How to Install New Pedals on Your Bicycle
Updated: Nov 10, 2021
Got a new set of pedals but not sure how to take the old ones off and put the new ones on? Keep reading and you'll have your pedals swapped out in no time.
How to remove and install new pedals on your bike
You might think removing and installing pedals on your bike is a simple task. And if you’re practiced in the procedure, you’d be right. It’s not complicated. But it’s also easy to get wrong. Indeed, if you manage to cross-thread or overtighten one of your pedals, you could end up with a stuck pedal or in the worst case, a destroyed crankarm. So before making this highly avoidable—and potentially costly—mistake, check out this step-by-step guide.
Depending on the type of pedals you have, you’ll need either a pedal wrench or appropriately sized hex wrench (usually an 8mm, sometimes a 6mm). It’s also a good idea to have some bike grease on hand, which can help streamline the process and keep the pedals from getting stuck. Lastly, if you’re looking to be perfectly precise, you’ll need a torque wrench, which allows you to tighten your pedals to the manufacturer’s recommended torque spec. (While following instructions such as this is never a bad idea, in the case of pedals that level of precision is not totally necessary. It’s okay to aim for snug but not overly tight and call it good.)
Understanding the Basics
You know the old adage, righty tighty, lefty loosey? Well, when it comes to pedals, it’s only half true. That is the pedal for you right foot screws in and out the same way as most other screws or bolts (loosens counterclockwise, tightens clockwise). But the pedal for your left foot has a left-hand thread, meaning you turn it clockwise to loosen and counterclockwise to tighten.
So why make things complicated? In a word, precession, which essentially means when pedaling your pedal’s axle spins the opposite direction of the crank arm, and if your left pedal had “normal” threads it could loosen and fall off at an inopportune time, such as dropping into a techy rock garden or bombing down a steep paved descent. But by threading both pedals so that they spin back into the crank when you’re pedaling, they don’t fall off.
Know Your Right and Left
To help lessen any associated confusion most pedals are stamped “L” and “R”, indicating left and right side when you are straddling your bike facing forward. Another helpful trick is to look for the manufacturer’s name or logo on the pedal, which will be oriented so that it’s right-side-up when the pedal is on its correct side.
You can also look at the pedal threads themselves, which will appear to slope up toward its proper tightening direction so that left hand threads slope up to the left, while right hand threads slope up to the right. Finally, it’s worth remembering that if it doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t. So if you’re trying to install a new pedal and it doesn’t easily screw into the crankarm, make sure to double check.
Now that we’ve covered the basics—and gotten a quick physics lesson—it’s time to install some pedals. Before you start, shift your chain into your bike’s largest chainring. This provides protection from the chainring teeth lest your hand slips off your wrench and you end up with bloody knuckles. Next rotate your bike so that you can easily access either your right or left pedal. Now grab your pedal wrench or hex key, with the caveat that not all pedals (especially higher end models) have “wrench flats” so a hex key may be your only option. Whatever the case, orient your tool so it forms a 90-degree (or smaller) angle in relation to the crank arm, which will provide mechanical advantage in case your pedals are tightly attached. (For a little extra leverage, grab the opposite crank with your other hand.)
Now, if using a pedal wrench, rotate it counter-clockwise to remove a right pedal or clockwise to remove a left pedal. Typically, you’ll feel initial resistance and then the pedal will “break free” and easily spin out from there. If using a hex key, you will insert it into the back end of the pedal axle behind the crank arm, and if facing that insertion point the rotation direction will appear to be the opposite, where the hex wrench rotates clockwise to remove a right pedal or counter-clockwise to remove a left pedal. To avoid this confusion, simply stand to the right side of the bike when removing a right pedal, and the left side for a left pedal, and the orientation of rotation will be the same as when using a pedal wrench.
Start by identifying the right and left pedals, using the indicators outlined above. Next dab a little grease on the threads of both pedals, which helps them thread easily into place and not get stuck when you want to take them off. Finally, position the pedal at a 90-degree angle relative to the crank arm so that it will screw straight in and not cross thread. And always remember that if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, so check again.
If your pedal has wrench flats, use your fingers to begin threading the pedal into the crank arm, turning a right pedal to the right/clockwise and a left pedal to the left/counter-clockwise. Once you’ve got a good start, grab your pedal wrench to snug the pedal, remembering not to overtighten. Just a small turn once you reach the point of resistance will do the trick, and assure you can easily get them off down the road.
If your pedals don’t have wrench flats, take your appropriately sized hex key, insert it into the back of the pedal, and then while facing the front of the pedal you are installing, turn a right pedal right/clockwise and a left pedal to the left/counter-clockwise, again aim for snug but not overly tight. And don’t worry, if any of this seems overly complicated. Just take your time the first time, and you’ll quickly become an expert in installing and removing pedals.