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How to remove and fit bicycle pedals

Removing stuck bicycle pedals can be a pain, so learn how to swap stubborn pedals like a boss with our six step guide

Cyclist magazine
4 Aug 2021

You’d think taking your pedals off would be simple. But those employing the almost always unerring dictum 'lefty-loosey, righty-tighty', will find themselves in trouble.

This is because the threads on each crank turn in opposite directions. The reason for this is that if they turned the same way the momentum of your spinning legs could act to slowly unscrew the pedal on the left-hand crank.

To combat this while the right-hand drive-side crank arm is conventionally right-hand threaded, the non-drive-side lefthand crank arm is always left-hand or reverse threaded.

Happily, once you know this key fact, following our tips will make removing your pedals a breeze. If you’re having trouble, try a squirt of penetrating oil on the back of the treads. Otherwise get stuck in with our guide.

How to remove bicycle pedals

Take taken: 5 minutes  
Workshop saving: scornful look

1. Protect your knuckles

How to remove bicycle pedals - protect your knuckles

Start by shifting your chain onto the big ring, this means that any slips are less likely to result in a chainring-related knuckle injury.

This is one of those rare jobs that’s easier to carry out with the bike resting the right way up on the ground rather than suspended in mid-air in a bike stand.

2. To the left

How to remove bicycle pedals - loosen the left pedal

Starting on the drive side, put the crank into the three o’clock position, so it points forward, parallel to the ground. Most pedals will accept an Allen key in the back. Otherwise, you'll need a thin 15mm spanner. Often this will need to be a dedicated pedal spanner, as an adjustable or conventional one will be too wide. 

If you're using an Allen key, insert this so it sits below the level of the crank. Now push down and forwards, turning anticlockwise. You can use reasonable force. If you're using a spanner, try for the same angles if possible. 

3. To the right

How to remove bicycle pedals - loosen the right pedal

Swap to the other side and place the crank in the nine o’clock position. Repeat the process as before, pushing the Allen key down and forwards. This time the pedal will turn clockwise. Next, spin the pedal off.

Remember to keep any washers that fall out as you’ll need them when fitting your new pedals.

4. Clean up and inspect

How to remove bicycle pedals - clean the thread

Give the threads on the axle and inside the end of the crank a quick wipe down and check for any sign of damage. If they look worn, your local bike shop can save the day by using a tapping tool.

This only tends to be something to worry about if the pedals have been difficult to remove.

5. Squeeze of grease

How to remove bicycle pedals - grease the thread

If you’re happy with the condition of your axle threads, add a quick squeeze of grease or anti-seize.

This will not only reduce the possibility of them squeaking as you pedal, but should ensure that the next time you come to remove them they’ll come undone without too much of a struggle.

6. Spin back on

How to remove bicycle pedals - reattach the pedal

Find the markings on the pedals to distinguish between left and right. Replace any washers and gently thread the pedals back onto the crank as any force can cause damage. Each pedal will tighten by turning towards the front of the bike.

Viewed from the outside of the crank, the right pedal goes on clockwise and the left, anticlockwise.

Tools used…

Park Tool PH8 Hex Wrench P-Handled 8mm 


Alternatively, Park Tool PW5 Home Mechanic Pedal Wrench

Park Tool ASC-1 Anti-Seize Compound


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