How to Install and Remove Bike Pedals

When a real cyclist isn’t saving money to buy a new shiny bike, they’re looking for ways to upgrade their existing bike. And because pedals contribute a lot to the overall riding experience, they’re one of the parts bike owners replace most often. Whether you’re replacing broken bike pedals, servicing the ball bearings, or doing an upgrade, knowing how to install and remove bike pedals is paramount.

Related: How to Clip in and Out of SPD Pedals

Clipless Bike Pedals

In this post, you’ll learn two things: how to install bike pedals and how to remove bike pedals. Let’s start with how to take off bike pedals. But before I start guiding you on how to take your pedals off, I need you to read the section that follows.

I thought Pedal Removal Should Be Easy, But…

Unscrewing a bike’s pedals should be a pretty straightforward process. But that’s not always the case. If it were, you’d not be here learning how to handle the task.

Conventionally, the left-side pedal’s threads slope up to the left. Likewise, the threads on the right pedal slope up to the right. Usually, the direction of the threads’ slope is the same direction you should tighten the pedal when installing. And when taking the pedals off, loosen toward the reverse direction.

Right bike pedal
Bike pedals are typically marked to distinguish the right one from the left one.

What does that mean? It means that:

The left pedal tightens clockwise and removes anticlockwise. Similarly, the right pedal tightens anticlockwise and removes clockwise.

Left Bike Pedal
The letter L identifies the left pedal.

Do you know why removing pedals from a bike is challenging? It’s because the threads on each side of the crankset turn in opposite directions.

And there’s a reason for that. Having the threads turning in opposite directions prevents the momentum from your legs from progressively unscrewing the left-side pedal.

To address that possible problem from the get-go, bike crankset makers keep the drivetrain side’s crank arm right-hand threaded and the left-side crank arm reverse-threaded.

This little fact might not seem to mean much, but knowing that the crank arm threads turn differently helps a lot. This knowledge can dramatically shorten the pedal removal process as well as pedal installation.

It takes me no longer than 5 minutes to take my pedals off. And there’s no reason this simple and easy activity should take you longer than that.

How to Remove Pedals from a Bike

First off, what tools do you need to remove bike pedals? For most types of pedals, you just need a pedal wrench. Can you use a regular wrench as a pedal wrench? Yes, you can, but a regular wrench never promises to do the job without frustrating the user!

For some pedals, you’ll need a hex key or wrench to do the job. But because you may not be sure which tool will work best in your situation, have both tools on hand.

Aside from these tools, you’ll need some grease for the pedal threads. You need waterproof grease, and Amazon carries many good options.

Follow the steps below and easily remove the pedals from your bike:

Step 1: Mount Your Bicycle in a Bike Stand

You don’t need to set up your bike in a bike stand to remove the pedals. You can flip your bike upside down so that it sits on its saddle with the wheels up.

Having a repair stand is nice, though. I actually store one of my bikes on this bike stand.

Step 2: Stay Safe: Shift the Chain to the Biggest Chainring

No one likes getting avoidable knuckle injuries. To protect your knuckles, shift the chain onto the biggest front chainring/sprocket. Shifting the chain onto that chainring reduces the possibility of slips that could injure your knuckles. With the chain on the largest chainring, you won’t get cut by the teeth on the chainring.

At this point, you’re ready to start the real work of loosening the pedals and taking them off your bike.

Step 3: Start With the Drivetrain-side Pedal

Rotate your bike’s crank arm so you can have easy access and leverage as you work. You want to have the crank facing forward, in the 3 O’clock position. In that position, the crank stays parallel to the ground.

Step 4: Grab Your Pedal Wrench or Hex Wrench

The tool you should use is determined by the kind of pedal you want to remove. A pedal wrench’s design enables it to fit the external spindle flats perfectly. The spindle flats are found between the pedal and the crank’s leg. Yes, a crank has both an arm and a leg.

pedal wrench on spindle flats
Use a pedal wrench to loosen spindle flats

If you don’t have a pedal-specific wrench but have a regular wrench that fits the spindle flats, use it. I’ve used such a wrench to loosen a pedal in the past, but it does get a tad frustrating.

I invested in a good pedal wrench, and that made a whole lot of a difference for me. I suggest you buy a pedal wrench because it does the job better and faster. Plus a pedal wrench is pretty affordable.

To loosen and remove some high-end bike pedals, use a correctly sized hex key instead of a pedal wrench. Unlike a pedal wrench, a hex wrench is designed to fit into the port found on the inside of the crank arm.

A hex key put into crankarm ports
To loosen some pedals, you’ll need to put a hex key into the port on the inner side of the crankarm

So, place each wrench type where it’s supposed to be and get working.

Step 5: Loosen the Spindle

At this point, push the wrench hard to loosen the spindle. To loosen the spindle on the right pedal, turn the wrench counterclockwise. And to loosen the spindle on the left pedal, do the reverse — turn your wrench clockwise.

Keep working on the spindle until the pedal becomes completely free, loose enough to be detached by hand.

You did it!

How to Remove Stuck Bike Pedals

What if your pedals are stuck and just won’t unscrew no matter how hard you try? Frozen pedals aren’t uncommon especially with mountain bikes.

When you’re riding dusty mountain bike trails and spinning through puddles, some of the filth will end up on the axle threads. With time, that caked stuff leads to seized axles which make bike pedal removal extremely difficult.

3 Ways to Remove Stuck Bike Pedals

1.Soak the pedals in penetrating fluid such as WD-40 and try loosening the pedals after some time. The chances are that your pedals will come loose without much struggle. You’ll have to lay the side on its side to get the fluid into the threads.

2. If your pedals are still stuck after applying some penetrating fluid, unscrew the crank and grip it in a vise. Then, clamp the pedal wrench or hex key in the vise. Next, pull on the crank hard to weaken and finally break the bond.

3. If you’re still having problems, use a tool such as a rubber mallet or even a dead-blow hammer on the crankarm to force the stuck stuff to come loose and break the bond.

How to Install Bike Pedals

As far as tools, you need the exact same tools you used to remove the pedals. And it’s in this process that you get to use the waterproof grease I said you needed.

Follow the steps below to put your pedals on your bike:

Step 1: Decide Which Pedal Goes to the Right or Left

Pedals typically come appropriately marked so you won’t make a mistake. The letter R is marked on the right pedal while L indicates the left pedal.

What if your pedals came in unmarked? No worries — look at the threads. If the threads seem to be sloping up toward the left, that’s the left pedal. And if the threads appear to be sloping up toward the right, that’s the right pedal.

easily identify the right pedal
If your bike’s pedals came unmarked, look at threads. If they slope up toward the right, that’s definitely the right pedal

So, the left pedal attaches to the right side of the crankset while the right one attaches to the right side.

How to identify right and left bike pedal
If the spindle threads are sloping up toward the left, that’s certainly the left pedal

Step 2: Apply Enough Grease on the Threads

Now, the threads on the pedals need some grease before you screw them onto the crank. How much grease do you need to apply? Apply a generous amount on each pedal.

Also, add a little anti-seize or grease on the axle threads. Greasing the axle threads makes sure you won’t have to endure annoying squeaks as you ride around.

Another benefit of greasing the axle threads is that it makes removing your pedals easier the next time you do it.

Step 3: Thread the Pedals into Place

Take the right pedal and place it at a right angle to the crank arm. At this point, you don’t need any tool, just your hands and fingers. So, use your fingers to thread the pedal into place. If you have each pedal where it should go, you shouldn’t notice any resistance when threading the pedals in.

Step 4: Tighten the Pedals Using a Wrench

As explained above, you’ll require a pedal wrench for some pedals and a hex wrench for others. With most pedals, a pedal wrench should work fine.

But some premium-quality pedals need you to get a hex wrench into the portal on the inside of the crank arm to tighten them.

So, place the pedal wrench on the spindle flats. And if you’re using a hex wrench, put it into the port on the inside of the crankarm.

Next, tighten the pedal. It doesn’t matter whether you start with the right pedal or the left one. To tighten the right pedal, turn the wrench clockwise. And to tighten the left pedal, turn the wrench counterclockwise. As you can see, you’re doing the opposite of what you did when removing the pedals from your bike.

Keep tightening the pedal until you feel some resistance. At that point, you want to tighten the pedal just a little more, according to the manufacturer’s specification as far as torque.

Where the manufacturer hasn’t provided any torque specifications, simply give the already tightened pedal an eighth of a rotation. Once you do that, you can rest assured your pedal is now properly secured.

Don’t over-torque the spindles as that can make taking off the pedals down the road super difficult.

How to Install and Take Off Bike Pedals: Final Word

When loosening bike pedals, use a pedal wrench or hex wrench depending on the kind of pedal you have. Turn the wrench clockwise to loosen the left pedal and counterclockwise to loosen up the right pedal.

And to put pedals on a bike, decide which one goes on the right side of the crank and which goes on the left side. Then, adequately grease the threads, put the pedals on the crankarm, and tighten all the way.