Last week we went back to basics for both new bike owners and maintenance-shy ones, and took a look at removing and replacing the front wheel. This week it’s the turn of the rear. (Anyone chuckling at the back can clear off right now and go and do something useful with their spannering supremacy like helping out on the Maintenance section of the forum.)If you haven’t come across the maintenance features before, in past articles we’ve covered most maintenance and mechanical issues that can be easily sorted in the home workshop. All the previous features are linked from the bottom of this one.
Back wheel action.
Sod’s law dictates that most punctures occur in the more complex to remove back wheel, normally just after you’ve ridden through a big load of mud or worse. Chains, sprockets, gears and brakes all conspire to make this a real fight if you don’t know what you’re doing. But fret no more, read this and it suddenly won’t seem so bad.
If you’ve got V’s the first step is to loosen the brakes so that the tyre can actually move past them. Don’t be tempted to force it as you’ll push the brake blocks out of alignment. To undo the brake noodle (curved pipe) or straddle cable you have to have enough slack. First move the little rubber worm cover off the end of the noodle. Then – using one hand – push the brakes together as hard onto the wheel as you can. Now pull the noodle back (to the left if you’re looking from the front of the bike) in it’s little cradle and the end should pop out of the slot. The brakes will now fall open to let the wheel through.
Whipping it out
We talked about quick release levers last week so we won’t repeat it here. Instead flip your bike upside down (unless you have a workstand) and shift into the smallest cog at the back to get ready to whip out the wheel.
Undo the quick release lever and then pull the rear derailleur body back to let the sprockets lift clear.
Grab the wheel (check for dog muck first!) and lift it up and forwards out of the frame dropouts. You’ll have to waggle the sprockets past the chain and skewer but shifting into the smallest cog first makes this easier, and hopefully you won’t get too oily.
Always check which way your dropouts (the notch that hole the wheel in the frame) face before wrestling with the wheel. Most dropouts face down or slightly forwards but some (Klein, singlespeeds and others) have a dropout that faces backwards. For these, again change into the smallest sprocket to give yourself more chain waggling slack. As soon as the wheel is clear of the dropout pull it downwards and then forwards around the to unhook the chain. At first this is a real fight but you’ll soon get the hang of the best way to do it.
Congratulations, you have now liberated your rear wheel from your bike.Putting it back again
It wouldn’t be a vast exaggeration to say that refitting the wheel is roughly a simple reversal of the above moves, but there are several things to watch out for to make it easier.
For a start, if you didn’t shift your rear gear into the smallest cog position (yes, we know the wheel isn’t there anymore) then do it now as it means the gears get in the way less.
Again, pull the gear mechanism back so that you have a clear shot at fitting the axle into the dropout. Make sure that you fit the sprockets between the top and bottom parts of the chain though, or you won’t be going anywhere.
If you’ve got disc brakes, aligning the rotor with the caliper can be a real fight as clearances are minimal. Be careful not to rest the rotor on the pads as this will often push them together, if you can sight the rotor and slot from above or behind then you can see if something sticks and waggle it accordingly. Stay calm and collected and it will slide into the dropouts eventually.
Do the rear skewer up loosely then turn the bike upside down (or drop it out of the workstand) and open and shut the skewer to make sure the wheel is fully engaged and centred in the frame.
Note 1: Make sure the frame isn’t getting in the way of properly closing the Quick Release (or QR) or in danger of getting knocked open by accident. Shutting it so it points backwards or tucks into the angle between seat stay and chainstay is generally the safest way.
Note 2: Most skewers are made curved, with a logo on the outside. The lever will curve back towards the bike when it’s in the shut position.
Note 3: Make sure you fix the brake back into position before riding – you might laugh but we’ve all done it and it’s not funny when it happens.
Fixing a puncture (should be plenty of scope for photographing that at the Red Bull!).