Quick-release bike wheels and their accompanying skewers are often underappreciated components that can easily be overlooked by cyclists of all levels. However, failing to check their condition periodically can lead to issues like a seized skewer or even pose a road hazard.
This article will explain how to install a quick-release bike wheel and the respective skewer along with some essential tips. You’ll become more familiar with its maintenance, installation, and adjustment at all skill levels.
Where Did The Quick Release Bike Wheel and Skewer Originate From?
Like many innovations, the quick-release bike wheel and skewer system originated from a moment of frustration. The groundbreaking mechanism was invented in 1927 by Tullio Campagnolo, an Italian bicycle racer.
Up until that point, changing gears during a race was a cumbersome process. Traditional setups included only one cog on each side of the rear hub, meaning cyclists had to stop, remove the rear wheel, flip it to engage the opposite cog, and then reinstall the wheel—all while racing against the clock.
Campagnolo found himself in this exact predicament during a race. The weather had turned cold, numbing his hands, which made it nearly impossible for him to operate the wingnuts that secured the wheel.
He had been well-positioned in the race but lost valuable time due to this gear-changing ordeal. This experience led Campagnolo to to create a more efficient and user-friendly system, a quick-release mechanism.
With a quick tightness adjustment and closing motion done by the lever and the nut, the quick-release skewer featured a quicker and easy-to-learn mechanism and eliminated the need for any tools.
This development made Campagnolo brand a leader in developing this component and many other bike components for casual and professional cyclists.
What Are Quick Release Bike Wheels?
Quick-release wheels work in tandem with skewers that require no tools for installation or removal. The skewer’s lever and nut are rotated to secure the wheel in place, making the entire assembly very beginner-friendly.
These components are commonly found on road bikes and entry-level mountain bikes. Identified by their thin axle openings, quick-release wheels are simple to install and adjust manually, making them a go-to choice for cyclists new to the sport.
How To Install A Quick-Release Bike Wheel And Skewer
Installing a quick-release wheel is a breeze. You’ll need just a few items: the wheel, the quick-release skewer, and its springs and nut. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through the process:
Preparation: If you’re installing a front wheel, start by opening the V-brake lever located next to your front brakes.
Alignment: With your bike in an upright position, align the wheel’s hub with the front fork.
Skewer Installation: Slide one spring onto the skewer, making sure the open side of the spring faces the front fork. Insert the skewer to connect the wheel and fork.
Spring and Nut: Once the skewer is in place, attach the second spring and the nut on the other side.
Tension Adjustment: Use your hands to adjust the tension, ensuring the nut and lever gently press against each side of the fork. You should be able to open and close the lever using only your thumb, indicating that the tension is just right.
For a more detailed visual guide, we recommend watching our instructional video after reading this article.
Quick-Release Bike Wheels Installation Video
Are Quick-Release Bike Wheels Safe?
The safety of quick-release bike wheels largely depends on proper tension adjustment. When correctly tensioned, the wheel should rotate smoothly and freely. A misaligned or wobbly wheel can be a significant safety risk.
It’s crucial to check the wheel manually since incorrect tension can lead to performance issues, such as a seized hub or poor alignment between the wheel and the handlebar. If the wheel feels wobbly or you notice lateral friction, it’s likely that the wheel lacks proper tension, which could compromise your braking system.
If the bike wheel is wobbly, and you recognize some lateral friction, you’ll deal with an unaligned bike wheel that lacks the correct tension and can leave you with no front brake pads. Make sure to fix the wheel tension before you hit an obstacle and wipe out your bike.
Ensure that the brake pads are parallel to the rim to avoid inaccurate braking when you ride your bike.
Also worth noting is the vulnerability of quick-release mechanism to theft. Because no specialized tool is needed to remove them, it’s easier for thieves to bypass your bike lock by simply removing the skewer and stealing the bike.
Pros and Cons of Quick-Release Wheels
- Easy to install and adjust.
- Low-maintenance requirements.
- Budget-friendly and common on entry-level bikes.
- Periodic tension checks and a bit of grease can prolong the skewer’s life.
- Less reliable than other wheel types.
- Could soon become obsolete and incompatible with newer hubs.
- Not commonly found on high-end bikes.
Quick-release lever mechanism is great for how easy it is to handle. These bike wheels don’t require frequent maintenance and get installed by hand. It’s the most budget and user-friendly option that most entry-level bikes feature.
If you ever need a refresher, apply a small amount of grease to the through quick-release skewer to avoid harming the hub, and perform a periodic check to ensure the tension and rotation are prevalent. Other than that, this hub is the best bike wheel type you can have that should last for many years.
On the other hand, it’s the less reliable and soon-to-be outdated bike wheel type. If it’s not adjusted well, the pressure can cause damage to the fork and may affect the frame, especially for the carbon frames. One of the Quick-release bike wheel issues is that it’ll lose compatibility with wheel hubs shortly. They’re a stock option not featured in higher-tier bikes.
Despite the drawbacks, the benefits of quick-release wheels often outweigh the negatives. We’ve used them reliably since 2016, encountering only minor issues like missing spring spacers or needing an extra skewer for use with an indoor turbo trainer.
A quick-release bike wheel and skewer is the best way to get acquainted with your bike’s anatomy and mechanics. It’s a very convenient and easy-to-handle wheel type with a set-and-forget approach that only requires servicing it when needed.
To think that, in the beginning, you had to rely on heavy and gigantic tools to troubleshoot simple things like fixing a flat tire, and now you can easily dismantle and service your bike wheel by hand. Bike component manufacturers like Campagnolo and Shimano constantly perform research and development to make it easier to service and replace yours.
If you’re looking to enhance your setup, consider investing in additional bike wheels for indoor trainers or a more secure locking system to avoid bike theft. You can also upgrade the rear wheel, which is the bike wheel with the cassette, to simplify the installation process.
Unlike the front wheel, the rear wheel is the most daunting bike wheel installation since it’s bound to the cassette, chains, and rear hub. Most stock options take some practice to install all these components, and the rear wheel components are fundamental to a fluent installation process.
As a rule, ensure that the rear quick-release skewer connects the lever to the left side of the rear wheel, and the right side should get the nut. The quick-release lever should be set in a horizontal or vertical position so your hand can grab it better when installing or removing it.
We’re confident this blog post will make you more knowledgeable and familiar with the bike parts and functions. In case you missed it, we made this instructional video that provides a walkthrough on installing your quick-release bike wheel and skewer to make you a better cyclist.
The learning curve is less than half an hour, and we encourage you to learn this skill since it transfers to more complex bike tasks that you’ll master faster than you think.
Armando is an avid cyclist who enjoys the freedom of exploring and documenting his experiences on his bike. Whether it’s through photography, videography, or writing, he’s always looking for ways to share his experiences. In his free time, you can find him watching mountain bike videos to reiterate his love for cycling!