I have a 3 year old road bike with Shimano Ultegra 11 speed freehub CX-75 and cassette CS-6800. Recently I started hearing clunking noise from the drivetrain during freewheeling. It appears that the cassette turns forward along with the wheel for a small angle, pulls the chain with it (this squeezes rear derailleur and creates slack on the upper chain run, since the crank is not moving), then releases, upon which the derailleur springs out quickly with the clunk.

I can almost reproduce the problem at will. It happens more often in cornering. And the chain does make a clunk or two if I wobble the handlebar quickly a few times when going straight. The common denominator is a sideways acceleration, but whether the problem is triggered by a little frame deformation under side load, or the inertial force on derailleur or other components, I cannot understand. Clunking does not happen when I set the bike hanging on a stand.

I could not also find any description matching the symptom. Should I replace the freehub? It must not be worn at 3 years, and probably way under 10K miles, Ultegra being pretty higher end set. But I cannot think of anything else.

  • Don't assume that high-end stuff lasts longer or is more durable. Often the higher spec groupsets use less metal to save weight, and therefore are not as durable. But thats totally a generalisation and not an answer.
    – Criggie
    Jul 6, 2016 at 22:35
  • @Criggie: Good point, actually! Jul 7, 2016 at 3:10

2 Answers 2


Since the cassette is being driven by the wheel, the freehub mechanism is catching instead of releasing.

Confirm that by removing the rear wheel, remove the cassette, and spin the wheel/freehub off the bike (ie in your hands)

When powering it through the freehub the wheel should turn like normal, but as soon as the freehub is not driving the wheel, it should stop and will make a faint or loud clicking sound. If you feel the freehub still being pushed around by the wheel, it needs work.

Fix0 - clean all the impacted dirt and oil, hair and grass out from behind the cassette and around the freehub. Consider removing the dork-disk if its cracked or brittle or not sitting right.

Fix1 - blast the whole thing with cleaners, then let it dry, and lube it up again before use.

Fix2 - disassemble the freehub and attempt an interior service.

Fix3 - replace the freehub mechanism (last resort)

  • 1
    Fix0 - Examine the space between the cassette and the spokes and remove any grass, string, or other material which has collected there. Jul 7, 2016 at 1:59
  • 1
    Fix0 actually seemed to work so far. There was not a conspicuous object or dirt pack, but deep cleaning of the space with gear floss and mineral spirits took care of the jamming. I am really surprised it did but it did! Jul 27, 2016 at 1:47
  • @kkm thank you for the followup - its really appreciated.
    – Criggie
    Jul 27, 2016 at 2:09

This is a irritatingly common problem. The solution is fairly straightforward once you confirm that there is no foreign objects causing the hub to catch, which doesn't sound like the case.

Solution: Remove the wheel from the bike, and remove the cassette, the axle, bearings, metal dustcover and wipe the interior of the hub clean of grease. If you've got money, buy a morningstar freehub greaser. If you don't (which is me), then you'll notice that there are two slots in the interior of the hub shell. Lean the wheel against a wall at a 75 degree angle with one of the slots oriented at 90 degrees to the floor.. Go buy some automatic transmission fluid (ATF). Buy the cheap stuff from wherever. It doesn't make a difference here.

Transfer in enough ATF to the interior of the hub body so that is reaches the hole where the axle was. Spin the exterior of the freehub shell every couple of minutes. After a while, the ATF will work its way into the freehub body and lubricate the bearings. Do this twice and you'll be good to go for some time. It'll cost you 4 bucks for the ATF, which is a lot cheaper than a new body. Once the interior is filled with ATF (it won't accept anymore) go ahead and clean the hub interior of ATF, repack the area with new grease and reassemble.

I had this same problem with my Bianchi. I have used the freehub in several wheelsets and it has gone well over 10K miles with only being re-oiled twice.

It also happened to my brand new Trek Emonda. Wasn't happy about that, but I fixed it myself. Works perfectly now.

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