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  1. #1
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    a few dumb questions

    I know the gears on the wheel are either a freewheel or cassette but aside from how they attach to the wheel what is the difference? What is the benefit of one vs the other besides maybe cost?

    The other thing I was wondering is if your using a mountain bike for commute purposes could you use road bike gears on them? I assume there wouldn't be an issue attaching the cassette/freewheel to a 26" hub but I figure it wouldn't hurt to ask.

  2. #2
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    The way they attach is the big difference. With a cassette you are just replacing the cogs so you you can have a higher end bearing assembly that doesn't need to be changed every time. The cogs are also separate so you can theoretically build up as custom cassette but I've certainly never bothered. To get a freewheel off all you need is the puller but a cassette requires a chain whip.

    Road gears and mountain gears are all the same. If the cassette fits the hub you can use it.

    More here:
    Freewheel or Cassette?

  3. #3
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    And just to add to what bedwards said, your rear wheel is designed for either a freewheel or a cassette - you can't switch between the two. If you currently have a freewheel but wanted to switch to a cassette (or visa versa) you either need a new rear wheel, or you need to rebuild your wheel with a different hub.

    (sorry if I'm being super obvious, but you never know)

  4. #4
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    You can't always "just swap" between road and mtn gears. It depends on the capacity of the derailleur. For example, most road derailleurs can't take an 11-36 mtb 10spd cassette. That 36t cog is too big. Have to use a mtn derailleur (I am doing that now). Most "wide range" road derailleurs max out around 30-32t or so (there's a little fudge factor).

    Also, cage length can matter for shifting precision. A long cage is necessary if you're running mtn triple gearing, for example. Most road bikes come with a short cage derailleur. A long cage derailleur will probably work, but can be sloppy in that situation and shifting precision can suffer.

    For the situation you describe, assuming you match cog count and the freewheel/cassette type, you could swap, but shifting may not be as snappy and precise as you like. Of course, that will also vary depending on the quality of your drivetrain.

  5. #5
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    I had read the Sheldon Brown article and saw something on youtube where someone was explaining the difference but I didn't notice any mention of if/how one may be better then the other. Mostly I just wasn't sure if it was a price difference thing or something else.

    I know the hub is different between the 2 and not everyone gets that far before asking. I think it was in the youtube video or a youtube video where someone had claimed that the cassette/freewheel on a roadie was more for speed where mtn bike ones are more for hilly terrain.

    I mostly run a mtn bike since I'm up against areas were there's no curb/sidewalk and some dirt/rock areas but was thinking if the roadie gears were faster then that may help with time

  6. #6
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    road gearing is tighter and will give you overall taller ratios, which translates to more speed if you have the legs to push them. But it's not just the rear cluster. a mtb cassette and a road cassette, for example, tend to have the same size small cog. road cassettes just have smaller differences between each cog. the chainrings are really where the differences come into play for speed. the large ring for road bikes frequently is 50t or larger. You'll be hard pressed to find a big ring on a mtb larger than 44t. Most mtb riders have been ditching rings that big altogether, anyway.

    wheel size comes into play, also. You can see the effect of this using Sheldon Brown's gear calculator.

  7. #7
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    It's tough to find freewheels nowadays, except on 21spd department store bikes. Unless you're considering a fixie it's not really something you need to worry about.

    One thing about freewheels was that as the number of gears increased the hubs got wider, and that led to some people bending their rear axles. On a freewheel hub the bearings are located so that the weight isn't distributed evenly, which can lead to bending. In a cassette hub the bearings are spaced further apart so the weight is better distributed and bending isn't an issue.

  8. #8
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    Freehubs are better because they can put the wheel bearings further out on the axle than a freewheel. (at least that's what I remember)
    ->Edit: newfangled beat me to it<-

    OK, Nate's right, I was simplifying it too much. Road cages are usually much shorter and cant' take the range of some MTB cassettes.

    And yes, mountain bike have a wider range of gearing. Roadie gears can be "taller" but you have to supply the "faster" part. The smallest cog on both cassettes is usually 11 teeth for mountain or road so they both provide the highest gearing possible as far as the rear gears go. The other thing to consider is that the effective gearing is different between a 26" wheel and a 700C wheel. The 700C wheel will give you higher gears. And then there's crank length.

    I'm going to send you back to Sheldon.
    Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Gear Calculator
    ->Edit: and Nate did too <-

  9. #9
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    S.F., you`ve been getting the most basicest info from Newf and Bedwards and a much more detaileder version from Nate. To get to the meat of your specific situation, are you looking at modifying a specific bike, researching to buy a bike, or just wondering in general? If it`s a bike you already have your paws on, specifics on the current drivetrain and wheels will be needed to give you the options.

    If you`re shopping for a whole bike, sticking with freehubs will make your life much easier in today`s world. Besides easier, what Newfangled said about cheapo department store bikes comes into play. Good stuff used to be available for threaded hubs and freewheels, but other than a few very expensive botique parts, they`re mostly relegated to the bottom of the barrel these days. As to road or mountain gearing, it`s not a huge deal to go from one to the other, but the benefits of one over the other probably won`t be as glaring as you might think.

    EDIT: in the case of trying to get more speed or efficiency out of a mountain bike on the road, tires are you best bet.
    Recalculating....

  10. #10
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    its a combo of wondering and things I've been thinking about doing to a bike I already have.

    The bike in question is a box store 21spd whose only purpose is being used as a commuter/backup for car and occasional just riding around. Pretty much I plan to upgrade as needed when/as I need to. I know its not the greatest bike to start with but I didn't want to start a $1k + bike and still have to modify it the way I want it.

  11. #11
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    In that case, I'd keep it the way it is mechanically, and give it good rubber for pavement riding. Chances are, it's got knobbies with a smoothish center line of tread. Get something smoother (not necessarily totally slick). Use it as your beater. Get things fixed when they wear out or break...until the bike just gets too worn out to do so. When you're ready to upgrade, keep your intended use into consideration.

    Get into bikes seriously enough, and you won't bat an eye about spending more money to make a $2,000 bike exactly the way you want it.

  12. #12
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    I've already changed the seat, road style tires, changed both the rims (1 bent against a curb, the other bent when tube exploded). and added the minors that are or may be needed.

    I still have a few things I'm considering but for the most part their overall minor things. Mostly things like grips and debating on shifters/derailers.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    Get into bikes seriously enough, and you won't bat an eye about spending more money to make a $2,000 bike exactly the way you want it.
    On the other hand for about $500 you should be able to come up with a decent bike. You'll never make a department store a decent bike unless you replace...everything. Although it sounds like you are well on your way.

  14. #14
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    I put a lot of miles and 2 canadian winters on my department store schwinn. They're just fine.

    My tip is to check your chain for stretch. What finished my schwinn off was riding way too long on an old chain (I didn't know you were supposed to replace them). Because of that I ended up replacing the chain, cassette, crankset, bottom bracket, and maybe even front derailleur? The bike was built with oddball parts, so once I replaced one I had to replace a bunch more.

    But yeah, don't spend money replacing your shifters or derailleurs. Instead, just make sure yours are set up properly for tension and limit screws. Bike co-ops are fantastic for that kindof stuff if there's one around you.

  15. #15
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    I pretty much knew box store bike are cheap due primarily to components and frame material. When I got the bike I had already planned on replacing parts with better, though no everyone understood.

  16. #16
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    My Frontier is/was a bike store Schwinn which is down due to car vs bike accident. The one I use now is a Schwinn Sidewinder from wallyworld.

    Part of the reason I want to change the shifters is on the Frontier the front shifter would click for up/down shifts when it was were it would actually change gears on the crank. On the Sidewinder the front clicks away like its a rear shifter-has 3 front gears but clicks in 7-8 positions, and I'd kinda like to have trigger shifters instead of grip shifters for commute purposes. I know I don't change gears a ton but its just annoying to want to change front gears and hearing to many clicks before it shifts.

  17. #17
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    Another thing is the tape stuff or whatever the strip thing between the tube and tire is called worth it?

    I've had the bike since last December and have replaced the front tube 1x but the back I've gone through probably 6 or so tubes.

  18. #18
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    The rear-tire flats sound like they could be "pinch flats" from having the air a bit low when you hit a bump, etc., since more weight is on the back tire. This is assuming you didn't find nails or some other cause. f it is pinch flats you only need more free air and not tire liners (between tire and tube). Rim tape on the other hand (between rim and tube, either looks like adhesive tape or a big rubber band) is mandatory to prevent flats.

  19. #19
    weirdo
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    A bunch of random thoughts that seem to pertain:
    Not to say it`s impossible, but bending a rim because of a tube blowout sounds very weird to me. You might have the cause and effect backwards.

    Buying a whole bike all together is almost always going to be cheaper than buying it in pieces...

    ...but never as much fun

    I was going to say that it`s silly to spend a lot of money on upgrade parts for a box store bike, but thinking it through, most of those parts could conceiveably be transfered to a nicer frame in the future. In the mean time, you`re rolling and the bike is managing all those nice parts for you.

    If it makes you feel any better, those microclick front shifters actually have some benefits over "three-click indexing" type (I don`t know how else to call them). With trigger shifters or the twist kind that you used to have, precise adjustment is needed, which can be dificult or impossible with cheap cable and housing, and there`s no way to trim the front derailler. True that single click shifts are more in fashion and likely sexier. Personally, I prefer no clicks at all in my front shifter.

    Whatever you do, have fun.
    Recalculating....

  20. #20
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    The first tube was due to stickers and I used the tubes out of my other bike since one was a slime tube and the other was a bell slime tube. The bell slime exploded about 2 weeks later. From there I had changed tires and went through 2 slime tubes in back that were due to the tire slipping and torqueing the valve stem and 1 may have had a spoke take one out as I had changed the rims within a few weeks prior. The pressure was over the low minimum (minimum states 29 but I had at ~40, max is ~70) but I found I need to run a higher pressure to prevent that problem. Then tried a solid tube thinking if it worked I wouldn't have to worry about tubes to have the rim rotate inside the tire and feel flat. I used 1-2 more slime tubes, the valve on 1 clogged so couldn't check psi or add air easily. Am now trying a Schwinn self seal but it keeps dropping pressure.

    Whenever I change tubes I always make it a point to check the tire for anything that may cause a flat. I can't say I always catch something but I do check. I know the rim tape has to be there to keep the spokes from poking the tube. I was mainly thinking if tire liners were worth it give it a try but if not I don't want to "waste" money on it

  21. #21
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    I can't say the rim was definitely true but when the tube exploded the rim was wider at that point. it was at the point were prior there was no (or very minor) rubbing on the brakes where after it would bind at that point. The guy at the bike shop said he had a tube explode and supposedly crack a rim.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schwinn_Frontier View Post
    I had read the Sheldon Brown article and saw something on youtube where someone was explaining the difference but I didn't notice any mention of if/how one may be better then the other. Mostly I just wasn't sure if it was a price difference thing or something else.

    I know the hub is different between the 2 and not everyone gets that far before asking. I think it was in the youtube video or a youtube video where someone had claimed that the cassette/freewheel on a roadie was more for speed where mtn bike ones are more for hilly terrain.

    I mostly run a mtn bike since I'm up against areas were there's no curb/sidewalk and some dirt/rock areas but was thinking if the roadie gears were faster then that may help with time
    Axle breakage was a problem for wheels with 7 or 8 speed freewheels. Cassettes and freewheel hubs moved the bearings outboard on the drive side and fixed this issue allowing 8, 9, 10 and now 11 speed cassettes. I found 2 x 5 (7 different ratios) adequate once. Now 3 x 10 with about 18 different ratios comes in handy when I got big hills on the southern Indiana ride.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by BrianMc View Post
    Axle breakage was a problem for wheels with 7 or 8 speed freewheels.
    ok so that explains the problem I kept having with my wrecked bike as I did this at least 2x and didn't know it was a common wheel problem. Now that I know that when/if I have this problem with this one I'll make sure to make the switch.

  24. #24
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    I have seen rims break from tube blowouts...but they were heavily worn and weakened already from a lot of braking applications. The braking surface was definitely cupped and the bead seat portions of the rim definitely spreading already. Pinch a tube between the tire and rim on an install, and the whole wheel is destroyed.

    Your case sounds more like a pinch flat with the impact causing a flat spot in the rim. Happens. How often do you check your tire pressure? A lot of folks don't realize that pressures can drop pretty dramatically in a relatively short amount of time. I check pressures before every ride. Even if I'm riding daily. Never know if I'll find a slow leak. I could probably get away with weekly checks most of the time, but not on my tubeless mtb. My rear tire loses pressure faster (probably because I have a flat spot on the rim).

    As for the tires rotating on the rims, that happens under 2 situations, IME. The first, when tire pressure is too low. The second, it's not unheard of for that to happen with cheap tires on cheap rims. Tolerances are not very tight, and the tire fit can be very loose or very tight. On very loose tires, they can slip when you're braking even at an appropriate pressure. One of the traps of dept store bikes.

  25. #25
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    I usually check it about once a week minimum. As for the rim bent I'm sure its possible but with this one try to keep the hopping off curbs etc to a minimum especially with the rims that it came with. For tire pressures I found that I have to run ~50 psi as anything much lower causes the tire shift problem.

    The rims I have on it now are the cheapest or one of the cheapest replacement but seem like a definite improvement over the ones that came on it from what I can tell.

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