If you’re new to cycling, you are about to go on an exciting journey – not just on your bike, but also learning about it and how it works.
A vital skill for new cyclists is learning how to remove a bike wheel, and how to install it again. It’s a task you’ll find yourself doing again and again, as it’s a necessary step in a wide range of other maintenance jobs such as changing an inner tube.
Although it’s a simple task once you know what to do, it can be more complicated than you think for beginners. There are multiple types of axles on modern bikes and many other parts that can get in the way, like the chain and brakes.
In this article, we will tell you the proper way to remove a bike wheel and then reinstall it afterward. We’ll be discussing the following:
- Why Is It Important To Learn How To Remove A Bike Wheel?
- The 3 Main Types Of Bike Wheel Fastenings
- How To Remove A Bike Wheel In 6 Easy Steps
- Robbie’s Video Maintenance Guide: How To Remove A Bike Wheel (And Install It Again!)
Let’s dive in!
Why Is It Important To Learn How To Remove A Bike Wheel?
Removing a wheel is a vital skill you need to learn as a cyclist. It’s going to come in very handy for a lot of reasons. Here’s what you need to know:
The first reason you will need to be able to remove your wheels is to do repairs. You might encounter many problems on a bike ride, such as punctures, and you will need to remove the wheel to repair them properly. A good example is changing a bike tire.
The next reason you will need to remove the wheel is for transporting the bike. In my experience racing overseas, I have found many cars and bike boxes won’t fit a full bike in, and the easiest way to make it work is to either remove the front or both wheels.
Cleaning And Maintenance
For the perfect bike clean, removing your wheels is a must. A lot of dirt gets caught up inside the wheel stays, and this is where the tires flick it off the ground. In my experience, removing the wheels goes a long way to giving your bike a spotless finish.
The 3 Main Types Of Bike Wheel Fastenings
Bike wheels can come with different types of fastenings and axles. Each has a different way of being released so that you can remove the wheels.
Here are the main axles you are going to come across.
The first type of axle we are going to speak about is the bolt-on.
This is seen on some classic and budget bikes, as well as many fixed or single-speed bikes (such as track bikes). They are very secure, and typically require a 15 mm spanner to remove.
#2. Quick Release
Quick-release axles are the most common type you’ll come across. They remain popular for road bikes, particularly those with rim brakes.
It’s a simple system where you can remove a wheel without needing any tools. Quite simply, you have a lever that you release, then you unscrew the axle slightly, and the wheel pops out.
#3. Thru Axle
Finally, we have the thru-axle.
This is the most modern type of axle, and is lightweight and strong. Typically, a thru-axle will be removed using an Allen key and, once undone, will just slide out.
They’re better suited to disc brakes than quick releases as they are more secure, so are increasingly common on mountain bikes and high-end modern road bikes.
How To Remove A Bike Wheel In 6 Easy Steps
Now for the main event: learning how to remove a bike wheel.
The best way to explain the job is to run through the process step by step. We will be telling you how to do this for each axle type.
What Tools Are Required?
To remove a bike wheel, you won’t need much. The tool depends on what axle you have:
- 15 mm Spanner (Bolt-On)
- Allen Key Set (Thru Axle)
For the quick release, you don’t need anything. We recommend having a bike stand, though, as this will make the job much easier.
Step #1. Get Prepared
The best place to start when replacing a bike wheel is to get yourself prepared.
Find a safe place to work and have everything you need ready. I would personally recommend allowing around 10 minutes to complete this task the first time you try it (you’ll be much quicker once you’ve got the hang of it!).
You will either want to get the bike in the stand, or flip it upside down so you have much easier access to the wheels. Flipping on grass or a soft surface will save you from scratching your shifters or seat.
Step #2. Release The Brakes And “Gear Down”
If you have disc brakes, then you won’t need to do anything to your brakes here.
If you have rim brakes, then there’s a good chance you will need to release them so that they’re far enough apart for the tire to fit through.
If you have caliper rim brakes, simply push up the lever located on the pinch bolt (pictured above). If you have V brakes, just unclip the noodle holding the two arms together, and the brakes will come apart easily.
- Not sure which type of bike brakes you have? Check out our Complete Guide To All Types Of Bike Brakes here!
If you’re learning how to remove rear bike wheels, we recommend “gearing down” first. This means shifting the chain onto the smallest rear cog. We do this as it makes the wheel come out much easier and back in easier.
Step #3. Undo The Fastening And Remove The Wheel
Now it’s time to undo the fastening. Depending on which type you have, it will be a slightly different process:
Using a 15 mm spanner, undo each side a few turns until it is loose enough to either drop out or be lifted out.
Don’t completely remove the bolts, as it’s an easy way to lose them.
Then we have quick-release axles. To remove these, you first need to pull the lever so it’s pointing away from the bike. Hold the lever and unscrew the other side until it’s loose enough, then remove the wheel.
Finally, we have the thru-axle.
To remove a wheel with a thru-axle, use the required Allen key (typically 6mm), and turn it anti-clockwise until it releases. Hold the wheel and pull the axle out; it should then be free to remove.
Side Note: How To Remove A Rear Bike Wheel
Removing the front bike wheel is very simple: once the fastening is loosened, you can just pull the wheel straight out.
Removing the rear bike wheel is a little more complicated, as the chain and derailleur are in the way.
Once the axle is undone or removed, simply push the hinge on the derailleur backward, freeing the wheel.
Step #4. Checks
While the wheel is out, it’s time to undertake any required work. We also recommend just doing a few checks on the wheel while it is free. Here’s what we recommend:
- True: Check the wheel is straight when spinning.
- Cracks or breaks: Check the rim and spokes to ensure nothing is broken.
- Bearings: When spinning the wheel, it should feel smooth, not gritty or lumpy.
Anything that might need attention is worth fixing now, or making a note of it and heading to the bike shop for them to fix it ready for the next ride you might go on.
Step #5. Re-Insert And Tighten The Wheel
Now it’s time to get the wheel back in.
The most important thing when it comes to getting a wheel back in is that it is straight. Flipping the bike will be easy; if it’s in a stand, you need to hold it from below and make sure it’s straight.
For the front wheel, it will be fairly straightforward and will just slot back in. For the rear, you will need to put it in between the two lengths of the chain, and slot the chain onto the small cog of the cassette when putting it back in.
When in the correct place, tighten it back up by doing the opposite of what you did when removing it:
- For the bolt-on, just insert and tighten the bolt.
- For the quick-release insert and tighten most of the way, and then close the lever.
- For the thru-axle, insert and tighten as required.
Step #6. Reattach Brakes And Test
If you had to release the brakes earlier, it’s time to get them back to the right place again.
You will need to return the switch for the caliper brakes, and for V brakes, you will need to hook the noodle back where it needs to be.
Once everything is back together, we recommend giving the wheel a quick spin and moving around to ensure it’s in properly, then taking it for a quick test ride to make sure it is correctly in.
And with that, you should be completely up to speed with replacing a bike wheel!
Robbie’s Video Maintenance Guide: How To Remove A Bike Wheel (And Install It Again!)
Check out the BikeTips YouTube Channel here for walk-through bike maintenance guides and more!