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If you wore out your sprockets, or wanted different gear ratios, you could unscrew the cluster and install a new one.Beginning around 1980, the Shimano "Freehub" largely replaced the conventional threaded rear hub.The smallest sprocket on a Uniglide cassette was not splined, it was threaded.
The Freehub incorporates the ratchet mechanism into the hub body (although the ratchet mechanism is still replaceable).
When you wear out the sprockets on a Freehub, you replace the sprockets only, not the ratchet mechanism (which typically lasts much longer than the sprockets).
The lockring has a normal right-hand thread: turn clockwise to tighten it.
To remove the lockring, you need to turn it counterclockwise, but then the cassette will freewheel, so you need a chain whip to hold the cassette.
Sprockets in many cassettes are held together by three small bolts or rivets for ease of installation.
These bolts or rivets are by no means necessary, they just make it easier to keep the sprockets and spacers in the correct order and position when they are removed from the ratchet body. Some of the high-end cassettes use a "spider", an intermediate metal casting, to hold 2 or more of the largest sprockets.Traditional rear hubs came with a standardized set of threads to which a standard freewheel/sprocket cluster could be screwed on.This allowed any brand of freewheel to be mounted on any brand of hub.Sprockets smaller than 14 teeth used a built-in spacer, but the other splined sprockets were reversible, so that if you wore out one side, you could flip them over and the other side was just like new!Sprockets with a built-in spacer were available in 5- 6-speed or 7- 8-speed (narrower) versions.Not all Freehub brands share this feature, which is covered by a Shimano patent.