Beginner’s guide: how to remove pedals

Struggling with how to get those pedals off your bike? Here's a guide to show you how to remove pedals from most major brands

We know it sounds counter-intuitive but the first part of successfully removing your pedals is installing them correctly. The first mistake most beginners make when putting on pedals for the first time is really going to town when tightening them up. You don’t need to.

If you look at the way your pedals are threaded, you’ll notice two things: first, they’re opposite threaded, which means each pedal is tightened by turning it a different way (anticlockwise for the left pedal, clockwise for the right), and the second is that both pedals tighten the same way you turn the cranks when pedalling.

Make sure you don’t overtighten the pedal, or removing it will be very tricky

What that means is pedalling the bike actually tightens the pedals, so there’s no need to tighten them up too much when installing. I usually tighten them enough so the thread goes all the way in, and then add another gentle push to make sure they’re secure. That’s all you need.

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When it comes to taking your pedals off, one big factor in how easy it’ll be is how long they’ve been installed for. If they’ve been on the bike for a long time without being removed, it can be a real struggle to get them off again so it’s a good idea to periodically remove the pedals, give them a clean, and reinstall.

Different pedal types

Exactly how you take them off will depend on what type of pedals you’re running.

If you use Shimano, Look, Time, Speedplay or, to be honest, most brands, what you’ll need is an 8mm Allen key (in certain cases you might need a 6mm version instead).

If you’re using flat pedals then a 15mm pedal spanner is your friend.

There is a degree of crossover between the two in that some types of pedals (Speedplay being an example) can be removed using either an allen key or a pedal spanner.

But be aware other brands (Shimano, for example) might look like they’ll accept a pedal spanner, but what that actually does is remove the pedal body from the axle which is definitely not what you’re going for.

Shimano’s pedals might look like you can use a pedal spanner to remove them, but that surface actually removes the pedal body from the axle

So, on to the practicalities. The first thing to remember is the pedals are opposite threaded. I know we mentioned that earlier but it’s easy to forget, especially if you’re in a rush.

So remember the left pedal undoes clockwise, and the right anticlockwise.

The hexagonal surface on the Speedplay pedal in the picture (with the ‘L’ on it) means you can use a pedal spanner to remove them rather than an allen key

There’s a chance you might find the pedals require more persuasion than simply trying to turn the Allen key/spanner, as they’re quite tight.

The best way to get around this is to tap the end of the allen key with either your palm or a rubber ended mallet. I tend to start with my hand, and only turn to something more industrial as a last resort.

The beauty of a pedal spanner is they tend to be quite long, meaning you can get a lot more leverage than with a standard length allen key.

If your pedals will accept a pedal spanner like the two above, you’ll find it much easier to remove stuck pedals as the length of the spanner provide a lot of leverage

If you’re running metal cranks, there is a last resort if you absolutely can’t get the pedals to budge. I can’t stress how much this is a last resort, and if you have carbon cranks and are mad enough to do this (don’t, seriously, just don’t) you deserve everything you get.

Heat up the end of the crank using a lighter or similar. Metal expands when hot, and when the crank arm heats up enough you should be able to unscrew the pedal with relative ease.

Hopefully it won’t come to that but, however much persuasion your pedals needed, there you have it. Job done.

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