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-   -   My Freewheel Can Whoop Your Cassette (https://www.bikeforums.net/classic-vintage/704684-my-freewheel-can-whoop-your-cassette.html)

Jose Mandez 01-03-11 10:22 AM

My Freewheel Can Whoop Your Cassette
 
Since I've taken up riding, I've stuck to mainly vintage bicycles, mostly late 80's and early 90's Treks. All of my bikes have freewheels on them (except for a 1996 Gary Fisher that I snagged for $20 at an auction). I really have next to no experience riding and working on bicycles that have cassettes on them.

This being said, I have deliberately chosen to stick with freewheels, even though I could easily upgrade by bicycles to cassette by purchasing a new rear wheel and upgrading the shifters. Here are some reasons for my preferring freewheels:

1. They seem to be a lot easier to remove: All you need is a $10 freewheel removal tool and a $5 adjustable wrench. To re-install a freewheel, you don't need any tools at all: Just screw it on, and your riding will tighten it the rest of the way!.
I am told that cassette removal requires a chain whip or two (which your friendly neighborhood bicycle shop will be happy to sell you for $29.95 plus tax) in addition to the cassette removal tool and the wrench. As most of you know, freewheel/cassette removal sometimes becomes necessary for spoke replacement (since the Spoke Gremlins always like to take out the spokes on the drive side of the rear wheel, especially if they notice that you're miles from home and that you've forgotten your tool bag that day). If I am going on a bicycle tour, it seems a lot easier to carry an 8 oz tool and an adjustable wrench than it does to carry an 8 oz tool, an adjustable wrench, and a large, unwieldy chain whip (or two).

2. Maybe Lance and his riding buddies need 11 jillion gears in the back, but I don't. Most of my bikes are 12 or 18 speed (six gears in the back), and most of the gear jumps are just fine for me...I'm not out to win any races, just to get where I'm going.

3. Many of the reasons for the superiority of cassettes don't ring true to me. For example, I'm told that freewheel use results in a greater likelihood of bending an axle, since the bearing compartment in the axle doesn't come out as far as it would in a cassette wheel. However, I tend to be pretty hard on my bikes, to carry a lot of weight on them, charge up hills under load, etc., and I have never bent an axle in thousands of miles of riding on 6-speed freewheel wheels that are 20+ years old.

I'd appreciate any comments and experiences that any of you have, and feel free to try to convert me over to cassettes. I am also wondering if I am the only one out there who prefers freewheels?

Amesja 01-03-11 10:32 AM

Bent Axle in wheels that get any larger than 126mm OLD -and even with 126mm they still can get bent easily if you are heavy, ride off-road or otherwise abuse your bike.

The freehub is a no-brainer advance in wheel/cog/bearing/axle technology. That said, all of my bikes are freewheel (except the Raleigh with the SA hub) because I'm a cheap bastard who likes vintage (cheap) older bikes. My wife has a cassette system on her bike but because it is bulletproof I've never even had to take it apart or even adjust it. It's bullet-proof.

cuda2k 01-03-11 10:33 AM

I've seen broken rear axles on freewheel hubs (much to my surprise upon disassembly of it), and bent one myself - back when I weighed less than I do now, and I'm not all that heavy now. You are correct about the ease of removal being slightly easier with a freewheel, IF the person putting it on was kind enough to properly lube the threads. I've had to resort to nearly hanging on a wheel while the removal tool was clamped in a vice - using the entire wheel's diameter as a lever - to get a freewheel to come free. No way would I have gotten it free on the road side if I had a freewheel tool and a knuckle-buster.

At the end of the day - cassettes won out over freewheels. Rarely do solutions looking for an answer win in the long run, so I'm going to have to say that there are some valid reasons that modern bikes use cassettes and the freewheel market is mostly used or a very small handful of new options.

triplebutted 01-03-11 10:36 AM

I just put my 78'ish Gios on my stationary trainer. I love the high pitch sound of my Regina Oro. Man, I missed that sound!!!!

clasher 01-03-11 10:38 AM

Only a sucker would pay 30$ for a chainwhip, they are easy enough to make yourself. There's a lot less kind of cassette lockrings than there are freewheel types, so unless you only have shimano freewheels, sometimes you're out another 10 bucks or at the least a trip to a community bike shop that has 'em (I'm lucky that I live close to mine)

I've also bent axles on 126mm freewheels, haven't done that yet to my 130mm freehub bike, but I am lighter these days too, so that is a factor in that part.

3speed 01-03-11 10:42 AM

It's also nice to be able to choose all your own gears on a cassette, and to have more usable gears without having to switch to a different chain ring. On my current bike build, I'm actually really considering just running the 8sp in the rear and not even running a double with FD in the front. The bike will look cleaner, be simpler, and be slightly lighter for what it's worth. I really only use 7 gears(which require a chain-ring shiftp) on my current set-up anyway, so....

brockd15 01-03-11 10:46 AM


Originally Posted by cuda2k (Post 12019706)
You are correct about the ease of removal being slightly easier with a freewheel, IF the person putting it on was kind enough to properly lube the threads. I've had to resort to nearly hanging on a wheel while the removal tool was clamped in a vice - using the entire wheel's diameter as a lever - to get a freewheel to come free. No way would I have gotten it free on the road side if I had a freewheel tool and a knuckle-buster.

This is the main reason I don't like them. I've only dealt with a handful of them but I have yet to come across one that I didn't have a problem with. I've never had a problem with a cassette lockring.

ctmullins 01-03-11 10:49 AM

Um - isn't the Shimano freewheel tool the same as the Shimano cassette lockring tool?

And yes, chain whips are easy peasy to make...

cudak888 01-03-11 10:55 AM

I'm a freewheel fellow myself, however, I thought I'd clarify one thing:


Originally Posted by Jose Mandez (Post 12019638)
I am told that cassette removal requires a chain whip or two (which your friendly neighborhood bicycle shop will be happy to sell you for $29.95 plus tax) in addition to the cassette removal tool and the wrench.

Present-day Shimano HG and Campagnolo cassettes require one chainwhip and the removal tool.

Shimano UG cassettes require two chainwhips and no removal tool.

-Kurt


Originally Posted by Jose Mandez (Post 12019638)
2. Maybe Lance and his riding buddies need 11 jillion gears in the back, but I don't. Most of my bikes are 12 or 18 speed (six gears in the back), and most of the gear jumps are just fine for me...I'm not out to win any races, just to get where I'm going.

The scary thing is that 8-speed freewheels - including aluminum 8-speed Reginas - did exist.


Originally Posted by Jose Mandez (Post 12019638)
3. Many of the reasons for the superiority of cassettes don't ring true to me. For example, I'm told that freewheel use results in a greater likelihood of bending an axle, since the bearing compartment in the axle doesn't come out as far as it would in a cassette wheel. However, I tend to be pretty hard on my bikes, to carry a lot of weight on them, charge up hills under load, etc., and I have never bent an axle in thousands of miles of riding on 6-speed freewheel wheels that are 20+ years old.

I've never bent one either (I use 120 and 126mm, never 130), and I'm 235lbs. Then again, I am not abusive.


Originally Posted by Jose Mandez (Post 12019638)
I'd appreciate any comments and experiences that any of you have, and feel free to try to convert me over to cassettes.

A. Cassettes are needlessly expensive.
B. Nobody sells individual replacement cogs (which was part of the cassette concept in the first place)
C. Shimano chains require hideously-expensive replacement pins, and SRAM PowerLinks are just another expense.
D. They're irritating if you don't like ramping while friction shifting (with exception to UG cassettes, which are simply twist-tooth and therefore tolerable).
E. NOS, quality freewheels are common in all sorts of gearing combinations, work well, aren't costly with exception to some Reginas, and if you look around, you'll find Suntour replacement cogs.

Did I convert you? ;)

-Kurt

Amesja 01-03-11 10:57 AM


Originally Posted by 3speed (Post 12019745)
I'm actually really considering just running the 8sp in the rear and not even running a double with FD in the front. The bike will look cleaner, be simpler, and be slightly lighter for what it's worth.

Running a single ring up front without a derailleur will allow you to easily put on a hockeystick chain guard which would be awesome on a commuter. Think of no need to wear a strap on the right pantleg and never needing to worry about grease-marks on your work pants!

A chain guard is next in line right behind fenders on a daily commuter bike IMHO.

Jose Mandez 01-03-11 10:59 AM


Originally Posted by brockd15 (Post 12019764)
This is the main reason I don't like them. I've only dealt with a handful of them but I have yet to come across one that I didn't have a problem with. I've never had a problem with a cassette lockring.

I think t depends on how long and hard the bicycle has been ridden since the freewheel was last taken off...on occasion, I've had to fit a good length of pipe on the end of the adjustable wrench and really torque down to get the freewheel off. Since I generally work on only my own bicycles, I ensure that the freewheel threads have a generous amount of lube.

"Bent Axle in wheels that get any larger than 126mm OLD -and even with 126mm they still can get bent easily if you are heavy, ride off-road or otherwise abuse your bike."

Maybe I've just been incredibly lucky in not bending an axle, I'm not sure.

"unless you only have shimano freewheels, sometimes you're out another 10 bucks or at the least a trip to a community bike shop that has 'em."

I've run into this situation before, I usually just fork over $3 for the bike shop to remove the old Suntour freewheel and then just screw a Shimano one on in its place. I believe there are only two kinds of Suntour freewheels, the 2 prong and the 4 prong, I finally broke down and bought the 2 prong remover so I'd have one for my Trek 1100. I'm not sure about Campy, I generally avoid buying anything Campy if I can help it.

3speed 01-03-11 11:03 AM


Originally Posted by cudak888 (Post 12019806)
B. Nobody sells individual replacement cogs (which was part of the cassette concept in the first place)
C. Shimano chains require hideously-expensive replacement pins, and SRAM PowerLinks are just another expense
D. They're irritating if you don't like ramping while friction shifting (with exception to UG cassettes, which are simply twist-tooth and therefore tolerable).
-Kurt

You can totally buy individual replacement cogs. I can't give a specific place off-hand, but I Know I've seen them on more than one occasion. Why would you not like the ramping function? Doesn't it just make it shift better? What's not to like? Maybe it's just because I'm young, but I don't get the negative effect it could have. And lastly, please tell me more about the chains. I'm about to buy a new chain for my 8sp tri-color 600 set-up and I'd like to make sure I get a decent chain since this is going to be my bike for longer rides/more miles.

Sixty Fiver 01-03-11 11:04 AM

Problem with freewheels was that when axles moved to being 126 and 130 and speeds went beyond 7 the hubs did not evolve to take into account the increased axle stresses which causes fatigue and subsequent bending of axles... they rarely just break spontaneously.

The fw hub has remained the same since bikes had 120mm spacing and used 3, 4, and 5 speed blocks.

Phil Wood and our Arvon made fw hubs have the drive side bearings set farther outboard and use high quality axles and axle bending / breakage is not a problem... we will put these hubs under loaded tandems and riders who are double my size without worry... we add an extra set of bearings for these applications.

A good freewheel will give you a long service life and is cheaper to replace than a cassette and like the OP... I really don't feel the need to have 8,9, or 10 speeds and for most applications a 7 speed is sufficient.

Casssette hubs are also great, they are reliable, easy to service and offer one the ability to build custom gearing set ups like one used to be able to do with some freewheels.

PS - I agree with Kurt that cassettes are needlessly expensive and that it would be nice if replacement cogs were easier to find.

DiabloScott 01-03-11 11:05 AM

It seems like your argument is that "freewheels are good enough". That's a fine reason to use them, but it's not the same as saying they're better than cassettes. Quill stems are fine for most people too, but there are a lot of reasons why threadless is better.

Jose Mandez 01-03-11 11:08 AM

"Um - isn't the Shimano freewheel tool the same as the Shimano cassette lockring tool?"

No, they are different, but very similar in size and design. I actually bought the cassette lockring tool for my Gary Fisher, only to find out that it had one of the older cassettes that apparently doesn't even have a lockring. Maybe someday I'll get up enough motivation to actually figure out how it comes off, but not today.

stien 01-03-11 11:09 AM


Originally Posted by DiabloScott (Post 12019881)
It seems like your argument is that "freewheels are good enough". That's a fine reason to use them, but it's not the same as saying they're better than cassettes. Quill stems are fine for most people too, but there are a lot of reasons why threadless is better.

+1

Just imagine this thread reposted in the 41...

Amesja 01-03-11 11:12 AM

I've bent my share of axles -it depends on your riding style. I'm a natural curb-jumper I guess. It comes from racing MX and Enduro and coming at bicycles as a means of training for motorcycle offroad racing. I might be tougher on bikes than someone who is a road-only rider.

As for disposing of older suntour FW's I think that is a huge mistake. Some of the older Suntour FW's are the nicest FW's around and superior to similar vintage Shimano. Much of the old junkpile bikes I find/scavenge come with Suntour FW's and are perfectly good. Spending money on a new FW over what is essentially a one-time purchase of a $7 tool with shipping is false economy if you ask me -especially if you have to pay your LBS $3 anyway to take it off that one time.

If you come across any 6-speed Suntour Perfect freewheels (either standard or ultra-6, I'm not picky) that you want to throw away in favor of a Shimano I'll be happy to take them off of your hands...

Jose Mandez 01-03-11 11:14 AM


Originally Posted by DiabloScott (Post 12019881)
It seems like your argument is that "freewheels are good enough". That's a fine reason to use them, but it's not the same as saying they're better than cassettes. Quill stems are fine for most people too, but there are a lot of reasons why threadless is better.

I guess my argument is that they're better for what I need them to do...in this case, I am using the word "better" in the subjective sense, not in the objective sense (much like saying that Fred's Cola is better than Joe's Cola). They give me the gears that I need, they (generally) require fewer tools for me to buy/invent/lug around, and they are available for fairly cheap prices.

sciencemonster 01-03-11 11:22 AM


Originally Posted by 3speed (Post 12019745)
It's also nice to be able to choose all your own gears on a cassette, and to have more usable gears without having to switch to a different chain ring.

I've customized both my freewheels. I have an indexed 7-speed 13-14-15-16-17-18-28 on my International for racing (pedestrians and joggers) and making it up driveways, and friction 6-speed 13-15-16-17-18-34 on my Competition for touring.

jbrow1 01-03-11 11:23 AM

I ride an older schwinn with a shimano freewheel. It had a falcon freewheel, and I have one other type of freewheel on a different bike. So I have three different freewheel tools. I made two chainwhips with a piece of $4 steel from lowe's and a used chain.

I don't have any cassettes, but they make sense to me. I like to pedal as efficiently as possible, and with my six speed I always felt I was one tooth off where I wanted to be. Found a ten dollar 7 speed freewheel at walmart.com that was actually one tooth bigger on each except for the big and small. That's been a nice upgrade. But I could see myself enjoying 9 or 10 different rear gears.

And yes, each of my freewheels has required a vice for removal while using the tire as the lever. Don't like that at all.. But properly greased, they come off easy the next time(s).

divineAndbright 01-03-11 11:27 AM

I don't own a single freewheel anymore, I've had a few bad experiences where eventually stopped "catching", meaning when pedalled they just spun around and around without driving the bike wheel anymore, requiring a long walk home.

They're only cheaper if you buy the crappy ones anyway, like the falcons or sunrace, or the awful looking brown colored shimano one with the black colored low gear cog. Any good vintage freewheel nets as much cost as any cassette, if not more. As long as you're not looking at 10 or 11 speed cassettes you can find them for 20-25$.

Ive broken a spoke on a ride before but im not gonna pull over and remove my cassette or freewheel to fix a spoke on the side of the road, I'll flip my brake open and just finish the ride and fix it at home. If you're touring you're going to want to bring a bunch of extra small parts anyway so having a chainwhip in your arsenal vs a freewheel tool isnt going to make any difference considering everything else youre carrying, like spare just in case axles for your freewheel hub.

Jose Mandez 01-03-11 11:30 AM


Originally Posted by sciencemonster (Post 12019982)
I've customized both my freewheels. I have an indexed 7-speed 13-14-15-16-17-18-28 on my International for racing (pedestrians and joggers) and making it up driveways, and friction 6-speed 13-15-16-17-18-34 on my Competition for touring.

Wow, 34-18 is a heckuva jump up/down for loaded touring. I myself get annoyed at the 34-24 jump that I currently have on my touring freewheel...but as long as it doesn't bother you, I guess that's all that matters. I just bought some NOS Shimano 600 7 speed FWs on ebay that are 14-34 with more evenly-spaced gearing.

Amesja 01-03-11 11:33 AM


Originally Posted by divineAndbright (Post 12020015)
They're only cheaper if you buy the crappy ones anyway, like the falcons or sunrace, or the awful looking brown colored shimano one with the black colored low gear cog. Any good vintage freewheel nets as much cost as any cassette, if not more. As long as you're not looking at 10 or 11 speed cassettes you can find them for 20-25$.

I guess it depends on where you live. By "cheaper" I'm thinking "free" as in found on a junk wheel of a junk bike completely abandoned. In a bigger city (like Chicago) this kind of thing happens ALL the time. If you are looking for a FW you can either buy a cheap $10-15 sunrace unit from your LBS or wait around a week or so until you find a junk one just laying around or a buddy has one they found. if you are looking for a cassette you are going to have to pay $20-25 for one like you said. But free is always cheaper than $20-25. You almost never find cassettes just laying around. Thieves and their scrappers usually resell them rather than dump them out in the alley.

Sixty Fiver 01-03-11 11:36 AM


Originally Posted by stien (Post 12019903)
+1

Just imagine this thread reposted in the 41...

Some of the folks in the 41 can benefit from a 10 speed block... for competitive situations having closely spaced gearing makes a difference although... folks were just as fast before cassettes were invented.

I run a 6 speed block on my road bike... it's more than fast enough.

Chris_in_Miami 01-03-11 11:36 AM


Originally Posted by Jose Mandez (Post 12019931)
I guess my argument is that they're better for what I need them to do...in this case, I am using the word "better" in the subjective sense, not in the objective sense (much like saying that Fred's Cola is better than Joe's Cola). They give me the gears that I need, they (generally) require fewer tools for me to buy/invent/lug around, and they are available for fairly cheap prices.

I've spent more money cumulatively on freewheel tools than I have on cassette tools. I've got at least a half dozen freewheel tools vs. one chain whip and one lockring tool.

I don't pack either when I ride...


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