Guide to maintain, service and fit pedals
Pedals have a thankless job; they get stepped on, rained on, dragged through mud and smashed against rocks. One could be forgiven for not looking after them, and buying cheap replacement after replacement. However, investing in a quality pair of pedals can dramatically enhance your cycling experience. Take care of your pedals, and they’ll last a long time too. This article presents some instillation and maintenance techniques that will help extend the life of your pedals.
Bike pedal axles thread into the crank arms of the bicycle. To remove them you will either need a pedal spanner or hex key. The right (drive side) pedal will loosen anti-clock wise, while the left pedal will loosen clock-wise. They are threaded this way so any cycling tends to wind them on tighter, instead of dropping off mid ride! This does mean that if they’ve been ridden for some time they may be hard to remove. There is a few techniques to remove a seized pedal; you can try using both a spanner and hex key at the same time. You can use penetrating oil in the thread to loosen up the bind. As a last resort heating the crank arm will expand the metal however this is not recommended for non- mechanical types.
It’s good practice to get your pedals clean before servicing as it reduces the chance of introducing dirt into the pedal body. Give the pedals a good rub down with degreaser. Alternatively, wash with hot soapy water and ensure you take the time to dry thourougly before servicing.
Greasing the bearings
At this stage it’s worth knowing if you are able to actually re-grease your pedals; Many cheap standard flat pedals are not serviceable. They are designed with sealed inaccessible bearings, the whole pedal is to be simply thrown out and replaced when worn.
More expensive platform and clipless pedals are serviceable. You may find a grease port on some designs, where you can top off grease with a grease gun. Other models require the axle to be removed from the pedal body, grease applied and then tightened up again. Many manufacturers offer rebuild kits with new bearings, seals, hardware and instructions. Depending on conditions, you should re-grease every few thousand miles.
Now it is time to reinstall the pedal. If the bike pedals are single sided you can tell which is the left and right pedal. Modern pedals are usually marked ‘R’ and ‘L’. Older French or Italian pedals may be marked ‘D’ and ‘G’ or ‘D’ and ‘S’.
Before threading the pedals on it’s recommended to clean the pedal thread and the thread in the crank arms with a bit of degreaser. You can then lightly grease both sets of threads which will help the next time you remove them for servicing. To install, you’ll need a pedal spanner or hex key. The material of the pedal axle is usually harder than the materials of the crank so take care as it’s easy to damage the soft thread of the crank.
In wet conditions, the cleats retention mechanisms on clipless pedals can become clogged with mud and grime. Some pedals are designed to minimize clogging with ‘wide cages’ yet no pedal will ever escape all bad weather. Wearing shoe covers can help block mud. However, the best tip is to spray your cleats and pedals with a thin lubricant such as WD40 which will fling off while cycling, taking any grime with it. Adding too much or thicker oil will just attract excess crud to the area. Some say kitchen cooking spray is surprisingly the best for blocking mud and crud. We will leave that up to you. Either way, make sure you spray into the spring mechanism too.
Cleat replacement for clipless pedals.
The most important maintenance with most clipless pedal systems is not actually the pedal but the cleats on your shoes. These are very prone to wear with the inevitable walking that you do. Worn cleats in turn wear out your pedals faster, making it double as bad to not replace them. You can buy ‘cleat covers’ to wear over your cleats and protect them from excessive wear which can help extend life.
On racing shoes, where the cleats protrude from the sole, expect to replace cleats at least once a season. If you use touring, or MTB, shoes, which have the cleat recessed into the sole, your cleats will last much longer, with some people claiming years of service!
Whatever cleat, the first sign wear is when it becomes difficult to either click your shoe in or out of the pedal. You should consider a new set when this happens. Also, replace your cleat if the front edge of it becomes thinner than about 1mm. Don’t forget, use anti-seize grease on the mounting bolt threads when fitting new cleats – it’ll be much easier to remove them later!