Change A Bike Wheel Without Embarrassment

how to change a bike wheelThere isn’t too much more basic than taking wheels off and on your road bike. But there are a couple of little details that, if followed, make the procedure much easier.

So here goes…with a scintillating video presentation at the end.  For those of you who’re tempted to just scroll down to the end for the video; and who have a web-cam on your computer… don’t do it.  We have ways of discovering your cheating ways.

Now, in case you’re wondering why I’m wasting spending time on this issue, let me tell you about the nightmare I had last night.

The scene was a very crowded New York city street.  As cyclist after cyclist (many of them being bike messengers) pedaled toward me, they were stopped and detained by New York’s Bike Snob, who scoffed…and then scolded them for having their quick release levers on the wrong side of their hubs.

I found it amusing, until Bike Snob unleashed the second round of interrogation.

Horrified, I listened while each cyclist spilled their guts, and confessed to getting their shallow reservoir of bike knowledge from a website called

They had placed their cycling faith in a site so lacking in substance that they didn’t even know how to take their wheels off and on properly.

Fortunately, I sputtered awake before Bike Snob found out that there was a dash between ‘cycling’ and ‘review’… and there was some confusion as to whether the offending site was a .com or a .net.

So here’s a short primer…most of it pretty basic, but with a couple of jewels thrown in.

  • When you go to take off your rear wheel, shift your derailleur to the smallest cog, the one that makes you go fastest.
  • Open your brake calipers before you take the wheel off.  This one isn’t too hard to remember since you’ll have a devil of a time getting the wheel off if you don’t.  But don’t forget to close them down again after you put the wheel back on or your stopping ability will be compromised.
  • At the end of the rear wheel removal procedure you have to get the derailleur and chain to ‘let go’ of the cassette.  If you’re the one doing it (especially if you’re hurrying while out on the open road with the entire club watching)  it’s frustrating to ‘get ‘er done’ without getting a chain-shaped grease mark on your hands.  But it’s fun to watch someone else struggle with it.
  • The front forks have ‘lawyer tabs’.  So even when you’ve loosened up the skewer enough get the wheel off under normal circumstances, the wheel won’t come off until the skewer is unscrewed to epic proportions.  ‘Lawyer tabs’ on bicycles are the main reason that most Americans don’t like attorneys.
  • When you screw up and the little springs fall off the skewer shaft, put them back so that there is one spring on each side of the wheel (duh), and with the small end of the spring facing inside (up against the axle of the wheel).
  • The quick release is tightened appropriately when you need vise grips to release them they engage with the wheel halfway during the cam lever’s travel.
  • And lastly…the cam levers go on the non-chain side of the bike.

We’ll now let ‘Humorless-Marc’ DiVall from demonstrate the whole bike-wheel-removal dance.

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