Cycling - Gear/Equipment

Bike Maintenance: How to Remove a Bicycle Cassette

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While biking is your passion, regular maintenance of your bike becomes essential. A bike cassette or the rear cassette features a collection of teeth that’s connected to the wheel. Each of its rings is an individual gear that is held in place with a chain that connects the gears to the pedals and then turns the cassette to help the bike move. The bunch of teeth on the gear will start to corrode leaving the connection with the chain weaker and resulting in loss of power. This is the time when your bike needs a cassette change because the worn-out teeth can lead to slipped chains that will hold you back from pedaling unless it’s repaired.

So, if you are wondering how to remove a bicycle cassette, here’s a quick guide for you.

Table of Contents


Why Change a Cassette

You know that your bike cassette needs a change when you find the gear teeth begin to look like shark fins than the smooth spherical projections of your briefly used cogs. Although at times it is likely that you can replace each of the cogs than the whole cassette, not all cassettes possess the replacement parts and it’s usually a better idea to replace the entire cassette.

There a few things that directly affect the amount of wear of the bike cassette that is, the amount you ride, the conditions in which you ride, and how often you clean and maintains the drivetrain. So, if you have ridden nearly 1000 miles on your bike, this is the time you need to observe your cassette closely. If you’ve been riding in the wet or not cleaning the dirt & grit from your chain regularly, the extent of the wear of the chain, cassettes, and the chainrings will be majorly stimulated by these.

how to remove bike cassette without chain whip
Worn Out Cassette(Source)

Moreover, if the greasing of your chain has been done incorrectly that is also another factor that leads to wearing your cassette way before it’s anticipated. And, this is the time when changing cassette on road bike for hills is called for.

However, the major reason behind a worn cassette on a freewheel bike is due to the worn chain. As the chain wears, it elongates in length making it ride on the edge of the cog teeth instead of towards the base. The cogs or the gears on a worn-down cassette usually has thinner teeth that will not allow the new chain to sit on it properly. This will result in loss of efficiency of the gears further increasing the possibility of the gears being skipped.

If you do not want the drivetrain to perform badly where you have to push yourself to ride your bike, getting a new cassette will be a better idea. But, how to remove a bicycle cassette? Changing the cassette will not just refine the shifting system, but will also help the chain sit on the cassette teeth thereby, improving the overall performance and the efficacy. You can also change the cassette for smooth pedaling gears.

Read: Everything to Know About Compact Crankset

Check Your Bike’s Hub Type

To be sure of the hub type of your bike, you must take the rear wheel off from the bike and look closely at the smallest cog on the cassette. If you spot a lock ring placed on the exterior of the smallest cog, then your cassette is of freehub type.

Tools for Changing a Bike Cassette - What you Need:

Now that you have noticed the wear on your bike cassette and the extent of wear, you would need a few useful items handy as below:

  • Lock ring tool
  • Chain Whip
  • Wrench, spanner or vise to turn lockring tool
  • Grease

If you are wondering how to remove bike cassette without special tools or how to remove bike cassette without chain whip, it is usually time-saving to use the tools that do it manually.

How to Remove a Bicycle Cassette

Wondering how to remove a bicycle cassette? Removing the cassette requires the rear wheel to be removed first. So, in order to get the rear wheel out, you need to position the chain in the smallest chain ring on the front end and the smallest gear on the back. This will allow you some chain slack helping you to take out the wheel easily.

Remove Rear Wheel and Quick Release

As you are learning how to remove a bicycle cassette, pull out the quick release skewer, but make sure that you do not misplace the two springs placed on the skewer. Get the lockring tool and insert it into the cassette. However, make sure that the tool seats correctly inside the lock ring instead of forcing it in.

Keep the freewheel in front of you while the cassette faces outwards. Now, make the wrench sit on the lockring tool and position the chain whip over the cassette in one of the larger gears. The chain whip intends to keep the cassette off from spinning as you start turning the wrench so, be sure that it is placed in the correct direction to restrict any movement.

To get it right, hold the chain wipe with your left hand with the chain sheathed over a cog and in the clockwise order.

Make sure that the chain whip is in the 10 O’clock and 2 O’clock direction. This placement of the chain whip will help make the process much easier. Now, relax the lock ring by pushing the wrench in an anti-clockwise direction. All you need to do is to unscrew the lock ring using your hand and you would not really need a lockring removal tool.

Now that you have extracted the lock ring you can start removing the gears and spacers off the cassette. If you are looking to use these in the near future or planning to use them on another freewheel bike, it would be in your best interest to place them in proper sequence to ensure that you do not get caught up in an accident while installing it the next time.

Read: How to Handle the Two Piece Crankset

Installing a Bike Cassette

Whether you are using a one-piece cassette or separate cogs, they will feature grooves in any case that helps the cassette to fit the freehub body, just perfectly. While installing the bike cassette check if the ridges or the gaps between the ridges are either smaller or larger in size in comparison to the others so that it can fit perfectly with the small or large grooves on the cogs or the cassette. So, how to fit the cassette or cogs into the freehub body?

The primary thing to do would be to grease the freehub body to avoid any seizing before you start installing the cassette or cogs. Most of the times the size will be a smaller number indicated by the cog while changing bike cassette ratios. You will mostly find these numbers facing outwards ensuring that they are directed in the correct way. Instead of forcing the cog on the freehub body, make sure that it slides on comfortably without any added effort.

changing bike cassette ratios,changing
Installing a bike Cassette(Source)

Now that the cogs or the cassette are placed on the freewheel, it’s important to grease the lock ring thread and install it into its position. You can now tighten it using the lockring tool. However, if you want to tighten the lock ring further, all you need to do is to position the wrench over the tool and screw it tightly.

The cassette does not need to be held in place since you are tightening it in the same manner as you would pedal. Roughly, you can make the cassette snug by tightening it to an equivalent torque.

Now, change the skewer and fit the wheel back to the bike. Check by shifting through gears to ensure that the gears are changing properly.

Read: Choice between a Double, Compact or a Triple Crankset

Different Types of Cassette

Shimano Cassettes

You will find these in different variants. 5 or 6 bicycle sprockets can be held together using tiny Allen screws and with nearly all 7 and 8-speed cassettes. Not to worry, as you can unscrew these miniature screws using the appropriate Allen key. It can be either a 1.5mm Allen key or something even smaller in size at times. The screw heads can be either in the front face of the sprocket group or on the rear face.

how to remove bike cassette without special tools
Shimano Cassettes(Source)

While the cheaper versions of the 9-speed Shimano cassette are joined in a similar manner, the expensive 9-speed or 10-speed cassettes will usually feature sprockets placed on spiders in aggregates of two or three with spacers in between.

Campagnolo Cassettes

Although you can still find 9-speed Campagnolo cassettes as spares, all of them are 10-speed these days. The cassettes are constructed of individual sprockets with spacers in between in unison for instance, with Xenon, Veloce, and Mirage. You can find the sprockets placed on aluminum carriers in the aggregate of two or three (minus the three smallest sprockets) in case of Record, Centaur, and Chorus. Make sure that the sprockets are mounted to ensure that the size markings face on the outer side of the freehub body.

how to remove front sprocket on a bicycle
Campagnolo Cassettes(Source)

Marchisio Cassettes

You can find them in both Campagnolo and Shimano cassette bodies and with compatible spacers for the 7, 8, 9, or 10-speed mechanisms. You can find them into variances, one of which uses adaptor pieces and the other ones that mount straight away on the freehub body. All the sprockets are one-piece and these are completely interchangeable (except the smallest bicycle sprocket).

shimano hg lockring tool
Marchisio Cassettes(Source)

This helps you to customise the cassette easily according to you and your ride. However, in this case, the size markings on the cassettes should face towards the inner direction as these are placed on the freehub body.

Bike Cassette and Chain Maintenance

The best way to keep your bike cassette maintained is to clean it a couple of times in a year, at least. However, be careful while cleaning near the hub and so, avoid washing it with a strong force of water or avoid using any solvent for cleaning to prevent the grease in the bearings to get dissolved.

You can also change the chain while changing your cassette since chains usually wear off faster than the bike cassette. However, make sure that the chain and the cassettes match each other. For instance, a 9-speed chain is needed for a 9-speed cassette.

Read: How to Replace or Realign the Derailleur Hanger

Also, changing your chain is highly recommended if you live close to the beach where sand can penetrate the drivetrain, or in the wet area where the chain can get rusty.

We are sure that this guide will help you solve your queries on how to remove a bicycle cassette and keep your bike in top condition all year round.

So, what are you waiting for?

Now, that you have changed the chain and the cassette successfully, have a happy ride ahead!


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