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How to Remove Rear Bicycle Wheel (Step-By-Step Guide)

Carlos Glover
September 13, 2022

You can quickly remove the rear bicycle wheel by changing it to the smallest rear cog, then disable the brakes, remove the wheel axle by fully rotating it and lastly tilt the derailleur. These steps are really simple and once you know the process you´ll be able to remove the wheel in under two minutes.

In my journey as a bicycle rider, I've encountered many challenges on the go. Among them were getting a flat tire (more than once) and even getting tire bumps. Therefore, wheel removal was an essential skill that definitely came in handy. It sure did for me.

In today´s article we´ll focus on explaining the process of removing the bicycle´s rear wheel as detailed as possible, so that next time you need it, you can easily sort it out.

Rear Wheel Removal

Contrary to how it seems, you can have your rear wheel out in only a few short and simple steps. Let´s begin.

Tools

In most cases, you won´t need any tools to remove your bike´s rear wheel. However, if you have a bike with a solid axle, you´ll be needing a 15 mm wrench to unscrew it.

Bicycle Wheel

Step 1: Bike Placement

To do this as efficiently as possible, place the bike upside down, so the wheels are on top and the wheel removal goes smoothly.

Step 2: Loosening Your Bike Chain

To avoid the tire getting caught with the chain when taking it out, you´ll have to give your bike some chain slack. To do that you´ll have to set your bike to the smallest rear cog on both the front and rear wheels. The lowest gear or smallest cog has the hardest pedaling mode. You can change gears by pressing a button at the handlebar.

Step 3: Dealing With the Brakes

In order to give the bike wheel some room to move, you´ll also have to loosen your bike´s brake pads. There are a variety of brakes, so we´ll go at it one by one.

Caliper Rim Brakes

Caliper brakes are very common in this day and age, they are located next to the wheel and work by holding the brake pads next to the wheel´s rim. You´ll normally see this brake on mountain bikes.

To loosen this type of brake pads. Look for a quick release lever located at the caliper´s arm (directly next to the wheel). Gently pull the lever upwards to loosen it.

The quick release for caliper rim brakes could also be a tiny button located on the brake lever. To loosen the brakes, slightly pull the lever, push the button and then release.

Open Cantilever Brakes

Open Cantilever brakes work on the same principle as caliper rim brakes, the main difference is how the mechanism operates.

You can loosen cantilever brakes by squeezing the calipers together and disconnecting the brake cable. If the callipers don´t move that easily, try moving the whole brake upwards.

Linear Pulls

Linear pull brakes don´t have a brake cable but a noodle instead. To loosen these brakes you´ll have to squeeze the brake arms together and disengage the noodle.

Disc Brakes

If you have disc brakes, you won´t have to disengage the brake pads. If you have hydraulic disc brakes, be careful with the cable end and never press the brake lever when the brake disc is not in the bike. If you do this, the pads may close, and it´ll be very difficult to reassemble the wheel.

Open Sidepull Brakes

Open sidepull brakes have both brake arms moving simultaneously, as they are both bound to the same piece. To loosen these brakes, simply tighten the arms, and disengage the brake cable.

V Brakes

To loosen V brakes, you also have to tighten the arms together and release the noodle so there´s no more tension applied on the pads.

Blue Bicycle Wheel With Tire

Step 4: Pulling the Bike Wheel Axle Out of the Frame

The wheels are connected to the bike by using an axle. To release the wheel you´ll have to remove the axle. There are two common types of axles.

Thru Axle

There are a couple of ways to remove a thru axle.

For some axles, you´ll have to pull the axle quick release, lift upward and spin the axle in a counter-clockwise direction until you can pull it straight out.

Other systems use a lever to engage a fitting on the axle. To remove these axles, pull the lever and turn in a counter-clockwise direction.

Some other axles have a simple lever. To remove the wheel on bikes with these axles you´ll have to turn to loosen or tighten the axle back into position.

Wheels With Axle Nuts

On bikes with axle nuts, the axle is generally tightened to the frame by using two nuts. To loosen them, you´ll need a 15 mm wrench. Once both nuts are untightened, you can remove the wheel.

Quick Release Axle

Quick release axles are one of the most common axle types in the market. They are particularly popular because when it comes to removing the tire, they are very easy to deal with. Thus, the quick release names precedes their reputation.

To remove this axle, you´ll have to press the quick- release lever on the edge of the axle. If necessary, you can untighten the skewer at the other side of the bike.

Step 5: Remove the Rear Derailleur From the Bike

The last step to removing your rear wheel is to clear the derailleur. To accomplish this, most times you´ll simply have to gently pivot the rear derailleur in a backwards/sideways direction.

Other derailleurs have clutch mechanisms that can make the derailleur removal a bit more complicated.

For SRAM mechanisms, move the lower pulley forward to reach the desired derailleur position and to relax the mechanism. Use the button to lock it in place.

For Shimano Clutch derailleurs, keep an eye out for the on/off switch, simply move the lever to the off position.

After successfully loosening the derailleur, the bike wheel should automatically pop out. Place it gently on the floor to avoid damage.

Recommendations

Removing wheels on most bikes should be fairly simple if you follow these steps. Don´t forget to set your bike to the smallest cog to create more chain slack, to flip every little lever and to loosen the brakes.

If you´re just getting started with your biking career and you can´t identify which type of brakes or derailleur you have, you can consult a variety of videos to give you more guidance or specificity on the topic of wheel removal.

Removing rear wheels is a bit trickier than removing a front bike wheel, make sure to give it space. If it is still tight, don´t force a movement, as it could damage the parts.

Black Beach Cruiser Bicycle Near Green Hedge

Final Thoughts

Removing the rear wheel can be a bit of a challenge, but learning the skill will prove to be of immense worth throughout your biking days. With this skill you´ll be able to fix tire bumps on the go and help friends with their wheel removal.

The first rear wheel you remove will always end up being the toughest, and you´ll have to get a hang of the parts and how to reinstall them. Luckily there´s plenty of guidance out there to help you.

Carlos Glover
About the Author
I took up cycling in high school and haven’t looked back since. My love of cycling eventually evolved into an obsession with bicycles. From road bikes to mountain bikes, I have tried them all – and have the scars to prove it! I love sharing my findings with the rest of the cycling world as unsolicited as they may be.
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