How do you maintain your cassette on your bike?

Will Smith from Havebike explains everything you need to know about bike cassettes, from how to choose the right one for your needs to how to look after them and replace them

How do you maintain your cassette on your bike?

What is the cassette on your bike?

The cassette is the term used for the set of cogs affixed to the rear wheel. In the earliest days of bicycle gears, riders would have to remove and flip the rear wheel to access their ‘other gear’. Today, riders across disciplines have access to a plethora of options including electronic shifting with up to 12 cogs on a single cassette.

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How many teeth should you have on your cassette?

We are blessed in the modern era to have cassettes with a wide range of gears, each with small increments between. It was not long ago that an 11-23 was standard within the pro peloton. This by todays standards is a narrow range which would be uncomfortable on steep climbs for many amateurs. With modern advancements, there’s no real down side to having a wider range on an 11 speed cassette even for someone who lives in a flat area.

A modern 11-28 cassette has small increments between gears giving you smooth shifting whilst the 28 gives most riders plenty of scope to tackle the steepest climbs you’d be likely to find in the UK. For those tackling particularly hilly terrain, a 32 tooth cog is compatible with most modern long cage derailleurs.

How do you maintain the cassette?

As with all components on your bike, regular cleaning is vital to ensuring optimum function and longevity. Your cassette in particular will gather dirt and grime as it sticks to your chain lubricant. Thoroughly cleaning and re-lubricating your cassette as well as applying water displacing spray will ensure smooth shifting and a longer life for your expensive components.

Beyond regular cleaning, it’s a good idea to deep clean your cassette occasionally especially if you ride a lot in poor conditions. If possible, remove your cassette and clean each cog individually being careful to keep all cogs and spacers in the correct order and direction. If you’d prefer to keep the cassette on, use a micro-fibre cloth between each cog to displace debris and clean off any old oil and grime.

Using your full range of gears is another important step in ensuring you get the most life out of your cassette. Using only a handful of gears will mean these cogs wear considerably faster as well as being a less efficient use of your power. Making sure to fully utilise your cassette as well as your chainrings will ensure a consistent chain line and well distributed wear.

How long does a cassette last?

A well looked after cassette should last 3-4 chains before the cassette needs replacing. Catching a worn chain early will greatly increase the lifespan of your cassette. It’s a good idea to invest in a chain wear indicator.

How do you replace the cassette?

Whilst you may encounter numerous examples of people removing cassettes without specialist tools, we would not recommend trying these methods at home. Not only do you risk damaging your cassette but your axel and cassette body could be at risk as well if blunt instruments are used to force it loose. A proper chain whip and cassette tool is the best option for safely removing and reinstalling your cassette. All of our bicycle servicing packages include the labour cost of this task at Havebike.

London based bike repair company, havebike offers riders across the South East collect and return repairs and servicing. Their mechanics gave us their expert advice on how to look after your bike’s chain. To book your bike in for a repair or service, visit www.havebike.co.uk

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Will has been riding bikes for eight years and has placed in the top ten in national enduro races on several occasions. He started fixing bikes as a Saturday job at his local bike shop. As a technician at Havebike, Will specialises in off road bikes and wheel truing.