How To Get Pedals Off a Bike the RIGHT Way

Removing pedals from your bike is, in theory, one of the most straightforward mechanical adjustments you can make on your bike. In practice, however, it can be needlessly frustrating without a couple of insightful tips for beginners.

Mechanic works to get pedals off a bike
(© Morgan Strug)

Bike Pedal Removal Direction

The most important piece of information to keep in mind is that the pedal thread direction is the opposite for right and left pedals.

Therefore, the age-old mantra “righty-tighty, lefty-loose” applies only to the right pedal.

The reason that the left pedal is threaded in reverse is to ensure it stays securely locked in place while you are peddling your bike.

How To Tell Left and Right Bike Pedals Apart

Most pedals are conveniently marked with an L or an R. If you have fancy French pedals, a G or a D indicate gauche (left) or droite (right).

Man comparing bicycle pedals after learning how to get pedals off a bike

Worst case scenario, you can tell by the slope of the thread pattern. When you hold the pedals with their spindles up, the left pedal threads will slope up to the left while right pedals slope up to the right. This is very important to note when you are reinstalling them because if you accidentally cross thread them, then you’ve ruined them.

How To Get Pedals Off a Bike

To get pedals off a bike, grab a 15 mm wrench or hex key, depending on the style of your bicycle pedals. Position the wrench on the flat edge of your pedal snug to the crank arm or fit the hex key into place at the end of your pedal. Turn the appropriate tool counter-clockwise on the right side and clockwise on the left side.

That’s the short answer. Let’s get into some more details:

Tools To Use

  • Pedal wrenches can make your life easier. The benefit of the pedal wrench is the length for more leverage. But as previously mentioned, a pedal wrench is not the be-all and end-all.
  • 15 mm wrench—if your pedals attach to the crank arm with a flat edge, a wrench will do the trick.
  • Rubber hammer—tapping an ordinary wrench with a hammer might give you the extra torque you need if your pedal is stuck.
  • 6 mm or 8 mm hex key—the sizes that commonly fit most pedals that don’t have a flat attachment.
  • Bike grease—for stubborn pedals, a bit of grease can help loosen them up. Bike grease is also essential when you are re-attaching the pedals to help prevent them from getting stuck or rusty in the future.
A wrench gets pedals off a bike
A pedal wrench can really come in handy when you have to get pedals off a bike. (© Morgan Strug)

Securing Your Bike

Ensure your bike is stable before you start taking off the pedals.

The best way to do this is with a traditional bike stand. But if you don’t have a stand, leaning your bike against a wall will work. Better yet, flip your bike upside down and rest it on the seat and handlebars.

10 Steps To Remove Your Bike Pedals

  1. Secure your bike in a steady position.
  2. Shift your chain to the largest chainring. (This helps you avoid cutting your knuckles on the chainring teeth).
  3. Position yourself near the back of the bike so that the pedals are easily accessible.
  4. Move the crank arm to the 3 o’clock position, parallel with the ground.
  5. Attach the wrench to the crank arm at a 90-degree or less angle to gain the best mechanical advantage.
  6. With your other hand, grab the opposite crank arm to increase leverage.
  7. To remove the right pedal, turn the pedal wrench counter-clockwise or rotate the crank so the pedal is pedaling forward.
  8. Continue turning the wrench counter-clockwise until the pedal is completely detached from the crank arm.
  9. Rotate your bike or move to the other side as required until the left pedal is within reach.
  10. Repeat steps 4 through 8, except turn the wrench clockwise to remove the left pedal.

Woman removing bike pedal after learning how to get pedals off a bike

How To Remove Stuck Pedals

If you have a stuck bike pedal that’s particularly stubborn and not budging with a reasonable amount of force, you’ll have to add a blow dryer or torch to your list of tools. As a last resort, you can try using heat to loosen the metal. But be careful! If it’s a carbon bike, that’s a quick way to make an expensive mistake.

Installing Bike Pedals

When you need to replace your pedals, there are a few more things to keep in mind:

  • Apply a generous amount of grease before attempting to twist in the new pedals.
  • Position your new pedals perpendicular to the crank arm before attempting to thread them. This will minimize your chances of cross threading and ruining your new pedals.
  • Rotate your right-side pedal to the right to secure it into place.
  • Rotate your left-side pedal to the left. Although counter-intuitive, this is correct.

If at any point during the process you become confused or frustrated, just remember that each pedal tightens into place by turning it toward the front of your bike and loosens by turning them toward the back of your bike.

It all seems very simple. I’ve observed experienced bike repair mechanics remove and replace pedals countless times, and they make it look smoother than butter. Rotating the pedals forward and then back, letting the natural rotation of the bike do most of the work for them. They don’t even bother to switch sides for each pedal, preferring to reach over the top of the bike to grab the opposite crank arm.

This was certainly not my experience. My struggle was very real. I realized after 15 minutes this was because I was trying to loosen it while actually tightening it and then causing the pedal to be very stiff. I figured it out eventually and managed to remove it.

My main piece of advice is to try practicing in private and not in an active busy bike shop in front of customers who may or may not begin to question your competence.