If you have worn bike pedals, they feel loose, or your bike is hard to pedal, it’s time to install new pedals. You can also upgrade pedals to something that gives you more power as you ride. The pedals that come on a new bike aren’t always the best, either, so upgrading helps you customize your bike and make it comfortable for your needs.
Regardless of your reason for changing bike pedals, it’s a relatively easy process. You’ll have no trouble removing and installing a new set of bike pedals with specific tools and the steps below.
The pedal design is pretty straightforward. The place where your foot rests is called the body or cage. The spindle is the section that has threads. When installing the pedals, you’ll put the spindle into the bike’s crank.
The pedal thread direction can help you identify which pedal is which. If you remember which bicycle pedal is reverse threaded, you’ll have no problem installing new pedals.
The left pedal is reverse threaded, so you screw it the opposite way you’d normally tighten a bolt. The right pedal uses the standard right-hand thread to loosen. You can remember how to do that with the simple phrase “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.”
Looking at the threads helps you tell the pedals apart. When you hold a pedal with the spindle up, you can see the angle of the threads. If the threads angle up to the right, it’s the right pedal. When they angle up to the left, you have the left pedal. It’s a quick, convenient way to check the pedals.
In addition to the threads, you can identify the new pedals by the stickers the manufacturer places on them. Leave the big L and R stickers in place until you install the pedals, so there’s no confusion.
Many brands also stamp L or R on the spindle, so you don’t have to worry about losing the stickers. Check the spindle’s flat end or the pedal’s edge closest to the spindle. You should see the appropriate letter.
Pedal Spindle Sizes
Make sure you’re buying the right size pedal for your bike. There are two common spindle sizes:
- 9/16 inch, which is standard for most adult bikes
- 1/2 inch, which is on cruisers, department store bikes, kids bikes, and older models
The spindles look similar to the untrained eye, but the size difference is just enough that they’re not interchangeable. Measure your current pedals or check the manufacturer’s website to ensure you’re getting the right size replacements.
Tools and Supplies
You don’t need special tools for bicycle pedal installation—you probably have everything you need in your garage. You’ll need a 15mm open-box wrench or an adjustable crescent wrench to loosen the pedal. These wrenches attach to the wrench flat on the pedal to unscrew it.
You can buy a custom bike wrench if you’re going to work on your bike a lot. They have long handles and one or two 15mm openings for easy repairs. These wrenches are thinner than what you have in your garage, so they grip better and won’t bump into the crank arm, causing you to resituate the wrench with each turn.
Some pedals might require an Allen wrench. These fixed pieces of metal look like an L. The hexagonal cross-section fits inside of screws with recessed holes. A bike-specific Allen wrench will have a longer arm, which speeds up the installation process.
You’ll know if you can use an Allen wrench on your pedal because it will have a recessed hexagonal hole at the end. This type of pedal will use either a 6mm or 8mm Allen wrench. Some pedals have a wrench flat and a hex hole, so you can use either tool for the bike pedal replacement.
In addition to these wrenches, you’ll want some waterproof grease to apply to the new pedals. And, of course, you need your replacement pedals. Once you’ve gathered these supplies, you’re ready to learn how to change bike pedals.
How to Remove Bike Pedals
It’s easiest to remove pedals while your bike stands upright using the kickstand. Since the crank moves when you’re unscrewing the pedal, you can hold it in place with a velcro strap or even your toe clip strap.
Thread the strap through the pedal, across the crank arm, and connect it tightly to the bike frame. You can now work on the opposite pedal without it spinning out of control.
Remember the threading when you start to take the pedals off the bike. When you’re working on the right pedal, you’ll turn the wrench to the left to loosen it. This direction is the standard way you’d unscrew other bolts and screws, so it’s easy to finish quickly.
On the left pedal, however, you want to proceed cautiously. If you jump into the bicycle pedal removal enthusiastically and crank it to the left, you could strip the threads and make it tough to remove the pedal. You’ll want to turn the wrench to the right, so start with a gentle pull to ensure you’re doing everything correctly.
It’s crucial to work carefully when using an Allen wrench. You’re more likely to turn the wrench the wrong way since it fits inside the hexagonal hole and inserts in the back of the spindle. However, Allen wrenches turn the same way as other types—to the left for the right pedal and to the right for the left pedal.
Frequent use of your bike could make it difficult to remove the pedals on your first try. It’s best to position the pedals so you can push down on the wrench to loosen them. You’re able to use your body weight to give you more force.
After you give a strong push to get the wrench started, you’re able to unscrew it with your hand. The tools required include a wrench, so it might seem strange to go in with your hands. And you can keep using the wrench if the pedal is resistant. But using your hands ensures you’re not going to damage the outer crank threads.
You can also grab the pedal before it falls, which can strip the remaining threads if it’s not completely free. Slowly unscrew the pedal with your hand and pull it out of the crank. You’ve just learned how to remove the pedals from a bike!
How to Change Pedals on a Bike
Before you learn how to put a pedal on a bike, double-check the spindle size. It should be either 1/2 inch or 9/16 inch, depending on the size of your previous pedals. You can’t force a 9/16-inch spindle in a ½-inch crank arm hole. Similarly, if you have a 1/2 inch spindle for a crank arm with a 9/16 inch hole, you’ll spin the pedal for hours, getting nowhere.
Check the threads before installing the pedals. If they’re damaged, you’ll notice immediately and can exchange them before you destroy the threads of the crank arm. If the threads look good, you can put waterproof grease on the spindle. The grease makes the installation run smoothly, so the threads will easily screw into place.
Use your hand to put the spindle into the crank arm. Line everything up and gently rotate the pedal to start threading the spindle. If you hit resistance, you’re more likely to feel it using your hand than with a wrench. You can stop yourself before damaging the threads.
Sometimes this resistance is a sign you’re using the wrong pedal, so double-check that you have left and right on the correct crank arms.
You’ll turn the right pedal clockwise to tighten it into place. This direction is standard in terms of “righty-tighty,” so it will feel natural. Don’t forget that the left pedal has reverse threads, so you’ll turn it counter-clockwise for installation.
When the pedal threads securely into place, you can use the wrench to tighten it. During the removal process, it was best to position your body above the wrench so you could push down to loosen the pedal. For installation, you should use your body weight to pull up on the wrench and tighten things. You’ll ensure the pedal is in place and won’t move as you bike around.
You’re all done as soon as you have both pedals in place. You’ve learned how to put pedals on a bike!
Sometimes you might need extra help with bicycle pedal removal. Old pedal spindles can corrode in the crank arm, making it difficult to unscrew without damaging your bike. Here are some tips on how to loosen bike pedals that seem stuck.
If you hit resistance, make sure you’re following the correct bike pedal thread direction. It’s easy to get confused with the left pedal’s reverse threading.
Using a wrench with a long arm will give you more leverage to loosen the spindle. Short-handle wrenches keep your hand so close to the bike that you might not get enough force to start the process. Longer wrenches let you step back and use more body weight to unscrew the pedal.
When in doubt, grease the spindle. Lay your bike on its side so the oil will run down into the stuck spindle. Use oil like WD-40, which has a thin straw to squirt the liquid into the threads. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes (or longer) if the pedal is especially stuck. The grease should lubricate the threads enough that your wrench can turn the spindle.
Some bike pedals get incredibly stuck or seized. There’s no need to force the removal. You’ll likely strip the threads if you push too hard on the wrench. If you strip the threads, you’ll need a bike mechanic to install a new thread insert or even replace the entire crank arm.
In that case, you don’t need to do it yourself. It’s better to take your bike to a shop and see if they have the means to remove the stuck pedal. They might need to replace the crank arm anyway, but at least you’ve let a professional check it out before damaging your bike.
These simple steps tell you how to take pedals off a bicycle. The most important thing to remember with this process is that the left pedal has reverse threads. Everything you do on the right pedal is the opposite for the left. Proceed carefully with that at the forefront of your mind, and you’ll have no problem!
Whether you’re replacing worn pedals or upgrading your bike for more efficient rides, a bike pedal install is a great DIY activity for beginners and pros alike.