If you have owned a bicycle for a few years at least, you may have dealt with pedals that seemed to have fused to the cranks. But why do pedals get stuck? How can we get them free and prevent them from getting stuck again? If you want the answers to these questions, then you have come to the right article.
Reasons for bike pedals getting stuck
There are a few reasons why your bike pedals can get stuck. All of them always lead to one of two outcomes – corrosion or damaged threads. Let’s take a look at these reasons and hopefully you will become conscious and try to prevent them.
Dirt and mud
When riding through off-road trails on a regular basis, mud and dirt can get into the pedal thread a little bit at a time. Not cleaning the pedals once or twice a year will eventually cause corrosion and leave the pedals stuck tightly to the crank arms.
All products have a lifetime including pedals. No matter the quality of the pedals, rusting will start to occur naturally at some point. After this happens and you try to remove the pedals, you might find them difficult to remove. This problem, just like the previous one, can be avoided with proper care.
Overtightening during assembly
Many people installing pedals for the first time think that they should tighten the pedals as much as possible to prevent them from falling off. However, this is a big mistake. Most manufacturers will mention the amount of maximum torque that should be used to tighten the pedals. Going beyond that can damage the pedal threads and make them very difficult to remove when you need to. Besides, pedals are designed so that the more you pedal, the more the spindles are pushed towards the crank arms.
Not applying protective coatings
A very important step that some amateurs might skip while installing pedals is applying a protective coating on the threads. Most commonly grease is used. It prevents corrosion and provides lubrication making it relatively easy to detach the pedals. A better option is to use an anti-seize compound. This works better in preventing corrosion and stuck pedals.
How to get stuck pedals unstuck
We have seen why pedals can get stuck. Now the question is, how to get them unstuck? There are plenty of things you can try one after the other. We have laid them out serially below.
1. Know the thread directions
First of all, you should be aware of the directions of the left and right threads. The thing with bike pedals is that the left pedal always has a reverse thread. Which means, turning it clockwise will loosen it and turning it anticlockwise will tighten it. This can be a little confusing. You can use this tip to remember which way to turn the pedals: whichever pedal you are working on, turn it the direction opposite to the direction you would pedal to loosen it.
2. Get the proper tools
Next, you need the right tools for the job. If your pedal spindles have external flats on them, you will need a pedal wrench of the appropriate size. Most will require a 15 mm wrench, but some might need a 17 mm one. You can use a normal box wrench in case you don’t have a pedal wrench. Other pedals will have internal flats in the spindle. In this case, you need a 6 or 8 mm hex key. Fortunately, many pedals have both options so you can use either tool.
Other than that, we recommend you have some grease or anti-seize compound at hand along with an adjustable torque wrench. The torque wrench is not mandatory but it can help you get the proper tightness on the threads according to the manufacturer specifications.
3. Fix your bike in place
The next step is to find a way to fix your bike in place so that you can work on it safely. The best option is to use a bike repair stand. But you can also use a bike trainer if you have one. If you don’t have any equipment that can be used to safely secure the bike, you will have to ask a friend to hold it in place for you. Another option is to turn the bike upside down and rest it on its seat and handlebars. However, this is less stable than the other options.
4. Take up a safe and advantageous position
Once you have gathered everything and set up the bike, you are ready to start turning the pedals. If your pedals are stuck and you need to apply a large force, it is important to be wary of the chainrings which have sharp teeth that can cut you. Put the chain on the largest chainring for safety. Then turn the pedals to the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions so that you can push with one hand and pull with the other. Be careful to not overexert yourself. You don’t want to damage the pedals or hurt yourself if it comes loose suddenly.
5. Use more leverage
If one or both of the pedals don’t budge, then you could try increasing the leverage. Use a pipe to slot over the wrench and effectively lengthen it. This provides a better mechanical advantage and you might be able to start turning the pedals. But even this might not be enough sometimes.
6. Apply penetrating oil
In which case, you should apply some penetrating oil on and around the thread. You have to let it rest for a minimum of 10 minutes unless otherwise stated by the oil manufacturer. Some riders like to leave it on overnight. The oil should get inside the thread and lubricate it and consequently, loosen the pedal.
7. Use a hammer
When even that does not work, you’ll have to turn to using a hammer. Place the wrench with the pipe in the same place and tap at the end of the pipe a few times. This can help loosen the pedals from the crank arm enough so that you can turn the wrench.
8. Look for professional help
If for some reason, you are unsuccessful after trying out everything mentioned above, then you have one final option – seeking professional help. At this point, it’s better to take your bike to the nearest bike shop or a bike mechanic since there might be some serious issues that only a trained professional can fix. You could have just done this right from the start, but we know that many bike owners like to work on their bikes themselves.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. How do you prevent bike pedals from getting stuck?
Ans.: There are some preventative measures that you can take to ensure that your pedals never get stuck. Two of these steps should be taken during the initial installation of the pedals. The first is to apply grease or an anti-seize compound on the threads. The second is to be careful not to over tighten the pedals. Once you have properly attached the pedals, you can ride with them. Finally, you have to carry out some maintenance by applying a fresh coat of grease from time to time. This will make your pedals last for decades without getting stuck.
Q2. How often do you have to carry out maintenance?
Ans.: In general, pedals are a relatively durable component of your bike. Hence, maintenance does not need to be frequent at all. In fact, you can probably get away with carrying out maintenance just once or twice every year. Even then, all you have to do is remove the pedals, clean them, and apply a fresh coat of grease before reattaching them.
Q3. What other bike parts are at risk of getting stuck?
Ans.: Any component of the bike that can be removed will get stuck without proper care. These include parts such as the cranks, freehub, and even the seat post, among others. To prevent any of these parts getting stuck, the advice is the same – do not overtighten and apply grease or any other suitable lubrication during installation.
Q4. Why do left pedals have a reverse thread?
Ans.: The left pedal of all bikes has a reverse thread to ensure that it does not loosen accidentally. If the left-side pedal had a thread in the normal direction, the pedal would eventually come loose and fall off as you keep cycling continuously. This can lead to accidents that can be easily avoided.
Stuck bike pedals can be very annoying and it can happen to anyone. However, if you take proper care of your pedals the chances of them getting stuck are very low. And even if they do, now you know exactly what to do to get them free in a safe and effective manner.