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Disc vs Rim Brake Wheel Change Challenge - Video

How quickly can Dave change a wheel on disc brake and rim brake bike?

How quickly can you change a bicycle wheel? To be honest, it's not something that has really bothered me, but since there's been a lot of chatter about disc brakes slowing down wheel changes in the professional peloton, I thought it would be fun to do a scientific* test to see which is quicker to change.

Now, this is just a bit of fun but the results were surprising, but I'm not going to give them away here, so hit the play button above and watch the video to find out. Ever timed yourself changing a wheel? Let us know below.

*not scientific at all. 

- How to fit and remove through-axle wheels

David worked on the tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes

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peted76 | 5 years ago

Those disc changes will be even faster with a leccy screwdriver.

Nice stonework in your garage Dave  1

Miller | 5 years ago
1 like

Front forks for quick-release wheels have had lawyer tabs for many years. The wheel doesn't drop out when you undo the QR, you also have to wind the nut out. A fairly recent UCI rule change means that teams are not allowed to file the lawyer tabs off, which they were doing, instead team mchanics have to struggle with lawyer tabs like the rest of us.

Rear wheel dropouts don't have lawyer tabs.


iso2000 | 5 years ago
1 like

I haven't changed a wheel on rim brake bike for years but in cycle races the mechanic always seems to need to unwind and then wind the QR mech on replacement. I remember a commentator saying that UCI rules demand a tab or something on the frame to prevent the wheel dropping out when the QR is released. Is that right or did I dream it as the rear wheel change on the Pinarello seems to release straight away?   

RobD | 5 years ago

Well that was a slightly bigger gap on the rear than I expected, although as others have said, some sort of RAT style system would likely make this as fast (if not faster), and as also been said, in most cases the rider should have already removed the wheel and be waiting for the replacement to arrive.

From my point of view I quite like the TA wheels, should get the wheel perfectly lined up each and evey time nice and consistantly, which is what's more likely to bother me if I have to change a tube.

Gkam84 | 5 years ago

As someone who works with teams as the mechanic, I have to point out a couple of things that would dramatically change your timings.

When we jump out of the car and race towards our rider with wheels, unless there has been something catastrophic, I expect my riders to have loosened the brake and already have the wheel out, so all I am doing it putting the wheel in, tighten the QR and brake, pick up the other wheel and running while pushing the rider. Many think this is to get them up to speed, it's actually two-fold, one because they are in 53/11 and a standing start from that isn't very possible, but also, as the rider is clunking up the gears, there is potential to ship/jam the chain, in which case I am on hand to sort it.

cjwebb | 5 years ago
1 like

In terms of the overall time taken to change an inner tube (minutes) a couple of seconds to remove and replace wheel is negligible.

On the rear wheel, having thru axles is a bonus as the QR doesn't snag on chain

Nick T | 5 years ago
1 like

How long would it take you to fit a 160mm rotor equipped wheel into a 140mm caliper equipped frame 


or a 12mm axle wheel on a 15mm fork


the while argument is nonsense, because who actually changes wheels in a pro race any more? 

KiwiMike | 5 years ago

Punter here with random observations:

You didn't adjust the tension on the rear wheel of the Pinarello - just trusted that the QR nut was correct, which as it were the same wheel was pretty certain. In a wheel swap scenario it certainly wouldn't be, and you'd have had to faff with it the same as you did on the front, where it has to be wound out to clear the lugs.

Threaded TA's will always be slow, but a 1/4-turn RAT-style one would be way faster, front or rear, especially as there's no dropout tabs to clear with a TA.

Let's replay that with swapping actually different rear wheels, trad QR vs. RAT.


Sciency innit  1

Mungecrundle | 5 years ago

Vital research of huge relevance to all cyclists. I, for example, only buy pirelli car tyres on account of F1 pit crew teams being able to change a set of 4 in around 3 seconds.

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