How to Assemble a Bike Wheel

Written by matthew ferguson
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How to Assemble a Bike Wheel
A rear wheel and cassette assembled onto the frame. (mécanisme...dents et chaîné image by rachid amrous-spleen from

Bicycles purchased online or in a store sometimes arrive in a near jumble inside their shipping box. Along with determining how to put everything else together, you may have to assemble the wheel onto the bike. This can be particularly tricky with a rear wheel, which has to be assembled so its cassette, or cluster of gears, engages the drive chain properly.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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  1. 1

    Use an adjustable wrench to loosen the axle nuts on either end of the wheel so there's enough room for the axle to slip into its notches on the bike frame. Some bike wheels have a skewer through their axle that features a quick-release arm. In this instance, no tools are required--use your fingers to loosen the ends.

  2. 2

    Shift the rear shifter so the cable is fully slack. This will place the rear derailleur and chain in proper position to receive the wheel. This step is necessary only if you're assembling the rear wheel.

  3. 3

    Turn the wheel so it's facing the proper direction. The tire label will be on the right, or drive side of the bike. This ensures that the tire tread is turning in the right direction.

  4. 4

    Install the wheel onto the bike frame so the tips of the axle nestle inside the notches on the frame. The notches are technically known as "drop-outs" and are found on the fork (for the front wheel) and the base of the seatstays (for the rear wheel). If installing a front wheel, skip to Step 6.

  5. 5

    Check that the chain passes over the smallest cog on the rear wheel. This cog is part of a cluster of gears on the rear wheel known as the cassette. The chain needs to pass over and behind this cog if the wheel and chain are to mesh properly.

  6. 6

    Secure the wheel in place, either by tightening the axle nuts with an adjustable wrench or tightening the quick-release skewer. If you have a quick-release skewer, by sure and close the skewer-arm fully after tightening.

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