Introduction: How to Replace Your Bike Wheels Wth Simple Tools

Replacing wheels on your bicycle is an easy task that you can accomplish in the comfort of your home. In this instructable we look at a speed bike that goes by the name of GMC Denali (no seriously that's what it's called). But, remember that these steps can be modified to work for any kind of bicycle in general.

NOTE: Although all steps apply for both wheels, the rear wheels require a little more work. We therefore recommend starting with the front wheel.


For this procedure, any brand of the tools works. You will need:

a. An adjustable wrench

b. A pair of gloves/towel

c. Cassette tool

d. Chain whip

Also, depending on the type of bicycle you have you may also require:

a. An allen key (if applicable, you'll have to see which size fits)

b. A screwdriver.

Step 1: Preparing the Bike

Before you start, make sure the bicycle chain is on the sprocket (gear) that is farthest from the wheel; this is also usually the highest gear on the bicycle. Remember that simply turning your shifter on the handle bar isn't enough, and that you'll need to turn the pedals in order to complete the gearshift. This step makes some later steps easier to accomplish, as we will see. At the end, make sure your rear cassette - which is the bunch of gears on your rear wheel - looks as it does in the picture.

Now, turn the bike upside down, so that it now rests on it's handlebars and seat. Do this carefully; my first time I ended up with bicycle grease on my pants. Don't worry, your bicycle is quite stable and will stay in that position.

Although this step isn't necessary, it is highly recommended. Turning the bike upside down, or even placing on a bike stand makes the process much easier to complete.

Step 2: Dismantling the Brakes

The braking mechanism is located right above either wheel, closer to the frame of the bicycle.

NOTE: Observe carefully the way that the brake mechanism is arranged; that way when you reinstall the wheel back onto the frame, you will know how to set the brake mechanism. You might even want to take a picture of it.

First - locate the anchor bolt. This should be the bolt that connects your brake chord (that thin wire) to the braking mechanism. Gently unscrew the anchor bolt with the wrench, thus freeing the brake chord.

Note that even though your bicycle's brake mechanism may not look the same, the underlying principle is the same: unscrew the bolt that connects the brake chord to the mechanism. Some bikes have a small lever in the place of the bolt, in which case you simply flip the lever and disengage the brakes.

Step 3: Unscrew the Wheels

Front Wheel

Unscrew the wheel nuts (those that connect the frame to the wheel), and you’ve free’d the front wheel!

Rear Wheel

For the rear wheel, however, it’s a little more complicated.

PRO TIP: Gloves are highly recommended here.

Once you've unscrewed the rear wheel nuts, you need to separate the chain from the wheel. To do so, hold the derailleur and turn it clockwise while facing the rear cassette, and you should see the chain loosen up. Now move the chain away from the wheel, then carefully remove the wheel from its socket.

Step 4: Replacing the Rear Cassette

Removing the cassette

PRO TIP: Gloves are highly recommended.

For this step, I used a gear whip and a cassette tool, but you could use a lock ring tool instead of the cassette tool too. Place the wheel on a flat surface with the gear cassette facing you. Now, place the cassette tool into the lock ring. The lock ring (refer to image) is a ring like part at the top of all of the gears. It helps keep your gears in place.

Next, wrap the chain whip around any one of the gears. That is literally as easy as placing the chain in the teeth of the gear. I found it easier to wrap it around the largest gear; it makes it more convenient too. Now, hold the cassette tool in place with the help of a wrench in one hand, and hold the chain whip using the other. While keeping the chain whip stationary, rotate the wrench (and the cassette tool) counter clockwise. Now, you might hear a horrible sound as the gears grind against each other, but that is normal (if you don't hear a sound, that's normal too). Continue this movement until the lock ring comes off. Once the lock ring is removed, remove each of the gears separately or together.

Adding the cassette to the new wheel

Now place you new wheel on a flat surface. Put the gears back in the correct order (largest first), one by one. then, simply screw the lock ring back in place, as you would turn a bottle cap when closing a bottle. Once you think it's tight, place the cassette tool back in, wrap the chain whip around a gear, and keeping the chain whip stationary, use a wrench to turn the cassette tool clockwise. This further tightens the lock ring, sealing your gears into place!

Step 5: Begin Reassembly!

Once your rear wheel is replaced, it's time to put your bike back together. The front wheel can be bolted on just as easily as it was removed; simply screw the wheel nuts back in on either side. Connecting the brake mechanisms is also simply a reversal of step 3.

TIP: Before reinstalling the rear wheel, make sure the gear cassette is on the same side as the chain. The first time I replaced my wheel, I actually put the wheel on the other way.

For the rear wheel, you need to connect the chain to the wheel before you screw the wheel nuts in. Place the wheel close to the sockets you removed it from, and place the chain on the smallest sprocket (as in step 1). If your bike was initially in some other gear, make sure you place the chain on the appropriate sprocket. Once this has been done, you can then bolt the wheel nuts and re-engage the rear brakes.

About the brakes... when I finished reassembling my bicycle, I decided to
take it out for a ride, and it wasn't until the first stop sign that I realized the brakes weren't very effective. This happened because I was so focused on fitting the brake chord, that they forget the other components of the mechanism (that image from from step 2 will help here). Make sure that before you tighten the anchor bolt, the brake pads are a little closer to the wheel than they usually are. If this isn't done, the brake pads will be further from the wheel and you won't be able to bring the wheels to a stop.

Step 6: Testing!

Finally, it's always good to check your brakes before you introduce your new wheels to the world. Make sure all the bolts are tightly screwed and the chain is in the the appropriate gear.

And also, don't forget to enjoy the ride!