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Sunday, August 12, 2007

How-to remove a bicycle cassette or freewheel

Derailleur equipped bikes have a cluster of gears installed on the rear wheel which permits to change the gear ration while you pedal. When you stop pedaling or coast you hear a click click click noise that is made by a ratchet mechanism that allows for the pedals to stop turning while the bike is coasting. Sometimes this mechanism fails. In the case of our reader Jay, the pedals on his bike keep turning while the wheels are in motion. This gear cluster cannot be serviced in my experience and must replaced.

However, you must determine which type you have since there are two different ways to accomplish this: The threaded freewheel or the cassette. The threaded freewheel is screwed on the threads that are on the rear hub. The mechanism is inside that freewheel. In the case of the cassette, the coasting mechanism is inside the hub itself. So if this fails, you must replace the rear hub. The cassette offers the advantages of being able to replace only the smallest gears when they are used up and offer a straight line of pull on the chain. If you observe a freewheel while the rear wheel is turning, you will notice a slight wobble caused by the fact that it isn't sitting perfectly flat on the threaded hub.

I've enclosed a video on how to remove and reinstall both. Take note that to avoid an industrial amount of takes for the making of that video, I removed those parts before taping. They take a bit more energy to remove. That explains that humongous open ended wrench that I have, it's not just for show. When reinstalling those parts, make sure that they are screwed in tight. Not a big issue with the freewheel since it tightens itself with each pedal stroke. But the cassette lock nut will not and if it becomes loose, the results will be ugly.

By the next video, I hope that my "studio" will be painted. At least now I don't have the noise of traffic and overhead 747's.



Til next time, ride safe and Godspeed!

Gerry :)

98 comments:

Anonymous said...

My first question after removing the freewheel is, how should I clean the freewheel and lube it if it needs that? I bought a used bike and am slowly going over it. The freewheel needs some love and cleaning of a little rust here and there, but mostly dirt and grease from the sprockets.

Tuvok said...

Great video, great site. Just had to say that before I asked my question. I am trying to remove and older (4 notch)freewheel and am having no luck. I can't get the thing to budge. Any tips for the hard to remove freewheels?

Gerry Lauzon said...

The freewheel is a closed mechanism and doesn't have any real servicing issues. I sometimes put a few drops of automatic transmission oil along the crack where the mechanism is. Tuvok, what you need is a different socket to remove that freewheel. Check with your local bike shop. Whit out that special socket, there is no way to remove that freewheel, been there and bought the t-shirt.

Gerry :)

Tuvok said...

Got the 4 notch tool. Still no luck. Tried using a wrench and with the tool locked in a vise. Tool looks like it been through a war and the freewheel has not budged. Kind of funny in a way.

Gerry Lauzon said...

Sorry Mr Tuvok I wish that engineering could help you more with this. It seems that you have a Kobayashi Maru on your hands. I truly wish I could help you more, but sometimes old bikes are stubborn that way.

Gerry :)

GhostRider said...

Excellent stuff!

It's not necessarily true, though, that one would have to replace the entire hub when a cassette's pawl mechanism fails. Replacement freehub bodies are readily available and much cheaper than replacing the entire hub (and getting a wheel built around it).

Gerry Lauzon said...

Once again Ghostrider comes to the rescue. Thanks for the extra info man, really appreciated.

Gerry :)

Tuvok said...

No need for apologies. Sometimes things just don't go as planned, especially with 12 yr od bikes. Thanks for the feedback and the inspiration.

Andrew said...

stumpled on your blog and it is exactly what i need. just got into riding and I bought a road bike that I am taking apart and using the frame to build a custom bike. The problem is I dont know how to do anything. I have been using yor site and it has helped a ton. Thanks

Anonymous said...

thank you for your excellent work - i did not realize how easy it was to remove a freewheel until i saw your video.

My problem is that my bicycle's freewheel is truly free - you can move the pedal forward but freewheel does not latch on and rotate the wheel. However, it is not very consistent either and there are times when the freewheel does latch on but you stop pedalling and it becomes "totally free" again. I plan on taking it completely apart this weekend but would you have any pointers or ideas for me?

Thanks in advance, Sam.

Gerry Lauzon said...

Sam, sounds like the unit is shot! There is nothing you can really service in there. My pointer to you is to replace it with another one. Be it new or used it should do the job. If you can remove it from another wheel, you can put it on yours.

Good luck and thanks for reading the blog.

Gerry :)

pemmy said...

Liked your video on freewheels removal. Does the same procedure apply to removing the gear on a single speed BMX bike? If not could you explain how to remove it so as to install spokes.

Gerry Lauzon said...

Pemmy, if your BMX has a freewheel, it should be the same procedure. If it is equipped with a coaster hub, you need to remove a retainer ring and it will pop right off.

Gerry :)

Anonymous said...

Fantastic video and site!

Gerry Lauzon said...

Thank you. I know things have been slow around here lately, but I just got a new computer that will help with video productions and things should pick up shortly.

Gerry :)

Neil said...

Hi Gerry,

I'm rebuilding an old bike and wanted to remove the cassette/freewheel to give it a good clean. It says it's a Shimano set and I have a Shimano tool. The tool looks like it ought to fit into the grooves I see but it just won't sit in there. I tried on a couple of other rear wheels with Shimano cassettes/freewheels and it's the same. So, I went out and bought another Shimano tool, same thing. I'll clearly doing something really stupid. Any ideas what it might be?!

(Incidentally, I still don't understand how you can tell the difference between a cassette and a freewheel while they're still on the bike.)

Neil
An idiot

Gerry Lauzon said...

Hey Neil, either you have a cassette and that's why the socket doesn't sit all the way down or you have the wrong socket. Bring the wheel with you at the bike shop to make sure before buying another tool, if you have to. Lastly, don't bring yourself down like that, there are enough real idiots out in the world who can do that to you and you should never do it to yourself. Everyday is a learning experience my friend. The mere fact that you are trying proves otherwise. Don't give up.

Gerry :)

Neil said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Gerry!

Regarding my point about telling a freewheel from a cassette .... I've thought a little more about your video, and presume that if the central portion (where the tool should sit) rotates with the cog set then that's a 'cassette', whereas if it sits stationary while the cog set rotates then it's a freewheel. Have I come top of the class this time?! ;-p

Neil
A student of Gerry's, but not necessarily an idiot! :-)

Gerry Lauzon said...

Way to go Neil! I couldn't have explained it better myself, actually I didn't! Never would have thought of explaining it that way.

Gerry :)

Teacher to brilliant students worldwide.

Anonymous said...

Great video! I seriously abused my bike hauling 2 kids in a bike trailer daily through a couple of Edmonton winters (something about those -40C days just does nasty things to moving parts!). So I replaced the chain & gears front & back, thanks to your site. The only problem was with the cassette, I cannot get the chain-whip to stick to the cassette. The gears are so worn that the chain whip pops off. Perhaps I should have made a special whip from the old chain (it was stretched by more than a full link over it's original length) but I threw it out. I scrounged an old rear wheel from a bike abandoned in the woods where I walk my dog, and I got that cassette off and put the new one on that, but the original wheel is better (the rim width fits the breaks properly). Any tips on getting the chain whip to stick to very worn cassettes? -P.

Gerry Lauzon said...

Wow! That is one seriously worn drivetrain. I guess your only options are to locate a real stretched out chain and make a tool with that one or have someone weld a piece of steel rod to the cassette you want to remove. I would say to change the hub, but you have to remove the cassette to do that, unless you are willing to sacrfice the spokes by cutting them.. Have you taught about transferring the rim from your good wheel to the old one? If the spokes are good in that wheel you found, this might be a good option since the pads sit on the rim after all. Just tape the rim to the wheel , move the spokes over one by one and have the wheel aligned. That's the lazy man's version of wheel building.

Gerry :)

Anonymous said...

Whoa! "lazy man's wheel building" sounds like real work! Fortunately I got the chain whip to stick with the help of a bunch of fat elastic bands (who'd a thought all those saved elastics would come in useful one day...). Rock On! -P.

N8 said...

I came across a pretty abused mountain bike at an auction. I want to basically install all new hardware to the frame. Just one problem i have no Idea how to pick out cassettes to fit. I really should just take it into a bike shop, but would rather save some money and laughter of me bringing this bike in. Any suggestions on cassettes that A) fight rust and B) proven to last?
Thanks,
-N8

Gerry Lauzon said...

Well N8, if you don't want to be embarrassed at the bike shop, just bring in the wheel. As far as rust proof cassettes goes, they are all the same. Concerning longevity, steel gears last longer than aluminum.

Gerry :)

Anonymous said...

I am trying to remove the freewheel/cassette off of a Kona Blast 2007 but I can't figure out which is what and where to start. I was wondering why you said that some sockets don't work on either or, but in the video you said the socket works on all shimano hubs.

I am confused and I have no idea how to remove the wheel, I don't see a bolt (guess its behind the smaller cogs?) so if I get one of those shimano tools I want to get the right one, can anyone help me out? Really want an SS Kona blast, I hate granny gears. :/

Gerry Lauzon said...

Your best bet would be to bring the wheel with you when you go buy the tool. That way you'll be 100% certain about your purchase. Don't be afraid to ask questions at the bike shop. If they don't want to bother answering you, leave and go elsewhere.

Gerry :)

Anonymous said...

i need help romoving a freewheel it wont move at all i now wich way to turn it but it is stuck solid any ideas how to remove it
thanks

Gerry Lauzon said...

Have you tried mounting the socket in a table wise and use the wheel as a lever? If that doesn't work, I don't know what will.

Gerry :)

cake said...

Gerry,
Great blog. This was so helpful. I am in the process of getting my bike together and it has been a great resource. Thank you.

Gerry Lauzon said...

You're welcomed cake.

Gerry :)

Jay said...

Hey, I recently bought a new bike and only ridding about 3 times and now its not working. When I pedal the back gear just spins freely and is not turning the wheel. So what can you tell me about my situation and how best to deal with it.

Gerry Lauzon said...

Jay, it seems that your cassette or freewheel is busted and needs to be replaced. If it still under warranty, to go back to where you bought it. This is not normal. Good luck.

Gerry :)

Anonymous said...

I have a bmx and my gear snapped... and it doesnt looks like there is any way to thread it out there is no notch or any indent like in the video...should i buy a new rim? how much will the whole rim be(rear) in CDN.??

Gerry Lauzon said...

Consult with a bike shop to see if they can replace the freewheel before buying a new wheel. I have no clue how much they go for, it all depends on the quality of the wheel you want to buy.

Gerry :)

Graham In Luton UK said...

This was great - just what I needed. It didn't help me get my freewheel unit of my old wheel - it seems almost welded on. However, it did help me put a new one on a new wheel. I'll certainly bookmark this site

Gerry Lauzon said...

Thank you Graham.

Gerry :)

Anonymous said...

On the freewheel, im having problems removing it. every time i try to unscrew it the whole axis moves.

Gerry Lauzon said...

If you mean that the entire set of gears move, then you have a cassette. A moving axle while removing the freewheel is not an issue since it is screwed to the hub of the wheel. If you are moving that, you are a very strong person and your wheel looks like a taco afterwards.

Gerry :)

Anonymous said...

gerry who taght you so much about bikes?

Gerry Lauzon said...

I was trained and certified by a professional mechanic and the rest was from getting my hands dirty as often as possible. Oh yeah, I'm also cheap and I always try to fix anything before tossing it away.

Gerry :)

Cass said...

Hiya, Gerry!

Got a question for ya, if you don't mind.

I have an old, steel framed road bike (Capri Cordova). It's a 10-speed, so it has a 5-speed cluster in the back. It dates, as near I can tell, from the early or mid 80's, and I know that the cassette didn't come into widespread use until after that, so I know pretty well that is has a freewheel.

My question is, do you figure that it would be in my best interests to go to my LBS and have them tell me which socket to use to remove my freewheel?

Great site, by the way. It's been of infinite help to me in restoring my bike.

Gerry Lauzon said...

Cass the answer is yes. You don't want to spend $10 to $30 for nothing. And thank you for the great comments.

Gerry :)

yoshi said...

Dude you have the best "how to" site for bikes. Thanks.

Gerry Lauzon said...

yoshi, feedback like yours make it all worthwhile.

Gerry :)

Anonymous said...

hi gerry

ican't get the freewheel off my mountain bike. the tool doesn't even go in half way because the inside nut is in the way. do you know how to get it to go in further or how to remove the nut?

thanks.

Gerry Lauzon said...

First I have to ask if you have a cassette instead of a freewheel? Because in order to remove that nut, you have to remove the freewheel. It is also possible that you don't have the right socket.

Gerry

Cass said...

Hey Gerry!

Me again.

I have a question about the 5-Speed rear cluster freewheel on my old 10-Speed. I noticed during a ride the other day that I felt a little vibration and a rhythmic "click" noise as my wheel turned. While doing some routine check-up on my machine, I noticed the wobble in my rear freewheel, and that it was more than "slight", but it moved in a range that alarmed me. I've also pinned it down as the culprit to my noise problem...

And ideas?

-Cass

Gerry Lauzon said...

Cass, if the wheel is turning and you notice a wobble in the freewheel while it remains fix, that is normal. The freewheel is screwed onto the hub and it doesn't fit square on the hub. If however you grab the freewheel with your hand and can move it from side to side a lot, that isn't normal.

Gerry :)

Cass said...

So should I go on and just ignore the annoying sound that it makes? (To give you an idea, it felt and sounded like my cotter pins on my crank arms needed a good whack with a hammer). I checked that and it wasn't the problem.

Thanks

-Cass

Gerry Lauzon said...

Cass, if that is the case then the freewheel is definitely on it's way out. However, I would check the bearings in the rear wheel hub before spending some bucks on the freewheel. If you ear the noise when coasting without pedaling, then it's the hub.

Gerry :)

t2fsu said...

Hey Gerry!

Great blog & community you folks have here. My question(s): I broke a rear spoke on my Felt Z90 (with a really quiet freewheel) this weekend. when I got the rim back, I noticed that it now makes the freewheel "clicking" sound...is that cool? I hear some really loud ones on some of the peoples' bikes I ride with...does the clicking sound increase wheel turning resistance? It doesn't appear that it does; in fact, some say they like the sound because it alerts slower riders that they are behind them...thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Dear gerry, I am a doctor in London (UK). I find my way to work on my Farrahd Manufaktur (German) bike which has Shimano Nexus 7-speed gears. Recently I have found that when I stop pedaling (whilst moving) that the gear-hub makes a very worrying clicky-clacky sound, and kind of drags when I start pedaling again. It hasnt affected the ride, because when I start pedaling again I hear no sound. The hub is about 4 years old, and has no servicing. Is there a way to adjust it ? What do I do ? Congatulations on a very informative and 'human' blog/post !! But PLEASE help !

Gerry Lauzon said...

Hey Doc, if the hub is not committing suicide with all kinds of bad things happening inside that hub, it might just be that the shifter cable is in need of an adjustment. This would cause the hub to be between gears and it could be the reason why you hear this noise. If you haven't touched the bike at all during those past years, it is very probable that the shifter cable has got some stretch in it. So if that pill doesn't fix your problem, you might have to do a heart transplant down the road. Let me know if my diagnosis was accurate.

Gerry :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Gerry! Thanks for your quick reply! Im not sure how to adjust a shifter cable on a Nexus 7-speed Hub, I dont think my gears are mincing up in there, they behave normally, apart from the clicking. . . . . Ill look into it, If you have some advice about how to do it, or a link I can get some info from I would be very sincerely grateful to you.
Carry on sir!

Gerry Lauzon said...

in any Shimano inner speed hub, there is a "neutral' speed. On a 3 speed hub it is second gear. I don't know which one it is on a 7 speed, but it should be indicated by a line that should be aligned with another line through a window at the hub on the side where the cable is. I might be talking bs here, so check for any colored point or lines and you have to figure out in which gear you have to be and align these. You should have an adjustment barrel either at the hub or shifter that you can play with in order to align these 2 points. I hope I'm making some sense here.

Carrying on.

Gerry :)

Michael126 said...

I dont know if you could help me but, I bought a bmx about 6-8 months ago and about a month after owning the bmx my rear wheel Broke, i took it to the shop i bought it from to get it fixed and so they did , but ever since that my cassete on ym rear wheel hasnt made the ticking noise it should, so i was wondering if you have any idea how i could get the ticking back?

Michael126 said...

I dont know if you could help me but, I bought a bmx about 6-8 months ago and about a month after owning the bmx my rear wheel Broke, i took it to the shop i bought it from to get it fixed and so they did , but ever since that my cassete on ym rear wheel hasnt made the ticking noise it should, so i was wondering if you have any idea how i could get the ticking back?

Gerry Lauzon said...

The reason why you don't hear the sound anymore is probably because the shop lubed your freewheel. Nothing to worry about, if anything it's good and it will last longer.

Gerry :)

Michael126 said...

Ok but is there any way i can get the ticking back? i much rathered it with the ticking

Gerry Lauzon said...

The more you use it, the lube will wear out and it will tick again. I guess patience and riding more is your only remedy at this point.

Gery :)

Anonymous said...

it ok to change to 11-34 with a bike that came with 11-32 freewheel

Anonymous said...

Dear gerry, its the Doc here (from London. I did what you said and alligned the gears as you explained. It did make a difference, and I think there is less noise now coming from the hub, but still a lot more than there was before. I guess, unless you have some other idea, Ill keep twiddling with it and see if I can find a setting which creates the least noise ? Thanks again gerry, your a great man, and. . . . carry on !

Anonymous said...

dear gerry
i ment,is it ok to change your freewheel(11-32)to a(11-34)
my bike came with a 11-32 freewheel

Anonymous said...

ooops my mistake i mean Cassette

Gerry Lauzon said...

Sure thing. You won't change your top gear speed, you'll just find it easier to climb hills in the easier gear(34). You just have to make sure you have the same number of gears as the old one so that spacing is not an issue.

Gerry :)

Anonymous said...

dear gerry
how could i know wich size crank do i need ? im 1.85

Gerald said...

In your case, 170mm crank arms should do the job.

Gerry :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Gerry,

Just bought 2nd hand mavic crossmax slr wheelset...i tried putting an sram pg990 cassette but it seems to be loose thereby resulting to a bad shifting and inconsistent ride...i am missing the orig black plastic spacer on it...is this the problem or are there any other solution in case i wont find a replacement spacer on any of the bike shops here in hongkong.

thanks alot and appreciate your help...matt from hkg.

Gerry Lauzon said...

Hey Matt, your missing spacer is the cause of your problem. You need it so that the cassette is set properly and tight on the hub.

Gerry

Anonymous said...

hi all. i really need a help i tried searching thru web about what type of freewheel tool i should buy for my Sun Race MFR30 cassette/freewheel, but i couldn't find anything. it has 4 notches on its lock ring.pls help me.

thank you

Anonymous said...

Hi Gerry , Great Video I learned a lot. I need your help Gerry, I got the right tool for my freewheel but it's too tight ! I can't take it off. I really don't want to force it 'coz I'm afraid that I might break it. I put WD40 but still. So please give some advice how to deal with it.

Thanks,

Ben

Gerald said...

Don't worry about applying force to it. Your legs apply much more force to that part than your arms ever will.

Gerry :)

Rich, UK said...

Gerry,

I've read many articles on removing freewheels, and yours is the first site that mentions the fact that the key requirement is brute force. I tried many times to get the thing off and couldn't, each time fearing I was doing something wrong and causing damage. Today I found your site and using it, a hammer and an adjustable wrench did the job. Thanks

popol318 said...

Hi Gerry,

Just got a new 26" wheel to replace the 20" wheel on my recumbent trike. I have to transfer the cassette since none was included with the kit.

An image is 1000 word, so video is 1000000.... that will be quite useful tomorrow night.

Thanks a lot

PA

lister man said...

hi
i was woundering what was wrong with my bike and if you could help me on what to do
what happens is sometimes when i pedal the casset and everything moves that should, exept for the wheel its self
do you know whats wrong with it and how i can fix it.

Anonymous said...

I have sheared off two park freewheel tools trying to remove by Shimano 6208 Freewheel off my 1986 Centurion Dave Scott Ironman.

So I am ready to cut it off. Have you ever used a cut off tool to remove a freewheel. Any advice?

Anonymous said...

Terri

I have a 24 yr old Motobecane that I love and just had some work done on it. I didnt realize there was such a thing as an acid drop to cleanthe freewheal, now that I have spent money on a tube up and misc repairs I would like to know the BEST way to remove rst frimn the freewheel at home... Can you give me some advise please?... Terri

Anonymous said...

My cassette wobbles (not freewheel) what would cause this? Is it just loose and I need to get the tools to tighten it or is something worn. I know it has not always done this. I took it to a bike shop (just the wheel) he said the cassette was coming off or something like that, "fixed" it and gave it back to me. I mount it on my bike when I get home just to find that it still wobbles. :(

Gerry Lauzon said...

If it still wobbles despite the fact that it was tightened, you might be missing a washer between the lock nut and the cassette gears.

Gerry

Anonymous said...

Loved your video on cassette removal! You are doing us diy's a GREAT service! Yes, I like to keep things running with the least amount of money, too. Beautiful site, and much appreciated!!! Bike on!

Gerry Lauzon said...

Thanks. Reader feedback is always appreciated.

Biking on, Gerry :)

joshua said...

hi when i was riding my bmx bike my back wheel locked up. I need som help on fixing it.

joshua said...

sorry if it was off topic

Gerry Lauzon said...

If you've checked the obvious and the tire is not rubbing on the frame, sounds like your freewheel is shot and you need to replace the hub.

Gerry

Anonymous said...

Gerry hope you can help me my bike is only 4 months old i was ajusting my breaks when i notice my freewheel was a little wobbly is that normal it dosen't make any noises and the gears are perfect?

please email me Gioeligirl@yahoo.co.uk

Dan said...

Great video, but you left out one HUGE piece of information... the highly specialized little tool you need to undo the cassette! Fortunately, I managed to find one at a local bike shop. The Park Tools FR-1... fits most bikes and was only about $10. A bargain, but it's not really obvious you need this little gadget to remove the cassette. You can't do it without one.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gerry
The rear bearings on my 21 speed raleigh mtb seized while riding , it threw me off like a rag doll and the out come is a broken collar bone , the bearings ripped out of the rim/hub section , how can I fix this .
Regards Sean

Gerry Lauzon said...

I have an article in the how-to post on how to regrease wheel bearings. In your case I would look into a new hub or replace the wheel to be on the safe side.

Gerry

ps Hope you heal well.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gerry
thanks for all your help , great site .
Regards Sean
ps. I told my cycling buddies to check ur site out
Cheers

Gerry Lauzon said...

Always glad to help. Thanks for the promo.

Gerry :)

darren said...

alright guys i can't seem to get my freewheel off if i take to a shop will they get it off for me

Kristina Delaski said...

hello there Gerry.
i have a beach cruiser and want to add gears to it so i can ride it everywhere, rather than just level streets. I don't really know much about bikes and how to fix them but i want to do this myself. how can i go about doing that?
-Kristina

Anonymous said...

My back wheel doesn't turn when I pedal, appart from in second gear, but now second gear is starting to not work either; do you think it's the hub or the freewheel/cassette that needs replacing?

Anonymous said...

My back wheel doesn't turn when I pedal, appart from in second gear, but now second gear is starting to not work either; do you think it's the hub or the freewheel/cassette that needs replacing?

Anonymous said...

I have a one speed bycycle with a bad back tires. Someone gave me the back tire from a 10 speed bicycle to use. How can I take the other gears off the 10 speed bicycle tire so it works for my one speed bicycle? I won't need them

Gerry Lauzon said...

You're trying to mix apples with oranges. The one speed bike wheel has the braking system in the hub while the 10 speed wheel has none. They are not compatible.

Gerry

Anonymous said...

One thing you don't seem to mention is that in using freewheel tools it is helpful to hold the tool in place by reinstalling the quick release lever with a little looseness. This will keep the tool from slipping and damaging the tool or freewheel slots while you apply maximum force with a long wrench or in a bench vice. Once the freewheel breaks free you need to loosen or remove the quick release. This is pretty much essential with older two or four slotted freewheels.

Gerry Lauzon said...

You are absolutely right. Thanks for pointing this out.

Gerry :)