Replacing A Bicycle Freewheel

Last weekend I successfully replaced the freewheel on my Dawes road bicycle!  Here’s the full story.

Once upon a time at work, I was boasting to my coworker, John Bickelhaupt (who also happens to be a long time bike mechanic), that I had put about 3,500 miles on my Dawes road bike without replacing a single part except for tires and tubes!  He replied, “you mean you haven’t replaced your chain?  Oh, that’s not good.”  I gulped.

A bicycle chain should be replaced every 1,500 to 2,000 miles or so depending on riding conditions.  The dirtier the conditions, the faster your chain will wear.  Consult google for measuring chain wear and learning more about this important topic.  After measuring my chain, it appeared to have “stretched” a full 1/8 inch or so per 12 inches.  Yeah, not good.

So I cycled on down to Barrie’s Ski and Sports and bought a new bicycle chain (SRAM with the nifty little lock link).  They also suggested I buy a chain breaker, which came in awfully handy.  With the plentiful bicycle repair tutorials found online, I learned how to replace the chain and did so in a matter of 20 minutes.  I then hopped on the bike to test out my new chain and everything went well until the chain started slipping terribly on one of the gears on my cogset.  It was the very gear that I use most frequently!

After more poking around online, I learned that this is common if you replace a chain on a bicycle with a worn cogset.   Sigh.  After close inspection of the cogset, I noticed that my favorite gear had teeth that were triangular rather than the nice, square teeth on the gears that I seldom used. Yeah, this is what happens when you put 3,500 miles on a chain.  :-/

Previously to this adventure, I had learned that there are 2 types of cogsets on bicycles: freewheels and cassettes.  After determining that mine was of the former type, I looked around online and saw that I could buy one for about $25 at my favorite bike part shop online.  I then thought that instead of buying a new freewheel, I might be able to just yank the one off of my old Wal-Mart mountain bike that I had been scavanging parts off of for quite some time.  I took a look at the freewheel on the mountain bike and it appeared to be the same style of freewheel that my Dawes had.

Next, I shopped around locally for a freewheel remover and picked one up at Rob’s Ride On Bikes And Snow.  This is a small tool that you use with a wrench to unscrew the freewheel from the rear hub.  Specifically, the tool used most commonly to remove Shimano-style freewheels is the Park Tool FR-1 (see, and most of my bicycles use this style of freewheel.

Next I watched this youtube video on freewheel removal, grabbed my toolbox, and got to work!  The guy in the video recommends using an enormous wrench with the freewheel remover and now I know why.  After securely attaching my 12-inch wrench to the freewheel remover, I had to brace the wheel/tire against the metal railing on my front porch while stepping on the wrench with my foot and putting a lot of weight on the wrench handle before the freewheel finally budged!

After ensuring that the mountain bike cogset was only mildly worn and screwing it onto my Dawes rear hub, it suddenly occured to me that I was replacing a 7 speed freewheel with a 6 speed one and that it might not work so well with my 7 speed indexed shifter.  I smacked my forehead.  But during the test ride, it worked fine except that I had to shift a couple of clicks before it’ll go into the next gear.  Bah, close enough!  I now can torque as hard as I want and none of the gears slip!  Eureka!

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