Removing rear bicycle sprockets

Removing rear bicycle sprockets

Updated: 16/11/2018.

This post explains the tools needed and the proper procedure of removing rear sprockets of rear wheels that have them.  🙂   Tools needed will be listed after the preparation procedures are explained, for reasons that will become apparent after reading paragraphs preceding the tool list.

Contents:
1. Removing the wheel
2. Determining whether the wheel has a freehub, or a freewheel
3. Tools required
…3.1. If freewheel is used
…3.2. If a freehub is used
4. Putting the freehub, or freewheel tool in place
5. Removing (unscrewing)
…5.1. Freewheel unscrewing
…5.2. Cassette (freehub) removal
6. Mounting
…6.1. Mounting a new freewheel
…6.2. Cassette mountingMontiranje kasete

1. Removing the wheel

First, of course, the wheel needs to be removed. Procedure and tools are explained in this post:
How to remove a wheel.

2. Determining whether the wheel has a freehub, or a freewheel

Before choosing the correct tools, it is necessary to first determine which of the two systems is used (unless that is already known). This article explains the differences and how to tell:
Freewheel vs Freehub.

3. Tools required

  • Adjustable wrench, big one, or a wrench that matches the freewheel, or freehub key’s nut.

     

  • Copper grease. Any grease at hand can be used, but copper grease is the best for this application.
  • Cotton cloth or some kitchen paper wipes.

3.1. If freewheel is used

  • Key for freewheel removal.

    Freewheel removal key
    Freewheel removal key

3.2. If a freehub is used

  • Cassette locknut key
    Cassette lockring key. Differs from frewheel key by number and profile of teeth.
    Cassette lockring key.
    Differs from frewheel key by teeth profile. Also, the part with splines is usually shorter than one on the frewheel keys.

    Freewheel key can fit cassettes as well. However, because of the smaller “teeth”, it will not fit splines deeply enough and this can damage the interface. With cassettes, use a cassette key.

  • Chain whip
    Chain whip.
    Chain whip.
    For countering and stopping cassette from rotating when unscrewing the lockring.

    For old freehub standard “Shimano Uniglide” (current one is called Hyperglide – current as of 1990s), two chain whips are needed.

4. Putting the freehub, or freewheel tool in place

Make sure the freewheel key slides nicely into the frewheel splines.

Freewheel key is inserted into the splines. Here, a nut holding the wheel on the bicycle is used to prevent the key from falling out accidentally. This is not necessary, and if it's done, do not tighten the nut, not even a little.
Freewheel key is inserted into the splines.
Here, a nut holding the wheel on the bicycle is used to prevent the key from falling out accidentally.
This is not necessary, and if it’s done, do not tighten the nut, not even a little.

If the key doesn’t slide in, perhaps the axle needs to be turned a bit (quarter of a turn), or even a locknut holding the cones needs to be removed from that side.

Putting a cassette lockring key into splines. Same principle as with freewheel key.
Putting a cassette lockring key into splines.
Same principle as with freewheel key.

5. Removing (unscrewing)

5.1. Freewheel unscrewing (for freehub cassette, go to 5.2.)

For those having a vice, it is best to mount frewheel key into the vice (removing it first once it’s confirmed it slides easily, in step 4. Make sure it is horizontal and tightly held in place, so that the splined part protrudes up. Then carefully place the wheel onto the splines, make sure it is well seated.

Mounting a freewheel key into the vice and placing the wheel onto it
Mounting a freewheel key into the vice and placing the wheel onto it

All that is left now is to turn the wheel counter clockwise and the freewheel will unscrew. Sometimes getting it to move takes quite a bit of force.

If not using a vice, first make sure the tyre is mounted onto the wheel and well inflated.

Then place the wheel on the floor, against a wall. Insert freewheel key into place. Use wrench to turn it counter clockwise and with quite a bit of force.

Now you'll get what's commin' to ya! :)
Now you’ll get what’s commin’ to ya! 🙂

Once it gets tarted, it goes easily. Freewheel key can be turned by hand.

5.2. Cassette (freehub) removal

Once a cassette key was put into place (step 4.), place the wheel on the ground so that cassette is facing you, wrap the chain whip on the right hand side and bring the wrench clamping and turning the cassette key from the left.

Freewheel (cassette locknut) unscrewing technique
Freewheel (cassette locknut) unscrewing technique

It will go very hard, suddenly unscrewing after considerable force is applied. Make sure not to hit something, or loose balance. After that, it is easily continued with bare hand – just turn the locknut all the way out.

When the lockring is unscrewed, the cassette is simply slid off the freehub splines. Make sure not to mix sprockets and spacers, they might come loose when removing cassette.

Sprockets and spacers.
Lockring (all the way to the right), sprockets and spacers

With old, Shimano Uniglide freehub types, the smallest sprocket acts as a lockring.

Shimano Uniglide freehub and cassette. The smallest sprocket tightens the cassette in place and acts like a locknut.
Shimano Uniglide freehub and cassette.
The smallest sprocket tightens the cassette in place and acts like a locknut.

For removing this type, it takes two chain whips. One to hold the cassette, preventing it from from turning, and the other to loosen the smallest sprocket – anti-clockwise.

6. Mounting

6.1. Mounting a new freewheel (for freehub go to 6.2.)

Clean the freewheel threads on the hub and on the freewheel. Put some copper grease onto the hub threads for frewheel mounting (or on the freewheel itself). Or any other grease at hand, but best use copper grease. That will prevent frewheel from getting stuck by the next time it needs replacing.

Greasing freewheel threads on a hub. The picture shows lithium grease, but copper grease is a better choice.
Greasing freewheel threads on a hub.
The picture shows lithium grease, but copper grease is a better choice.

Carefully screw the frewheel onto the hub. Make sure when starting that it’s parallel and it goes on nice and easily. If there’s resistance when starting, there’s cross threading, it wasn’t screwed in parallel. Use a frewheel key to unscrew (the key should be turned easily, by hand) and start over. When it starts screwing in smoothly, screw it all the way. Tighten by hand, just make sure to avoid cutting palms on the sprocket teeth. Use cloth or gloves. It is enough to tighten by hand. It is further tightened when pedalling.

Arr! Gloves are for wimps! Screwed frewheel. Job done. :)
Arr!
Gloves are for wimps! 🙂
Screwed frewheel.
Job done. 🙂

6.2. Cassette mounting

Place sprockets and spacers back in order they were removed. Modern hypeglide cassettes and freehubs have one spline wider than the others, to help with correct rotation alignment of sprockets.

Smear some copper grease over locknut threads and the part where it presses the smallest sprocket, then gently screw it in place by hand. Check visually whether it is all properly seated.

Finally, with a lockring key and a wrench, tighten the locknut to the appropriate torque.

It should be tight to hold, but don't over tighten it. Holding the wrench near the hub, and using a lot of force usually enables to make it tight enough, but not too tight.
It should be tight to hold, but don’t over tighten it.
Holding the wrench near the hub, and using a lot of force usually enables to make it tight enough, but not too tight.

 

Related post – Bicycle rear hub compatibility:

Compatibility of bicycle rear hubs - which can accept what kinds of sprockets (cassettes)
Compatibility of bicycle rear hubs – which can accept what kinds of “sprockets” (cassettes)
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