Updated on August 17, 2023
The quick-release wheels are like fantasy and mystery for cyclists. quick-release wheels refer to the bike wheels that can be removed and attached to the bike without any tools. The quick-release skewer is one of the oldest wheel attachment systems and a commonly asked question is do all bikes have quick-release wheels?
The answer is no. Not all bikes have quick-release wheels. Quick-release axles are the oldest wheel attachment system on bikes but today not all bikes come with quick-release wheels. In this post, I’ll discuss everything that you need to know about quick-release wheels, their perks, and their limitations. Also, I’ll try to answer all your queries related to the quick-release wheels on bikes.
Do All Bikes Have quick-release Wheels?
Whether you pack your cruiser bike for the long beach rides or get your mountain bike ready for a challenging adventure, you need to bring it in a form that is easy to transport and safe to ride. Here is when the type of wheels and wheel attachment systems come into play.
Most often bike racks require you to remove the front wheel of the bike to help it get fit inside the rack. Also, quick-release wheels ensure compact storage allowing you to keep the bike at the back of your car along with all the vacation luggage. Not all bikes have quick-release wheels. Usually, there are two types of axles on the bikes: Quick-release axles and Thru Axles.
What Are Quick-Release Axles?
Quick-release axles are the standard and old wheel attachment system, that is used on most road bikes and cruiser bikes. A quick-release axle is a thin metal rod or skewer that runs between the two hubs. It is supported by an acorn nut from one side and a quick-release lever from the other side.
The lever is supported by the two springs at the base. The wheels of the bike are attached to the quick-release frame of the bike. The quick-release frame of the bike gets attached to the U-shaped slots on the frame. When the wheels are placed on the slot the clamping lever is closed and the acorn nuts are tightened.
In order to remove the wheel from the hub, you need to pull the lever to the open position. The axle stays attached to the hub and only the wheel is released. In most road bikes and cruisers, the quick-release skewer measures 5 mm in diameter. How the size of the QR skewer varies between 5 to 9 mm depending upon the size of the hub spacing on the quick-release frame of the bike.
How Do I Know If My Bike Has Quick-Release Wheels?
As discussed earlier a quick-release frame on the bike consists of a thin rod inserted in the hubs. On one side of the rod, there is an acorn nut and on the other side, there is a quick-release lever. The lever is further supported by two springs. If you see this geometry on the wheel attachment system of your bike, it means your bike has quick-release wheels.
Which Bikes Use quick-release Wheels?
Usually, road bikes and commuter bikes use quick-release wheels since they are cheap and highly accessible. Most mountain bikes are now shifted to the thru-axle technology since it is safe, reliable, and stable. Also, most of the gravel bikes and trail bikes use thru-axles. Commuters and cargo bikes are more likely to have quick-release wheels but it also depends upon the barking system of the bike.
All the advanced commuter and road bikes with disc brakes use the thru-axles. Disc brakes with quick-release levers can lead to serious accidents when the front wheel hub of the quick-release axles comes in direct contact with the front disc brake rotor. It can cause a sudden stopping or the separation of the front wheel from the frame leading to a serious accident. Commuter bikes with rim brakes usually come with quick-release axles.
How Tight Should A quick-release Wheel Be?
Getting the right fit for the quick-release axle or skewer is crucial to enjoying a safe and comfortable experience. A quick release should be on the non-driver side of the bike so that it doesn’t come in the way of the derailleur or drivetrain. When you place the wheel on the QR frame the first thing that you need to do is tighten the acorn nut. Keep on tightening the nut until it is touching the frame.
Now open the quick-release lever and again tighten the nut a little more. Now it’s time to check if the nut is perfectly in place or not and try to close the lever. It shouldn’t be too hard or too soft to close and open. When the lever is perpendicular to the frame the wheel should be perfectly centered. This is called a 90-degree rule that defines the perfect fit for a quick-release system on the bike.
Can I Convert a Bike To quick-release?
Yes, you can convert the bike to quick-release. Quick-release conversion kits are available at a very affordable price. You can buy a high-quality conversion kit for as low as $20. With the right set of tools and basic knowledge of nuts and bolts, it will not take you more than 30 minutes to install a quick-release frame on your bike. However, choosing the right axle size and fully compatible components is crucial to get a perfect fit for your bike.
Advantages Of quick-release Axles
Quick-release axles are cheap and a good set of quick-release axles for road bikes and commuter bikes is available for as low as $10. Also, the replacement cost of the quick-release axles is low. For everyday commutes and transport, cyclists prefer to have quick-release axles on their bikes.
Quick-release axles are the oldest wheel attachment systems on bikes. It’s been part of the road and mountain bikes for more than 80 years and therefore a wide range of parts is available in the market. You can easily upgrade and replace the wheel attachment system on the bike since all the parts are available in various sizes and qualities. Since they are common they are preferred for expedition bike touring and everyday commutes. Even in a small town or village, you can easily find a replacement part for a quick-release wheel attachment system.
Reliable and Trusted
Since it is a tried and tested wheel attachment technology, you can rely on it. It is a simple, clean, and easy-to-understand system. Less moving parts, simple geometry, and durability make the quick-release axles a favorite option for most road and commuter bikes. The quick-release axles perform really well if they are used in the riding condition that they are designed for. On smooth and paved roads both quick-release and thru-axle perform in the same way. It’s hard to point to any significant difference.
Compatibility With Most Fork Mount Bike Racks
The U-shaped slot in the bike racks is fully compatible with almost all quick-release wheels. It makes it easy to upgrade or replace the quick-release wheel on your bike. There is no need to buy a separate rack for the quick-release wheels on the bike. The seamless fork mount racks make the quick-release wheels a good option for older bikes. However, newer racks are designed to fit thru-axles and may need an adapter to make your quick-release wheels fit with the rack.
Lighter Than Thru Axles
Quick-release skewers are lighter than thru-axles, making them a perfect option for backpacking and leisure riding, and everyday commutes. A quick-release axle is 20 to 30 grams lighter than thru-axles. It doesn’t add a lot to the QR frame of the bike and enhances the comfort of a road bike without limiting its stability.
The biggest perk of quick-release wheels on the bikes is that they are pretty easy to remove and replace. No tools are required to detach and attach the wheels to the frame. You can take the wheels off the bike in a few seconds. Since the axles stay on the hub, you don’t need any tool to screw the axle back to the hub.
Disadvantages Of Quick-Release Levers
Quick-release wheels are not as safe as thru-axle wheels. In some riding styles, quick-release wheels can come off leading to serious accidents and injuries. The quick-release mechanism on the bike gets loosened over time and it has no significant impact on performance.
Therefore it goes unnoticed the wheel is released accidentally when you touch the high-speed levels. Also, it happens when the lever is NOT tightened perfectly in the first place. Chances of human error are low but various accidents have been reported due to poor fitting of the wheel to the quick-release frame.
Highly Prone To Bending Or Breaking
Quick-release levers offer unmatched comfort and stability on smooth roads but when it comes to uphill or downhill riding they can’t handle the stress. The axle can break at higher stress levels, and the wheel may come off completely. Sometimes the wheel gets lodged into the fork and suddenly stops, causing a serious crash.
Incompatibility With Disc Brakes
Quick-release axles are not compatible with the disc brakes. Disc brakes can cause the fork arm to flex. When the front wheel hub comes in direct contact with the quick-release handle it can cause a sudden stopping. A strong kickback may lead to a serious crash on the road. If you prefer disc brakes on your bike you can’t go for quick-release wheels.
It is an outdated technology and modern bikes usually do not adopt it since it is incompatible with advanced braking and suspension systems. Since thru axles are safer and more durable than quick-release skewers, advanced hybrid bikes and mountain bikes prefer them over the QR wheels.
Do I need A Thru-Axle or a Quick-Release Skewer?
Quick-release vs thru-axles is a big debate since both technologies have their own pros and cons. Quick-release being cheap and easily accessible is still famous among cyclists. On the other hand, through-axle has made its way to all the advanced bike systems for its enhanced safety, stability, and reliability.
For road bikes and commuters I prefer quick-release wheels since they are simple to use, reliable, and easy to maintain. Quick-release wheels are rugged enough to withstand the rising stress on smooth roads. However, if you are buying a hybrid bike and going to thrill and off-road rides I recommend you buy a bike with thru-axle wheels.
Whether you do regular occasional off-roading thru-axle is a better option at the quick-release wheels. Thru-axle is an expensive technology but since it is reliable and rugged its maintenance requirements are pretty low. Thin rods coupled with sturdy springs reduce the chances of bending and breaking.
- Inspect the quick-release levers on a monthly basis If there are any signs of damage or bending replace them as soon as possible.
- Regular lubrication is crucial to maintain a smooth and comfortable experience. The dry lever will not work and feel a little tight as you paddle. Regular lubrication minimizes the chances of damage and slows down the wearing process of the levers.
- Proper lubrication is an important part of quick-release maintenance. Steel levers usually point inward and therefore you must apply the lube to the inside of the lever’s pivot point to minimize the friction.
- Snug the screws and bolts with the right tool to ensure they are not loose.
- Before riding makes sure the lever is close and tight.
Does my bike have quick-release wheels?
If your bike has rim brakes it is most likely to have quick-release wheels. Quick-release wheels are usually found in road bikes and commuter bikes that come with rim braking systems. Bikes with disc brakes usually come with a thru-axles wheel attachment system.
How do I know if I have a quick-release wheel?
A quick-release wheel is attached to a special structure known as a quick-release frame. It consists of a thin rod measuring between 5-9 mm. The rod is surrounded by a camming lever on one side and an acorn nut on the other side. The camming lever is further supported by the two rings. When you put the camming lever in an open position the wheel comes off by axles and stays inside the hub.
Can you have quick-release wheels with disc brakes?
Yes, you can have a quick-release wheel with disc brakes but it isn’t a safe option especially if the bike has hydraulic disc brakes. The disc brakes are not fully compatible with the quick-release lever and can lead to serious accidents when the stress is high on the wheels. The bikes manufactured in 2019 and later do not use the disc brakes and quick wheels together.
Where is the quick release on a bike?
The quick-release lever is on the non-drive side of the bike. A quick-release lever sits parallel to the fork when closed.
I’m hopeful that this guide will help you understand what is a quick-release and what kind of bikes come with quick-release wheels. We can safely conclude that not all bikes come with quick-release levers. Most commuter bikes, road bikes, and leisure bikes use quick-release wheels along with rim bares. Bikes with disc brakes don’t come with quick-release wheels.
Austin Jacobs is a passionate cycling enthusiast who has over five years of experience in bike repair and maintenance. He is an avid mountain biker and loves tinkering with bikes for hours on end to make sure they are running at their optimum performance level. Leland’s blog, which focuses on bike repairs and tips to keep them in good running order, was created out of a desire to share his knowledge and help fellow cyclists stay safe while enjoying the outdoors. He covers topics such as preventive maintenance, troubleshooting common issues, basic tools and supplies needed for repairs, and more.