless pedals.

Flat Pedals

As their name suggests, flat pedals have a flat surface and are designed for general use. Flat pedals will suffice for the average bike rider, and this type also encompasses 90% of bike pedals on the market. These pedals are also more convenient as you can easily set your feet and take your feet off them.

Clipless Pedals

Clipless pedals have a cleat that screws onto the bottom of the rider’s shoes to replace the toe clip in some older bike models that secure the rider’s feet to the pedals. This gives the rider more projected force to propel the bike forward and greater control when cornering.

Unless you ride competitively or frequently ride on uneven terrain, flat pedals are more than enough to satisfy your needs. Plus, flat pedals are far more commonplace, providing more selections.

Regardless of the pedal type, always go with a style that’s heavy-duty to the touch.

Wrap Up

Applying the above steps is not particularly difficult and can be completed in under 30-minutes on average. However, most local bike repair shops can do this for you at a relatively low cost if you’re having difficulty. 

No matter how you make the replacement, new pedals enhance performance, adding visual appeal. If you’re an avid bike rider, replacing the pedals is a skill that can become useful down the road.

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