Quick Release Vs Thru Axle Skewers: Pros & Cons

Last week we discussed the differences between Quick Release (QR) and Thru Axle skewers. Why would you want to pick one or the other? Today we are talking about the pros and cons of each type and the bike systems they work with. Let’s get started.

A Quick History

Quick release skewers were originally designed in the 1920 by Tullio Campagnolo after he lost a race because the wing nut holding his wheel on was frozen in place. For roughly 75 years after they were designed, quick release skewers were the standard option for attaching a wheel to a bike.

In the early 2000’s, mountain bikers started having issues with quick release skewers bending, braking, and ejecting from the fork with the use of disc brakes. As a result, thru axles emerged and helped eliminate the issues.

Where Bikes Stand Today

Two factors determine if a bike uses quick release or thru axle skewers.

  1. What discipline is the bike intended for? Mountain, road, gravel, etc.
  2. What type of brakes does the bike have?

For mountain bikes, thru axle has pretty much become the standard. The exception to this rule is if it is a very entry level bike that is cutting cost — think a $200 Huffy.

For road bikes, the skewer type is generally related to the braking type. If you have rim brakes, you will have a quick release skewer. If you have disc brakes you will most likely have thru axle skewers. If you have a disc brake older than 2019, you may have a quick release skewer, but disc brake road bikes made today are generally thru axle.

Gravel bikes are pretty much using thru axle as the standard these days. Just like road bikes, older versions may have quick release skewers.

Photo from Mountain Road Ride

Do You Want Quick Release Or Thru Axle Skewers

Quick release skewers are a good option for road bikes with rim brakes. Today, this is pretty much the only situation where they are better than thru axles. Rim brake bikes do not have a thru axle option so this is also a limiting factor.

If you are using any type of bike with disc brakes, then thru axles are the way to go. It doesn’t matter what your discipline is.

Now, there is a completely different conversation around how rim brakes are more aerodynamic but that is a discussion for another day.

Since the skewer type is really related to the brake type, the pros and cons list is broken out as follows:

  • Pros For Quick Release Rim Brake Bikes
  • Pros For Thru Axle Disc Brake Bikes
  • Cons For Thru Axle Disc Brake Bikes
  • Pros For Quick Release Disc Brake Bikes
  • Cons For Quick Release Disc Brake Bikes

Note: we omitted Cons for Thru Axle Rim Brake Bikes since they don’t exist.

Additionally, there are growing safety concerns when using quick release skewers with disc brake bikes. These safety concerns are:

  • Wheels ejecting from the fork during heavy braking.
  • Forks breaking due to fork stress from repeated braking over time.
  • Bending or breaking skewers.

Pros For Quick Release Rim Brake Bikes

  • Easy to install since the fork has a U-Notch. The quick release skewer does not need to be released from the hub. Read our article from last week to learn more about this. (Link)
  • No tools are needed to install or remove a wheel.
  • Lighter than thru axles.
  • Cheaper than thru axles.
  • More compatible with trainers.
  • Rim brake bikes are more aerodynamic.
  • Easily fit most fork mount bike racks.
  • Very safe for rim brake bikes.

Reminder: we omitted Cons for Thru Axle Rim Brake Bikes, since they don’t exist.

FLO 49 AS - Rim Brake Wheel For Road Bikes

Pros For Thru Axle Disc Brake Bikes

  • Safer than quick release skewers.
  • Designed with a high safety factor to make them strong and durable and less likely to break especially when compared to quick release skewers.
  • Fork dropouts have holes so wheel detachment from the fork is not possible like it is with the U-notch design of a quick release fork dropout. The skewer bolts to the frame making a secure connection, when properly installed.
  • Stiffer front end for improved handling and stability.
  • Reduction of brake rub when compared to quick release disc brake bikes.
  • Limited fork fatigue due to stiffer front end.

FLO 64 AS Disc - Disc Brake Wheel For Road Bikes

Cons For Thru Axle Disc Brake Bikes

  • Very few considering the safety issues mentioned above.
  • Heavier.
  • More Expensive
  • Potential difficulty with trainers and bike racks.

Pros For Quick Release Disc Brake Bikes

  • There really aren’t any considering the safety issues mentioned above.

Cons For Quick Release Disc Brake Bikes

  • Safety concerns include bending and breaking skewers and ejection of the wheel from the fork under heavy brake loads.
  • Becoming outdated. Buying wheels in the future will be more challenging.
  • Detachment is an option since the fork dropout uses a U-notch design to slip the wheel in place.
  • Difficulty aligning rotors and eliminating brake rub.
  • Ability to produce fork fatigue from heavy braking over time.

Final Thoughts

Our general advice for quick release vs thru axle skewers depends on two factors, the type of bike you will be purchasing and the braking system that is being used. Below is a quick summary of our suggestions for bike type and braking system.

Road Bikes With Rim Brakes

You will want a quick release skewer. To be honest I’ve never seen one with thru axle skewers so you are limited. You can upgrade skewers to be more aero if you like. Our friends at TriRig make a cool lever skewer shown below called the Styx Aero Skewers.

Road Bikes With Disc Brakes

We highly recommend a thru-axle design for the additional safety. Most manufacturers have moved to thru axle but you can still find disc brake road bikes with quick release skewers.

Gravel Bikes

Thru axle skewers are the way to go. The additional safety and durability of a thru axle skewer makes sense.

FLO G700 - Gravel Wheel For Gravel Bikes

Mountain Bikes

There is no question thru axles are the way to go. Don’t chance a bike with a quick release skewer for any serious mountain biking.

WHEELS

ROAD & TRI

ALL SPORT

GRAVEL

2 comments

Good catch Bill! It’s been updated.

Jon Thornham November 18, 2020

Under Gravel Bikes it first says, "Quick release skewers are the way to go. " – I think you meant either “Thru Axles skewers are the way to go.” or “Quick release skewers are on the way out”?

Bill T November 18, 2020

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