A wheel hassle

May 10, 2013

Freehub remover

I recently attended a bicycle maintenance course at Look Mum No Hands!, where I was taught many workshop-related secrets by an affable anarchist named Digger. I wish I could tell you those secrets, but sadly I can’t, because I’ve forgotten most of them. What I do remember, though, is Digger’s insightful response when I told him it was my dream to one day remove a cassette and chainring.

“What you need to do,” he concluded sagely, “is dream bigger.”

And Digger’s right, of course. To experience a fulfilling, meaningful existence, a human being must aim for an achievement far greater than the removal of a drivetrain (even though doing so allows you to give it a good scrub and get the whole thing looking extra sparkly-clean, which is always nice). Nevertheless, I am pleased to say that thanks to Digger and subsequent research on YouTube, I was able to take the sprockets off a wheel last week and transfer them onto a brand new one (the chainring business will have to wait for another day). It’s literally half a dream come true!

The path to realising your dreams is often paved with cobbles, and so it proved with my cassette-removing odyssey. Firstly, I went to a hardware store on North End Road run by an idiosyncratic Cypriot who refused to sell me an adjustable wrench until I took off my bicycle helmet and sunglasses. “I can’t see who you are!” he complained as I reluctantly removed my prescription eyewear – which, ironically, prevented me from seeing him.

A bigger problem occurred after I purchased a chain whip and lockring tool from a branch of a well-known bike shop chain near Southwark Bridge. The lockring tool didn’t fit. This is because it was actually a freehub remover (you can see it in the photo above resting on top of the cassette instead of slotting in). To spare their blushes, I won’t name the shop that doesn’t know the difference between an FR1 and an FR5. Although you don’t need to be a brain surgeon (see what I did there?) to work out who they are.

So after a delay of one day caused by being sold the wrong tool, I set about removing the cassette. Pull the chain whip clockwise around the cassette, turn the wrench anticlockwise, and behold! With one little tug, you have begun the process of liberating the cassette from its wheel-bound home. It’s piss-simple. As with most things cycling-related, I should’ve done this years ago.

Shimano Ultegra 10-speed sprockets removed

The next step was to lay all the sprockets and spacers out in order and clean them – the most satisfying part of this whole process – before attaching them to a Shimano Dura-Ace C24. (Yes, Campagnistas. First came the Shimano shoes, then the 10-speed Shimano electronic groupset, and now Shimano wheels: I am ‘turning Japanese’ in a way that is almost as unsightly as the activity described by that euphemism.) You’re probably dying to read my review of the C24 wheelset, so here it is: they’re very responsive but not as smooth as Ksyrium Elites, and the levers are what I imagine the ‘RELEASE BOMBS’ switch on a fighter jet’s control panel might look like.

Shimano Dura-Ace C24 quick release

That’s about it, really.

I’ll draw a veil over what happened next. Suffice to say, I am grateful to the ever-helpful Pearson Performance for being open early on a Saturday, and I didn’t realise the C24s are built for 11-speed when I bought them.

The important thing is, I achieved my sprockets-removing goal. I can now dream bigger.

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