Replacing single speed or BMX freewheel

If you ride around on a single speed bike or a BMX, then once every one to two years you need to replace the freewheel cog.

It became apparent that my freewheel needed replacing on my bike after I kept hearing a clonking sound, each time I’d be applying a lot of pressure to the pedals. This was particularly apparent, when pedalling uphill.

To complete this repair you’ll need a couple of tools:

  • BMX Freewheel remover – one that will fit your freewheel cog. Note that as crazy as it sounds, some freewheel cogs are not designed to be removed. See destructive freewheel removal.
  • Spanner – this will fit on to the freewheel remover. Ideally, don’t use an adjustable spanner as you are likely to slip and damage the tool and potentially your freewheel. 
  • Grease – use quality bike grease such as this one.

Buying a new freewheel

A cheap freewheel will cost you £20. A more expensive one will cost you around £40. However, the more expensive one is likely to last a couple of years or more. The cheaper one will probably last around 12 months, depending on usage.

Therefore, this is one of those scenarios where it’s worth spending money now, to save money in the long term.

At Lunar Cycles, my favourite local bike shop, we decided to order in a more expensive freewheel. They recommended the Halo Clickster. Besides being more durable, the Clickster also delivers a satisfying constant clicking sound when you are freewheeling.

Whichever model you order, make sure you count out the number of teeth that you need by comparing it to your existing single speed or BMX freewheel cog.

Step by step instructions

Step 1: With the wheel removed from the bike, fit the freewheel remover on to the cog, making sure you align the four notches.

Insert freewheel remover

Step 2: Using a spanner (or wrench for our American counterparts) undo the freewheel counter clockwise.

Removing freewheel cog using spanner

Step 3: With the freewheel removed, add plenty of quality grease and make sure you apply it evenly by using your hands to ensure all threads are fully greased.

Adding grease to the threads

Step 4: Add grease to the threads of the freewheel cog and make sure you apply it evenly.

Adding grease to the freewheel

Step 5: Carefully fit the freewheel back on to the threads. Never use force when doing this. The freewheel should slide on easily, without resistance. If you need to use force, then you probably haven’t lined up the threads correctly. You should feel for a smooth movement as the freewheel fits in to position.

Add freewheel back on

Step 6: Refit the freewheel remover in to position and use a spanner to tighten the freewheel in place. Note that you don’t need to use excessive amounts of force at this stage as the freewheel will tighten as you pedal.

Tighten freewheel in place

Step 7: With the threads slightly greased, refit the nuts and replace the wheel back on to the bike.

Adding nuts back on

Thank you kindly to Lunar Cycles for allowing me to observe and picture this repair. We will be adding it to the next update of Bike Doctor.

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5 Responses to Replacing single speed or BMX freewheel

  1. John Somers 03/09/2012 at 6:15 pm #

    Great little write up, though I would REALLY recommend removing the freewheel periodically, cleaning & re-greasing to prevent the darned thing seizing ’cause once seized, even with the correct removal tool they can be a real bugger to remove!

    To remove one recently that REALLY had seized on my Kona Paddy Wagon I had to resort to a “destructive” method even though it was a supposedly removable type – thankfully it was a cheap one that was starting to get very noisy and worn…..it was still a real pain to remove!!

    As to the grease on the threads, I do swear by Copper Slip or similar copper based anti seize compound greases, though any grease is better than no grease.

  2. philcycle 07/09/2012 at 4:15 pm #

    Putting the removal tool into a vice, rather than using a spanner, makes for a more stable situation. The wheel rim gives a good leverage – especially in the case of the ‘seized’ thread.
    To make sure the removal tool doesn’t jump out of the dogs, fit a washer and nut to the whel spindle – but remember to loosen the nut as the freewheel is loosened.
    I agree the use of Copper Slip. A tin will probably last you a lifetime!

  3. Chris 18/09/2012 at 1:42 pm #

    Removal of freewheels without tool fittings (“Destructive Removal”). Often found on childrens bikes.
    Freewheels that haven’t had a large body jumping on (eg. 12 stone rider) tham can usuall be removed fairly easily with just a hammer & punch. You have to take them apart. BUT you can then clean, grease & put them back together again.
    THEY CAN BE REUSED !!

  4. Alex 17/10/2012 at 4:34 pm #

    What do you make of the Halo Clickster? Is it annoyingly loud or just reassuringly so?

    • Andreas 18/10/2012 at 4:08 pm #

      Annoyingly when you first switch to it but now I’ve grown to like the constant click.

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