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Bicycle Wheel Removal

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Front Bicycle Wheel Removal


Let out any remaining air in the bicycle's tire. Remove the axle nuts. They unscrew counter-clockwise, like the lid of a pickle jar. Many bicycle's also have some safety devices or plates under the axle nuts, which you should remove. Remove the wheel, being careful not to damage the front brake pads. On most fat tire bicycles, and many thin tire bicycles, there is a way to open the brake wider for removal of the wheel. Usually this is done by disconnecting one side of the straddle wire (short brake cable see below) from one side of the brake. If you see that the brake has a way to do this without tools, go ahead and pull the straddle wire free. Some types of bicycle brakes have a lever to flip, allowing the brake to open wider.

If You Have A Quick-Release (Skewer) Wheel

Loosen the lever that holds the wheel on. This lever does not unscrew, it is cam action. Just flip it to the open position and the wheel will slip out. If the wheel does not slip out, then you can unscrew the lever a bit after it is flipped to the release position. If your bicycle has safety washers to keep the wheel from falling off in case the lever is accidentally opened, then unscrew and remove the lever and the safety washers.

Secure position shown on left, ready to fall off on right.

Most bicycle caliper brakes need to be opened before the tire will pass through, and most provide a 'quick-release' mechanism. Some have a release lever at the brake caliper or handlever.  Many, like the one pictured, have a slot in a bracket, from which the the cable casing can be lifted out, when the brake is held squeezed against the rim to loosen the cable tension.  Whenever you open a brake to remove a wheel, make sure to reset it immediately after reinstalling the wheel, before riding the bicycle.  This is easy to forget.

Removing A Coaster Brake Rear Wheel

This is the same as a front wheel, but the brake arm nut and bolt should be removed first.

Removing A Three Speed Wheel

Before removing a three-speed wheel, you must disconnect the shifting mechanism. There are two common kinds, Sturmey-Archer and Shimano. The Sturmey-Archer hub has a little chain coming out of the bicycle's axle. Shimano hubs have a lever instead.

If you have a Sturmey-Archer, put the shifter in high (3) gear position. Unscrew the cable from the tiny chain. Ignoring the little chain, you now loosen the axle nuts and remove the wheel.

If you have a Shimano three-speed, shift into high gear and unscrew the cable from the little lever (called a bellcrank). Unscrew the bellcrank assembly from the axle, and pull out the pushrod you will find inside. Loosen the axle nuts and remove the wheel.

Removing The Rear Wheel From A Derailleur-Equipped Bicycle

Shift the rear derailleur into high gear, the smallest sprocket. Let the air out of the tire. Loosen the axle nuts to remove the wheel, being careful not to damage the brake pads.

Many bicycles have a way to open the brake wider to make removal of the wheel easier. Look for a way to unhook the short brake cable from one side of the brake if you have a fat tire bicycle, or a lever to open the brake wider on a thin tire bicycle.

You may need to hold the derailleur back (it pivots) in order to get the chain clear of the mechanism. Take your time to see how the chain comes clear as the wheel slides out of the bicycle.


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