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  1. #1
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    difference between cassette and freewheel

    What is the difference between cassette and freewheel?

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    Old Fogy
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    Sheldon explains it well. (As usual.)

    http://sheldonbrown.com/gloss_e-f.html#freewheel

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    From wikipedia:
    A freewheel (previously also known as a block or cluster) consists of the rear cogset and a ratcheting mechanism in a single replaceable assembly.

    From me:
    Cassette is just the rings without the ratcheting mechanism. This mechanism is provided by the hub of the wheel.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cogset

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    A freewheel with five or more speeds is a device designed to bend or break axles.

    Some cassette hubs aren't as strong as a real Shimano because the cup is still pretty far inboard, as Sheldon kindly pointed out, and I found to be the case.

    How do you tell? Most new 7 speeds are freewheel, newer 8 speeds or more are cassette. They've made 1 through 8 speed freewheels and five through eleven speed cassettes. You can tell by seeing if the lockring turns with the cassette (freehub/cassette) or if it turns with the wheel (freewheel).

    I can get a 5 speed freewheel to stay alive if I keep the bearings perfectly adjusted and unweight my old tenspeed over bumps. Full suspension big box store MTBs are probabaly ok too provided you don't jump the bike and bottom out the suspension, because the suspension protects the axle from shock.

    Don't ever run any bike completely flat if you can help it; that's one way to wreck an axle (as well as rims, tires, etc.)

  5. #5
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    Freewheels have worked for a very long time. If the axle is oversized...(Phil Wood), the weakness argument is nullified. Even if the axle is not oversized, many many people still use them, and don't break axles.

    The better cassette hubs also have larger axles, because the smaller axles break too.

    Cassette hubs and clusters are designed to be become obsolete in the near future. See any 7 speed cassette hubs for sale? Having trouble finding that 7 or 8sp cassette you once used? Shimano will re-invent the cassette system again, and everyone will have to buy new hubs and cassettes because much of the the industry follows the money(Shimano).

    Freewheels selection isn't great, but not much worse than cassette. I can still get 6 and 7 speed freewheels at least. Not everyone wants or needs 8,9,10 or 11 speed clusters. You have no choice for less gears in cassettes.

    Freewheels rule worldwide, and will continue to do so because of their simplicity. Hub and freewheel are independent of each other.

    Notice the comeback in popularity of the single speed bike. It's the complete polar opposite of the mega gear clusters. Enough with more gears.

    Both systems work for those with different needs. We need a choice because of those needs.
    Last edited by Garthr; 05-17-09 at 04:24 PM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Garthr View Post
    Cassette hubs and clusters are designed to be become obsolete in the near future. See any 7 speed cassette hubs for sale? Having trouble finding that 7 or 8sp cassette you once used? Shimano will re-invent the cassette system again, and everyone will have to buy new hubs and cassettes because much of the the industry follows the money(Shimano).
    Did you just make this up yourself or what?

    A shimano 7 speed cassette will still fit on a modern 8/9/10 speed wheel. Yeah, that's 8/9/10 speed wheel. You're trying to tell us that 7 speed is completely obsolete along with 8,9 and 10? Flipping through my distributors catalog, there isn't exactly any difficulty obtaining 7,8,9 or 10 speed cassettes. Why exactly did your credibility just reach negative?

    Quote Originally Posted by Garthr View Post
    Notice the comeback in popularity of the single speed bike. It's the complete polar opposite of the mega gear clusters. Enough with more gears.
    Fixed gear is a fad. In a couple years it's going to go away, exactly like how it came into fashion except reverse. If you want an unsubstantiated claim then that's mine for the day. But all of yours just makes no sense at all.
    Last edited by operator; 05-17-09 at 04:28 PM.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Garthr View Post
    Freewheels have worked for a very long time. If the axle is oversized...(Phil Wood), the weakness argument is nullified. Even if the axles is not oversized, many many people still use them.
    Many people still use them because they're low cost and that's what came with their bike. How many people you think are running a phil freewheel rear hub, compared to the stock, weak design?

    Freewheels selection isn't great, but not much worse than cassette. I can still get 6 and 7 speed freewheels at least. Not everyone wants or needs 8,9,10 or 11 speed clusters. You have no choice for less gears in cassettes.
    Again more random garbage.

    You can get cassettes from 7,8,9 and 10 cogs. Freewheels? 5,6,7. What happens if you want more of a gap between each gear in the rear? For touring? For riding? Tough luck. Lets purposely ignore 11 speed campy super record as well, just so you don't look as bad.


    Freewheels rule worldwide, and will continue to do so because of their simplicity. Hub and freewheel are independent of each other.
    Yeah, and by independent you mean bent axles occur much more frequently than on cassette hubs due to their design.

    Both systems work for those with different needs. We need a choice because of those needs.
    Yeah, except you just made up a bunch of stuff that isn't even beginning to be semi-coherent. There's no reason why anyone would choose to use a freewheel over a cassette given the option. Please list how freewheel rear hubs are superior to cassettes again?
    Mes compaingnons cui j'amoie et cui j'aim,... Me di, chanson.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by operator View Post
    Did you just make this up yourself or what?

    A shimano 7 speed cassette will still fit on a modern 8/9/10 speed wheel. Yeah, that's 8/9/10 speed wheel. You're trying to tell us that 7 speed is completely obsolete along with 8,9 and 10? Flipping through my distributors catalog, there isn't exactly any difficulty obtaining 7,8,9 or 10 speed cassettes. Why exactly did your credibility just reach negative?

    Fixed gear is a fad. In a couple years it's going to go away, exactly like how it came into fashion except reverse. If you want an unsubstantiated claim then that's mine for the day. But yours just makes no sense at all.


    Of course a 7 sp cs will fit onto a 8/9/10 sp hub, with the 4.5mm spacer. What if one needs only 7 speeds? Where's the hub? You have to get the 8/9/10 hub with the un-needed extra dish. Where's the Shimano 12-32 8sp steel cassette? How many silver HG-70 7 sp cassettes are there? I'm not saying it IS obsolete, but it's going that way. Almost all of the 7 sp CS left are the low-end brown ones.


    Credibility? Are you keeping score? Are you the Credibility Keeper here?

    I gave opinions to the post that freewheels were only good for breaking axles.

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    Which hub will fail first, though? The one with extra dish or the one with the poorly supported axle?

  10. #10
    Senior Member embankmentlb's Avatar
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    As much as i love old bikes, being the retro grouch i am, I must admit that the cassette free hub is a huge improvement in every way over the freewheel design. Bent axles were a problem. Shimano once again trumps Campy.

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    Most of the 7sp wheels I have seen are not the current 130mm standard, or the axle has spacers to bring it up to that size. As a result the 7sp wheels in fact have the same dish as an 8+sp wheel. I've bent plenty of freewheel axles, and never killed a freehub wheel.

  12. #12
    Call me The Breeze I_bRAD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Garthr View Post
    OWhere's the Shimano 12-32 8sp steel cassette? How many silver HG-70 7 sp cassettes are there?
    I think you can still get a 12-32 in either XTR or HG30. I have the XTR. Pricey, but you can always just replace the small cogs from an HG30 when they wear out and keep the larger Ti cogs. You can also get the steel XTR in 12-32 for half the price of the ti one (~100 vs 200) If you don't need the 32, there are plenty of XT 11-30s around.

    The 7sp HG70 will run out one day, but who knows when! If you're really set on them, you could just buy 10 of them now and put them on the shelf...

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by operator View Post
    Many people still use them because they're low cost and that's what came with their bike. How many people you think are running a phil freewheel rear hub, compared to the stock, weak design?



    Again more random garbage.

    You can get cassettes from 7,8,9 and 10 cogs. Freewheels? 5,6,7. What happens if you want more of a gap between each gear in the rear? For touring? For riding? Tough luck. Lets purposely ignore 11 speed campy super record as well, just so you don't look as bad.

    Yeah, and by independent you mean bent axles occur much more frequently than on cassette hubs due to their design.

    Yeah, except you just made up a bunch of stuff that isn't even beginning to be semi-coherent. There's no reason why anyone would choose to use a freewheel over a cassette given the option. Please list how freewheel rear hubs are superior to cassettes again?


    I may choose a FW over CS today for 3 reasons.

    1. I have no need for more than 7 gears.
    2. Lack of choice of ratios. I use a 32 cog, neither Shimano nor Miche sell a single 32 cog. This means taking cassettes apart to make my own, and buying single cogs. Not real difficult, but it takes some extra time, expense, trail and error.
    3. I'd use a Phil hub. Axles not an issue.
    4. What about the availability of freehub body replacements in the future? As uncertain as a freewheel.

    I'd choose a cassette because of the ability TO make custom cassettes though. But how long are individual cogs going to be around....who knows?

    As for which one is "superior".... there is no such thing. We can all find a way to back up what we're saying so we can beat our chests. Yawn If you want to argue that too ..... good luck with that.

    I really don't care if I use a FW or CS. They both work fine, and if you think everyone is using a cassette, you're wrong. I just want a choice of gears without being told I HAVE to use so many. A choice.... that's all.

    As for the rest Operator ..... you're insanity doesn't make any more sense than my insanity.

    Have a day

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by garage sale GT View Post
    Which hub will fail first, though? The one with extra dish or the one with the poorly supported axle?
    It depends on how well the wheel is built to start with, and what hub is used

    I have broken an axle, back in '86. A Campy, famous for breaking. Specialized axles never did break. I weighed about 200 then.

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    I used a $70 8/9/10 wheel for maybe 3 years with no problems (I weighed about 220 then and commuted), but I'll grant that there may be a cheaper one somewhere that would break sooner than a wheel built with a $250 Phil Wood hub. Say, what group did your Specialized come with?
    Last edited by garage sale GT; 05-17-09 at 05:48 PM.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by I_bRAD View Post
    I think you can still get a 12-32 in either XTR or HG30. I have the XTR. Pricey, but you can always just replace the small cogs from an HG30 when they wear out and keep the larger Ti cogs. You can also get the steel XTR in 12-32 for half the price of the ti one (~100 vs 200) If you don't need the 32, there are plenty of XT 11-30s around.

    The 7sp HG70 will run out one day, but who knows when! If you're really set on them, you could just buy 10 of them now and put them on the shelf...


    Where can the steel XTR 12-32 8 sp be found? I've looked high and low.... eprey was the only option. They don't make them anymore though, at least I've not seen them listed for sale.

    I use 135mm spacing for my road bikes. I don't need more than 100 gear inches, that's why 7 speeds work for me. An 8sp usually adds a 12t, a 9sp a 11t. Harris has custom cassettes that start at 13, but the combos are off for me, as I prefer half-step gears.


    Yeah ..... if I could find the right ones. buying a bunch is the way to go !!

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by garage sale GT View Post
    Hmmm...what group did your Speciaized come with?

    One set came with my "83 Stumjumper(solid axles). One came with a set of Wheelsmith wheels. One set I bought retail.

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    I would be surprised if the stumpjumper axles weren't maybe just a little bent. I don't think a nutted axle usually breaks outright.

  19. #19
    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by operator View Post
    Did you just make this up yourself or what?

    A shimano 7 speed cassette will still fit on a modern 8/9/10 speed wheel. Yeah, that's 8/9/10 speed wheel.
    Sure, but when the supply of 7-speed cassettes has dried up, and all you can find to replace it is an 8, 9, or 10 speed cassette, will that work on your existing 7-speed hub? Or will you have to buy a new wheel, derailleur and shifters when your 7-speed cassette can't be replaced?

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
    Sure, but when the supply of 7-speed cassettes has dried up, and all you can find to replace it is an 8, 9, or 10 speed cassette, will that work on your existing 7-speed hub? Or will you have to buy a new wheel, derailleur and shifters when your 7-speed cassette can't be replaced?
    You can drill out the rivets on the old cassette and use the spacers along with rings cannibalized from an 8 speed.

    Realistically, though, how many cassettes can you burn through without using up your freehub or bearing cups? (or breaking your derailleur or shifters?)

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by garage sale GT View Post
    You can drill out the rivets on the old cassette and use the spacers along with rings cannibalized from an 8 speed.

    Realistically, though, how many cassettes can you burn through without using up your freehub or bearing cups? (or breaking your derailleur or shifters?)

    Here's where there's a difference in perceived value of equipment. I'll use Shimano as an example since they're the biggest at this time. For instance, I use 135mm hubs on my 2 current 700c tire bikes. Many people rave about XT hubs. I believe mostly they love them because they are inexpensive. The bearing races are not replaceable. The freehub body is, as long as they make them available. They are essentially throw-away hubs though.... they can only be rebuilt so many times. You can build an excellent wheel with these, and depending on maintenance, conditions, and level of machining done to the hubs...... they can outlast a pair or two of rims, depending on the user. They may not however. So one spends the cash on spokes(not dirt cheap anymore), and labor(same), and a set of excellent rims, lets say a Velocity Dyad or Mavic A719. Spokes and labor, from a professional wheel builder c

    -cheersan run as much as $160. A wheelset with XT hubs and either rim can be say $400-$470. Now you have a set of stout wheels. Wheels fail to be useful when something fails with them, yes? Where's the weakest point of these components? The rims?.... not likely. Spokes?..no. The hubs are. XT hubs are. If you don't maintain them, get contamination in the bearings, or if the machining is flawed, they need replaced. Now you need to buy new spokes, new hubs, more labor etc., for a new wheel.

    You can eliminate the bub part of the equation by using hubs with replaceable cartridge bearings. My Specialized FW hubs I mentioned earlier are this type. I still use them today. They will last indefinitely, bearings are easily replaced. If a bearing goes bad while riding, it will still ride fine until you can change it. As long as the spoke holes are good, it can be rebuilt over and over. Generally, as long as a wheel is tensioned properly, spoke holes do not get damaged.

    When you ask you many cassettes can one burn through before the hub or freehub bearings go bad, the answer could be ..... as many as you wish. For your lifetime if used properly. Most CS hubs are this type of bearing, but another issue is the future availability of the freehub bodies for all these various brand of hubs. No one knows.

    That's the difference between a throw-away, and a keeper. Spend a few more $$ today, use it indefinitely.

    Cassettes may be technically "better" for many users, but it's no for reason FW's and hubs to go away. They have no flaws for those who know how to use them, so there's no point telling them how much better a CS system would be. If one believes FW's are dead, ask IRD why they started making them, and call Phil Wood, and ask them how the sales of FW hubs are going.

    That said, the bikes I ride and put together are all custom. I don't use groups. The only group I used was Campy SR from the 80's. Nor do I use indexed shifting. Cassettes are really made for the whole system.... S or C. They want you to buy into the whole experience. Why they don't they offer custom cassettes, is it because they design them to shift a certain way? .... or do they just want you to buy a new one if a cog or two gets worn? I come from a mindset of brands do not matter. I use whatever fits the purpose. Drivetrain independence. With friction I can use any front or rear D. Any chain. Any FW. Any chainrings. Any shifters, any brakes and levers. It works for me and many others, and has for a long time.

    All that said.... many people don't care how long a part lasts. They just get the latest whatever when the time arises. That works too ..... there's certain freedom in that.

    Despite the trivial difference in the way we perceive the workings and value of a bicycle and it's parts, we have a lot more common ground than we do differences. Sometimes that is forgotten.

    -Nameste

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
    Sure, but when the supply of 7-speed cassettes has dried up, and all you can find to replace it is an 8, 9, or 10 speed cassette, will that work on your existing 7-speed hub? Or will you have to buy a new wheel, derailleur and shifters when your 7-speed cassette can't be replaced?
    The same argument could be made against freewheels. The supply of 5, 6 and 7-speed freewheels is limited and there are very few choices in cog range.

    Despite some claims to the contrary, there is a lot of merit in cassettes with more cogs although the utilitarian limit seems (to me) to have been reached at about 9 or 10.

    I guess I don't understand the desire to make bicycle components heirlooms. These things are tools to be used and enjoyed and replaced as they wear out, often with something better.

    By the thinking of some, we'd still be driving 1953 Chevy technology. Been there, done that and the newer stuff is better in every way. Yes, a few owners do keep them running but it's a hobby all to itself, not a practical way to do business routinely.

  23. #23
    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    The same argument could be made against freewheels. The supply of 5, 6 and 7-speed freewheels is limited and there are very few choices in cog range.
    That's true to a point. With freewheels and friction shifting there's less problem with mix 'n' match. I can replace a worn Atom freewheel with a Shimano, SunTour, IRC, or whatever brand and get it to work just fine with my present wheel and derailleurs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Garthr View Post
    When you ask you many cassettes can one burn through before the hub or freehub bearings go bad, the answer could be ..... as many as you wish. For your lifetime if used properly. Most CS hubs are this type of bearing, but another issue is the future availability of the freehub bodies for all these various brand of hubs. No one knows.
    You can just put on an 8/9/10 freehub after getting a machine shop to trim it to length and cut 1.37X24 threads on it. Then you can put your salvaged 8 speed sprockets and salvaged 7 speed spacers on, and hold them on the shortened freehub with a track sprocket or a Uniglide lockring sprocket.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
    That's true to a point. With freewheels and friction shifting there's less problem with mix 'n' match. I can replace a worn Atom freewheel with a Shimano, SunTour, IRC, or whatever brand and get it to work just fine with my present wheel and derailleurs.
    With friction shifting you can also use ANY brand cassette with any number of cogs with any compatible wheel and any make derailleur. Friction is the ultimate mix-and-match system.

    In fact, given the enhanced tooth profiles and chains developed to make indexing possible, friction shifters with modern cassette cogs and chains shift far better than they ever did in the past.

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