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How To Remove A Bicycle Wheel

When it comes to bike maintenance, one of the most important question is how to remove a bicycle wheel. Knowing the answer can help you quickly repair or change a damaged tube and get back on the road in no time.

In this article, we will cover all the basics you need to know about wheel removal and installation, including information about different types of axles, brakes, and more.

What tools are needed?

Typically, to remove and install a bike wheel, you won’t require any special tools. However, there are exceptions.

  • For solid axle bikes, you’ll need a 15 mm wrench
  • For coaster brakes, you’ll need a screwdriver

1. Shift to the smallest cog

If you want to remove the rear wheel, shift to the smallest cog in the front and rear. This will give you the most chain slack.

2. Disengage brakes

If required, the next step is to release the brakes. However, it’s important to note that not all brake types require disengagement. Below, I provided a list of the most commonly used brake types and a step-by-step guide on how to disengage them.

Disc Brakes

Disc brakes are highly popular in the cycling community due to their superior stopping power, especially in wet conditions. They are most commonly found on mountain bikes, downhill bikes, and increasingly on road and hybrid bikes. Disc brakes can be either mechanical (cable-actuated) or hydraulic.

How to disengage them?

  • No disengagement is needed before you remove the wheel

Caliper Brakes

Mostly found on road bikes. They are lightweight and efficient, making them suitable for high-speed cycling.

How to disengage them?

Caliper breaks have a quick-release lever at the caliper arm, or it can also be a button at the lever.

  • At the caliper arm: Flip the lever to open both pads.
  • At the lever: Pull the lever slightly, push the button, and release the lever.


V-Brakes (Direct-Pull Brakes)

These are a type of rim brake commonly found on city bikes, touring bikes, and some mountain bikes because of their strong stopping power and ease of maintenance.

How to disengage them?

  • Squeeze the arms together and disengage the noodle.


Cantilever Brakes

Cantilever brakes were once standard on mountain bikes before disc brakes became popular. Nowadays, they are mostly found on cyclocross bikes. They provide good mud clearance and are compatible with wider tires.

How to disengage them?

  • Squeeze the calipers together and disconnect the brake cable.


Coaster Brakes

Coaster brakes are often found on children’s bikes, beach cruisers, and some casual city bikes. You can activate them by pedaling backward, making them intuitive for beginners. However, their use is limited in high-performance or hilly environments.

How to disengage them?

  • Unscrew the brake arm from the frame of the bicycle using the screwdriver.


3. Release the axles

We compiled a list of the most common axle types, similar to the various brake types discussed earlier, and provided helpful guidelines on how to properly release them.

Quick Release Axles

These are the most common type of bicycle axles due to their ease of use and versatility. They can be found on a wide range of bikes, from road bikes to mountain bikes. Quick release axles are highly favored in the cycling community for their convenience and speed in wheel removal and installation.

How to release them?

  • Pull the quick-release lever outwards and loosen the skewer on the other side.


Thru-Axles

Thru-axles are known for their strength and stiffness, making them popular choices for mountain bikes, cyclocross bikes, and some road bikes. They offer improved handling and control, especially during descents and corners. Thru-axles are becoming more widespread with the rise of disc brakes on all types of bikes.

How to release them?

Different axle systems require different disengagement methods.

  • For some, you’ll need to pull the lever outward and rotate the axle in a counter-clockwise direction until it’s loose enough to be pulled out straight.
  • Other systems use a lever to engage a fitting on the axle. This also needs to be turned counter-clockwise until the axle can be removed.
  • In some cases, thru-axle systems are equipped with a simple lever. Simply turn this lever to either tighten or loosen the axle.

Solid Axles

We typically find solid axles on single-speed bikes, fixies, and BMX bikes. They are simple and sturdy but require a 15 mm wrench for wheel removal and installation.

How to release them?

  • Loosen both axle nuts with a 15 mm wrench

4. Remove the derailleur and chain

  • If you want to remove the rear wheel, the next and final step is to clear away the derailleur and the chain from the wheel. In most cases, you can just simply rotate the derailleur back.
  • In certain cases, you may need to shift the lower pulley forward to slacken the chain and then use a button to secure it in that position.
  • For some other derailleurs, search for an on/off lever. Switch the lever to the “off” position.


5. Reinstall the wheels

After you removed the wheel, it’s obvious that you want to reinstall it at some point, right? Below, I have collected what you should pay attention to when putting the wheel back in place.

Rear wheels

  • Position the cogs within the chain loop, rotate the derailleur back, and elevate the wheel up into the dropouts. Ensure that it completely settled the hub in place.

Front wheels

  • Ensure that the hub is completely settled in place

Quick release axles

  • The skewer needs to be tightened to the point where the lever encounters resistance approximately 90 degrees from the frame.
  • The final positioning of the lever is crucial. It should be directed upwards in a position that allows for easy disengagement but won’t pose a risk of snagging on external objects.

Solid axles

  • After you settled the wheel hub in place, tighten both axle nuts

Thru axles

  • Fit the wheel into the dropouts.
  • Insert the thru axle appropriately, then rotate it in a clockwise direction to secure the fork against the hub.
  • The lever should be firmly tightened and positioned in a way that makes it easily accessible.

Brakes

  • Remember to re-engage the release on any rim brake.
  • Ensure that the wheel is properly aligned within the fork.
  • Also, inspect if the rim brake pads are centered to the wheel and make adjustments as needed.
  • Particularly for disc brakes, confirm that the disc isn’t scraping against the pads. Make necessary adjustments.

What to do next?

Now that you have learned the basics of wheel removal and installation, it’s time to take your newly gained knowledge out for a spin! Go ahead and try removing and installing wheels like a pro.

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Author

Mate is a passionate bikepacking enthusiast and the founder of this website. He loves exploring new destinations, admiring nature, and engaging in outdoor activities. He strongly believes that healthy living should be environmentally friendly too, which is why he prefers to use bicycles for his transport needs.