One More Bike Maintenance Mistake Exposed (don’t be stupid)

from Rookie’s keyboard

Hello, friends

It’s time to expose one more bike maintenance mistake that rookies might be doing (or planning to). Can you guess what it is? 

Lubricating your cassette 

Yeah. That’s correct. Some people actually think that should be done. The reality? 

The cogs of a bike cassette do not require any lubrication. 

Dirt Accumulation

Extra lubrication creates a sticky residue collecting dust and road dirt. Over time, the result is thick black gunk infesting the chain and preventing it from moving smoothly.

The Chain Is Lubricated

When a chain is sufficiently lubricated, some of the oil inevitably gets on the rear cogs. Thus, the chain lubricates the cassette even if you don’t want it to.

Low Amount of Lateral Friction

The chain slides against the cassette during shifting but after reaching the targeted cog, it bites against the teeth and stays there. The chain simply isn’t rubbing against the cassette most of the time.

Additional Info Nuggets

  • Some people like to grease the lock ring of the cassette to facilitate future assembly and disassembly, but even that is not needed, although the practice is not harmful either.
  • The cassette slides on the freehub body and creates a “metal on metal” situation which by definition requires grease. Therefore, you can grease the freehub body if you want to. 

Technically, if the freehub body is made of alloy and the cassette is steel, galvanic corrosion can take place. But to be honest, even then lubrication is not mandatory.

Galvanic corrosion is a deterioration process occurring when two dissimilar metals are in contact and there’s a conductor like water.

A layer of grease on the freehub body would prevent this outcome by separating the two surfaces.

That said, galvanic corrosion between a cassette and a freehub body is an extremely rare scenario for two reasons:

  1. The inside of the cassette and the outside of the freehub body are treated against corrosion;
  2. The cassette is a “consumable” which demands fairly frequent replacement when used intensively. In consequence, there isn’t enough time for galvanic corrosion to take place.

The Insides of The Hub

The ratchet mechanism, the pawls, and the bearings of the hub should be lubricated as required by the manufacturer.

Lubrication is necessary because there are many moving parts brushing each other.

More often than not, the lubrication of choice is grease due to its high viscosity and water-repellent functions.

Some cheap hubs are non-serviceable and require complete replacement upon failure as there is no way to open and close them without risking structural disintegration.

Freewheels Are Slightly Different

Freewheels “carry” a ratcheting mechanism whereas cassettes are just a “collection of cogs”.

If you’re experiencing problems with the coasting of your bike, you will have to “un-seize” the freewheel.

The simplest and fastest way to do this would be to spray a degreaser into the bearings through the crack at the back of the freewheel’s body.

Technically, you can also disassemble and lubricate the freewheel, but its price does not justify the labor cost and the time.

Chances are that the cogs on the freewheel will wear out long before you have to service the internals.

The Chainrings

The same logic can be applied to the chainrings – due to their role, and the fact that the chain is already lubricated, there’s no need to lube them. Keeping them clean is a sufficient maintenance protocol.

A Cassette Cleaning Protocol

You can dismount the cassette to clean it or keep it on the bike. Removing it facilitates the procedure and gives better results but takes more time and effort.

To remove the cassette, you will need a chain whip and a cassette or a freewheel tool.

You can use the following plan to clean it:

Step 1: Remove the cassette

Step 2: Soak the cassette in Kerosene(Paraffin)

Step 3: Wash the cassette with white spirits, gasoline, or brake cleaner.

This method produces a very clean cassette but has a major downside – it involves super harmful substances.

If you don’t want to remove the cassette, you can follow a simpler strategy:

Step 1: Spray the cassette with a degreaser such as WD-40. Make sure that the substance doesn’t reach the hub’s bearings.

Step 2: Slide a brush or a dedicated cassette cleaner between each cog and rotate the cassette. 

If you don’t want to spend extra money on a “bike-specific” brush, you can buy one designed for cleaning car wheels. Most of them can fit between the sprockets just fine.

Alternatively, if you don’t have access to any of the above, you could take an old cotton T-shirt, cut it into long and thin strips, and use them to reach between the cassette’s cogs.

Step 3: Spray more degreaser on the cogs and wipe them with a dry cotton rag.

Keeping The Cassette Cleaner Longer

No product can keep the cassette as clean as it gets after degreasing. Nonetheless, the tips below will reduce the level of contamination.

  • Don’t over-lubricate the chain

The parts of the chain that need the most lubrication are on the inside. The lube on the outside of the chain isn’t very useful. 

  • Do a short cassette cleaning after every ride

You can purchase a cheap toothbrush and use it to remove the visible gunk accumulated on the cassette after a ride.

The goal isn’t to get a super clean cassette but to eliminate the peripheral contamination.

  • Don’t lubricate your chain too frequently

You don’t have to lubricate your chain after every ride.

  • Use a quality degreaser

When cleaning your cassette, use a strong degreaser.

  • Get a nickel-plated cassette

Black and grey cassettes do not shine as much as the nickel-plated versions even when you clean them. If you want your cassette to be shining, you will have to go for a nickel-plated one.

Until next time

– Rookie






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