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  1. #1
    Queen of the Pea Pile oceanrider's Avatar
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    the difference between a freewheel and a cassette?

    I'm talking to the owner of an LBS about doing a partial rebuild on my Nishiki 10 speed. First I want to start with a good wheelset. He recommends a change to a 7 speed cassette vs. a freewheel.

    Can someone explain the difference between a freewheel and a cassette? I know what a cassette is but I guess I don't know what a freewheel is. And why go to 7 speed vs. 8 or 9 speed?

    Thanks folks.
    Picture yourself on a boat on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies...

  2. #2
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    I'll have to defer to others on your mechanical questions but as flat as the Fl terrain is I would be surprised if it would be worth your cost to upgrade the components on an older (low to mid end if I recall correctly from prior discussions)bike short of doing the job yourself (with quality used components).My bike is an older midlevel 12 speed and I effectively only use 6 gears due to skipping problems on the upper front chainring and I have not really been inconvienced to the point of bothering to fix the problem.

  3. #3
    I am a lonely visitor RegularGuy's Avatar
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    Freewheels are old technology. On a freewheel the ratcheting mechanism that allows your wheel to spin freely while you are not pedaling is of one piece with the cogs.

    Cassette systems have been around for a while and are well proven. On a cassette, the ratcheting mechanism is of one piece with the hub. The cogs simply slip over the end and are held in place with a lockring.

    A cassette would be a good upgrade.

    I don't know why he is reccomending a 7 speed. It may be all the clearance your frame has. Maybe it would require too many other new components to go to an 8 or 9 speed system.

    Why not ask the mechanic?
    Religion is a good thing for good people and a bad thing for bad people. --H. Richard Niebuhr

  4. #4
    Queen of the Pea Pile oceanrider's Avatar
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    Low end, high end, in the end I've decided to forego a new bike and do a partial rebuild in the Nishiki. There are other things I'd like to do with the few bucks I have. The price he quoted me for the things I want to do make it a better deal at $300 than a new bike with newer technology and the only complaints I have with this bike will be remedied with the partial rebuild.

    As for the cassette, it has a 5 speed cassette already. Even though we have primarily flats, I'd like to be able to tackle at least the hills of North Florida. I'm keeping this bike. I guess bikes are personal things.
    Picture yourself on a boat on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies...

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    I never said I thought you should get a new bike.After all I've done fine on mine for 17 years.I just suggested you could probably get by on a 10 speed for Florida touring and even save the $300.The only incline I've had to use my bottom gear on (and I'm sure mine is similar to yours)was the bridge from Ft Meyers Bch to Ft Meyers and it was steep (Im sure as any hill in No Fl).If you want more gearing I thought the hybrid had more gearing and was what you were going to take touring anyway.However if there are concerns that will be fixed with the upgrade then go for it.I would just take the shopowners recommendation with a grain of salt and get other opinion such as from this board

  6. #6
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    It's a freewheel.There were no 5 speed cassettes.........Old 10 speed Niskikis in great shape at garage sales and thrift stores go begging for $30. $300 for a fix on that thing is nuts even if you sleep with it, and that's personal!! Another reason for doing it yourself or buying used.
    Last edited by pokey; 08-07-02 at 07:11 PM.

  7. #7
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    Originally posted by oceanrider
    I'm talking to the owner of an LBS about doing a partial rebuild on my Nishiki 10 speed. First I want to start with a good wheelset. He recommends a change to a 7 speed cassette vs. a freewheel.

    Can someone explain the difference between a freewheel and a cassette? I know what a cassette is but I guess I don't know what a freewheel is. And why go to 7 speed vs. 8 or 9 speed?

    Thanks folks.
    You'd have to debate whether it's a good idea to buy a new bike (probably too expensive, from your other comments), or a good used one (through a LBS or garage sale), or to improve your bike. I'd suggest you look carefully at the last two options and only upgrade yours if its geometry truly suits you well.

    If you buy new wheels, a cassette is better than a freewheel, as you will see on Sheldon Brown's website (at this page

    Another factor to consider is the OLD , or the width between dropouts.

    To put it simply:
    - You have a 5-speed freewheel.
    - The axle of a cassette-based wheel is stronger because bearings are better placed.
    - You probably have 120-mm OLD, which is too narrow for anything modern. It's fairly easy (for LBS) to space a steel frame from 120 to 126 mm, but harder -- sometimes impossible -- to do from 120 to 130 or 135 mm. Alternatively, a 7-speed wheel may be done on a 120-mm OLD, although it will be a bit weak (too much dishing in the wheel).
    - If you go for 7-speed cassette, your wheel will be stronger than it was with a freewheel. 7-speed cassettes are also easier to find than 7-speed freewheels (a nice thought if you need to change it in a few years).
    - Going all the modern way to 9-speed cassette involves too much frame spreading. You might also need a new deraileur.
    - With 7-speed, your current deraileurs and shifters will work. The deraileur might be a problem if you replace a 14-28 freewheel by a 12-32 cassette.

    Regards,
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  8. #8
    Queen of the Pea Pile oceanrider's Avatar
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    I've been testing bikes and either they're too stiff or too big somewhere or another and I'm just disgusted with the whole thing altogether trying to find a bike that fits and feels right in my price range. Please forgive me if I seem all over the place on this but in my mind it makes more sense to take an existing bike and upgrade it to something I'd be equally happy with as if I paid $600 for newer but not necessarily better technology. It's getting to the point where I'm downright defensive about all this. For all I know, the dude may take one look and refuse to do the work and try to sell me one of his consignment bikes which may be an option.

    As for the touring bike, the Trek will be great with it's road slicks. Found some aerobars for it I'm ordering. Sorry Carl Didn't mean to jump on anyone's case.

    Thanks for the info on the casette vs. freewheel. So much to know for 2 wheels, pedals, handlebars and a saddle!!
    Picture yourself on a boat on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies...

  9. #9
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    I guess my question is why do you want to upgrade the bike you have.It sounded to me like you were originally happy with it as it was.If for touring make sure the frame is solid/heavy enough to be stabe with added weight.Actually many of the older bikes have an advantage in this respect.If you want better gearing for hill climbing just make sure it includes these new "granny"gears or it might not significantly improve performance.I guess I am just sort of old fashioned in that I won't fix anything unless it is broken and then only if it doesn't work LOL.

  10. #10
    Center of the Universe ngateguy's Avatar
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    Originally posted by oceanrider
    I'm keeping this bike. I guess bikes are personal things.
    I can relate I ride a 20 year old Bianchi San Remo and its been everywhere with me. It has more mileage on it than my car I will have to chose soon between a new bike or a pricey upgrade. It is so hard to think of parting with an old friend
    Matthew 6

  11. #11
    Queen of the Pea Pile oceanrider's Avatar
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    It's the wheels. It's got those crummy steel chrome plated wheels that don't brake worth diddly in the wet. One heck of a lot of days went by where I had to ride the Trek when what I really wanted was to ride the road bike. Other than that, I'd leave it alone. Since we're replacing the wheels, it makes sense to replace the freewheel with a cassette for wider gearing options and new chain. We were also talking about new brakes, pads and levers to replace the current suicide lever system with custom levers that were made with women's hands in mind. Apparently he does a lot of custom work and many of his clients are women.

    BTW, this all started because it was a new bike shop (for me) on a route I hadn't taken before. Just had to be friendly and stop in LOL.
    Picture yourself on a boat on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies...

  12. #12
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    I guess I missed the part about the wheels etc. and thoght that was the cost for the cost just for the cassette.I know my chain is streched beyond reason and is probable the cause of the skipping I mentioned as it is on cogs(I think) not between gears but I understand for an old chain like that it is recommended to change the gearing as well which I have resisted and haven't even bothered to get a cost estimate (maybe I'll get motivated to learn to do it myself if it gets bad enough the internet has all he info needed). My brakes are adequate but probably not optimal .By the way maybe you could get by with just a better brake pad(just an idea to save you some money).Why don't you ask a question on brakes and wheels on the board.By the way for touring I think they recommend the cantilever(side pull) rather than center pull which I have.

  13. #13
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    Lots of good usable 27" wheels on garage sale and thrift store bikes.Even if your rear dropouts are 120mm,there is no prob with just spreading them and sticking in a 126 on a steel frame, and possible derailer hanger misalignment is a non issue with friction shifting.besides you get alot of other cool parts that might be an 'upgrade'. Lots of alternatives ti the $300 shop job.

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