As cycling season is gearing up, you may notice a noise coming from your rear wheel like a cement mixer. After the Sunshine hill climb, which ends on 4 miles of unpaved road, my bike was sounding pretty rough. Sand and dirt in your drivetrain will dramatically increase the wear on your parts. It's the opposite of lubrication, it's increased friction! Here's how to clean that cassette up and keep it running smooth like butter.
1. Pull all the cogs off the freewheel and drop them into something. I am using an old disc golf disc.
2. I use WD-40 to clean the cogs. It cuts the grease well. Here I'll point out that WD-40 is a great degreaser, but not a great lubricant, so don't use it for that.
Soaking the cogs
3. After they soak for a bit, I took each cog and wiped off the gunk and excess WD-40 with an old sock. It is important to not only get all the road crap off, but also dry the cog completely. A moist part will just attract dirt again.
4. Here you can see the comparison between the dirty and clean cogs.
Clean (top) vs. Dirty (bottom)
6. Be sure to get the freehub body as well. Just take a rag moist with degreaser and wipe down the mechanism thoroughly.
Cleaning the freehub
As long as I am going to the trouble to get the cassette clean, I will also clean the chain and chainrings. This way, all the parts are clean at once and should result in a smooth ride, and a longer life.
Reassemble all the cogs, and you should be smooth as butter.