Riding your bicycle causes natural wear and tear to its components, including the bike cassette. This handy guide will tell you how to remove a bike cassette and add a new one.
After a while, you may notice that your bike stops changing gears effectively and you start hearing an uncharacteristic clicking noise.
If this has happened to you, examine your bike. Upon closer inspection, you may notice that the frequently used teeth on the cogs of your rear wheel look sharper than the rounded, smoother humps of the less used teeth.
However, if the bike cassette looks worn out, you need to know how to remove a bike cassette and install a new one to keep your ride safe and smoothly shift gears.
So, here’s how to remove a bike cassette. Let’s dive in!
What Is a Bike Cassette?
A bike cassette is an important part of your bike’s drivetrain.
It’s located on the drive side or right side of the rear hub of your bike. It holds a cluster of small and large round metal discs that have teeth around the edge called “sprockets.”
A bike cassette slides on the freehub which is the ratchet system that controls your bike’s drive as you pedal. The cassette can have “speeds” that range from 5 to 12, but the most common ones are 9-speed, 10-speed, and 11-speed cassettes.
The cassette you use for your bike has a huge influence on your ride and pedaling cadence (revolutions per minute).
If you put your chain onto one of the larger sprockets while riding, your pedaling becomes easier and faster, allowing you to climb steeper hills more smoothly.
For downhill riding, cyclists put their bike chain onto one of the smaller sprockets, which enables them to push power through the drivetrain and prevent their legs from “spinning out.”
A bike cassette helps your legs pedal as smoothly and efficiently as possible by using the optimal gear for different terrains.
Reasons for Removing a Bike Cassette
Here are some of the reasons you may need to remove your existing bike cassette:
- If you’re an avid cyclist but don’t clean your bicycle as often as you should, your bike cassette will wear out with time and will need replacing.
- If you want to clean your bike thoroughly, knowing how to remove a bike cassette, and actually removing it, will help you clean hard-to-reach and inaccessible parts.
- If you need to make your gears easier or harder for a particular terrain or event, replacing your current bike cassette allows you to change the gearing.
Removing a Cassette
To remove a bike cassette, all you need are a few bike cassette removal tools.
It may seem like rocket science if you’ve never done it before but this guide will surely make the process easier and faster.
Tools and Equipment
- Lockring remover tool: You’ll need the right cassette lockring remover tool based on the bike cassette you have. Whether it’s Shimano, SRAM, SunRace, or Campagnolo, each uses different spline patterns so your lockring remover needs to be compatible with your cassette.
- Large adjustable crescent wrench and chain whip: Your large adjustable crescent wrench, bar, or spanner and chain whip should fit the cassette to keep it in position. The chain whip should match the number of your cassette’s speeds so that it can hold your cassette securely.
- Cloth rag and degreaser: Keep a cloth rag and degreaser handy for cleaning. You don’t need to buy premium tools with premium price tags since you won’t use them that often. However, you may also want to avoid the cheapest available tools since they bend and break easily after a few uses.
Follow this quick 3-step guide to remove your bike cassette:
Remove your bike’s rear wheel. Shift the chain across the smallest cog of the bike cassette. Open up the rim brakes if you have them to clean the bike’s tire as well.
Open the quick-release lever or untighten and remove the thru-axle to loosen the wheel. If the chain gets in the way, pull back the body of the rear mech.
Once the back wheel has been fully removed, unscrew the lockring that keeps the cassette’s cogs attached to the freehub body.
To do so, insert the cassette lockring removal tool into the lockring. Remember that the lockring has to be completely inserted to prevent it from sliding and damaging the splines.
Drape the chain whip around the bike cassette’s center cog and rotate the handle. A portion of the loose chain will support the center cog and prevent the freehub and the bike cassette from spinning.
Use the spanner, bar, or wrench to twist the cassette lockring removal tool. It should be secured tightly on the lockring tool in the 10 o’clock position while the chain whip’s handle must be at a 2 o’clock angle.
Make sure they’re firmly in place to prevent slipping and damaging the lockring or your hands. Press down on both at the same time and loosen the lockring using a good amount of force.
Step 3: How to Remove a Bike Cassette
Continue loosening the lockring until it comes out of the freehub. Place the rear wheel on its left side or the non-drive side to keep all the cogs of the cassette in one place while you unscrew the lockring.
Pull carefully on the back of the biggest cassette cog and slowly raise the cassette upwards. Keep it steady so that the spacers and cogs don’t come apart.
If the bike cassette doesn’t shift on the freehub, it may have gotten stuck in the ridges or splines that keep it in position. To untighten the cassette, drape the chain whip against the opposite side and pull back the cassette a little.
If it doesn’t come off, you need to carefully remove each cog from the freehub with the help of a tire lever.
Ensure all the spacers and cogs are kept in a safe place for reinstallation. If you own a 10-speed cassette, the bottom of its freehub will also have a slim spacer washer. Make sure to keep it handy too.
You’ve now removed your bike cassette!
How to Add a New Cassette
Replacing your bike cassette is part of regular maintenance but you won’t have to do it very often.
They usually need replacing after 4,000 to 6,000 miles though some can last for up to 10,000 miles. How often it needs replacing depends on the quality of the cassette, where you usually ride, and how well-maintained your bike is.
The first step was how to remove a bike cassette. Now that you’ve removed it and cleaned it or maybe purchased a replacement, it’s time to fit your new cassette into your bike’s rear wheel.
Here’s how to do it:
If you have a Shimano or SRAM freehub body, the splines or ridges on it will be slightly different and have a narrow ridge beside a wide gap.
The interior of the cogs will have a matching narrow notch along with a wide tab. Line them up to put the cogs in place.
Step 2: Installing the Cassette
To install the cassette, the back wheel should be on its rear with the freehub body facing upwards. If you have a 10-speed bike cassette, slide on the narrow spacer washer first.
Carefully lift the aligned cassette by the sides of the biggest cassette cog and shift it across the freehub body.
Some of the latest cassettes have a caddy block made of plastic that you can line up with the freehub’s ridges before sliding on the cassette.
If your cassette doesn’t have that or it isn’t aligned, you’ll have to slide on the spacers and cogs one by one and get them in line until every cog is in position.
The smallest cog should overlap slightly with the end of the freehub. Its toothed outer face should engage the lockring’s matching ratchet teeth.
Your exterior cog should also properly align with the ridges and every cog should be fully shifted across the freehub’s block.
Carefully screw the lockring on the freehub body with your hands to ensure proper alignment.
If the threads don’t line up properly or it’s difficult to turn, the cassette cogs may be slightly misaligned. In this case, take out the lockring, adjust the cassette cogs, and do it again.
After everything is aligned and securely in place, take the cassette lockring removal tool and screw the block with enough force. Make sure the lockring tool and the wrench, spanner, or bar you’re using to twist it are firmly in place.
As you tighten the lockring, wait for a slight vibration or grind. This means that the ratchets on the lockring and the exterior cog have settled into place. Remove the lockring tool and spin the bike cassette to see if everything is aligned properly.
The teeth can make the arrangement appear slightly out of place. However, check that they’re all spaced equally and there is no rattling sound or movement when you shake the rear wheel.
If it’s loose or rattles, a spacer or outer cog might be out of place. Check for any misalignments, then remove, and reinstall the cassette.
If you have a quick-release lever, put it back. Drape the chain across the smallest cassette cog as you fit the rear wheel back into your bike. Check if the freehub is aligned properly and tighten the thru-axle or quick release.
Knowing how to remove a bike cassette can save you time and money since you avoid going to bike repair shops as often. It will also help you care for your bike and keep it in excellent condition year after year.
Be careful while removing and replacing cassettes to avoid damaging your gears and other bike parts.
If you found this article helpful, share it with your friends and family. You can also let us know how your bike cassette removal went in the comments section below.
Last Updated on July 27, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic