How to replace your cassette

How to replace your bike's cassette in five simple-to-follow steps

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How to replace the cassette on your bike

Knowing how to remove and replace the cassette (the cogs on the rear wheel) on your bike is an important and easy task that any home mechanic should get familiar with.

Why would you want to remove your cassette? Well, if you ride your bike a lot and you don’t clean it as frequently as you ought to, your cassette can wear out.

Or, if you want to rectify your wrongdoings and clean your bike more thoroughly (you should!), this is a good way to get into the bits you can’t normally reach.

Changing your cassette can also allow you to switch to different gearing, perhaps making your gearing easier or harder for your local terrain or a specific event. All of these reasons will necessitate your cassette (and possibly chain) coming off.

It’s worth having a cassette tool and chain whip in your tool kit for all of the above reasons. You don’t need the top-spec tools that can cost more than some bikes. For the amount you’ll use them, it’s just not worth it. However, don’t buy the cheapest ones either – you may bend them within a handful of uses.

Do your research, or ask the mechanics at your local shop. As always, if you go to them for advice, do the right thing and buy it there too.

Tools required

  • Chain whip
  • Cassette lockring tool
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Step 1

Rear wheel removal
Shift into the smallest cog on the cassette.
David Caudery / Immediate Media

Shift the chain into the smallest cog on the cassette. Open the quick release or unwind the thru-axle and take the wheel out of the bike.

To remove the cassette, you must loosen the lockring. This requires a special splined tool, some of which can be specific to your brand of cassette. 

Chain whip on cassette
A chain whip must be used to hold the cassette in place.
David Caudery/Immediate Media

As the lockring unwinds in the same direction the freewheel spins, you need to use a chain whip (in this case a plier type is used) to counter the loosening motion.

Removing the lockring will requite a lot of force – it’s not something you want coming undone mid-ride. 

Step 2

Removing lockring from cassette
Remove the lockring from the cassette.
David Caudery / Immediate Media

Remove the lockring and then pull the old cassette towards you to remove it from the freewheel. If you want to keep the old one, it’s a good idea to zip-tie it all together in order.

It’s also a good idea at this stage to check the condition of your freehub. If it has been deeply gouged by the cogs biting into the body, it may be due a replacement, but this is less of an issue these days because most cassettes are mounted onto a wide-bodied cog carrier.

Step 3

Grease freehub body
Grease the freehub body very, very lightly.
David Caudery / Immediate Media

At this stage, it’s a good idea to give your freehub a thorough clean and then give the body a very light coating of grease. This can prevent steel cogs from corroding in place on an alloy freehub body. 

Slide the new cassette into place
Slide the new cassette into place.
David Caudery / Immediate Media

Slide the new cassette on, in order, making sure you line up all the splines.

There will be one wider gap on the rear of each cog, which you need to line up with the double or wider spline on the freewheel.

Step 4

Lightly tighten the lockring in place
Lightly tighten the lockring in place.
David Caudery / Immediate Media

Take the lockring and fit it to the front of the cassette. Screw it gently into place by hand initially. Tighten the lockring sufficiently to hold the cassette in place.

It’s important to do this step because it is very easy to strip or crossthread the locking with the additional leverage the locking tool provides.

Step 5

Lock to manufacturer's specs
Tighten to manufacturer’s specs
David Caudery / Immediate Media

You don’t need the chain whip for this step because you will be tightening in a clockwise direction and the freewheel will provide resistance.

Tighten to the manufacturer-recommended torque and don’t be tempted to overtighten because it can damage the freehub body’s threads and you may actually want to take it off again some day…

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Now you are good to go! If you have fitted a larger or smaller cassette, you may need to adjust the B-tension on your rear derailleur.

Also remember that you can only fit a like-for-like replacement in terms of the ‘speed’ of your cassette – i.e. you cannot replace a 9-speed cassette with a 10-speed one.