No matter which bike you own, you will always need and have some form of driving force behind you. The driving force located on the rear of the bike is referred to as a cluster. However, the cluster can be either a cassette or a freewheel. Both of these have their advantages that could help you with your cycling and bike.
Understanding the different hub systems will enable you to better understand your bicycle. You should be able to have better maintenance and you will know which benefits your bike can bring to the table. The purpose of this article is to help you understand the difference between the bike cassette and the freewheel.
Bike Cassette Vs Freewheel: What’s The Difference?
The main difference stems from the design. The freewheel is a single hub that tightens to the hub with the act of pedaling. It enables the bike to drive forward and help you move. The cassette is a set of cogs that will slide onto the cassette and this is often held in place by a lockring to ensure stability and help shift the chain.
When it comes to coasting, both the freewheel and the cassette will have a FreeHub. The component is responsible for coasting and enables you to go downhill without having to touch the pedals with your feet.
The freewheels for threaded hubs were the older traditional method of propelling your bike forward. . It mainly consists of standardized threads, making it possible for a freewheel or sprocket cluster to be screwed onto. In reality, it means any freewheel can be mounted to any brand of hub for versatility and functionality.
The freewheels come with bolted sprockets, which also makes them impossible to swap. This could be one of the limiting factors and reasons why many people have changed to the conventional cassette. You will find that freewheel bikes were popular during the 1980s and many of them are still around today.
Characteristics Of The Freewheel
- 5,6 or 7 speeds
- Cannot mount on a split hub body
- A ratcheting mechanism is built into the cogs
- Threads onto the rear hub
- More affordable than the cassette
- Extractor spines will not rotate when spinning the sprocket backward
The freewheel is the older of the two and it is not common on modern bikes. You might still find it in some cheaper bikes, but in terms of the overall value, it might be lacking in performance. You will notice that more people turn to the versatility of the cassette, rather than sticking to the simplicity that is offered by the freewheel.
The cassette hub is the modern version and tends to offer more improvements. Almost all modern bikes are fitted with the cassette hub or freehub as many people would like to call it. It works by ratcheting counterclockwise when you are coasting and making it easier to have some friction that could help preserve the overall control of the bike.
Cassettes also lock clockwise when pedaling and this is why you feel the tension in the pedals that ultimately propels you forward. A series of splines on the outer shell are incorporated for the cassette sprockets to slide over them and hold them in place while you are pedaling forward with your bike.
The lockring will thread into the freehub to hold the sprockets in place. Once you remove the cogs, the freehub will remain on the hub body which makes changing the components slightly easier. You can find that almost all modern bicycles will have the idea and ensure that you can effectively pedal forward without any hassles.
Characteristics of Cassettes
- Bigger speeds(8,9,10, and 11-speeds)
- Used in almost all modern bicycles
- A ratcheting mechanism is built into the hub
- It is not threaded into the rear hub
- More expensive option and can be found on high-end bikes
- Extractor splines will rotate with the cogs when moving
If you are looking to have the best performance and compete with some of the best cyclists out there, you would want to look at having a cassette hub added to your bike. You will notice that most modern bikes already have this attached, especially when looking at performance brands like the elite options use in the Tour de France.
Replacement can also be much easier and since many bikes are now moving over to the cassette, you can replace the components with more ease. However, the main benefit of adding the cassette is that you do not have to worry about running out of speed. There are a wide variety of different speeds that you can use for all situations.
Which One Do I Have?
At a glance, you might find that both systems look very similar. When comparing some of the older bikes, you might not even notice the differences with a quick look. However, the modern systems vary greatly and you won’t need to look as close to determine the difference.
Since most modern bikes are primarily fitted with a cassette, you can easily determine which one you have on your bike. Freewheels are still used, but they have become more uncommon and are often found in budget-friendly bikes. Most children’s bikes will have the freewheel fitted to help with the price of the bike.
As a rule of thumb, you can accept that if you have a new bicycle, you will probably have the cassette. The cassette is far more functional and will give much more to work with for your bike. However, if you are unsure, here are a few additional pointers that could help you figure out whether you have a cassette or freewheel:
- With cassettes, you see the splines around the perimeter and they are flush in the face of the gears.
- The axles on freewheels are recessed into the axle at a slight angle.
- The FreeHub might have a bulge, but not all of them have this bulge. If you happen to notice it, you can be sure it is a cassette.
Which One Should You Choose When Buying A New Bike?
While the freewheel is by far the cheaper of the two, the cassette with FreeHub has become more popular and most modern bikes have this as the main driving force. It has become one of the most popular options to go for when you buy a new bike and some manufacturers even phase out the older freewheel in newer models.
The cassette is popular on a variety of different bikes and features some of the top mountain bikes and road bikes. Even the modern hybrid bike often makes use of the cassette due to it being one of the most functional options. Yes, it might be slightly more expensive, but the usability seems to make up for it and maintenance is not that hard.
Frequently Asked Questions
With some of the basics out of the way, we have identified a few questions that many of you might have. Understanding these questions could go a long way to help you better understand the differences. These are some of the top questions from around the web and should ensure that you get the value you need:
Can I Replace A Freewheel With A Cassette?
Unfortunately, it is not that easy to replace the freewheel with a cassette. The entire rear wheel might need to be changed to make this possible. Alternatively, you might have to replace the rear hub and this can be a tedious process. However, it could make a big difference to your performance if you put in the effort and do it.
Is A Freewheel Single-Speed?
The one modern bike where you might still see the freewheel is with the single-speed bike. The freewheel cog is often used to turn the wheel when you are stepping on the pedals. However, it also locks up like the cassette when you move the pedals too fast and it spins faster than the cog. This can be seen as a hybrid design.
Is The Freewheel Cheaper Than A Cassette?
If you are looking for a budget option, you should consider looking at the freewheel. The freewheel is slightly cheaper than a full cassette and can often give you some good benefits. However, you will not want to use it for too long, as it could harm the overall performance of your output and your growth.
Both the freewheel and cassette can be beneficial to your performance. The freewheel is the budget option and will ensure you get good value for your money. However, it could hamper you in terms of overall performance. We would recommend looking at the cassette as a good alternative for better performance.