Knowing how to properly install and change a cassette can be a very useful skill! It will not only save you time and money; it will also give you the option of changing your gears for different terrain or replacing a worn-out cassette. The average cassette will usually outlast 4-5 chain replacements, as long as you change your chain before it becomes too stretched out and wears into your cogs.
Tools you’ll need for this job:
• Chain Whip
• Lockring Tool
• Crescent Wrench
Removing the cassette:
You start by taking the rear wheel out of your bike and removing the quick-release skewer. Once you have the skewer out of the hub, you will see a lockring with some splines that is holding the cassette onto the freehub body. If you take your lockring tool, insert it into the splines and try to untwist, you will quickly see why the chain whip is necessary.
The chain whip grabs hold of the cassette, allowing you to unscrew the lockring without causing the freehub body the “coast.”
Insert the lockring tool into the lockring. Wrap the chain whip around a gear (wrap it around one of the bigger gears for more leverage) so that you can hold it and ensure the freehub doesn’t coast. Then use your crescent wrench to unscrew the lockring.
Now that you have removed the lockring, you should be able to easily slide the cassette off the freehub body. Most cassettes will have some individual cogs, spacers and a couple clustered cogs. Be careful not to lose any of the spacers or cogs.
Sometimes you will have some “cassette bite” on the freehub body. This is where the cassette cogs dig into the freehub body a little. This is fairly normal, but it might make it more difficult to remove the cassette.
Installing the cassette:
Reinstalling the cassette is very easy, and manufacturers have designed the cogs so there is no way for you to put them on backwards. They have done this by having one smaller spline on the freehub that lines up with a corresponding notch on the cog. If you try to put the cog on backwards, the splines won’t line up and you won’t be able to slide it onto the freehub body.
The only thing you need to do is put the spacers in between each cog and make sure you slide the largest cog on first. Then put the next smaller one on until you put the very smallest cog on last.
Now that you have all the cogs installed, you can thread the lockring on. For this step, you don’t need the chain whip. You simply tighten the lockring down with the lockring tool and crescent wrench. Since you are tightening it in the same direction as the pedaling force, it won’t coast.
Most cassettes have little teeth that make it feel notched as you are tightening the lockring down. Those are there to help the lockring stay tight during regular riding conditions. So go ahead and tighten the lockring down snug; you should feel some of those notches in your wrench.
After you have tightened the lockring down, grab the cassette and wiggle it to see if any of the cogs are loose or rattling. If they are, that means that you either forgot a spacer, have the wrong size cassette or have some issue that is not allowing the cassette to seat right.
Got something to add? Leave a comment below!
Check out our video on cassette installation.