Pedals have come a long way in the last few years. Designs, technology, materials and pedal type have made them more efficient for targeted application. Removing pedals is routine on all bikes. It’s a simple task if you know the drill.
A Common Denominator
Pedal designs are varied for each discipline, such as road bike, mountain biking, or casual. But the vast majority of them have common similarities for removal.
Left Means Counterclockwise
On bicycles, left-hand threads are used in three places, on left pedals, right bottom brackets, bearing cups, and freewheel cones. If these parts were not reverse or left-threaded, pedaling would cause the parts to loosen and come off during a ride. Removing pedals is one of the most perplexing of all bike issues for beginners because of the left-hand thread on the left pedal.
Right is Right, Left is Wrong
Many cyclist subscribe to a figure of speech, a mantra that keeps the pedal threads straight. Repeat this to yourself when removing pedals and you can’t go wrong. “Right is right — Left is wrong.” It means the threads on the right pedal turn clockwise to tighten like any other bolt. The threads on the left pedal are wrong, meaning that they turn counterclockwise to tighten.
Tools for Removing Pedals
It’s best to use a pedal wrench, which is a longer version of a normal open-end wrench, when removing pedals, but any 15 mm wrench that fits will suffice to remove a pedal. The problem is, most are too thick, and shorter than a pedal wrench. With some pedals you may need an hex key that loosens and tightens from the back side of the crank arm. They typically require a 6-mm hex wrench for some Look Pedals or an 8-mm hex wrench, sometimes referred to as an allen wrench.
How to Remove the Pedals
It’s best for your bike to be upright, on the ground, with the pedals in the 3 and 9 o’clock position, to removing pedals. Before attempting to remove the right side pedal, place the chain on the largest chainring. That way, if the wrench slips, you’re less likely to shred skin on the sharp chainring teeth.
Removing Pedals – The Right Side
- Face the drivetrain side of the bike. The drive side is the side with chain.
- Rotate the crank arm as close as possible to the 3 o’clock position.
- Check for the flat spot between the pedal and the crank arm. The flat spot is also referred to as a “wrench flat.” Many pedals have an “L” or “R” stamped on the flat spot.
- Place a 15mm wrench on the wrench flat with the “R” stamped on it with the wrench about even with the crank arm, or at the 9 o’clock position. This spot will give you the best leverage to remove a tight pedal.
- Push the wrench downward with a counterclockwise motion as you would any other bolt. Use your body weight to break it free. Be cautious of hitting your knuckles on the chain rings or chain guide as the pedal loosens. You may need to hold the left-side crank arm to get additional leverage and if it is super tight, placing a foot on the opposing pedal is a good option.
- Continue turning the wrench counterclockwise until the pedal loosens enough to remove it with your fingers.
Removing Pedals – The Left Side
- Face the non-drive side of the bike — the side without the chain.
- Rotate the crank arm so it is at the 9 o’clock or forward position.
- Fit the pedal wrench on the wrench flat with the “L” between the pedal and the crank arm ideally around the 3 o’clock position or in line with the crank arm.
- Push the wrench downward in a clockwise motion to loosen it. You again may need to hold the opposing pedal with your hand or if it’s super tight, foot.
- Continue loosening the pedal with the wrench until it’s loose enough to remove with your fingers.
Clean and Grease
Use a stiff brush or cloth to clean any dirt out of both the crank and pedal threads. Apply a small amount of grease to the pedal threads before you reinstall the new pedals. Grease makes them easier to remove the next time you change or do maintenance on your pedals. It also minimizes the chances of creaks developing down the road.
Hex Wrench Type
Typical pedals have wrench flats, but in the event that your pedals do not have wrench flats, you will need to use a hex wrench. This time, since you’re working on the back side of the pedal, turn the right pedal clockwise to loosen it — which is the same as turning it counterclockwise with a pedal wrench when looking at it from the outside. Turn the hex wrench clockwise to loosen for the left pedal.
Think About It
Thread direction can be confusing, even when you know the ropes. Always double check and think about which direction you’re turning it. If it resists too much, you might be turning it the wrong way. And when installing pedals, always be sure you’re turning them the right way and not cross-threading them.
It’s common for pedal axles to get dirty, gunky, or even rusted. They can be a pain to get off at times and you may need to resort to lubricants to get them off. Use a bit of penetrating spray at first such as WD-40. As the pedal turns a quarter turn at a time, add more spray, wait a bit for it to work it’s magic, and continue. If at any time, you begin to round off the flat spot, stop and consider that you might be turning it the wrong direction. If you’re removing pedals and they’re stuck, it’s sometimes necessary to allow the penetration oil to work overnight and then remove the pedal the next day. Good luck!