When I took my beloved carbon road bike – a Scott Contessa Foil – for it’s twice-yearly health check, little did I know what oily-handed fun was in store.
New Wheels, You Say?!
“It’s in good shape. We haven’t had to do a lot with it”. Said Pete of BW Cycling in Bristol. “Brilliant!” I chirped. “But, your rims are really worn. You’ll need new wheels – soon”. “Ok”, I said, my mind doing calculations about the forthcoming financial damage. “What would happen if I didn’t change them soon?” “Well, they could snap.”
Let’s face it; nobody want a snapping wheel now do they. So, off I diligently went to find new wheels. That was the first hurdle. When you buy a road bike, your roadie friends eagerly teach you to change an inner tube, you might learn how to use a multi-tool to change your saddle height and a wrench to switch out your pedals. But wheels? I just thought they’d keep on rollin’. A total mystery. I decided not to stick with the Mavic Aksiums, despite the fact they’d they’d done me really proud. I’d got 8000 problem-free miles out of those bad boys; still true as the day they were made. But I wanted to delve into the unknown; upgrade a tiny bit. I had to stick with aluminium due to budget, and opted for Hunt wheels in Race Aero Wide. I had heard nearly all good things – just one iffy report. If it was good enough for the riders of the Transcon, I thought, it was good enough for me (and my LeJog plans). So I decided to see what all the fuss was about with these trendy slick hoops. ‘The hunt is on.’
When they arrived, very quickly I might add, my first thought was ‘yeahy!’, which was swiftly followed with ‘argh,’ because, now I had to learn how to change my cassette – the conical shaped mountain of toothy rings on the rear wheel that your chain clings to offer up your gear range.
“The wheels sat there making eyes at me before I finally approached them with a chain whip.”
Of course, for a while, the wheels sat there making eyes at me, gathering dust before I finally approached them with a chain whip and a lock ring tool. At this point, the chain whip was still a mystery to me – it sounded terrifying. As for the lock ring, who new that I even had a ring on my cassette to unlock?
Ask any seasoned cyclist, and they’ll tell you that “changing your cassette is easy”. Well – as with most things, this is only true once you know how. So here’s how.
How To Change A Cassette
1. Gather Your Tools
Get a chain whip (left in photo) and a lock ring tool (middle). (Note, Shimano, Campy and Sram have their own style of lock ring tool. Shimano is pretty standard, though.) You will also need a wrench (right) to clamp or slot onto your chain ring removal tool, in order to twist it around.
Now approach your wheel, armed with your tools…
2. Place Your Chain Whip On Your Cassette
The purpose of the chain whip is to stop the cassette from spinning around when you’re applying force to the wrench to remove the cassette’s lockring. Place the chain of the chain whip onto the middle of the cassette and wrap it around snugly. You can then use the handle of the chain whip to hold it in place while you apply pressure with your other arm to the lockring removal tool.
3. Unlock And Remove The Cassette
With the chain whip in place (which it isn’t in this photo – oops), pop the lock ring removal tool into the centre of the top of the cassette as shown in the photo above. It should fit snugly.
Now attach your lever to the tool (usually a wrench as shown above) and turn the lock ring removal tool counter-clockwise. Widdershins, if you will. You’ll need some oomph to remove it.
At this point feel free to adopt a grimace, show your teeth, grunt a little. All of this helps. Enjoy the satisfying moment as it opens freely. You did that.
“Nobody tells you this and panic sets in.”
With your cassette unlocked, you are free to remove it from your hub. If this is your first time, you will likely expect it to come off in one piece, but it is, in fact, lots of individual rings in a pile (and a few attached to each other in a single unit), all sliding around. Argh!
Nobody tells you this and panic sets in. How will you ever find the order they sit in again? How will you know which way is up?
Now, if you look closely, they all have little numbers on them, indicating the answers to both of those questions. But herein lies the real answer: splines. Oh hello wonderful splines. These little teeth ensure that the rings are replaced exactly as nature (ok, manufacturer) intended.
4. Putting The Cassette On Your New Wheel
When you’ve (probably) given your hub a wipe and also your cassette rings a wipe, cos’ there’s no way they’re going near your new wheels looking like that; but also kept the rings in order (along with their spacers) for ease, you’re ready for the fun bit – the throwback to being in nappies and placing those plastic colourful rings onto a wooden stick! It’s basically the same as that but more greasy.
On the rear of each ring, there’s a set of splines / square teeth that slot neatly onto the hub. One of these rectangular teeth is smaller than the rest; which matches the same profile on the rear cassette ring. The result is easy application and tight fit of the rings. The spacers just slot in between them. It honestly couldn’t be easier, or more fun.
5. Tighten It Up
With your cassette back in place, and your cassette cover lockring carefully popped back on to, with care not to thread, back in place with your fingers, you need your lockring tool again. But this time, you’re going clockwise, baby. The official torque setting is 40nm.
…Now, I didn’t have a torque wrench (it’s on the shopping list) so I gave it a hand tighten, and I’ll go to a bike shop to check it’s the right tightness. I know, I know, fell at the last hurdle.