• LOCAL
  • HOMEGROWN
  • EMPLOYEE-OWNED
  • GETTING MORE PEOPLE ON BIKES
  • SINCE 1922

QUICK RELEASES 101

BE SAFE:  Use quick releases correctly on your bike's wheels

Quick releases make it easy to remove bicycle wheels without tools.  They're a great feature when you're removing wheels to put a bicycle in a vehicle or if you need to repair a flat tire. You need to understand and use your wheel quick releases properly, because incorrect use is dangerous since they hold the wheels in place.  The most common mistake is simply turning the lever like a nut until the wheel seems tight. Used this way, the lever and wheel can loosen as you ride leading to catastrophe. The wheel can actually come loose and even fall off in a worst case.

Inspecting your bike's quick releases

There are three ways to tell if the quick-release lever is securely holding your wheel in place on your bike:

  • Most levers have the words "open" and "closed" stamped on them.
  • Levers are usually curved. When the bend of the lever's curve protrudes outward like a bump, the lever is closed. When the bend is cupped, the lever is open. Closing and opening the lever requires flipping it 180 degrees, not spinning it.
  • If a quick-release lever is not flush with the frame, it is not fully closed. It may seem to be holding the wheel(s), however, it is possible for it to come loose. Be sure to close the quick release fully if you see this to ensure your safety.

Read the lever to tell if it's safe. If it reads "open," the wheel can come off! Even if the lever reads "closed" and looks right, test how tight it is by trying to open it. If it resists, it's tight and safe. If it opens with only a little effort, it's not tight enough. Follow our directions below to tighten it.

Adjusting and closing quick releases

If the quick release doesn't feel tight, the wheel is still loose or you need to adjust the quick release's tension:

  1. Open the quick-release lever. Hold both ends (one on each side) and turn one clockwise until, when you close the lever 180 degrees, you feel some resistance. At this point, try to close the lever fully.

  2. The quick-release tension is correct when you can fully close the lever only with some effort. A good way to do this is by pressing it closed with your palm. This lets you put your fingers behind the frame to help squeeze the lever closed (the lever should be tight enough to leave its impression in the palm of your hand). If you can only close the lever partway, open it, unscrew the adjustment slightly, and try again.

  3. Once you have the quick-release tension right, make sure the wheel is fully inserted and centered in the fork (or frame), close the quick release and you're ready to ride. The quick-release tension won't change on its own.

Removing and installing your wheel

Most forks have wheel-retention tabs, which are small protrusions that keep a loose wheel from falling out of the dropouts in the event your wheel loosens. In order to remove and install the wheel, the quick release must be open and adjusted by unscrewing the end(s) to clear these tabs. To do this, hold both ends of the quick release and turn one counterclockwise to unscrew it until there's enough clearance for the wheel to drop out of or fit into the fork. Note that this adjustment is unnecessary on most rear wheels because rear-retention tabs aren't used.

Tips for quick releases

  • The quick-release levers should be on the left side of the bike.
  • Quick releases must be fully closed to ensure safety.
  • If you close the lever in such a way that it aligns with the fork and stays, you'll have something to grip while squeezing the lever. It'll also keep the lever tucked away where it can't snag anything.
  • If you ever unscrew the quick release until it comes apart fully, don't panic! Just try not to lose the little springs. They're not crucial and the quick release will work without them. They're only there to provide spring pressure to maintain some clearance between the ends of the quick release and the axle locknuts to make it easier to slide the wheel into the frame. To reinstall the springs, make sure that the narrow ends point inward.

Basic maintenance for quick releases

  • About once a month, lube your quick-release levers to maintain consistent tension and operation.
  • Aluminum quick-release levers usually press against bushings as you close the lever. Lightly lube where the lever contacts the bushing, to keep the quick release operating properly.
  • Steel levers usually pivot inside the cap. Apply lube to trickle inside the lever's pivot point.
  • If there's a nut or screw holding the lever (look beneath the cap), snug it with a wrench or screwdriver to make sure it's tight.

If you have any questions about quick release use, just let us know and we'll be happy to explain more in person.