Bike chain wear tool

Bike Maintenance: Chain and Rear Cassette 2

In my previous article “Getting back in the saddle after a break” I highlighted some of the struggles that I experienced after some time off cycling. When my bike has had a week without action I tend to always do my basic checks of brakes, gears and tyres. After my extended break I took out my cycling toolkit and knowing that it had been a while since I last swapped out my chain, I checked the chain using my wear checking tool. The results were that the chain was extremely stretched and probably only a few rides away from snapping and that wear would have manifested itself in a way that would have required that I put more effort into my riding, so good thing that I caught it when I did.


Bike chain wear tool


I had a replacement chain already waiting in the wings, so I was ready to go with the swap out. Most bike mechanics would recommend that when it’s time for you to replace your chain, then you should also replace your rear cassette as it endures wear and tear  at a rate similar to that of the chain. Since this was first mentioned to me and as the cost for the cassette isn’t high, I do it as common practice.




There are a few tools that are required to inspect and replace the chain and rear cassette




Different people may do things differently, but my method is first use the link extraction tool to release the chain, I then lay the chain on the floor in a straight line. I put the new chain alongside the old one and remove links to make the length the exact same (same amount of links).


After removing the rear wheel, I then take the chain whip to secure the cassette in place. To date I have never managed to use the chain whip without cutting myself, so take care and ensure that it is secure. Placing the lockring tool into the lockring socket, I then put a wrench on the end of it (I used a very long, levered wrench as it has more torque making the job easier) and rotated it enough anti-clockwise to release and unscrew the lockring. At this stage once the lockring was off the cassette just slid off. Some cassettes come off as a single piece, others come off in sections, as either individual sprockets or groups of sprockets.  The sections cannot be incorrectly put together as there are notches on them which point you in the right direction.


Rear cassette


It’s worth cleaning away any residue dirt and grease on the thread. You can put then new cassette on in one motion if you hold it firmly and correctly, otherwise if the sprockets come away from their spacers then you may have to just add one or more at a time. Then I inserted the lockring and tightened. I used a torque wrench to do this so I could set it to the manufacturers recommended torque setting. Now before I secured the rear wheel back in place  I put the newly trimmed chain around the cassette and through the gearing system, then used the link extraction tool to put the link in to complete the install of the chain. As an alternative you can purchase a special chain link (master link) which allows you to secure the chain without the use of an extraction tool.


Some new bike chains and cassettes come coated in a film special lubricant which is designed to preserve the item whilst in factories or on the shelves of shops. So for the first couple of rides it’s not necessary to lubricate the chain or cassette, but if the chain seems to be functioning not as smoothly as you’re used to, then by all means thrown on some lubricant.



Changing these parts for me definitely got me feeling back to how I was before the break and the smoother chain and gear action was a lot easier on my legs. So if you feel in a bit of a slump and it’s been while since your chain or rear cassette was changed, then this could be the boost that you need, plus it can prevent you from being caught short with a snapped chain on your ride.


What was the last maintenance that you did on your bike? Do you have any tips to share on how you did this?


“Pump tyres not petrol”


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2 thoughts on “Bike Maintenance: Chain and Rear Cassette

  • Mr Tad Piesakowski

    Funnily enough I did the same maintenance a couple of days ago. However, I seriously doubt your chain was ever in danger of snapping. That’s more likely to happen due to a chain link pin not being seated right – so worth inspecting these from time to time. As for figuring out the chain length there’s a beautifully simple & effective method: assuming you’re running a rear derailleur, wrap the chain directly (so at this stage bypassing the rear mech) around the biggest rear cog & front chairing & allow two links of overlap – THAT is your optimum chain length.