The chain cleaning cassette breaker

Some people should not be allowed to do the following things:

  1. Purchase bicycle tools
  2. Use them

Unhappily, one day I was watching Boozy P. straighten out my hanger thingy and in a flush of excitement and Can-Do Attitude I rushed home and decided to clean my chain. This took a long time and consumed a lot of Simple Green, which is hard to get out of your hair and teeth.

Pretty soon, after my shoes had filled with Simple Green, the chain was cleaner but still not Boozy P. clean. For someone who lives behind a brewery and has franking privileges there, Boozy P. can really make your chain sparkle.

So I got on the Internet and found Pedro’s Chain Pig. This looked great. It was advertised as hassle-free and had replaceable parts, which was kind of weird because it also had a lifetime warranty, so I wondered why you needed to buy replacement parts if it never broke.

The chain pig is complicated but simple. You strap it onto your chain, fill it with Simple Green, and spin the pedals. The chain whizzes through the pig, and inside the pig there are little spinning brushes and stuff that scrub your chain with the degreaser. Then you empty it, fill it again, and after a few turns your chain is shiny and spotless and looks better than your date after you’ve given her her first toothbrush.

I did all this and was really proud of myself, although I thought Boozy P. would be kind of bummed because this is exactly the kind of procedure that usually results in a $500 repair job. Feeling like an ace mechanic I then looked at the cassette, which was clean except for the sand, tar, gum, and thick, black, congealed stuff that was all over it.

“I cleaned the chain,” I said confidently, “I bet I can clean that ol’ cassette.”

I opened up my toolbox, vaguely remember that many years ago I had thought about cleaning my cassette and had bought a cassette remover tool thingy, but gave up on the project when it came time to have a beer around noon. There was the tool, at the bottom of the box, and I took it out and tried to remember how it was used.

I couldn’t remember it because I’d never known, so I subbed in good old common sense. The tool fit into the grooves of the lock ring, and the edges of the tool looked like they fit a crescent wrench, so it appeared that all you had to do was put a honking crescent wrench around that baby and twist it, which would undo the lock ring, which in turn would let you slide the cogs off the freehub.

Now things got really lucky.

One day when I lived in Japan I broke my screwdriver. At that very moment a Snap-On truck was driving by. I flagged it down and asked the driver if he had any screwdrivers for sale. I didn’t know that Snap-On was anything special, in fact the name sounded so cheesy that I thought it was like Gemco or Acme or some cheap off-brand.

The guy was very polite and said that yes, he had a screwdriver or two he’d be happy to show me, which he did. I bought the screwdriver and it was really expensive. It cost me $75. Then, just before I climbed out of the back of the van, I noticed a crescent wrench. It was huge, with a massive head and a handle that was long enough to hang laundry off of.

I had no need for it of course, but it was big and shiny and expensive and new, so apropos of nothing I bought it. It cost me $568 and was heavier than anything I’d ever bought before except a piano.

That crescent wrench sat in my toolbox for twenty years and never got used once. Every time we moved, which was often, I’d hire an extra mover just to carry that wrench. I suppose it would have come in handy if I’d ever needed to disassemble one of those giant freeway girders, but I never did.

So there I was with the cassette tool hooked into the lock ring and my eye casting about for a suitably manly crescent wrench, and there She was. I picked Her up and tightened Her onto the cassette removing tool, and paused for a second to figure out which way to twist Her. The cassette was spinning backwards, so even though that seemed like the right direction, there was no way to keep it from spinning and hence that couldn’t be the right way to turn Her.

When you can’t go back, go forward. I grabbed the handle of that big honking ass wrench and gave Her a mighty crank. All of that solid Snap-On steel and all of that mighty leverage came to bear against the delicate aluminum locking ring that had been crafted and installed by nuns with soft hands and unblemished skin, and the ring made that grinding little complaining sound that things make when you strip them and strip them hard.

Even with the lock ring twisted into several pieces, the cogs still wouldn’t come off, so I got my screwdriver and started banging and twisting and hacking. I didn’t think this was how Boozy P. did it, especially because after all that twisting the perfectly round cogs had kind of a dish-shaped elliptical orbit like a Biopace chain ring. “Cool,” I thought, “this will probably save me a few watts.”

I bathed them all in more Simple Green and had a great time looking at them in the sun, all shiny and shit.

When it came time to put them back on of course they didn’t want to go but luckily I had some pliers and a hammer and a sharp steel thing that I don’t know what it’s for, only it is sharp and pokes holes in anything.

Pretty soon I had the whole thing reassembled except I had some parts left over, so I figured they were just extra weight anyway and chucked them over the balcony. “Extra parts is for wankers,” I said, noting how the cogs were all Biopace now and they jiggled a little bit on the freehub.

Can’t wait to test ‘er out in the sprint on Tuesday.



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32 thoughts on “The chain cleaning cassette breaker”

  1. Oh man! I’m so bummed I can’t make the Tuesday ride, but you give ’em hell, Wanquey.

  2. Ohhh Biopace.

    Apparently it’s back on sale for something like the 50th time in the history of cycling. Except THIS time, the unroundedness is the right kind of unroundedness, not like those other times. AmIright?

    1. Look, Mr. Wise Ass. Just spend more money and go faster, okay? Lots of money, because the more you spend the faster you will go without working harder. And they’ve scientifically proven that unround things go faster than round one, for example the new Biopace wheelset and the new Biopace NASCAR rims and of course the new 3-D Biopace Square Ceramic Bearings.

      Please. There is a program. Get with it.

  3. Or, as my dear engineer friend says to me: “Bill, that is a wrench, stand back before you hurt yourself.”

  4. I think Boozy P has a time slot for you this afternoon. Otherwise, your Tuesday ride will last two minutes.

    1. Extra pieces are for wankers. And Boozy P. don’t work before 6:00 PM.

  5. When I read the “It was huge, with a massive head and a handle that was long enough to hang laundry off of.”, I thought “how can a Texan pass THAT up!”. Sure enough, he didn’t.

    Didn’t we JUST have a conversation about being good a riding doesn’t mean you’re good at mechanics?

    1. And the corollary, just because you’re bad at riding and mechanics means you’ll kill yourself if you try to fix anything.

  6. I am just mechanically adept enough to be extremely confident in performing tasks I have no business attempting. Somewhere there’s a tipping point between a hacker and a wrench, and I’m always just shy of the apex.
    I always say the best way to learn something is to break something, but that’s just a weak justification.

  7. I’m from the school of “never clean a chain”. After 15 years on dusty trails the goo on my chain has always kept out the dust and sand and if it ever looks rusty I just add some more goo. The chain has never skipped and never made a creak. But maybe I got lucky with a good old over-engineered chain. On my new bike the chain is already loudly protesting this treatment. Keep hoping it will quiet down over time….

    1. I’ve been doing the same thing with my teeth since ’73 but with less stellar results.

    1. But spit-shiny chains and cogs strike terror into the hearts of wheelsuckers!

  8. Good thing the Snap On guy didn’t sell you a chain whip….you might have list some fingers & they are way harder to replace than a cassette lockring. Oh & while you are at it get a steel one instead…only 20 grams heavier & way harder to fuk up!

    1. I once had a girlfriend who liked to use a chain whip when we, uh, never mind.

  9. Dude you didnt… Dooohhhh … I just slapped my forehead and sharted…you forgot the electrical tape…

    But add some grease to the tape so the cassette can spin freely and you dont loose too many watts..

    I feel bad for….,.,,,The wheel..yes i do

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