The great comments on last week’s Basic Clipless Pedals Care story (which are featured in today's Quick Tips), got me thinking of even more tips for pedals this week – especially since not everyone uses clipless pedals. So here are some other things that will come in handy the next time you do any pedal work.
Toe clips come in sizes
If you purchase toe clips for regular pedals, don’t make the common mistake of assuming they are one-size-fits-all. They usually come in at least 2 sizes, often 3. Get the size that places the balls of your feet over the centers of the pedal (the axles).
Trivia: Related to toe clips: something funny about pedals to me is that people say “clip in to their pedals” when talking about clipless pedals. But you don’t clip in, you “click in.” Clipless pedals can’t be clipped into because they are clip-less – no toe clips at all!
Most pedal wrenches are on the large side, which can lead to overtightening when installing pedals. But, the real reason for the extra leverage is to provide sufficient oomph to loosen pedals, not to tighten them too much. In fact, the threading on pedals was designed by the "father of the bicycle,” James Starley, back in the dawn of cycling, to tighten as you pedal – which is why pedals don’t need to be too tight when installed in order to stay tight.
Be sure to always lubricate pedal threads before installation to prevent corrosion and ensure easy on/off. You can use grease or bike lube that’s the consistency of motor oil. The difference is that grease sticks around on the parts longer.
Tip: A dry interface between pedal and crankarm can emit annoying noises – another reason to keep the threads lubed. Even slightly loose pedals can click or clunk, too.
Start pedals by hand
When installing pedals, always start them by hand, and gently. This is important because pedals have steel threads and all quality crankarms have aluminum threads (carbon cranks have aluminum threads, too).
If the pedal gets started crooked (a very common mistake) and gets forced in, it takes hardly any pressure on a wrench to wreck the threads in the crankarm, which is an expensive mistake. Because it usually means having to replace the damaged crankarm.
Safety trick for removing pedals
The hazard when removing pedals is the teeth on the large front chainring. If the pedal wrench were to slip or your hand slipped, you can come down hard on the chainring and get cut badly. As one reader suggested, wearing gloves is a great idea. Another advised using a cheater bar on the wrench to get your hand out of harm’s way. (You can see both those tips in detail, and a few more, in today's Quick Tips I mentioned earlier.)
Another simple solution built into the bike is to always shift onto the large chainring before removing the right pedal. That way you’ll get a grease mark if you slip but you won’t end up in the hospital – as did my best mechanic, Adam, one busy Saturday back in my shop days.
Outsmart that pedal
If a pedal is putting up a fight when you try to remove it, don’t keep fighting it. Stop, step back and look at what you’re doing. You could be turning the pedal the wrong way (again, don't miss today's Quick Tips! for a fun way to remember which way to loosen pedals).
Or, you have placed the wrench on the pedal in such a way that you have no leverage to break it free. Instead, try to place the pedal wrench so that it is close to the crankarm so that you use the crankarm and pedal together to loosen the pedal – sort of a scissors action.
Some crankarms require installing a thin pedal washer between pedals and the arms – usually specified in the instructions. This prevents the often sharp end of the pedal axles from cutting into the crankarm, which can in a worst case cause the arm to break. Here are some nice stainless-steel pedal washers from Wheels Manufacturing.
Tip: Speaking of broken crankarms, it’s best to use care when walking your bike up and over curbs and anything where the end of the crankarm can strike the surface. Too many hard impacts against concrete can lead to a stress fracture of the crankarm right at the pedal hole.
If you have slight ankle clearance problems at the crankarm, you can often solve the issue by installing thin spacer washers between the pedals and crankarms for about a millimeter of clearance. One option is an automobile spark plug washer.
If you need more clearance between the pedals and crankarm or frame (for example, your heels might be canted in and striking the chainstays), 1 mm washers won’t do the trick. Instead, purchase a product like Knee Savers, a dual-threaded spacer that adds 20, 25 or 30 mm between the pedals and crankarms.
An alternative to Knee Savers is going with longer pedal spindles. Some pedal makers offer these, and it’s a cleaner way to widen your stance since it’s still just the pedals threaded into the crankarms.
I'll close with news of an interesting new product. Bicycle Retailer and Industry News recently reported that MKS has come out with a quick release pedal system called Ezy. It has a quick release connector that allows pedal removal with the ease of snap-on/off air compressor fittings. Which means with a couple pairs of Ezy pedals, you could change out in an instant from platform pedals for commuting during the week to clipless for weekend road rides. Plus, quick release pedals make it much easier to pack bicycles for travel.
If you look at folding bicycle companies, such as Brompton, you can find folding pedals, too. These fold flat against the crankarm and out of the way, which is nice when packing a bike small, and requires no tools, just like the QR pedals.
Jim Langley is RBR's Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He's the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his "cycling aficionado" website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim's streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim's full bio.