Replacing Your Chain and Cassette

Guest poster Don Blount tackles a daunting task — and finds out it’s not so bad.

Never in my life did I think I would be using whips and chains on a Saturday evening, but I had put it off long enough. It was time.

That is, it was time to replace the chain and cassette on my bike.

And this time I was going to change the cassette myself.

I try to replace my bike chain about every 1,500 miles. The cassette is replaced annually unless it shows excessive wear or the gears begin skipping. Skipping is one sign of chain and cassette wear. Cassettes also wear down so the sprockets get that shark-teeth look.

This would be the first time I had changed a cassette. This seemed like the type of maintenance I could do, saving me both money and the time of going to the bike shop.

I was as prepared as I could be. The last time the cassette was replaced the mechanics at my LBS showed me how it was done, I also looked up information online. The entire procedure seemed simple enough.

I only needed a few tools for this job: chain whip, cassette lockring tool and socket wrench.

Removal was actually fairly simple: remove the skewer from the wheel, place the lockring there in its place. The chain of the chain whip goes over one of the sprockets to hold the cassette in place. Then use the socket wrench to loosen the cassette for removal.

Slide it off…

Old cassette (Yes, quite dirty), new cassette

Wheel after cassette removal

slide on the new cassette…and then use the lockring tool and sprocket wrench to lock it in place. Spin it to make it sure it spins freely and then put the wheel, and chain, back on the bike.

I was done within 20 minutes, and I was moving slowly, double-checking my work. I have seen bike mechanics do it in less than 5 minutes.

New cassette

I was surprised at how easy it all went. And I was pleased to add another item to the repairs and regular maintenance services I can perform on my bike.

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5 thoughts on “Replacing Your Chain and Cassette

  1. OMG! What did you do with that cassette, pour used motor oil on it? It’s filthier than some material you might find on the Internet…

    Great explanation on how to do this repair by yourself. I’ve done chains by myself, and it’s not as tough as one may think. Good post. With regard to cassette maintenance, I always take a cloth and run it between the cogs after spraying them with degreaser. At the risk of insulting anyone’s intelligence, the cleaner those things are, the longer they — and the chain — will last.

    -jbm

    • Believe it or not, that’s what the cassette looked like after only a few rides. The lubricant coats the chain and cassette and then picks up dirt like a son of a gun. I did not clean it this time because I was going to replace it anyway.

  2. Is there a good brand of degreaser I can purchase? Also I have had about twenty different explanations as to when you you lubericate the chain. My LBS gave me this stuff in a yellow green bottle and told me to apply it when the bike reached 100 miles. Then everyre-apply 500 miles. Does that sound right?

  3. Here’s one other helpful hint for the process. Unless you’re replacing with an exact match for the cassette, it’s wise to check the high/low adjustment on the derailleur. Sometimes there is just enough of a variance to cause a little skipping at the extreme ends.

    But you’re right. There isn’t a lot to it.

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