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I've tried to and tried, but just can't do it. Can anyone help me with a way to remove my crappy old 7 speed cassette and install a brand new 11 speed without using a cassette wrench? I'm not rich enough to own one.

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    I wouldn't recommend trying it without the proper tool, if it's relatively tight you risk damaging the parts – Maarten -Monica for president Feb 17 at 6:00
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    The tool is significantly cheaper than any single part of 11 speed groupset. And you need a whole set if you want the setup to work. – ojs Feb 17 at 7:30
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    Did you also buy a new rear derrailleur and shifter? You wil need those. If you keep your cranks 7 or 8 speed and install an 11 speed chain, you will have a shifting problem too. – Vladimir F Feb 17 at 8:32
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    Also you won't fit an 11 speed cassette in the space where a 7 speed cassette came from. Th largest that will fit is likely a 7 speed, or perhaps 8 if there are spacers behind the current cassette. – Criggie Feb 17 at 9:14
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    @Criggie if it's Shimano, 8 to 9 speed and MTB 10 to 11 speed cassettes fit on same hub. Not relevant to question, but no need to spread misinformation either. – ojs Feb 17 at 9:40
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Use the correct tool. There really is no other good answer.

Bodges that could get the old one off, maybe

  • a hammer and cold chisel - likely to upset the threads on the freehub.
  • a grinder and cutoff disk - guaranteed to damage the freehub, plus throws sparks and metal shavings into the mechanism. I've actually done this to a cheap bike where all I needed to save were the spokes, and not the freewheel or hub. Most enjoyable.
  • a gas axe/torch will definitely cut the lockring off, but you'll also damage the hub and spokes, and possibly the rim too.

Practical Alternatives

You need a cassette lockring removal tool. As per comments they're a few dollars from China, or about 10x that from your local bike shop immediately.

Park FR5

Park FR-5, likely to last decades.

You will also need some way to hold the old cassette to undo the lockring. The correct tool is a Chain Whip

Park SR-1

Park SR-1, again expect 30 years service out of this tool. It costs three times as much as the locknut tool. I have managed to bodge this by using a length of worn old chain and a pair of vise-grips.


What can I do?

There exist Bicycle Co-operatives who exist to help you with your bike. They're generally free or donation-if-you-can levels. And they will have these basic tools for you to use, and may even run workshops. For me locally, RAD (or Recycle-a-Dunger) is a good service, and can be found at http://www.radbikes.co.nz/

Another option is any kind of "mens shed" which are global, and tend to be populated by some very handy chaps. Example http://www.kinrossmensshed.org/what-we-do.html

A third option is to ask around anyone you know who cycles. Worst that can happen is they say no.

Lastly, you might be able to take your (clean) wheel into your Local Bike Shop and ask for help. If you're a customer, a LBS might be able to help by quickly slapping it through, for minimal or even no charge.

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    An old chain + table vise works nicely instead of a chain whip. – Michael Feb 18 at 10:58
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You really will struggle to complete this task without the proper tools, I can't actually imagine how you would do it successfully. Criggie's answer helpfully details some good ways to go about borrowing the tools.

However...

As people have suggested in the comments, if you are changing to an 11-speed cassette, you need to change the shifter(s) and derailleur(s) as well, but even then the cassette might not even fit on your old wheel - it most likely won't fit, meaning you need a new wheel too. Affording all of this but not being able to afford the basic bike tools required, even cheap versions, doesn't sound quite right.

My answer is, if you can afford to upgrade to 11 speed, you can afford to buy the tools, or to pay the labour, or to travel and visit someone who will lend you the tools. If you can afford something in between that and nothing, you would be better served by replacing the cassette (and chain) with new versions of the existing items. A well maintained 7 speed bike will be far better for you in several months time, than a poorly maintained 11 speed bike.

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    Also, the frame may not be designed to accommodate the wider hub. If it's a mountain bike and 7 speed, the frame is likely spaced at 130mm where a hub for 11-speed needs 135mm spacing. If it's a steel frame, spreading it should not be too difficult, but not if it's aluminum. – Noah Sutherland Feb 17 at 19:06
  • If the new hub is Boost its even wider. – mattnz Feb 17 at 20:33
  • I've seen this done with a pack of socket wrenches, but I doubt that's the cheaper tool. – Joshua Feb 17 at 23:24
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I once used ISIS spindle to undo cassette lockring. Even though the shape and diameter is similar, there are 12 splines on lockring opposed to 10 on ISIS spindle. There will be some contact, that might be sufficent. Just undo crank on one side and use crank on the other side as lever. However this probably won't work for properly torqued lockring.

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I did once by blocking the freewheel backward motion.

Put some rubber in the bearings, like eg. a party air balloon, and let it lock so you can unscrew it. It won't work by pedalling backwards, as it needs a lot of torque, but should work with a plumbers wrench or alike.

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