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Best Chain Whip And Cassette Lockring Tools 2017 (And What The Fug Are They For?)

Best Chain Whip And Cassette Lockring Tools 2017 (And What The Fug Are They For?) post image

So you’ve decided to take the next step towards cyclo-service self sufficiency.

You need to take your cassette off the bike, either to clean it or to replace it. It is one of your core principles that you don’t knowingly elect to shred your fingers whilst undertaking bike maintenance.

You therefore need a chain whip and a lockring tool.

And in this post we’re going to find out what they are, who sells them and which is the best (or rather, which will do the job with the minimum fuss).

Selected Products Mentioned In This Post

Note that these links, and those in the rest of the post, are affiliate links. If you click one and buy something, I might get a small commission (it’s decided by an arcane black box calculation…). If you find this post useful, and you plan to buy something, I’d really appreciate the click.

Now, back to the post.

Er, Mont, What Is A Chain Whip?

A chain whip is one of those tools that you use to commit 1960s-style East London gangland violence.

It’s also a tool that you never knew you needed, until suddenly you did. You use it prevent the cassette turning (those pesky free-wheeling bike hubs…) whilst you untighten the lockring.

Essentially it’s like a long spanner (or wrench, Americanos) with two bits of bike chain attached to the end of the handle that you don’t hold:

  • The smaller bit of chain is fixed to the handle at both ends (of the chain…).
  • The longer bit of chain is fixed only at one end and, er, dangles off it, ready to be wrapped around an unsuspecting victim’s neck cassette (ahem).

Maybe it’s easier to show you a picture.

OHMYGOD, BeCarefulWhatYouSearchFor dot com…

Dodgy weapons

Right, well this is a more accurate representation of a chain whip:

My Park Tool SR1 chain whip

Okay. But What’s A Cassette Lockring?

I knew you were going to ask that.

Well, you know how the individual cogs of the cassette slide onto the freehub body? The cassette lockring is the final ‘bit’ (Wikipedia describes it as a threaded washer) that goes on after the smallest sprocket in the cassette, in order to hold it all in place.

Here is an example of a (somewhat bling) lockring:

Example shimano lockring

Lockring…. I SAID LOCKRING

The point is that in order to untighten the lockring, you need to hold the cassette in place and prevent it turning. That’s where the chain whip comes in.

Half Job, Half Biscuit

Like many a young person (yes, I said young), I have been accused by elder mechno-statesmen (generally related to me) of only doing half a job.

Well, I’m here to tell you that the chain whip revels in only doing half a job. You only use it to hold the cassette in place whilst you untighten the lockring. It is rendered superfluous for all your lockring tightening needs by the design of the freehub.

The cassette doesn’t rotate in that direction without the wheel doing the same (and I’m assuming you can hold the wheel steady without the need for a specialist tool*).

(* Unless you are the specialist tool.)

Tsk, you spend all that money (well, a modest amount of money) on a chain whip and it gets used, for all of about a second, a few times a year. It does make you look (and feel?) quite pro to have one in your bike tool kit though…

Lockring Tools

Hmm. It is comforting to know that when writing about these most vital of tools (ahem), the letter ‘L’ is a safe distance away from ‘C’.

And with that (now not so) subtle smut out of the way, we note that cassette lockring tools come in two flavours: essentially, with a handle and without.

Note that there are other lockrings on bikes, for instance at the bottom bracket and on the headset. If you’re a-Googling, or a-shopping, make sure you’re looking for a ‘cassette lockring’, and don’t accidentally buy a BB lockring tool.

A cassette lockring tool tends to be a full circle and sort of looks like a tool for tightening the nuts on your car wheel. A bottom bracket lockring is more of a crescent-shaped hook and… Oh for fugs sake, my descriptive powers have escaped me, here’s some photos.

This is a bottom bracket/headset lockring tool. Don’t buy one of these in order to remove a cassette:

Park Tool Bottom Bracket Lockring Spanner

(I should probably say, you can get ‘full circle’ bottom backet lockring tools that fits over the top of the bottom bracket lockring – Lezyne does one – but they’re a lot bigger than a cassette lockring tool.)

And here is a cassette lockring tool. This one has the tool built into a handle:

BBB tools lock ring tool

You can also buy just the end bit and have it slot into an existing handle you might already have:

shimano cassette lock ring tool

How To Look Like A #Legend With Bike Tools

Best chainwhip and lockring tool

This is my lock ring, this is my whip.
This is for fighting, this is for fun.

Who Makes Chain Whip And Lockring Tools?

Bike tool manufacturers. Next!

Okay… well, the classic go-to response for any question about bike tools is to go straight to the true blue of Park Tools. Or it certainly used to be.

Until fairly recently, Park Tool seemed to have things very easy. They had the quality bike tool market almost to themselves. The distinctive blue handles could be seen in almost every tour of a pro-team mechanic’s workshop.

The video below shows Team Sky’s service course (the Park Tool gear can be seen from 0:48 onwards):

This is very much like the Team Mont service course. Just with a little less damp. And fewer rodents.

I digress. There are now other quality bike tools available.

Other manufacturers that I’d be investigating in addition to Park Tool:

  • Lezyne
  • LifeLine
  • BBB
  • X-Tools
  • Shimano and Campagnolo themselves

Indeed, I will investigate them, as they’re all about to feature in a table of the different chain whips and lockring tools available, at the bottom of this post.

Are There Alternatives To A Chain Whip?

I suppose you could put on some heavy duty gloves, perhaps wrap a rag around the cassette, and try to hold the cassette in place with your hand.

Not sure I’d recommend that though.

Notwithstanding the blood poisoning that you’ll endure after lacerating your fingers with oily cassette teeth, the attraction of a chain whip is that it has a long handle.

The effort required to exert force on the cassette (i.e. to hold it in place) is less because, er, physicky physics (distance from the fulcrum, phsst).

A more viable alternative would be a set of cassette pliers. Park Tool (them again), I think, introduced them. Now LifeLine do their own version as well.

Given what you know about how chain whips work (i.e. the ‘whip’ grips the cassette teeth, allowing you to hold it in place without it turning), I think you can probably work out how cassette pliers function.

There are no alternatives to begging, buying or borrowing (or pilfering) a lockring tool if you want to remove a lockring…

Chain Whip And Cassette Lockring Tool Buying Options

Before that though, another dodgy screenshot, this time from Amazon. I promise that I was searching for ‘chain whip tools’….

Another dodgy Amazon search

Hmm, what do they take me for…?

Chain Whips and Chain Pliers
The main thing to be aware of when buying a chain whip (or pliers) is making sure the tool you're buying is suitable for the width of chain you run. It will will generally say in the description (or you can ask at the shop).
Park Tool SR-11 Chain WhipPark Tool SR-11

The 'SR11' is suitable for 5- to 11- speed cassettes. The hexagonal hole (technical term) means that you can use the SR11 as a wrench, with tool fittings. You could therefore use it with a lock ring tool (see below), which is fine for when you're tightening the lock ring, but of no use at all when you're loosening it (unless I'm missing something, you can't be using it as both a chain whip and a wrench, all at the same time).

Watch out for the SR1, which is stated as being suitable for 5- to 10-speed cassettes. Probably safest to get the SR11 if you're in any doubt, since it covers the full range of cassette sizes. Also, beware of the SR18 (red label on the handle) - this is for fixed gear sprockets (track bikes dinna have cassettes, see...).

Click here for latest prices
BBB TurnTable Chain WhipBBB Turntable Chain Whip

The BBB Turntable chain whip is targeted at the value end of the spectrum (based on the very reasonable price). I'm sure it'll do the job though. My cassette lockring tool is made by BBB (see below) and I've been very happy with it.

Click here for latest prices
Lezyne chain whipLezyne Classic Chain Whip

If you like your tools with a tactile wooden handle, then Lezyne has just the chain whip for you.

That 'nobbly bit' on the metal end (on the side where the chain isn't) is a lockring tool. I'll be honest though, I'm not sure what sort of lockring it is used for - unless I'm missing something, it won't work on your standard Shimano or Campag cassette lockring.

Click here for latest prices
Lezyne CNC chain whipLezyne CNC Chain Whip

Similar to your Classic Lezyne, but designed for the cyclist that likes to feel cold steel in the palm of their hand (or aluminium, which is what the handle is actually made of).

CNC Lezyne Click here for latest prices

Park Tool cassette pliers
Park Tool Chain Pliers

You can probably work out how these do essentially the same job as a chain whip, just in a slightly different way.

Rather than have a longer bit of chain that gets wrapped around the cassette to secure it in place, you have two fixed pieces of chain attached to the end of a set of pliers. You hold the cassette in place by using them like a set of... pliers...

Click here for latest prices
LifeLine Chain Whip PliersLifeLine Chain Pliers

These boys seem to work similarly to the Park Tools version, other than they have one handle, with the other 'jaw' (?) of the pliers being spring-loaded to grip the cassette. And they're cheaper.

Interestingly (yes, interestingly), Wiggle used to sell a LifeLine chain whip, but that seems to have been taken off sale, whilst the pliers are very much available.

[speculation] Perhaps the pliers were a lot more popular than the whips... [/speculation]

Click here for latest prices
Lockring Tools
The obvious (from the photos) consideration is whether you go for a tool with a handle or one without. It you already have a suitable wrench, then the handleless version will save you space in the tool box.

The less obvious consideration is that you'll need a lockring tool that fits your lockring. The splines on a Shimano cassette hub are different from those on a Campagnolo version. You just need to spend a few moments checking the specifications to make sure the tool in question is compatible with your gears...
Park Tool lockring tool with handle FR-5GTPark Tool Lockring Tool With Handle

Suitable for Shimano and SRAM 12-spline cassette hubs. The handle is replaceable in case you wear out the lockring tool itself (!)...

Click here for latest prices
BBB Tools lock ring tool side viewBBB Lockring Tool

I have this one (hence my driveway featuring as the backdrop to the foto...).

It's always done the job when asked (and I do talk to my tools...).

Make sure you select the right one for your cassette (i.e. Shimano or Campagnolo).

Click here for latest prices
lifeline-professional-cassette-toolLifeLine Professional Cassette Tool

Another good value option from Wiggle's own brand of bike tools. I am not sure exactly what makes it 'professional'. Maybe that's how it makes you feel when you're using it?

(I think this is only available in Shimano flavour...)

Click here for latest prices
shimano cassette lockring toolShimano Cassette Lockring Tool

The standard Shimano lockring tool, which should suit you down to the ground if you have a Shimano cassette and you already have a wrench that you can attach it to. A handy pin in the middle keeps the tool aligned when in use.

Click here for latest prices
Campagnolo-Cassette-and-Bottom-Bracket-ToolCampagnolo Cassette & Bottom Bracket Tool

Okay, I mentioned that Campagnolo cassettes require a different tool to Shimano (and SRAM) ones. So here is a Campagnolo lockring tool, which, you might note, looks quite similar to a Shimano one. Just take your time and check.

Note the reference to this being a bottom bracket tool as well. Be aware that this tool won't work on ALL Campag BBs. The blurb says it is for Chorus and Record cartridge bottom brackets. Another one to check and do more research on.

Click here for latest prices
Lezyne cassette and BB lockring toolLezyne Cassette & Bottom Bracket Tool

Similar to the Campag tool above (it works on bottom brackets as well), other than here there are two tools attached back to back (one tool for cassette; one for BB). Useful for saving space and reducing the number of tools you have knocking around.

The bottom bracket tool fits "most external style BBs", including Shimano, SRAM, Campagnolo and FSA, so quite a flexible option.

Click here for latest prices

Conclusion

Thankfully there are not 50 shades of bike maintenance. Despite the best attempts of Google and Amazon, we have not disappeared down a rabbit warren of violence and depravity. You can do that in your own time.

Despite using my own chain whip and cassette lockring tool pretty infrequently, I’m always pleased when I do. Something about the satisfaction of owning the right tools allowing you to the job right.

If you’re in the market for one or both tools (or anything bike related), I’d very much appreciate if you click through one of my affiliate links in order to make the purchase.

Until next time, safe cycling.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Russ says:

    Hi, Monty.

    Don’t forget the Pedro’s vice-whip which I own, use, and love. http://pedros.com/products/tools/cassette-and-chain/vise-whip/

  • Peter says:

    Birzman do a good chain whip too. I can recommend it, the handle has a comfortable grip and I rather like their range of tools – good quality and a slightly better price than some Park Tools offerings. Mind you Monty, your Park Tools chain whip looks huge, I’m sure mine isn’t as big as that …. ahem …. Also, I would suggest that the ‘handleless’ lockring tool has the advantage of allowing the lockring to be properly torqued when tightening.

  • Russ May 1, 2017, 1:36 pm

    Hi, Monty.

    Don’t forget the Pedro’s vice-whip which I own, use, and love. http://pedros.com/products/tools/cassette-and-chain/vise-whip/

  • Peter May 2, 2017, 9:13 am

    Birzman do a good chain whip too. I can recommend it, the handle has a comfortable grip and I rather like their range of tools – good quality and a slightly better price than some Park Tools offerings. Mind you Monty, your Park Tools chain whip looks huge, I’m sure mine isn’t as big as that …. ahem …. Also, I would suggest that the ‘handleless’ lockring tool has the advantage of allowing the lockring to be properly torqued when tightening.

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