How to Remove the Front Wheel of a Bike

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By Robbie Ferri, Personal Trainer & Group Exercise Instructor.

When it comes to cycling, there’s a lot to learn. Bikes are complex machines, and as technology grows and improves, they are not getting easier. When you buy a bike, you typically don’t get a guide on repairing punctures, adjusting disc brakes, or even removing wheels. One question as a cycling expert I am often asked is how to remove a front wheel. Although this sounds like a simple task, unfortunately, depending on the bike, it can be quite challenging if you are unsure of what you’re doing. 

There are many different types of front wheel attachments and also many other things to consider, such as braking systems. In this article, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about how to remove a front wheel and the best practices when doing it. By the end of this, you will know the different ways front wheels are mounted, the braking systems, and how to complete the task properly.

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How to Remove the Front Wheel of a Bike Video

Why might you need to remove a Front Wheel?

There are many reasons why you might find yourself removing a front wheel. It’s a job that, as a bike owner, you will find yourself often removing your wheels from your bike. Here are some of the reasons why;

  • To fix a puncture
  • To change a tire
  • To swap wheelsets
  • To work on your brakes
  • To fit the bike in the back of your car
front wheel of a bike

Different Types of Front Wheel Mounting 

When it comes to front wheels, there are various ways they are mounted onto a bike. Depending on the way it is mounted will depend on how to take the wheel off and also the tools you need. In this next section, we will tell you about the main mounting systems and the tools you will require to remove the wheel.

Bolt-On Front Wheel

Bolt-On Front Wheel

The bolt-on system, decades ago, was what every bike had. It featured an axle with a bearing set that went through the center, and then on each side had a locknut which, when tightened, held the wheel in place. You will see this type of mounting on classic bikes and fixed-gear bikes.

Tools Required: 15mm Spanner

Quick Release Skewer

Quick Release Skewer

The quick-release skewer has been the most popular mounting system in the past decade. It’s really simple and requires no tools. What you have is a small handle you can tighten up until it is fairly loose, then flip it over, and it locks into place, keeping the wheel secure. 

Tools Required: None

Security Skewers

Security Skewers

Security skewers are very similar to quick-release skewers, but instead of having a small handle, you have an Allen key or specialist tool fitment. They are great if you park or bike in places where you might find theft and want to ensure the security of your wheels.

Tools Required: Allen Keys or Specialist Tool

Thru Axles

Thru Axles

Thru axles are what high-end modern bikes use. They work very similarly to quick release and security skewers, but instead of having a small axle, they have a very large axle that screws into the frame. They are very strong and ensure the wheels sit in place perfectly each time.

Tools Required: Allen Keys or None

Different types of Braking Systems

Another thing to take into consideration when removing a wheel is the brakes. Some brakes require it to be released for the wheel to come out freely and return into the bike freely with the tire pumped up. You will see two main types of brakes: rim brakes and disc brakes.

Rim Brakes

remove a Wheel with a Bolt on Axle

Rim brakes, typically when removing a wheel and inserting a wheel, will need the brakes putting to one side so the wheel can free fit between the pads. This isn’t difficult to do, but it is very challenging if you are unsure how to do it.

Disc Brakes

Disc Brakes of wheels

Disc brakes are much more modern brakes and are used on most types of bikes now. When removing a wheel, you need to ensure the levers are not pulled on hydraulic brakes, or you might need to reset the pistons, and you must ensure the wheel goes back to the same place it was before. 

How to remove the Front Wheel of the Bike

Now to answer the question, you have all been waiting for how to remove the wheel on your bike. To best explain, we will break it down into processes. One for a bolt-on wheel, a quick-release and security skewer, and finally, one for a thru-axle.

How to remove a Wheel with a Bolt on Axle

Wheel with a Bolt on Axle

Step one: Preparation

The first thing you want to do is either flip the bike or get it into a stand. Then you are going to want to get a 15mm wrench or spanner and any spares you might need, such as an inner tube.

Step Two: Unhook the Brakes

Now the bike is in a safe place to work. You are going to need to release the brakes. Typically on a bike with bolt-on wheels, you will have rim brakes. You will rarely see disc brakes. You are going to need to unhook the noodle above the wheel, and the brakes will fall to either side. 

Step Three: Loosen the Bolt

Now it’s time to loosen off the bolt. If the bike has been flipped upside down, it doesn’t require support. If the bike is in a stand, then you will want to support the wheel from falling. Turning the bolt to the left will loosen, and to the right will tighten. We recommend loosening each side lightly, then when loosened enough to do with your finger, continue with one side until the wheel is loose enough to leave the forks.

loosen off the bolt with a Wrench

Step Four: Returning the wheel

When returning the wheel back onto the bike, you are going to need to ensure the bolts are done up tight, and also, don’t forget to rehook the brake properly after.

How to remove a Wheel with a Quick Release and Security Skewer

remove a Wheel with a Quick Release and Security Skewer

Step one: Preparation

As we did with the bolt-on wheel, you are going to need to prepare the area. Make sure it’s a safe space, and either pop the bike in the stand or flip it on the floor. Ensure you have the Allen key or security tool too. 

Step Two: Unhook the Brakes

The next step is to undo your brakes. You get both rim and disc brakes on a bike with quick-release skewers. If you have rim brakes, you will need to remove the noodle or push the brake release dial. If it’s a disc wheel, you can continue without doing anything. 

Step Three: Remove the Wheel

If you are using security skewers, then you will first need to take the Allen key or skewer tool and turn it to the left to release the wheel. It will take a few turns, but eventually, the wheel will fall from the forks. Ensure when unscrewing, both these skewers do not go too far, or they will fall apart, and it’s possible to lose the internal springs.

remove a Wheel with a Quick Release and Security Skewer

If you have hydraulic disc brakes, you will want to make sure you don’t pull the front brake, as this will adjust your pistons and cause brake rub when returning the wheel.

Step Four: Returning the wheel

When returning the wheel, you need to reverse the process. You need to consider if you’re using rim brakes to reverse the brake release dial. If you have disc brakes, you must ensure that the brake disc does not rub against the caliper. If it does, release the wheel and put it back in again.

How to remove a Wheel with a Thru Axle

remove a Wheel with a Thru Axle

Step one: Preparation

You first need to prepare the area and create a safe place to work your bike, either in a stand or flipped upside down. You will need an Allen key if you thru axles requires it.

Step Two: Release the Brakes

Typically most bikes with a thru-axle have disc brakes. So you don’t need to worry about releasing the brakes. If you do have rim brakes, you will want to turn the release dial to free the brakes. 

Step Three: Release the Wheel

Removing a through axle will either be an Allen key fitment or a handle. What’s special about thru-axles is they bolt into the forks. When unscrewing these, you are going to want to turn it to the left, and when it leaves the thread of the bolt, you will want to hold the wheel and completely remove the thru-axle from one side.

loosen off the bolt with a skewer tool

Step Four: Returning the wheel

When you have done everything you need to with the wheel, you will need to return it. With a thru-axle, you want to place it back into the bike and thread the axle back through. Make sure not to have it too loose or too tight. Typical bikes with thru-axles tighten up from 10-12nm to ensure it is there or where recommended.

FAQs

How tight do my wheels need to be?

When putting the wheel back in and tightening it up, many people ask how tight should it be. No matter what system you’re using, you’re going to want it to be tight enough that it won’t come loose but also not too tight that it is impossible to undo when you next need to remove the wheel, or you will start to strip the threads.

What if my brakes are rubbing when I return the wheel?

Many cyclists find when they are changing their wheels, after they are done, the brakes rub. This is common on discs and rim brakes. The first thing you are going to want to do is to pull the brakes to make sure they are central. 

If they continue to rub, you will want to remove the wheel and reinsert it, ensuring it’s in properly. If this doesn’t solve the issue, you might need to adjust your brakes or reset the pistons if you are using hydraulic disc brakes.

What if my wheel still feels loose even though I have tightened it up?

It’s really common when your wheel bearings are very worn for your bike wheel to feel loose even though the skewer is fully tightened. You will need to either service your hub or go to your local bike shop for them to do it. The longer you leave it like this, the worse it will get until the wheel isn’t repairable.

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Robbie Ferri

A Personal Trainer and Ultra Cyclist living in King's Lynn in Norfolk, UK. From Ultra Cycling World Records to Bikepacking Races and a huge amount of time on the gym floor training myself and clients my experience when it comes to Health and Fitness is vast.

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