Ultimate Guide: How to Remove Bike Cranks?

For those who aren’t aware – a crank or crankset is a key element of a bike drivetrain that converts the countering motion extending from the rider’s legs into rotational action needed to propel the belt or chain and ultimately driving the bike’s rear wheel.

Bike Crankset

A crankset generally consists of one or more chainrings (also called chainwheels or sprockets) attached to the crankarms (the area to which bike pedals attach) and is connected to the:

  • Bike frame via the bottom bracket
  • Rider via the pedals
  • Cassette and rear sprocket via the chain.

So, if you are new to the world of biking, and don’t really know much about how bike cranksets work, there is at least one thing you should know: over time, the action of your bike chain across the surface of the chainwheels will deteriorate the metal surfaces, and eventually, they will have to be replaced, necessitating you to remove the crank and install it again with newer fittings.

BUCKLOS 【US Stock】 MTB 170mm Square Taper Crankset, 104 BCD Mountain Bike Narrow Wide Tooth Chainring 32/34/36/38/40/42T, Single Speed Round/Oval Chainring and Crank, fit Shimano, SRAM, FSA

And though you can take your bike to a workshop for this job, removing a bike crankset is fairly a simple and straightforward process that you can easily perform at home (saving a whole lot of dollars!). Plus, just like any other bike part, the crankset will also benefit from regular crankset maintenance and frequent cleanings.

If you look up “how to remove bike cranks“, you’ll probably be flooded with countless different methods and recommendations, making you feel overwhelmed; but don’t worry, that’s what we are here for.

In this post, we’ll help you first identify your crank system and share some super simple methods to remove and re-install them from the comfort of your home.

So, without any more delays, let us get started!

Read How to Clean A Rusty Bike Chain?

How to Remove Bike Crankset?

Removing a bike crank at home is requires great precision as well as time. As expressed earlier, there is no limit to the range of methods that can be used for the task.

However, in this post, we will be covering only four simple approaches suitable to a particular type of crank system.

JKSPORTS ShimanoALTUS FC-M361 6-8 Speed Square Taper Crankset 42-32-22T 175MM 170MM MTB Bike (42-32-22T 170MM)

Before You Begin

Before we move onto the removing bit, it’s crucial to first understand that every bike has a different crank system. If you aren’t sure about yours, don’t worry. Further in this guide, we will be highlighting four different types of crank systems as well as how to effectively remove them yourself.

In addition to this, as you’re reading this post, we’ll assume that this is your first crankset removal crackdown and you likely do not have the appropriate tools needed for the task.

Thus, before you get started, make sure you have all the right supplies for the job. After all, you would not want to end up with a damaged crank, do you?

Read How to Remove Rust from Bikes

Identifying Your Crankset System

As explained earlier, cranksets are levers that join the pedals to the bracket spindle. Cranksets are fitted with chainrings (sprockets) that drive the chain. They can be removed to:

  • Clean the chainrings or the crankset
  • Replace chainrings or the crankset
  • Service the bottom bracket bearings

There is no denying that crank systems have grown more complex in recent years. That’s why in this section, we have outlined some of the most common bike crank systems to help you correctly identify yours, along with step-by-step instructions on how to remove each.

Crank System #1: Self-Extracting Crankset

Several crankset manufacturers deal in both two-piece and three-piece cranks with a ‘one-key release’ or self-extracting system.

Unlike other cranksets, these crank systems have a puller effectively built into the crankset itself. These systems use threaded rings that are identical to a crank dust cap.

But bear in mind, these crankset holding rings are looped over the crank bolt so that whenever the bolt is undone or released, the bolt’s shoulder presses back against the ring, in return gradually pushing the arm from the spindle.

Self-Extracting Crank Removal Process

Estimate time: 5 minutes

Basic Tools & Things You’ll Need

  • Hex wrench (to remove crank nut/bolt and retaining caps)
  • Torque wrench
  • Mallet
  • Pin spanner (for retaining caps)

CYSKY Bike Crank Arm Set Mountain Bike Crank Arm Set 170mm 104 BCD with Bottom Bracket Kit and Chainring Bolts for MTB BMX Road Bicyle, Compatible with Shimano, FSA, Gaint (Black)

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Steps to Follow:

  1. First, position the retaining ring of the ‘one-key-release’ crank in place i.e. in the arm. Be sure to not detach the ring.
  2. Next, before initiating the removal, ensure that the retaining ring is secured into the arm.
  3. Using a hex wrench, start unthreading the crank bolt. Continue loosening till the crankset arm effortlessly slides off the spindle.
  4. Once done, it is time to detach the other crankset arm. As you are removing, pay close attention to the orientation and location of any spacers and washers.
    1. 2-piece crankset – Detach the remaining crankarm by steadily pulling it away from your bike and out of the rear bracket shell. You might have to use a mallet to tap the spindle here.
    1. 3-piece crankset – Repeat steps #1 and #2 on crankarm’s right side to remove from the rear bracket spindle.

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Crank System #2: 2-Piece Compression Slotted Crankset

Many bike cranks utilize a two-piece compression slotted system. This crankset system involves a left crankarm along with a compression slot that’s tightly secured by two pinch bolts.

Moreover, it has a right crankarm with an integrated spindle. The two-piece compression slotted crank systems don’t need a typical crank puller for removal.

Instead, use external bearing cups. In addition to this, the left crankarm of these systems is used to adjust and fine-tune the lowermost bracket bearings.

Tightening a left-sided end cap generally pulls the crankarm against the spindle and onto the bearings, similar to how a threadless headset cap adjusts threadless headset bearings.

Finally, the left crankarm pinch bolts are tightened to maintain and secure the new bearing adjustments

JKSPORTS ShimanoALTUS FC-M361 6-8 Speed Square Taper Crankset 42-32-22T 175MM 170MM MTB Bike (42-32-22T 170MM)

2-Piece Compression Slotted Crank Removal Process

Estimate time: 5 minutes

Basic Tools & Things You’ll Need

  • Hex wrench (to pinch bolts)
  • Flat screwdriver
  • Adjusting cap tools
  • Mallet

Steps to Follow:

  1. The first step is to make sure that all pinch bolts on the cranks left side are loosened fully.
  2. Next, clockwise rotate the left side crank cap counter and remove.
  3. With a gentle pull of your hand, release the left crankarm off the spindle. In some cases (a sticky or dirty spindle-arm interface), to remove the spindle-arm, you might even have to lightly tap on it with a soft mallet.
  4. Remove the remaining crankarm by jerking it to the right and finally out of your bike. Again, you might have to use a soft mallet to knock the spindle on the left side.

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Crank System #3: Power Torque Crankset

Unlike the previous two crank systems, the Power Torque crankset utilized a spindle that’s already integrated into the drive side crank.

In this system, the crank on the left side has to first be removed if you want to remove the right crank or get to the bearings.

Please bear in mind that the Power Torque crankset system all factory-designed removal procedures or designs. Therefore, these cranks are usually very hard and complex to grab and secure for a pulling process.

Hence, be advised that there are inherent risks in servicing these crankset systems. If you are still up for the challenge, then here’s how it can be done.

Power Torque Crank Removal Process

Estimate time: 10 minutes

Basic Tools & Things You’ll Need

  • Hex wrench
  • Torque wrench
  • Mallet
  • Extension plugs
  • Lubricant

Steps to Follow:

  1. First, detach the bearing clip on the right side from the cup.
  2. Next, remove the crankset bolt as well as the washer.
  3. Use a right sized extension plug to engage the spindle by inserting the plug into it. 
  4. Hold the bottom bracket securely. It is best to ask somebody to assist you for this step.  
  5. Use a sturdy mallet to directly hit the extension plug.
  6. Drive the spindle towards the right and pull it out of the left crankarm.
  7. Continue doing this till the arm is fully released from the spindle.
  8. Expect the right crankset to fall as soon as it’s freed of left crankarm.

Note: This high impact method doesn’t damage the system’s cartridge bearings as all the force is focused on the spindle and doesn’t at all passes through the bearings in order to release the left crankarm. Also, try lubricating the spindle in case you face any difficulty during the removal process.

DRIFT MANIAC Bike Crankset 52T 130BCD 170mm Crank Arm Set Square Taper for City Folding Bicycle

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Crank System #4: 3-Piece Crankset

A three-piece crank system generally comprises the following components: a right arm, left arm, and an axle spindle. The axle spindle is held in place with bearings on the frame.

Keep in mind, when it comes to a three-piece crank system, both arms have to be removed for service or replacement. In addition, both right and left cranksets have bolts in the arms.

Moreover, a three-piece crank typically has one of the following two interfaces:

  • Splined spindle arms
  • Square spindle arms

3-Piece Crank Removal Process

Estimate time: 10 minutes

Basic Tools & Things You’ll Need

  • Hex wrench (to remove crank nut/bolt)
  • Crank puller
  • Torque wrench

Steps to Follow:

  1. First and foremost, move the chain to largest sprocket (chainring). Doing this ensures that your hands do not become prey of the chainring teeth.
  2. Using a hex wrench, remove crank nut or bolt by rotating it counter-clockwise.
    1. If no crank bolt or nut is visible, then remove dust caps. Please note some caps thread out while others pry out.
  3. Next, closely inspect and remove any washers concealed inside the crankset (found usually below the crank bolt/nut).
  4. Then, check crank bolt and pick an appropriate tool for the job. For instance, cranksets with M8 bolts will require a crank puller with small tip. In contrast, bigger cranks bolts will require crank pullers with a larger tip.
  5. Keep turning the crank puller’s threaded coupler till it is buried in the hex fitting of the tool. Ensure to not cross the thread.
  6. Next, thread spindle driver of puller into the arm. The thread fitting should be completely threaded into arm before pulling it. Bear in mind if the spindle driver isn’t entirely engaged and threaded into crankarm, the nut or threads of the arm can get severely damaged.
  7. Now it is time to rotate the spindle driver clockwise. As soon as the driver meets your bike’s spindle, you will be able to feel some evident resistance. But do not stop there and continue threading driver into puller until the crankset is removed.
  8. Finally, detach the crank puller from your bike’s crankset.
  9. Repeat the same process for the other side.

GANOPPER 9S 9speed 223244T 170mm Crank Length MTB Mountain Bike Chainset 104BCD 64BCD Easy to Modify Single Crank Set (Blue)

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How to Remove Bike Cranks: Conclusion

Lucky for you, maintaining your bike’s crank is not very demanding. Just remember, like every bike component, the crank too will benefit from regular cleaning and upkeep.

In addition, frequent lubrication of the working surfaces of the chain wheels will also help to extend their life and makes sure shifting remains smooth and quiet. But the best thing about this simple process is that it can enhance your overall biking experience.

So, that is it for today. We would love it if this blog post on “how to remove bike cranks” helps you in any way possible. Let us know if you have any queries and, more importantly, if there is more to add!

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