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Pedals and how to look after them

Clipless pedals are the standard for almost all speed-orientated bikes. They‘re also commonly known as SPD pedals, after the original Shimano version. (SPD stands for Shimano Pedalling Dynamics.) There are many versions available from different manufacturers. There isn‘t a standard-shaped cleat, so only use the cleats made by your pedal manufacturer – you can sometimes make others clip in, but you might not be able to clip out in a hurry.

Treat the threads of the pedals with grease or antiseize before fitting them. This treatment helps you to remove them and stops the cranks creaking as you pedal. Screw the pedals on firmly, or they will work loose and strip the threads, an expensive mistake to rectify. The thread that fixes the left-hand pedal is reversed, which means it screws on anticlockwise, and removes clockwise. This also means that the left-hand and righthand pedals are not interchangeable.

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This standard helps prevent the pedals from working loose and was originally adopted for fixed-wheel racing bicycles. Still in use today for track racing, these bikes have no ratcheting mechanism in the back wheel, so you can‘t freewheel. You brake by slowing down the pedalling. The reverse thread was vital. If the pedal bearings seized, the pedal, still being driven by the back wheel, would unwind from the cranks instead of snapping your ankle.

Pedals usually need more attention in the winter; seals are fine for summer but dirt works in as soon as it gets cold and muddy. Check by spinning the pedals on the axles. They should spin around at least twice with a good start. If not, it‘s time for a bearing service. Somehow, people neglect pedal bearings. We often come across otherwise well-cared-for bicycles with a pedal that almost needs a wrench to turn it. You might as well ride with the brakes dragging on the rim. Often, one pedal continually needs more attention than the other. This is the side you fall off most, the side that gets stuck in the ground and picks up muck. Most mud falls off, but the rest is dragged in past the seals. Mud is not a good lubricant. We usually do both pedals in the same session, rather than just the sticky one. Once you have the tools out, doing both sides doesn‘t take much more effort than doing one.

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Jet-washing destroys pedals faster than anything other than crashing. This is partly because people usually jet-wash from the side – the perfect angle to drive water and mud past seals that weren‘t designed to withstand pressure – and partly because the bindings accumulate mud so the pedals get extra spraying. Pedals also suffer more than most other bearings. They get pushed as hard and are turned as often as bottom brackets, but in comparison their bearings are tiny and close together.

“Jet-washing destroys pedals faster than anything other than crashing”

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Tools for component upgrades

  • Allen keys – 4mm, 5mm and 6mm
  • Degreaser to clean interfaces and bolts
  • Grease
  • Chopstick to remove grips
  • Grip glue or hairspray
  • Cloth or paper towel for cleaning

Tools to cut bars down

  • Hacksaw
  • Tape measure
  • File to clean off cut ends

Pedal tools : to remove and refit pedals

  • Almost universally: long 15mm spanner
  • Older Time pedals: long 6mm Allen key
  • Grease (or antiseize for titanium axles) – otherwise your pedals will creak, and will seize into your cranks

Pedal tools : Time Alium pedals

  • 6mm Allen key
  • 10mm socket wrench
  • New cartridge bearing – order this from your bike shop
  • Degreaser to clean axle
  • Grease

Pedal tools: Shimano PD-M747 pedals

  • 15mm pedal spanner
  • Shimano plastic pedal tool
  • Shimano bearing adjustment tool or 7mm spanner and narrow 10mm spanner
  • 24 2.5mm (3/32 inch) bearings
  • Degreaser to clean bearing surfaces
  • Good-quality bicycle grease

See also bike maintenance tips, tricks and techniques “Bar ends and grips”