How to Change Your Bike Pedals in 5 Minutes or Less

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Have you ever found yourself trying to pedal hard, but your bike doesn’t seem to respond as it should? Or have you ever noticed an odd squeaking noise or a little more resistance than usual when pedaling? You might be dealing with worn-out bike pedals. Don’t worry though; it’s an easy fix. You can change your bike pedals yourself, and it can be done in five minutes or less!

Understanding the Importance of Changing Bike Pedals

Ensuring Optimal Bike Performance

Changing your bike pedals might not be the most exciting task, but it’s vital for optimal bike performance. Bike pedals are your power transmission point. It’s where the power from your legs converts into motion, helping your bike move forward. However, like any other mechanical component, they can wear down over time, affecting your biking experience.

  • Improved Bike Response: Fresh pedals improve the bike’s response, making it easier to speed up, slow down, or change direction.
  • Increased Pedal Efficiency: New pedals grip better to your bike shoes, ensuring that less of your energy goes to waste.
  • Enhanced Comfort: Lastly, new pedals can be more comfortable. Worn-out pedals can create unpleasant pressure points that can make long rides uncomfortable.

Preventing Potential Damage and Accidents

Changing bike pedals also plays a key role in preventing potential damage to your bike and avoiding accidents.

  • Preventing Further Damage: Neglected, worn-out pedals can damage the crank arms’ threading, leading to costlier repairs.
  • Avoiding Accidents: Worn pedals can slip or break, leading to falls and potential injuries.

Note: Regular inspection of your bike pedals can help you identify any issues early and keep you safe on the road.

Differentiating Between Left and Right Bike Pedals

Before you jump into changing your bike pedals, it’s essential to differentiate between left and right pedals. Yes, they are different, and here’s why:

The Importance of Pedal Threading

Bike pedals are specifically threaded to screw into the corresponding left and right crank arms. Interestingly, the right pedal (also known as the drive-side pedal) has a regular, right-hand thread. Turn it clockwise to tighten and counterclockwise to loosen.

However, the left pedal (or non-drive side pedal) has a reverse, left-hand thread. That means you turn it counterclockwise to tighten and clockwise to loosen. This design is known as “precession” and helps keep your pedals from unscrewing while you’re pedaling.

Tips for Identifying Left and Right Pedals

Here are some tips to help you identify left and right pedals:

  1. Look for an ‘L’ or ‘R’ engraved somewhere on the pedal spindle.
  2. The left pedal typically has flat ridges around the threading, while the right pedal has pointed ridges.
  3. If you’re still unsure, remember the rule: Right tight, left loosey (for the right pedal) and the reverse for the left pedal.

Required Tools for Changing Bike Pedals

With the right tools at hand, changing bike pedals becomes a breeze. And the best part? You won’t need a bike shop’s worth of gear.

Standard Tools for Pedal Removal

Typically, removing bike pedals requires:

  1. Pedal Wrench or Spanner: A pedal wrench is a thin, flat wrench designed specifically for bike pedals. However, a standard 15mm open-end wrench will do the trick for most pedals.
  2. Allen Wrench: Some pedals will have a slot for an Allen wrench, typically 6mm or 8mm, on the inside of the crank arm.
  3. Gloves: While not a tool per se, gloves can provide extra grip and keep your hands clean.

Tip: If your pedals are being stubborn, a penetrating oil like WD-40 sprayed on the threads can help loosen them up.

Optimal Tools for Installing New Pedals

Installing new pedals isn’t much different, but a few extra tools can make the job easier and ensure your pedals are installed properly:

  1. Grease: Applying grease to the pedal threads before installation can make removal easier in the future and prevent the pedals from seizing to the crank arm.
  2. Torque Wrench: While not strictly necessary, a torque wrench can ensure your pedals are tightened to the manufacturer’s specifications, preventing damage and ensuring optimal performance.

Step-by-Step Guide to Removing Bike Pedals

Now, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of removing your bike pedals. Remember, left and right pedals have different threading, so they have to be removed in different directions.

Removing the Non-Drive Side Pedal

Here’s a simple guide to removing the left (non-drive side) pedal:

  1. Position the crank arm so that it’s pointing towards the front of the bike.
  2. Slide the pedal wrench onto the pedal spindle. If using an Allen wrench, insert it into the slot on the inside of the crank arm.
  3. Push the wrench down towards the ground, effectively turning the pedal spindle clockwise.

Remember: Left pedal, clockwise to loosen!

Removing the Drive Side Pedal

For the right (drive side) pedal:

  1. Position the crank arm so that it’s pointing towards the front of the bike.
  2. Slide the pedal wrench onto the pedal spindle, or insert the Allen wrench into the slot on the crank arm.
  3. Push the wrench down towards the ground, effectively turning the pedal spindle counterclockwise.

Remember: Right pedal, counterclockwise to loosen!

Now, you should have successfully removed your old bike pedals! Next up, we will guide you through installing your new pedals and making sure they’re secure and ready for your next ride. So, don’t pedal away just yet!

Cleaning and Preparing for New Pedals

Before we march ahead and install those shiny new pedals, there’s some cleaning and prepping to be done. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work!

How to Properly Clean Pedal Threads

Cleaning the pedal threads on your crank arms is crucial to ensure a smooth installation process and optimal performance of your new pedals. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Use a clean rag to wipe away any old grease or dirt from the threads on both crank arms.
  2. If the threads are very dirty or greasy, consider using a small brush (a toothbrush works well) and a bit of degreaser to clean them.
  3. Once you’ve scrubbed away the grime, rinse the threads with water and dry them thoroughly to prevent rust.

Tip: Clean threads not only ease installation but also prevent ‘cross threading’ which can damage the threads permanently.

Why and How to Lubricate Pedal Threads

Lubrication plays a vital role in pedal installation. It not only makes the installation process smoother but also protects the threads from seizing and corrosion.

  1. Why to lubricate: Without lubrication, the pedal threads can seize onto the crank arm threads. This can make future removal difficult and can potentially damage the crank arm.
  2. How to lubricate: Apply a thin layer of bike-specific grease (though general-purpose grease will work in a pinch) to the threads of the new pedals.

Note: Avoid using too much grease as it can attract and hold onto dirt, which may cause issues down the line.

Installing New Bike Pedals

Now, it’s showtime! You’ve cleaned, prepped, and lubed. It’s time to install those new pedals and get back on the saddle!

Steps for Installing the Drive Side Pedal

When it comes to the right (drive side) pedal:

  1. Insert the threaded end of the pedal into the hole in the crank arm.
  2. Begin threading the pedal by hand, turning it clockwise. Ensure the threads align correctly; the pedal should screw in smoothly.
  3. Once the pedal is threaded by hand, use your pedal wrench or Allen wrench to finish tightening it.

Remember: Right pedal, clockwise to tighten!

Steps for Installing the Non-Drive Side Pedal

As for the left (non-drive side) pedal:

  1. Again, insert the threaded end of the pedal into the crank arm.
  2. Begin threading the pedal by hand, this time turning counterclockwise.
  3. Once you’ve threaded the pedal as far as you can by hand, use your wrench to finish tightening.

Remember: Left pedal, counterclockwise to tighten!

Pro tip: Aim to tighten the pedals to about 35-40Nm if you’re using a torque wrench. If not, a good rule of thumb is to tighten until firm, then give the wrench another quarter turn.

Troubleshooting Common Pedal Installation Issues

Even though we’ve installed our pedals, our journey isn’t quite finished yet. There are a few more things to keep in mind to ensure a smooth and safe ride.

Avoiding Cross-Threading and Stripping Threads

One of the biggest issues cyclists face during pedal installation is cross-threading. This happens when the pedal threads don’t correctly align with the crank arm threads, causing the threads to strip.

  1. Preventing Cross-Threading: Always start threading the pedals by hand. This gives you a feel for whether the pedal and crank threads are correctly aligned. If the pedal doesn’t thread in easily, do not force it. Instead, back it out and try again.
  2. Dealing with Stripped Threads: If you’ve accidentally stripped the threads, don’t despair. While it’s a bit of a headache, a bike shop can typically repair the threads with a tool called a “helicoil.”

Remember: Cross-threading can be costly! Always thread the pedals in by hand to avoid this issue.

Properly Adjusting Pedal Tightness

You might wonder, “How tight should my pedals be?” And rightfully so, as both under-tightening and over-tightening can cause problems:

  1. Under-tightening: Pedals that aren’t tight enough can unscrew themselves as you ride, leading to a loose pedal or, worse, a pedal that falls off completely.
  2. Over-tightening: On the flip side, pedals that are too tight can damage the threads on the crank arm, leading to a difficult removal in the future.

Tip: If you don’t have a torque wrench, tighten the pedals until they’re firm, then give them an extra quarter turn.

Maintaining Your Bike Pedals for Longer Lifespan

Here are some tips for maintaining your bike pedals to extend their lifespan:

  1. Clean your pedals regularly: Use a degreaser that you would use for your chain, rinse and dry before applying fresh grease1. Keeping your pedals clean can help prevent dirt and grime from building up and causing damage.
  2. Check for damage: Wear typically comes in the form of damage from crashing and is externally seen or felt in the form of a bent spindle2. Check your pedals regularly for any signs of damage.
  3. Grease your pedals: Applying fresh grease to your pedals can help keep them running smoothly and prevent wear and tear1.
  4. Replace worn-out pedals: Pedals typically last about a year (1K-2K kms) before dying3. If you notice any signs of wear or damage, it may be time to replace your pedals.
  5. Service your pedals: Servicing your pedals can help keep them running smoothly and extend their lifespan. You can find guides online, such as GCN’s Guide To Servicing Look And Shimano Pedals4.

By following these tips, you can help maintain your bike pedals and extend their lifespan. Additionally, regular bike maintenance, such as keeping it clean, lubricating and greasing it, regularly replacing the chain, and inspecting the brakes, can also help make your bike last longer5.

Regular Cleaning and Lubrication

Just as cleaning and lubrication are crucial for pedal installation, they’re also key to pedal maintenance:

  1. Cleaning: Regularly clean your pedals to remove dirt and grime. This not only keeps them looking good but also prevents wear on the pedal and crank threads.
  2. Lubrication: If your pedals have bearings, regular lubrication can keep them spinning smoothly. Refer to your pedal manufacturer’s guidelines for specific instructions.

Note: While WD-40 can be handy for a stubborn pedal, it’s not ideal as a lubricant. Use a bike-specific lube for the best results.

When to Consider Changing Your Bike Pedals

While we all want our gear to last forever, everything has a lifespan, even your bike pedals. So when should you consider changing them?

  1. Wear and Tear: Over time, the platforms or clips on your pedals can wear down, leading to less grip and efficiency.
  2. Noisy Pedals: Squeaking or creaking noises can be a sign of worn-out bearings.
  3. Play in the Pedal: If there’s side-to-side movement in the pedal around the spindle, it might be time for a change.

There you have it, folks! You’re not just capable of changing your bike pedals; you’re now a pedal guru! Armed with your new knowledge, may you always ride smoothly and safely. Until next time, keep those pedals turning!

How often should bike pedals be changed?

The frequency of changing bike pedals depends on several factors such as the amount of use, the riding conditions, and the quality of the pedals themselves. If your bike sees a lot of miles, or if you often ride in harsh conditions, you may need to change your pedals more often. As a rule of thumb, if your pedals are visibly worn out, making strange noises, or are no longer spinning smoothly, it might be time for a replacement. However, with regular maintenance and proper care, good quality pedals can last for several years.

Can the same process apply to different types of bikes?

Yes, the basic process of changing bike pedals is universal across most types of bikes – be it a road bike, a mountain bike, or a commuter bike. However, there could be slight variations depending on the pedal system in use. The main difference is that some bikes have pedals that screw in and out conventionally (right pedal clockwise, left pedal counter-clockwise), while others, especially older models, may have reverse threads. Always check the manual or seek professional help if you’re unsure.

What are the top selling bike pedals?

The top selling bike pedals often vary from year to year as new models and technologies are introduced. As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, some of the top-rated pedals included the Shimano PD-M520, which is a favorite among mountain bikers, and the Look Keo 2 Max, popular with road cyclists. For casual riders, the Schwinn SW76173-4 Universal Pedal is often a top choice due to its versatility and affordable price. It’s always best to check the latest reviews and ratings for an up-to-date list.

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