Cycling technology has come a long way in recent years. We have seen gravel bikes take over, and a lot of cool tech trickle down from mountain biking. There’s much more to think about now when buying a bike compared to what we used to have a decade ago.
We often get asked at Bike Test Reviews by our amazing readers: “Should I have a quick release or a thru axle?”.
In this article, we are going to be telling you about them both and also recommend which is the best way forward. We are going to be discussing:
- What Is A Quick Release?
- What Is A Thru Axle?
- Comparing Quick Releases And Thru Axles
- Which Is Better, Quick Release Or Thru Axle?
What Is A Quick Release?
A quick release skewer, also known as a QR skewer, is what sits on the inside of your wheel and holds it tight onto the frame. They are seen on all types of bikes, from road, mountain, gravel, and even many hybrid and commuter bikes.
They are small axles with two springs, generally with a stop at one end and a handle at the other. To undo a quick release skewer, all you need to do is release the handle and unscrew the stop a few turns, and the wheel will then be loose enough to take out.
They are an excellent component on the bike because they make it incredibly easy to take your wheel off, typically without using any tools. They are strong, lightweight, cheap, and universal to a wide variety of different bikes.
For many years, quick release skewers were the most popular component to hold a wheel on. In the past decade, they have become less popular but are still seen on many types of bikes, from budget bikes to city commuters and many road and mountain bikes.
What Is A Thru Axle?
A thru axle is a part of the bike that sits on the inside of your wheel and, just like the quick release, holds your wheel in place. When they were first released, they were only seen on mountain bikes, but in recent years, they have come on road and gravel bikes too.
They are a small hollow shaft that goes through the hole in one side of the fork, then continues through the bike’s wheel, and finally into a screw thread fitment on the other side of the fork.
When tightened, it holds the wheel in place and makes removing the wheel very straightforward.
The beauty of a thru axle is that it puts the wheel in the perfect place every time, and it’s much easier to get the correct tightness to hold the wheel in place. Thru axles generally require Allen keys to use, and they have various pitch threads and lengths depending on the bike they are on.
Thru axles are the latest technology when it comes to holding a wheel onto the bike. They are getting increasingly popular and for many bike companies, replacing the quick release skewer.
Comparing Quick Releases And Thru Axles
Like many cyclists, you could be looking into buying a new bike and have the choice between a quick release or a thru axle bike. Here are the noticeable differences you will find in the real world.
How They Work
The first thing to mention is how they work. Quick release skewers generally require no tools, and you can literally remove them in 5 to 10 seconds by releasing the handle and unscrewing. You can even leave the skewer in the wheel for safe keeping ready for when you bring it all back together.
Thru axles generally require Allen keys to undo. Once undone, you can slide the through axle out of the system, and the wheel will drop out.
The axle comes separate from the wheel, and you place it somewhere safe before reinserting it when you have completed the work on your wheel.
Wheel placement can be challenging using a quick release skewer as they don’t always go back in exactly how they left. If you have disc brakes or tight-rim brakes, then you might find when putting the wheel back in, you get brake rub.
This can not only be annoying, but it means you have to loosen the skewer off and put the wheel in again. When it comes to thru axles, the wheel goes in the exact same place each time.
This means providing the thru axle is tight, the wheel will be in the perfect place each time, eliminating brake rub issues on wheel changes and making it easier. A very big benefit to thru axles.
When it comes to performance, in recent years, I have found that thru axles are much better. There’s much less movement when applying heavy load to the handlebars or on the pedals. It eliminates the flexibility that we often see with quick release wheels.
Quick release skewers are very interchangeable with other bikes, provided they also use the same size quick release skewers. It means you have many customization options, and if you have any issues, they are readily available to buy at a local bike shop or online.
Thru axles often are not interchangeable. Although the length and width might be the same, the pitch thread on the screw end often changes between brands.
Use the wrong thru axle, and you will need a new fork. Certain thru axles can be challenging to replace if you break one.
If you’re buying a bike and plan to make some upgrades in the future, such as wheels, then you will want to be on thru axles over quick release. Many bike brands in the past few years have stopped making quick release wheels and products.
This is due to bike manufacturers transitioning over to thru axles. In the future, you might struggle to find modern quick release wheel options on the market, leaving you having to buy second-hand or use kit you might not like.
Which Is Better, Quick Release Or Thru Axle?
When it comes down to it, thru axles are the better system to be using, and that’s why so many companies are switching over to them. It’s a stronger wheel mounting system, which not only puts the wheel back in the perfect place each time but it also reduces the flexibility when riding.
A Final Note
Both quick-release and thru axles are great systems. If you are left with the choice of either, you might find more benefits from going thru-axle as they do offer a lot that quick release can’t.
It might be a bigger investment, but it does future-proof your bike for upgrades and will give a better experience.
Robbie Ferri has spent years working in a bike shop, has worked with industry leading brands on product creation, has been a semi pro athlete, and is a fully qualified strength and conditioning coach. He has broken World Records, bikepacked all over the World and raced ultra distance at a top-level.