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How to super clean your bike's rear cassette

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How to super clean your bike gears. Cycle Traveller

Having dirty mechanical components on your bike can reduce performance capacity and lead to early wear and tear on your bike. For those not confident in tinkering with their pride and joy, or those who just don’t have the time, it is a good idea to take your bike in to be serviced regularly by a bike mechanic.

But if you are game, being able to perform basic bike maintenance yourself can save you money over the long term, and – for the most part – it is fairly easy to do. One of the slightly more involved processes is removing and cleaning your bike’s cassette to keep the gears functioning smoothly for every ride.

We ask the experts at 99 Bikes for a step-by-step breakdown of how to do this with minimal fuss.

Tools you will need

Cassette tool and chain whip for removing rear cassette. Cycle Traveller

The two key tools you will need are a chain whip and a cassette tool. Generally, the cassette tool is specific to the brand of cassette you have, so be sure the two match up. A wrench also comes in handy.

Step 1: Remove the rear wheel

The first step of removing your cassette for cleaning is removing the back wheel of your bike. Most bikes these days have a quick-release system that is easy to use. Before doing anything else, manually drop your chain to the smallest gear to ensure you get the gear alignment correct upon reassembly. Once done, you can open and unscrew the quick release (easy to do by hand) and open the brake. At this point, if you lift the bike up, you should see the wheel drop down out of the drop-outs. Gently tap the wheel down and then remove it from the chain.

Step 2: Take apart the cassette

Work the cassette tool into the centre of the locknut and then pop the end of the quick-release rod back into place to help hold everything together while you take it apart. Now, use the chain whip to hold the cassette in place while you loosen the locknut, using a wrench or something similar to assist with this. Without the chain whip, the cassette will spin as you try to turn your tools. Once the locknut is loose, you can simply lift the cassette off the freehub, ready for cleaning. Once off, it is easy to separate the cogs and clean them individually.

Step 3: Clean the cassette

Shimano XT cassette. Cycle Traveller

To clean, just go over each cog with a soft cloth and a small amount of degreaser.

Step 4: Reassemble your cassette

To put your cassette back together, put your cogs back on in the correct order. You’ll notice that the hub has splines on it, with one gap slightly larger than the others. This guides the gears back to the correct alignment. If the cog doesn’t have a built-in spacer, make sure you insert one of the plastic spacers into that gap. Finally, screw your locknut back on, tighten it using the cassette tool, and pop the wheel back in place.

There are some who recommend keeping the cassette in place for cleaning and simply using a cloth to clean in the gaps. This is certainly possible, but, for a thorough clean and the opportunity to inspect the parts, taking your cassette apart is a great idea and is able to be done by any bike owner.

Images: 1. Bicycle XT group set. 2. A cassette tool and chain whip for Shimano and SRAM components. 3. A Shimano XT cassette.

This post was kindly provided by 99Bikes.

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