Navigation bar

BICYCLE REPAIR


Keep Your Bicycle Quiet

by Jim Langley - certain photos courtesy of the great people at Park Tool


Racers hate noisy bicyclesI get more questions about bicycle noises than just about anything else. Understandably, noises drive cyclists nuts, like my teammate in the photo who I’m (green shirt) helping find a noise before his race in the Cal Giant Sponsored Watsonville Criterium.

He had an annoying clunk/click noise while warming up. I found that one of his clipless pedal cleat tension screws had loosened. I tightened it to stop the noise.

To help you find your noises, I’ve put together the following guide organized by bike-noise category.

Please keep in mind that one person’s click is the next person’s creak, so I recommend perusing the entire list to find your problem and a solution.

Ideally, this guide would be short and easy to follow, yet there are lots of noises you might encounter and to keep this comprehensive, I regularly update it with new noises and solutions. To make it a little easier to find things, noise-causers and problems are underlined (or in bold in the Your noises and solutions section at the bottom of the page) and the recommended solutions are in red bold.

TIP: Most browsers have a Find function. For example, in Internet Explorer, click Edit and then Find (on this page), type the word or phrase that defines your bicycle noise, then press Enter, and Explorer will find it on this page. You can also search for the bicycle component you think is making the noise, for example, bottom bracket, pedals, wheels, etc.

Also, please let me know if you’ve discovered a new noise or solution and I'll add it to the page and credit you. And, as we discover and quiet the wierd and often mysterious bike noises that stump even experts this page has become an awesome resource and continues to be up-to-date with the latest components. Thank you!

Most of your noises and solutions are at the bottom of the page and some are found under the type of noise they are, in the body of this article. Credit is given at the end of the tip. Many thanks to my regular readers, the readers of RoadBikeRider, and ace mechanic Anthony Alsberg who have offered many excellent noises and cures, and helped ensure that every ride is a quiet ride!

Before jumping into the noises and solutions, a good starting point with all bike noises is isolating where it’s coming from by substituting different parts. For example, if you think the noise is coming from a wheel, install a different one (ask to borrow a friend’s if you don’t have a spare) and see if the noise goes away. If so, you know your noise is wheel related, which will make it much easier to find it. You can use the same technique with any part that can be replaced, such as your pedals, shoes, seat and post, handlebars and stem (a tough one, but possible), and so on.


Note that if you can't find a solution for your bike noise on my page, you might be able to over at Dennis Struck's cycling website so give that a try too.

                              use these quick links to jump to the section that sounds right
       rattles | squeaks | clunks | skipping | clicks | ticks | squeals | creaks | other

Rattles
The most common cause is a loose headset. Play in the headset bearings allows the fork to rattle when you ride over bumps.
Solution:
Adjust the headset to remove the play and tighten the headset so it can’t loosen again.

Almost as common are loose Presta valve nuts, the little octagonal or knurled round rings that thread onto Presta valves. Reader John Zalman had a valve rattle caused by a threadless valve (no valve nut) in a slightly oversize valve hole in the rim. While riding, the valve was vibrating and striking the side of the hole making a rattling/clicking noise.
Solution: Snug them, but don’t overtighten or you’ll have trouble getting them off when you need to repair a flat tire. You can also remove them. The tires and tubes will work fine without them. And reader Dan Butler (thanks, Dan!) suggests placing O-rings on beneath the valve nuts to silence them and prevent water entering the rims. John fixed his threadless valve/oversize valve hole rattle by slipping a rubber O-ring sleeve over the bottom of the valve to prevent it from vibrating against the rim (nice one, John!). A wrap of electrical tape to enlarge the valve at the rim should work too.

Another common cause is loose cassette cogs, which create a drivetrain rattle, sometimes accompanied by poor shifting.
Cassette lockring toolSolution:
Feel for play by trying to move the cogs laterally with your fingers. Use a cassette tool and a large adjustable wrench to tighten Shimano cassettes by tightening the lockring. This also works for Campy cogs. To tighten SunTour and older Shimano models, remove the wheel, place a chain whip on the smallest cog, and turn it clockwise.
Other rattle solutions:
Tighten loose bottle cages, bend cages to grip bottles more firmly, make sure seat bag tools cant hit each other and/or strike the seatpost, and stuff foam helmet pads into the handle of a frame-fit pump to silence the rebound spring.

California cyclist Andy Beard had a rattle on his 8-speed triple road bicycle. He says, "it happened once every crank rotation but only in the 3-4 smaller rear cogs (highest 3-4 gears) and only in the middle chainring up front. Solution: Upon closer inspection I discovered that my big chainring was slightly bent near one of the pins causing the chain to rub against a pin. It rubbed only ever so slightly, not enough to catch the chain and produce the distinctive sound of a front shift. Straightening the chainring solved the rattle. This one seems kind of obvious, but it actually took quite a while to diagnose.

Squeaks
One common constant squeaker is a poorly lubricated chain.
Solution:
Inspect yours. If the rollers are dry and shiny, apply drip or spray lube. On extra dry ones it may take a while for the substance to penetrate and silence the noise. Then keep the chain quiet by lubing it every 2 weeks. Always wipe off the excess to minimize sludgy build-up.

Derailleur pulleys can squeak often sounding like a bird chirping, and you usually know it’s the pulley because the faster you pedal, the louder and faster the pulley squeaks (although models that say sealed on the side don’t).
Removing the pulleySolution:
Rest your bike on its side and apply a few drops of oil between the pulleys and sideplates to silence them. Wait a few minutes for the lube to penetrate, then wipe off any excess. Still squeaking? You’ll need to remove them (photo), take them apart and grease each part before reassembling. TIP: Do one at a time since they are often dedicated to the top or bottom position and you don’t want to get them mixed up.

Brakes can squeak and squeal, too. This is caused by the brake pads vibrating against the rims.
Solution:
For quiet operation, pads must be in good condition and “toed-in,” which means that the front of the pads contacts the rim before the rear. If the pads are several years old, replace them. If they’re striking the rim flat, carefully adjust them so that the front touches before the rear. Most brake pads feature a mechanism for making this adjustment. TIP: If your brake pads are in good shape and toed in and still squeaking, it may be because residue has built up on the rims. Clean them with a solvent, such as lighter fluid and then lightly sand them with medium emery cloth to scuff up the surface of the rims and break up any rubber deposits on the rim.

If there’s a front reflector on your bike, the brake or gear cable housing may rub when you turn causing a squeak.
Solution:
Try lightly greasing the reflector’s edge, wrapping the offending section of housing with cloth tape or zip-tieing the housing to the bracket loosely so you can turn without restricting the housing.

Reader Joey Korkames from Phoenix writes: “I had new wheel quick-releases that were the exposed-cam style and the delrin cam-washer would squeak against the quick-release lever surface when rolling over rougher roads (pedaling or not, sitting or not). I tightened the thing far beyond pratical but the brittle plastic and polished-aluminum interface would just always make squeaks with enough vibration applied to it. Solution: I didn’t think to try greasing the washer instead of oiling it at the time, but just outright replaced it with a conventional two-piece quick-release and the squeaking was gone!”

Clunks
Adjusting a bottom bracketIf you hear or feel a clunk when pedaling, it’s probably caused by a loose bottom bracket or pedal.
Solution: Check the latter with a pedal wrench, tightening both pedals. The right one is turned clockwise to tighten, the left is turned counterclockwise (more pedal information here). If you ride clipless pedals, a loose fit between the pedal and cleat can cause clunks when you're pedaling. Look for a cleat tensioning screw on the pedal and tighten it to remove the looseness.

To adjust the bottom bracket, remove the crankarms and, with the appropriate tools for your type of bottom bracket (tools for cup-and-cone type shown), make sure it’s held fast in the frame by tightening the cups and/or adjusting the bearings (as required for your set-up).

Another funny clunk when pedaling is caused by a pump that’s brushing the crankarm on each pedal stroke (usually it’s the head of the pump because it protrudes a bit). Pumps are often made of plastic so you might not think it can cause a noise, but it can.
Solution: Simply reposition the pump so there’s more clearance.

Reader Pascal Golay reports that, "I recently had an intermittent clunk develop on my bike and it turned out to be the axle on my rear wheel (Mavic Ksyrium) backing out very slightly. Solution: A 5mm allen key in each end was enough to squeeze it up again but it took a long time to locate. The symptom was clunking with the pedal strokes, louder and clunkier out of the saddle, and occasionally not there at all under the same conditions. I felt it throughout the bike so it was hard to locate."

And Brian Clarke adds, "I had a clunk that would take place when riding over bumps. My headest was loose but even after tightening the headset the noise remained. Solution: Turns out that my front wheel was not tight (although it still stayed straight). The noise was the hub becoming slightly detached then hitting the front fork/dropout. Tightening the wheel took care of it."

A reader named "Jeremy" (last name not provided), writes, "I want to add my experience to your noises reference. I had a loud clunk/pop happening when I applied strong force to the pedal crankarm. Solution: Ended up being a slightly bent link in my chain. Not bad enough to effect shifting and never dropped the chain. Didn’t even jump or skip. Took me several attempts to figure this one out. Thanks, J=" Thank you, Jeremy!

Skipping
Skipping is what happens where your drivetrain has a problem and under hard pedaling, you experience a sudden jerk forward at the pedals as if the chain “skipped” up over the cog and then settled down again. This usually is accompanied by a sort of “crack” or “bang” sound as the chain or cog lets go, and it can surprise you and even cause a crash if you’re not careful.
Stiff linkSolution:
First crouch down next to the drivetrain side of the bike and pedal backwards looking for a stiff link because stiff links can cause this problem and they’re relatively easy to fix. TIP: If you have a stiff link, you’ll experience skipping in all the gear combinations. You will be able to spot a stiff link as you pedal backwards with your hand and watch the chain pass through the rear derailleur pulleys. A stiff link won’t be able to curve to follow the contours of the pulleys so you’ll see it trip as it goes through (photo). If you spot the stiff link, move the chain so the bad link is in the middle of the chainstay (the lower frame tube between the crank and rear wheel) and then flex the chain sideways at the link to free it. Don't flex it too hard or you'll bend it and you don't want bends in your chain. If flexing it doesn't work, try using a chain tool and pressing the chain pin right at the stiff link(s) in a slight amount from the front side of the chain and then moving the tool to the backside and pushing it back. Moving the pin like this can make more clearance between the sideplates and free a stiff link.
Sometimes stiff links are caused by corrosion. If you see lots of rust, flexing the link and pushing the pin usually won’t free the stiff links.
Solution: You can try applying a penetrating lube and waiting a while to see if it does the trick, but if that doesn't work, you will probably need a new chain. If the chain is otherwise in good condition, you can also replace the stiff links with new links. Just be sure that the new links match your chain (same width).
Skipping is also caused by worn-out chains and cassettes/freewheels. If this is the case, your bike will only skip in one or a few cogs, not all of them.
Solution: You should replace the cassette/freewheel and/or chain (only if the chain is worn out or damaged). Besides stopping the skipping and noise, your bike will start shifting well again, too. TIP: Though rarer than skipping caused by worn cassette cogs and chain issues, skipping can occur when chainrings are worn out, too.
Solution:
Replace the chainring.

Clicks/Clicking
Over time wheels can make a clicking noise.
Solution:
This happens because where the spokes cross each other, they touch. Over time, the spokes wear slightly, get very dry and start to click as you roll down the road and weigh the spokes making them move slightly and click, click, click. To stop the noise, apply a drop of oil at each spoke intersection. Then go around and squeeze pairs of spokes with your hands, which will let the oil work between the spokes. Finish by wiping off any excess lube. TIP: You may need to do this once a year or so to keep the clicking at bay.

Over time wheels can make a clicking noise #2.
Reader Simon Westlake, reports, “I recently had a clicking problem on a Pro Lite Como wheelset that I could not solve. Initially, I thought it was where the bladed spokes cross over each other. I've had this problem before, but not for a while, as my recent wheels have been spoked radially. So I lubricated each crossover point and was amazed that the clicking persisted. I then gave each nipple, both where the nipple enters the rim and where the spoke enters the nipple, a good spray with Inox. This didn't solve the problem either. As the clicking got worse, I was able to rule out possible causes other than the suspected rear wheel. For instance, Initially it just occurred under load in any gear out of the saddle. Then it started clicking when I was in the saddle. I even considered that it could be the headset as I have had similar clicking from there if there is slight play caused by insufficient tension in the threadless setup—but this stops if you let go of the bars while pedaling, which I did but it had no effect on the clicking.

Bottom bracket creaking is a slightly different noise and I've had this before, but I had installed this one myself and used ridiculous quantities of grease on the threads at the time, so I thought I could safely rule it out as a cause.

Another common one for me and I haven't heard too many other people reporting it, is clicking caused by dry contact between the rear dropout surfaces and the axle/quick-release surfaces. I regularly put a small film of oil on the dropout contact areas to keep this at bay, but I applied more and the clicking persisted.

It wasn't until the clicking got so bad that it was occurring even when I WAS NOT EVEN PEDALING, that I realized it had to be the rear wheel. So, the only parts that I had not lubricated was where the spokes join the hub. I felt this was a remote chance to say the least, but I did it anyway and the clicking continued. There were only two other things that I thought I could do. One was to slide small pieces of paper between the crossover points of the spokes. Even though I had lubricated these points, the paper would rule it out for sure. I didn't get to try this though because my next trick was to solve the problem.

Lubing the nipple holesSolution:
As said previously, I had flooded the spoke nipples with lube. The nipples are slightly smaller than the rim holes and I had made sure that lube got into this gap as well...... but maybe it wasn't enough. Maybe it needed more. So, I removed the tire, tube and rim tape and sprayed inox directly onto the back of the nipples inside the rim cavity. BINGO, I had a silent bike again. For an obsessive compulsive perfectionist, this is a very important thing. Simply riding along ignoring clicks and creaks is not an option.

If it weren't for the fact that the wheel started to click when I wasn't pedaling, which enabled me to know for sure that it was the rear wheel, I would have had the whole bike in bits - Literally. You see, I'd already lubed the spoke nipples. I'd had the same problem with Mavic MA33's years ago and a quick spray had solved the problem. So, I could have been confident in ruling that area out and moved on to other areas of the bike. It didn't come to this, but it could have. I guess the message here is that it doesn't hurt to pursue one area and redo lube/tightening etc. rather than randomly skip from one area to another without fully exploring the possibilities.”
Thanks to reader Simon Westlake from Perth, Western Australia for this tip.

Wheels can make a clicking noise #3
"A friend I train with had an unusual sound coming from his rear wheel. It would start out as a click and then change to a harmonious rattling vibration then disappear, only to start again 10 kilometers further down the road. He took the bike in to the local bike shop who over several visits replaced his chain, rear cluster, bottom bracket bearings and head set. Still the noise continued. This was driving him nuts and those who rode with him. Eventually he gave in to personal pride and brought his bike over where I placed it in the workstand and went over it with a damp rag and a torch cleaning the whole lot and inspecting for fine cracks. After about thirty minutes I discovered some very fine hairline cracks in his rear rim each traveling between the spoke holes. To confirm our suspicions we fitted the bike to a trainer (I considered a defect like this to be unsafe to continue riding on the road; the trainer would at least support the weight of the bike should the rim fail) and had him ride under a moderate load and the vibrations started.
Solution: I had him stop riding whilst I applied a little WD-40 to each rim crack. He then resumed riding on the trainer. The oil was now lubricating the cracks and was impossible to get the bike to vibrate as before. The rattling vibration would start when the speed of his bike along the road matched the resonant frequency of his bike. As his rim was considered un-repairable our solution to this was to replace the wheel, to which my friend upgraded to a new set of Fulcrum Race 5's.
Thanks to Aussie Ian Miles for this nice safety tips about cracking rims!

Wheels clicking #4
And a helpful cyclist named TJ says, "I discovered that the intersection of 2 bladed spokes (aero spokes) can be noisy as well. I tried lubing the cross area where they touch and still had noise. I noticed that if I changed the twist of the blade section (by turning the spoke slightly with an adjustable wrench set to just slip over the spoke), I could eliminate the noise. I just made a very slight rotation of the spoke while squeezing the pair of spokes until the noise was eliminated."
Thanks TJ!


A crankarm that's slightly loose or inadequately lubed will make a click when you push on that pedal.
Solution:
Tighten/or, if that doesn’t work, remove the crankarm, lightly grease the axle and reinstall. TIP: Most crankarms require special tools for removal. If yours are held on by nuts in the sides of the crankarms (usually hidden beneath dustcaps), you can also remove the crankarms by riding the bike, BUT you must do this very carefully to avoid damaging the crankarms. To do it, loosen the bolts, but don't remove them. Then ride a loop on flat ground around your neighborhood so you stay close to home. Pedal with regular pressure. After a few laps the arms should loosen up and you should be able to remove them by hand. What you DON’T want to do is damage the crankarms by pedaling on them when they're loose. So keep checking when you’re riding to see if they are loose enough and don’t ride too far and damage the crankarms because they’re expensive to replace.

Chainring bolts may loosen or be inadequately lubed and click intermittently.
Solution:
Check to make sure they’re tight. Still clicking? Try removing, greasing and reinstalling the chainring bolts.

If you hear a longer metallic click when pushing on the right pedal only the chainrings may be flexing allowing the chain, for just a moment to brush against the front derailleur cage making a metallic clicking sound.
Solution:
This rubbing noise is essentially rider error. If you pedal in a hard gear (on the large front chainring) at a slow speed, you can easily put too much force on the chainrings causing them to flex and causing the chain to rub against the derailleur cage. Instead, you should shift into an easier gear so that you can spin rather than powering in too high a gear. This is safer for your knees and legs and is a more efficient and effective way to ride your bicycle that will prevent the chain rub/noise.*

*A reader named Anthony, adds, “I had this problem and it turned out my bottom bracket was loose. I only got the rubbing when I was on the large chainring. Solution: After I adjusted the play out of the bottom bracket, the rubbing noise went away.”

If the clicking is constant, it’s probably because you’re riding in an extremely angled gear, such as being on the small chainring and the smallest cog, which puts the chain at an extreme angle as it goes from the inside on the front to the outside on the back. At this extreme angle the chain can brush against the side of the front derailleur cage causing a constant clicking as the metal pins and links bump against the metal derailleur cage.
Solution:
Slightly move the shift lever to move the derailleur to clear the chain. This derailleur fine-tuning is called “trimming the front derailleur” and is required when you’ve shifted into extreme gears, sometimes called “crossover gears.” Ideally, you’ll avoid these extreme gears because they can accelerate chain and sprocket wear.

If your titanium frame clicks when you’re pedaling hard or climbing, check your bottom bracket.
Solution: Usually, this click is caused by either a loose or inadequately lubed bottom bracket. Remove the crankarms and with the appropriate tools for your type of bottom bracket, remove the bottom bracket, lube the surfaces in contact with the frame and reinstall the BB making sure it’s tight. If lube doesn't stop the click, try using Teflon tape instead (plumber’s tape). Simply wrap it around the cups and reinstall them.

A loose replaceable derailleur hanger on the frame can cause clicking.
Replaceable derailleur hangerSolution:
A lot of new bicycles have pieces bolted on the rear dropout that make it possible to replace the derailleur hanger if it gets bent (the part that the rear derailleur is attached to). These are usually held on with bolts. If the bolts loosen, the hanger can move and make a click noise. To fix this, loosen the bolts, grease the bolts, threads and hanger (where it contacts the frame) and tighten everything securely.

Loose pedals and ones with dry threads can click
.
Solution: Make sure the pedal threads (the part that threads into the crankarm) are lubricated and that the pedals are securely tightened. TIP: Use a long wrench and remember that right pedals are turned to the right to tighten; lefts are turned to the left (because they are left-hand threads).
Thanks to RoadBikeRider reader, Alan Medcalf for this tip.

Clicks can be caused by grit, dirt or debris in a pedal bearing.
Solution:
To determine for sure if a click is coming from a pedal, temporarily replace the pedal in question with a different one. If that makes the click go away, you know your noise is coming from the pedal. In most cases, you can apply lube to a pedal simply by removing the dustcap on the end of the pedal and squirting in some automobile-weight oil. Rest the bike on its side to let the lube travel throughout the pedal. After that, the click should be better and possibly go away. If not, you may need to overhaul the pedal (disassembly, cleaning, relubing and reassembly) or replace it.

Handlebars and stems can click, too.
Solution:
To quiet handlebars, loosen the stem binder bolt, slide the bar’s clamped portion sideways, sand it lightly with emery cloth, apply grease to the bar and bolt(s), reassemble, tighten and wipe everything clean.

Brake levers can click.
Solution:
Tighten the levers.

Pedal and wheel reflectors can cause clicks.
Solution:
Tighten the reflectors, if possible, or reposition them, or lubricated the fasteners or contact points.

Quick releases may click.
Solution: Tighten the quick release (this will make it harder to close the lever). You may also need to lubricate the parts of the quick release and then tighten it, because if the small parts have become dry, that can cause clicks, too.

Front derailleurs can click. “The clamp-on front derailleur on my titanium Merlin Extralight was causing an irregular clicking sound like a hot car engine cooling.”
Solution: “Turns out that the force of pedaling deforms one side of the seat tube (and/or pulling on the shifter cable) just enough to cause friction between the clamp and seat tube, and a little anti-seize took care of the problem.”
Thanks to reader Ben Gustafson for this tip!

Here's another one. "When out of the saddle there was an annoying click/crueak from my aluminium/carbon frame. I did all the usual checks i.e. all bolts cleaned, re-greased and tightened, fork dropouts and wheel nuts greased to prevent the grate of any friction (which once happened previously). Still no success. I then cleaned and relubed the chain (even though it was fine really but I did it all the same). I even changed to a spare set of wheels to discount problems with the 'hoops'. Pedals removed, cleaned etc. Nope! Solution: I then checked the front mech (clip on). The bolt wasn't as tight as I'd have thought necessary. I undid the front mech clamp, cleaned the bolt and thread and re-greased and reattached the mech.Bingo! The noise vanished. I suppose the twisting/pedal stress going through the main tubes from the bottom bracket area must have been vibrating into/through the mech?"
Thanks Johnny in Leeds, UK!

Hubs can make a clicking sound as well. “The bearing preloads on some hubs are affected by how tight the quick release is tightened. When they’re not tight enough they click (American Classic front hubs are notorious for this).”
Solution: You need to tighten the QR until it becomes very difficult to open it later on; but it does stop the noise. Also, it’s really hard to determine if it’s the hub or the bottom bracket, so tighten one and if it’s still a problem, tighten the other — use a torque wrench with the BB however.
Thanks to RoadBikeRider reader, Andy Meyer of Tucson, Arizona for this tip.

Cable housing sections can click as you turn the handlebars to steer.
Solution: Lubricate the point where the housing ends enter the frame stops. Often, the end of the cable housing has a metal or plastic cap (called a "ferrule"). This can move when you turn the bars and make clicking noises. The end of the housing can also move inside the ferrule and make noise. Usually, applying a few drops of medium-weight oil to the ferrule, the housing and the frame stop will stop the clicking.

For Clicking that goes away when you stand.
Solution:
This is probably seat related. Spray a little lube where the rails connect to the seatpost. Also, tighten the seatpost bolt that tightens the saddle. TIP: If it’s loose, you may need to level your seat first because it may have moved.

And, be sure to check the seatpost binder bolt, too, the one that passes through the frame to tighten the seatpost in the frame.
Solution:
Remove the seatpost binder bolt, grease the threads and outside surface where it contacts the frame, and reinstall it.

Another source if you ride a dual-suspension or folding bike is the pivot points.
Solution:
Check that all pivot bolts are snug and if the pivots do not contain bearings apply a few drops of lube (if there are bearings they should be sealed and not require lube), work the suspension or hinge (on folding bikes), and wipe off any excess lube.

Water bottle screws and bosses (the part in the frame) can click.
This click is less likely on steel frames because the water-bottle bosses are welded into, and part of the frame, however, on many aluminum and composite frames, the bosses are glued and/or mechanically fastened, which means they might move (a full small water bottle weighs about 1.5 pounds, so the bolts and bosses are working, not just sitting there). Also, even if the bosses are tight, and even on steel frames, loose or dry water-bottle-cage bolts may click.
Solution: Try lubricating the boss and bolts and tightening the bolts. Still click? Try removing the bolts, applying Teflon tape to them and reinstalling. If the click remains, you may need to repair the frame bosses. You can try to epoxy loose bosses to hold them in place, but this is usually a temporary solution at best. Most manufacturers offer the tools and parts to repair and replace bosses, however, it’s a little tricky and it’s best to let your bike shop do the work so you don’t accidentally damage your frame.

Water bottles can click.
This is something I experienced when I tried a taste-free plastic bottle made of a harder material. I could stop the click by pressing the bottle down against the cage. But, it would gradually move and the click would return.
Solution: I simply went back to standard soft-plastic bottles. They’re easier to squeeze too.

Clicks can also be caused by cracks in the frameset
.
Frame crack in the bottom bracketSolution: Listen carefully to try to determine what part of the frame the noise is coming from and then inspect that area for cracks (it’s best to clean the frame first so that debris can’t hide the defect). Common failure points include tube intersections, especially at the bottom bracket and fork crown, and also the dropouts. If you think you see a crack but aren’t sure, try pushing sideways on the frame with your foot, which will usually open the crack making it more visible. If you find a crack or think you’ve found one, stop riding the bike and visit your bike shop for an expert opinion. Some framesets will be replaced under warranty, though the shop will charge labor to switch the parts over in most cases.

Ticks
You hear a tick with each pedal revolution.
Solution:
Is the front derailleur cable protruding and striking the crankarm with every pedal stroke? If so, bend the cable so it can’t touch the crankarm.

Reader Julian Earl from the UK had this tick. He explains, "I cannot resist adding a rather easy and/or embarrassing one. A soft tick with every pedal revolution. Solution: The problem was too long an end on the cable to the front derailleur so that the crank hit the cable end every revolution. It only catches you out once!"
Thanks Julian!

With each pedal revolution you hear a tick.
Solution:
Is the front derailleur adjusted wrong and slightly too far out so that it strikes the crankarm with each pedal revolution? Take a close look at the back of the crankarm. If the derailleur cage has been brushing against the arm, the cage will scrape a little line in the back of the crankarm (if this gets deep enough it can cause the crankarm to break). Fix the noise by fine-tuning the front derailleur high-gear limit screw to limit the derailleur cage so it can’t touch the crankarm.

With each pedal revolution you hear a loud tick.
Solution:
If you have a kickstand, check to make sure that the crankarm isn’t striking it on each revolution.
Solution:
If necessary, loosen the kickstand, adjust it so that it misses the crankarm and tighten it. DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN or you may (depending on how your kickstand is mounted) crush the frame tubes.

When you apply pressure to the handlebars you keep getting an annoying tick.
Reader Cole Griesemer suggests, "
This has happened with every threadless headset I've ever encountered, and is a consequence of the bearing adjusting mechanism (the parts above the frame's head tube) not being sufficiently greased (often not greased at all). Solution: Pull apart the headset and apply grease liberally to all surfaces. Reassemble and bask in the absence of noise.
Thanks Cole!

On your new bike you hear a soft tick, tick, tick, tick and the faster you go, the faster it gets.
Solution: Look on the side of the tires to see if there are tiny, long rubber fingers protruding. These sometimes remain after the tire manufacturing process and if they’re long enough, they may strike the chainguard or frame. While this won’t cause any damage, it can drive you batty trying to figure out where the noise is coming from. Simply cut them off with a pair of scissors.

Squeals
The most common source of squealing or squeaking is the brakes. This is caused by the brake pads vibrating against the rims.
Toe-in the brake padsSolution:
For quiet operation, pads must be in good condition and “toed-in,” which means that the front of the pads contacts the rim before the rear. If the pads are several years old, replace them. If they’re striking the rim flat, carefully adjust them so that the front touches before the rear. Most brake pads feature a mechanism for making this adjustment. TIP: If your brake pads are in good shape and toed in and still squeaking, it may be because residue has built up on the rims. Clean them with a solvent, such as lighter fluid and then lightly sand them with medium emery cloth to scuff up the surface of the rims and break up any rubber deposits on the rim.

Creaks
The common culprit here is clipless pedals and cleats.
Solution:
Make sure the cleats are tight and lubricate the cleat mating surfaces with wax, spray lube, Armor All or some other friction reducer. You may need to experiment to determine what works best for your particular brand and model of clipless pedals. TIP: Just be sure not to walk into your living room with your freshly lubed cleats and track grease across your carpets! Also note, that if your cleats are old, they may be worn out and that will let them move when pedaling, which also causes noise. Compare them to a new pair so that you can gauge wear and replace them if they're worn out. Here's a lot more on cleats.

Another source if you ride a dual-suspension or folding bike is the pivot points.
Solution:
Check that all pivot bolts are snug and if the pivots do not contain bearings apply a few drops of lube (if there are bearings they should be sealed and not require lube), work the suspension or hinge (on folding bikes), and wipe off any excess lube.

Water bottle screws and bosses (the part in the frame) can creak.
This creak is less likely on steel frames because the water-bottle bosses are welded into, and part of the frame, however on many aluminum and composite frames, the bosses are glued and/or mechanically fastened, which means they might move (a full small water bottle weighs 1 pound 7 ounces, so the bolts and bosses are working, not just sitting there). Also, even if the bosses are tight, and even on steel frames, loose or dry water-bottle-cage bolts may creak.
Solution: Try lubricating the boss and bolts and tightening the bolts. Still creak? Try removing the bolts, applying Teflon tape to them and reinstalling. If the noise remains, you may need to repair the frame bosses. You can try to epoxy loose bosses to hold them in place, but this is usually a temporary solution at best. Most manufacturers offer the tools and parts to repair and replace bosses, however, it’s a little tricky and it’s best to let your bike shop do the work so you don’t accidentally damage your frame.

“I had a mystery creak on my carbon bike that would appear on each hard pedal revolution.”
Solution: It turned out that it was caused by the front fork dropouts, which were covered in a kind of “plastic chrome” that was flaking off, making an uneven surface. Sanding it off solved the problem.
Thanks to RoadBikeRider reader, Joseph M. VanLeuven of Glasgow, Scotland for this tip.
Headset spacers
“My bicycle is an 2007 Raleigh Competition, which is equipped with an Easton EA70 carbon fork. The bike came with a stack of 5 5mm headset spacers beneath the stem. I replaced them with a single 25mm spacer from Chris King.
My creaking noise came when I would get out of the saddle on steep climbs. I went through many potential causes and fixes with no change. Then one evening the old light bulb went off. Surely, I thought, there must be some amount of deflection in the fork steerer tube when I stand and climb a steep grade. Could this deflection be causing the noise? Solution: I removed the stem and spacers and lightly lubed the steerer, and each contact surface as I reassembled. I also snugged the assembly down a bit more than I had in the past, being careful not to preload the bearings too much. And YES, the noise has gone away!”
Thanks to reader Dave Elkow from Corbin, Kentucky for this super tip.

"
Nokon cables can develop an elusive creak. The creak occurred on each pedal stroke but only when I was out of the saddle, and seemed to come from the bottom bracket area, and developed very gradually over time. When it finally got to the point where I couldn't ignore it any longer, I checked all the usual suspects, and finally stumbled upon the cause—my fancy Nokon cables. Presumably some combination of dirt, moisture, and oxidation between the outer segments was the cause.
Solution: The cure was a few drops of WD40 wiped over the casings, wiggle them about a bit, and: silent bike!
A tip of the helmet to Peter Heppleston up in Edmonton, Alberta for this helpful tip.

"I have another creak noise solution that hopefully will help anyone who has been pulling their hair out for over a month like me! Around 6 weeks ago I started developing a really loud creak on my Scott S30. It sounded like it was coming from the bottom bracket area but I just couldn't tell. The noise was pretty much constant and happening in the seat, out of the seat, pedalling and freewheeling. There was just no way of telling where it was coming from.

I commute 2 hours a day and it was getting pretty embarrassing riding into London and back with this really loud constant noise. Twice I stripped the bike down and following your site, cleaned, re-greased and put back together all the main culprits. However the problem persisted.

As the bike is 2 years old and had done 4,000+ miles I thought it could do with an overhaul anyway, I ended up replacing the bottom bracket, chainset, pedals, seatpost and even bought new shoes. To my amazement the problem was still there! Thinking now it could be a crack in the alloy frame I took it to a frame specialist who again, stripped the bike down and checked it over, a couple of small dents were found but no cracks. So, it was re-built again, road tested and the creak was still there.

It was on this last test that I found the creak no longer happened while standing up. So, it was definitely seatpost/saddle related and, knowing the seatpost was new, had been greased to within an inch of its life and the down tube had also been checked - I started to focus on the Specialized Toupe Comp Gel Road saddle.

Solution: I had previously tried greasing the saddle rails as I had read on your site which also didn't work. I then thought, well the rails obviously attach into the saddle, I may as well try lube at that end as well. The sound stopped straight away! I was speechless that a problem at the top of the saddle could sound that bad at the bottom of the down tube. Now, with all the new and greased parts the bike is running like new. I'm just a few hundred pounds lighter!"
This great tip is courtesy of Stuart Jones in the UK. Thanks Stu!


Your noises and solutions
[Editor's note: It's always great to hear from the guys in the trenches in the bike industry. This first letter comes from one of the great innovators in cycling today and one of the fathers of carbon framebuilding, Craig Calfee of Calfee Design and Bamboosero. His office is only a short ride from mine and I've known him since he was making frames for Greg LeMond. Craig's a nice guy.] He writes, “Just saw your bicycle noises page. I'll be sending people to that because I get a lot of people thinking it's their carbon frame. And sometimes I'll get a frame shipped to me asking me to fix the strange creak coming from the bike. They can't find the source, so it must be the frame, right?"

Craig's Shimano chain & Campagnolo cassette creak fixes
"I was working neutral support at Ironman Hawaii and we were checking over a brand new bike for a Pro rider a few hours before the cutoff time for checking in your bike to the transition area. He said it worked fine but had a strange creak when applying real pressure to the chain, as in climbing. After checking everything and replacing most of the components, we were still stumped. The last thing to replace was a brand new, well lubed Shimano chain. But the chain seemed fine. Solution: With that being our last option, we replaced it anyway. The creak went away! I've since seen that on only one other bike with a new Shimano chain.

Another one is what I call "Campy cassette creak." A dealer and his customer came to see me with the bike, absolutely certain it was the frame making the noise. They had even switched rear wheels to another Campy wheel and still the noise was there. I couldn't find anything wrong with the frame so I switched the wheel with a Shimano wheel and the noise went away.
Solution: Certain early 10-speed Campagnolo cassettes with the loose cogs will creak if the cassette body is not completely slathered with heavy waterproof grease before installing the cassette. This is actually pretty common. The Campy cassette cog has only 4 points of contact with the cassette body. The Shimano has 9. But when pinned together like they do now, it seems to solve the problem."
Nice tips, Craig. Thanks!

Jody's Mavic wheels creak fix
"Hey Jim, I don't know if this one is well known, but I have never seen it listed so here it is. On Mavic front hubs (those found on pre-built wheelsets), there are small, aluminum axle caps (NOT the adjuster ring that takes a pin snanner to adjust) that meet the fork dropouts on each side of the hub when the wheel is mounted. These caps can be pulled off the axle by hand and usually have an internal, rubber O-ring that mates with a groove on the axle to secure them. These caps bear down on the hub bearings. A creaking noise occurs at the interface of these caps with the bearings when you are torquing on the handlebars while climbing or sprinting, etc. It is caused by the small amount of movement (dry contact) between the two surfaces. It is EASILY mistaken for creaking handlebars, bottom brackets, noisy cracked frames etc. Solution: To diagnose it, if you hear a creaking sound, try a different front wheel (one that has the standard locknut and cone on a threaded axle arrangement) to see if that makes the sound dissappear. To fix it, pull off the front wheel, take out the front quick release, pull off both axle caps and grease (liberally) the inside surfaces as well as the inside mating surface where the axle cap meets the hub bearing (not the dropout-side surface). Reassemble and re-install the wheel and test ride. I have firsthand knowlege of this noise coming out of front hubs found on Mavic Ksyriums, Cosmos and Helium wheels and I can see it happening on any other Mavic hubs that use this type of design."
These helpful and expert tips are courtesy of Jody DuMond. Thank you Jody!

"I developed a strange noise, neither a tick nor a click, more like a course rubbing. It was worse over rough surfaces, and much worse when I stood to climb and the bike rocked side-to-side. It became a joke with my riding buddies. They made a fuss about staying clear saying my bike might fall to pieces at any moment. Solution: I tried everything even rebuilding the wheels, yet the noise persisted. Finally I looked at my speedo magnet. It is a small metal case with a round magnet inside. The case had obviously been hit by a stone as the magnet was loose. I removed it, crimped the metal casing down onto the magnet with pliers and refitted it to the wheel. Silence!
Thanks to RoadBikeRider reader, Phil Sheard of New Zealand for this tip.

"Recently, there was an annoying clicking noise in my Eddy Merckx’s rear wheel that would subside midway through rides. Thought it was probably the bearings. Mike Johnson at Wheelfine Imports said the bearings were fine, that the noise was coming from inside of the rim: sometimes metal shavings, rust from the spoke holes get in there & rattle around. Solution: Per his instruction, I took off the rim tape & shook down said small bits of debris, exiting them through the valve stem hole. My Merckx is runnin’ silent, once again!
Thanks to Mark Boriek of Lebanon, New Jersey for this great tip!

Using an auto mechanic's stethoscope to track down noises
Noise 1. A few years ago I had a custom made Bruce Gordon steel frame bike that started making a click whenever I pushed pretty hard while riding in the sitting position. The noise or click happened on nearly every down stroke of the right pedal, near the bottom of the stroke. This about made me go mad. I had looked at everything, chainring bolts, crank bolts, bottom bracket, seat to seat post connection, stem to bars, stem to steer tube connection, all to no avail. One ride I stopped with a friend and I was determined that I would either solve the noise, or at least be able to find a way to recreate it, so I could study it further in my shop. While standing beside the road, we discovered that if you "loaded" it by pushing down on the left crankarm real hard (with the crankarm horizontal and forward) with your hand, then backpedaled 180 degrees, the noise would usually appear. This was good enough for me. Later, back in my shop, I retested the loading procedure and it still worked. I got down my handy dandy auto stethoscope that is used to find noisy bearings in your car, and inserted them in my ears.
Solution: After several attempts, I homed down the noise to the middle of the seatpost. Not the top or bottom, the middle. I tightened the seat binder bolt, and it did nothing. It was already tight, anyway. I then loosened and removed the seatpost, and noted that it had grease on it, but not overly wet with grease. I then made sure it was clean, regreased and installed it back in the seat tube and Voila, problem absolutely solved. I have had to do this every couple of years, every time the noise reappears. Evidently the light-gauge tubing will torque just enough that it twists against the more rigid seatpost, and when the grease wears thin, it will make a faint click. Whod a thought?

Noise 2. I have a Orbea Orca that is about two years old now. I run wheels that have DT 240 hubs, 10-speed Shimano Dura-Ace. I was getting a noise that I swore was coming from the bottom bracket area. Solution: To make a long story short, using my stethoscope again, I found that it was coming from somewhere near the rear dropouts. I checked the bolt on the rear derailleur hanger thingy and it was tight. I put a thin coat of Phil Wood grease on all four faces of the rear dropouts and the noise was gone. I did it last year and had to do it again one time this year.

Noise 3. Drivetrain noise after installing a new chain. I have an Orbea Orca with wheels that have DT 240 hubs, 10-speed Shimano Dura-Ace transmission. First I just changed the chain with a new Shimano Dura-Ace 10-speed chain just like the one I had. The noise appeared. I had a new (expensive) cassette, just like my old worn one, but was hoping I could squeak another year out of the old one. But since I hated the noise, I went ahead and put the new cassette on. Keep in mind, the old one did not skip, like they will usually do if they are worn bad. Well the noise was still there. It was a kinda normal noise, only it was quite a bit too loud. Kinda like running a clean dry chain.
Solution: When I touched my stethoscope to the bottom derailleur pulley on the rear derailleur, it screamed in my ear. It wasnt the bearings making the noise, it was the chain slapping the pulley, only in a manner that made a lot of noise. Nothing was out of line at all. Scratching my head, I removed the guilty pulley and examined it, and it looked unworn and almost pristine. I decided to install it backwards, and let it rotate the other direction, figuring it might at least change the noise. It made the drivetrain almost silent again!”
Thanks to Steve Bales for these 3 tips!

“I could not find the solution to a loud and irritating clicking that was happening whenever I turned the pedals on my bike. (Probably because the cause of the clicking would have been obvious to most riders!) The clicking itself was loud, distinct and would increase in speed and intensity the harder I pedaled.
Solution: Having gone over the rear derailleur and taken apart the rear wheel hub I realized that after recently removing the chain to clean it, I had put it back so that it ran over (and not under, if that makes any sense) a small metal guard situated between the pulleys of the rear derailleur. Of course I laughed at my stupidity (I had cut short a training ride because the noise was irritating me so much) and Im not sure that such a basic error deserves a mention on your list—I thought however that I would share it with you in case anyone else manages to do the same thing.”
Thanks to Edward Hollingsworth!

Beware a creaking/clicking handlebar for it might be a sign it's about to break

“I had a creak used to come from my alloy handlebar/stem area when pulling on the handlebars.
Tightening the stem on the handlebars made no difference to the creak. Some time later the left handlebar snapped off whilst I was commuting home at night in Edinburgh traffic. I was lucky—only bruises, grazes and a cracked rib. Solution: I should have checked the handlebars for any signs of cracking at the stem interface and replaced the handlebars if I found any cracks or other signs of metal fatigue.”
Thanks to Julian Kettle for this excellent piece of safety advice related to bike noises!

Even accessories like bottle cages can cause noises
“I own a Litespeed Siena (titanium) with Dura-Ace 20 groupset. My bike started making a clicking/creaking sound that I thought was coming from the bottom bracket area. It only manifested when pushing hard into the pedals especially when standing. I read all the tips on your site and followed them all to the letter, but to no avail; the noise still persisted. I then changed the bottom bracket, chain, rear block, pedals and rebuilt the hub on my rear wheel with new axle and cartridge bearings, but still with no success!! I tried swapping all the components one by one, wheels, pedals, chainset etc... but still the noise remained. At this point I was at a loss and contacted several bike shops and spoke to their mechanics, and explained my problem to them and what I'd done to try and rectify it. They all came to the same conclusion as myself at this point, as I'd tried every possibility systematically and the problem still remained, the only possibility that remained was a cracked frameset, (rare on high-end titanium, and very expensive to replace). At this point I was glum to say the least! So I sat and had a long think about the noise, when it started, had I replaced or added any parts to the bike, etc... ”

Solution: “It was then I remembered/realised I'd fitted a new composite (carbon) bottle cage, surely that couldn't be the cause of the noise?!! After all I'd taken out the bolts copperslip greased them and reinstalled them tightly as recommended on your website. So I reinstalled the old aluminium cage and hey, presto, no more noise!! I even put the composite cage back on to be sure and the noise returned. The composite cage must have been making contact with the frame when the frame was flexing under load when pushing hard into the pedals, a very expensive and frustrating lesson for me to say the least. Maybe my story will help others realise that noises coming from their bike may just be down to a composite bottle cage, especially if their frame is titanium.”
Thanks to Gavin Wood, Hartlepool, the UK!

"I want to pass along a noise that has taken me a long to diagnose, a loud click that sounded like it was coming from the bottom bracket. I had a local bike shop try to find the click, but they basically lubricated the bottom bracket outer rings (it's sealed, so the bearing surfaces were OK) and the headset (also sealed). I then purchased a new bottom bracket which didn't help. I also purchased new headset bearings which also didn't help. I pulled the seatpost, all cables, brakes, etc... off and reinstalled all to no avail. I then began to troubleshoot with your website, and since I have a Merlin Magia I read with interest the section on the clamp-on front derailleur and the loud click when the bike would twist. I put teflon tape under the clamp, but that didn't really help either. So, I was at my wits end when I began to removing parts: bike wheels, pedals, and water-bottle cages. None of that helped either! I was beginning to think I had a damaged frame. Then, I began to wonder about my bottle bosses on the frame. The bosses on my Magia are aluminum rivnuts not braze/weld-ons. Merlin's website recommends that the bolts not be too tight or else the rivnut could be damaged.
Solution: My rivnuts were indeed too tight, so I tried to lubricate them, but they were so tight that didn't work either. I then began to look at how the rivnut actually seats on the inside of the tube. Rivnuts are like toggle bolts for the wall, so I needed to figure out how to loosen it. I put one of my bottle cage bolts into the rivnuts and lightly tapped the bolt with a plastic/rubber mallet. The bolt/mallet then stretched the rivnut back into the tube. CAUTION must be used not to dent the tube around the rivnut. I was then able to rotate the rivnut with a pair of pliers to allow a small amount of lubrication between the tube and the rivnut. This seems to have done the trick: Loosen and lubricate the rivnut."
That's a cool tip, Ronnie Boutte from Utah. Thank you!

"I have had a few troubles with noises on my bike, a few were mechanical and took a bit of sorting out and a few embarrassingly simple in their solution. I recently changed my BB, certain that the noise I heard and felt came from it. Solution: It turned out to be a rear wheel ball bearing had begun to break down and needed replacing. I have also had a seemingly random noise which drove me nuts which turned out to be a zipper tag on my saddle bag ticking against the rear mud guard. Then there was the set of keys in my saddle bag for my bike lock and back door to the house, jingling when stood up on the seat. Last but not least was the noise which I finally tracked down to one certain drink bottle which was made of a plastic which creaked inside the drink bottle cage. I hope these help the visitors to this page—or at least give them a laugh."
Good ones,
Jimmy G. Appreciate it!

To silence a rattling U-lock, use rubber bandsReader Joshua Naylor came up with a quick and simple way to silence his U-lock. When he carried it on his bicycle in the carrier that came with the U-lock, the lock would make a rattle over every bump. Solution: It was the loose fit between the U part of the lock and the crossbar that made the racket. So Joshua came up with the elegant solution of wrapping elastic bands around the ends of the U and he now enjoys solitude on his rides again.
Thanks Joshua!


Those pesky wheels again
“I recently installed a new pair of Zipp 404 tubular wheels on my Guru Geneo carbon bicycle. The first time I took the bike out with the new wheels was on a century ride. Immediately, I knew something was strange. A loud clicking noise was clearly evident with each rotation of the wheels, but only under load. Spinning the wheels while I was not on the bike would not reproduce the noise.
Every time I passed someone on the ride or someone would pass me, I would get, 'Dude, your crank is hitting your cadence sensor.' I stopped and examined the crank sensor proximity and all was well.”
Solution: “Once I got home, I had the time to check things out. It turns out that the valve stem on the tubular tires was loose and moving under pressure and striking the rim making the noise. To fix it, I cut a 1-inch length of black electrician's tape, folded it in half (backwards so the adhesive would not stick) and cut a small slit centered in the tape width. I then slid the tape over the valve stem and secured it to the wheels and the stem to keep the stem from moving. Silence is golden.”
Thanks to reader Michael Kravit for this tip!

Clothing and shoes cause annoying bike noises too
"I once spent weeks trying to track down an intermittent rattling noise, which appeared to be emanating from the handlebar area of my Kingcycle recumbent when traversing bumpy roads.
Solution: It turned out to be my watch strap!" [Editor's note: zipper pulls can do this too!]
Thanks for this funny tip Dave Larrington from London!

“I’ve recently had a situation that was driving me and my riding companions a little crazy. My bike developed a loud click on each pedal revolution. I was told this might be related to my cranks and/or pedals. Both were inspected by me and found not to be a problem. Various adjustments were made to the rear derailleur too, to no avail. The local bike shop only managed to suggest that I was cross-gearing... which I was certain I was not, having been warned not to do that previously. So, I thought I may simply have to put up with this.”

Solution: “I then noticed that when I took off my Nike shoes that they rattled (and they hadn’t always done this). The shoes are equipped with several attachment points for cleats, one set of which wasn’t being used by my Look cleats – and the bracket/plate for the unused attachments was moving backwards and forwards through the pedalling motion. So, some modelling clay stuffed into the bottom of the shoe to hold the spare plate fixed the problem... there was no other way to tighten or remove the unused plate. Hope this is of some interest!”
Thanks to reader Peter from Perth, Western Australia for this tip!

The click that was bothering me was sporadic but would happen almost every pedal revolution, maybe for 5 minutes then go away. It would continue to come and go through my ride. If I un-clipped my right foot and pedaled with just my left sometimes it would go away sometimes it wouldn't and same with the left. Backpedaling was the same result. The outside temperature did seem to make things better or worse sometimes (colder worse). Also the longer I rode the less the noise level. Solved it yet? Solution: The issue was that shoes had metal plates for SPD cleats. They were underneath my normal 3 bolt cleats so I didn't see them and they didn't make noise until a few weeks after getting the shoes. I had checked the cleat bolts and they were tight too. I noticed when I had taken my shoes off and walking in the garage, and with them in my hands that I heard the noise. Upon shaking the shoes vigorously I could make the plate move around and recreate the noise. A little clear slicone caulk solved the issue.
Appreciate you sharing Wallace Wormley!


“My issue was a ticking noise once per crank revolution.”
Solution: “I’ve now learned to tuck in the laces on my new SPD shoes (embarrassed).”
Thanks to reader John Mallard from Bournville, UK for this tip!

Tips for when your bike is just too loud
“Maybe these are too obvious, but they weren't to me, so here goes: I have used three or four different brands of rear hub for my mountain bikes over the years, and I noticed that some of the rear hubs clicked louder than the others when coasting. I thought the loudness of the clicking was determined by the design of the hub. However, after I stupidly used high pressure water to clean my bike and ruined the bearings inside the hub and freewheel, I had to take the hub and freewheel apart, clean them, and replace the four cartridge bearings.
Solution: I didn't know how much grease to use in the freewheel, so I packed it full of grease. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the coasting clicks got much, much quieter. In fact, I can now coast almost silently, and the three teeth still engage normally when I pedal. That's good for me because I like trekking over long distances, and listening to the sounds of the birds and the wind. Plus, after breaking in the rebuilt hub for 30 km or so, it was still quiet, and didn't seem to have any more friction than it did new. [Editor's note: be careful taking apart and greasing freewheels and cassettes. Most aren't made to be taken apart or lubricated with grease, which can sometimes cause the drive mechanism to slip, especially in cold temperatures. A better lube to use is a heavy oil like Phil's Tenacious Oil. Drip it into the freewheel/cassette through the small gaps in the body.]

Another huge noise reduction technique that surprisingly few people in Taipei seem to recognize is the use of smooth tires instead of knobby tires. Most people here spend 100% of their time on roads, so there's absolutely no reason for them to have knobby tires. All they accomplish is increased rolling friction and a loud hum at speed. When you're climbing a mountain road, listening to the birds singing and the wind blow through the treetops, it's annoying even riding near a person with knobby tires. Solution: Use smooth-tread street tires.

Finally, I use a Brooks leather saddle. It's great, and I'd highly recommend one to anyone who does any serious trekking, and spends a lot of time in the saddle. I recently had a squeak coming from my saddle. I thought it might be the leather rubbing against the metal, but it turned out to be metal on metal where the two rails under the seat were clamped to the seatpost. The black coating on the two rails had worn away in a couple of places, causing the diameter of the rails to differ along their length. No amount of tightening the clamps could stop the squeak. Solution: A little oil on the rails did the trick.
There you go. A click, a hum, and a squeak.
Thank you Zach from Taipei!

Assembling something the wrong way can cause noises
“My bike was running pretty quietly except for the occasional “clunk,” which would happen when I was out of the saddle, mashing the pedals, and pitching the bike back and forth. I never seemed to notice it unless I was doing those three things. I wasn’t positive where the noise was coming from, of course, so I checked the most-likely offenders first, pedals, chainring bolts, seatpost, headset, front and rear dropouts, quick releases, bottle cages, etc. Loosened, cleaned, lubed and re-tightened all of them. When the problem persisted I thought that it must be coming from my bottom bracket. I pulled my SRAM Force crankset (BB30), cleaned the spindle, all the threading, cleaned between all the spacers, BB cups, and inside the BB shell. Greased and re-installed everything, checked to make sure the crankarm was properly torqued by pulling it against the down tube. That’s when I noticed my problem.
Solution: There was play in my crank! I took everything apart again, and noticed that I had a curious lack of spacers (relative to what’s diagrammed in the SRAM Force manual). I pulled spacers from a crankset I had lying around, installed them on the spindle before putting the crankarm back on, and presto, the play was gone, there was no noticeable flex in the arm, and I haven’t noticed the clunking anymore. Must have misplaced a couple spacers while cleaning the bike. Hopefully this will stop a few people from going crazy!”
Thanks to reader Jake from Washingon, DC for this tip!

"I thought I'd chime in on a click my bike was making. I've used your noise-finding tips here with great success, but this click just wouldn't go away. With uphill pedaling force, the drive side crank would click a couple of times between 2 and 5 o'clock. After regreasing all bottle cage bolts, seatpost, seatpost bolt, places where the cables touch the frame, adding lube to the chainring bolts, replacing the pedals and bottom bracket (pedals were bad anyway, and the BB had some slight side-to-side wobble), messing with the derailleur clamp, and probably some other things... I finally found a solution: I simply sprayed some silicon lube around the spot where the right crankarm touches the large chainring!" [Editor's note: Ideally the chainring will not touch the crankarm, so it's possible the chainring is not seated on the spider or perhaps it's bent.]

Thanks for the great tip Eric Wells!

"I had an experience recently which drove me nuts and I'd like to think this could help somebody who had a similar problem—just one more thing to look for. It was a brand new bike and on the third ride of any length it suddenly started making a ticking noise near the rear wheel. It still rode okay but it was really irritating. Eventually I discovered (and I have no idea how it happened) that the chain had managed to get outside the rear derailleur cage! The gap appeared to be too small for the chain to pass through, but somehow it had. Every time a link went over the guard it made a click. Solution: I had to carefully prise it slightly open with pliers to slip the chain back in. (I don't know if there's a better way; I'm no bike engineer!)
[Editor's note: Yes, to avoid bending the cage and affecting the shifting, it's best to loosen the bolts passing through the pulleys. That will let you spread the cage sideplates and push the chain back where it belongs.]
Thanks a lot, Mark in the UK!

"Your site was very helpful in helping me diagnose an annoying click/clunk in the drivetrain of our Calfee tandem. It is equipped with DaVinci aluminum cranks. The click/clunk was intermittent, sometimes in the middle of the ride, sometimes just at the end. It seemed to be coming from the drivetrain. I tried all of the recommended solutions - tighten the bottom brackets; remove the pedals, lubricate the pedal threads, and reinstall; check and tighten the chainring bolts; make sure the crankarms were tightened properly; check the seatposts and stems; lubricate the seat rails; etc., etc. Solution: What I finally found was that the chainring bolts for the granny ring were not tight enough - I had to pull the drive crank off to find this out, since the bolts screwed in from the back. We rarely use the granny ring, so I didn't think to check this when I checked the tightness of the chainring bolts. The granny chainring bolts needed over a full turn to tighten them to the proper torque. No noise since. Nothing is as satisfying as a quiet bike!!"
Props to Reed Nester of Williamsburgk, Virginia for this drivetrain silencer!

Seatposts are notorious noisemakers
"When I was out of the saddle, I got this squeaking noise, driving me crazy. I did a total overhaul on my bike, but nothing did any difference. Since it just appeared when I was out of the saddle, I did not think it would have anything to do with the seatpost. When I had turned every nut and bolt on that bike, the seatpost was the only thing I had left to put grease on. Solution: And yes, the seatpost was the source of the sqeak and greasing it made the noise go away."
Thanks to Bjørn Berg of Norway for this nice tip!

"I have a Giant Anthem X and with my Thomson seatpost had a click. I tracked it down to the seatpost after I changed my BB to a new one and that didn't quiet my bike. I found the following solution to completely eliminate the dreadful noise: 1. I pulled the post and cleaned both it and the seat tube (for the seat tube I used the round brush from Park Tool's Brush Set that looks like the baby-bottle brush). 2. I cut a short piece of old inner tube and covered the part where the seat tube has the slot to compress. 3. I rotated the seat clamp so the open side is forward (opposite slot!). 4. I added an O-ring on the seatpost that sits tight on the post and is slid down on top of the clamp to eliminate the dust migrating down and into the seat tube and making the clicking sound."
Thanks to reader David Fontyn from Israel for this extensive click-stopping tip!

"Thanks for your site, Jim. I found it when searching for a solution to my creaking carbon seatpost and although I didn't find a solution, in the days following I found what seems to be a fix so here it is: My bike is a 2007 Look 585 Team and I have a 3T Dorico Team/LTD seatpost. After a particularly wet century ride my seatpost developed a creaking noise when I was riding in the saddle. My solution: After eliminating other sources of the creak, i.e. bottom bracket, pedals, cracked frame, etc., I narrowed down the source to the seat/seatpost area. I swapped seatposts but the noise persisted, I swapped saddles but still the noise persisted, I lubricated the seatpost binder bolt but with no luck. I reinstalled the seatpost with carbon assembly paste. Again no luck!

I discovered when I listened closely that the noise was coming from the point where the seatpost ended in the seat tube inside the frame. My initial thought was that as my weight went back on the seatpost it was causing the post to pivot very slightly at the binder bolt point where the frame is reinforced through the carbon lug, causing a slight deformation and rub in the thinner walls of the seat tube. My first try to fix the noise was to go from a 350mm to a 250mm seatpost. This only reduced the noise but at least I knew I was on the right track.

I then started thinking about the circumstances that had caused the noise. I figured the wet ride had maybe washed something out of the area that had been providing lubrication. Having read the warnings on using grease with carbon I had to rule that option out so I thought about what could have been there. I figured over time that due to use, a small amount of fine carbon dust had formed in the seat tube that had been providing 'lubrication.' I needed a substance to mimic this. So I went to the hardware store and purchased a bottle of graphite powder, squirted it into the seat tube and immediately the noise was gone! Hope this is of use to you and the visitors to your site."
That's a great job of finding and fixing an elusive creak. Thanks for sharing it Craig Blowfield of St. Kilda, Australia!

Keep your quick releases tight and lubed to stop creaks
"Jim, I was directed to your site as I had a creak on my bike and I couldn't locate it. It sounded as if it was coming from the bottom bracket/crankset area, happening while putting pressure on the pedals (during the upstroke and downstroke, using clipless pedals), no matter if I was standing, sitting or even without the saddle and seat tube. The only moments I didn't hear it was while coasting or while pedaling lightly just to keep the momentum. But when I was sprinting or going uphill, it sounded as if I was riding an old matress instead of a mountain bike. I changed the bottom bracket and the crankset for new ones and the noise was still there. My rear wheel was rebuilt, and the noise came back with the new wheel. I double checked my frame for cracks and found none. I took it to a different LBS, and they found the solution for it. As it happened whenever I was putting torque on the drivetrain, it could be coming from any part of it, including the surface of the frame that makes contact with the rear wheel quick release! They just opened the quick release and applied a drop of chain oil between the QR and the frame, and voilá! I do that again every time that the creak returns. (IMPORTANT: Just put extra pressure on the QR, as now it's easier for it to slip from the frame!) Congrats on your site, as far as an online bike noises troubleshooting guide goes, it's the best I've found."
Thanks for sharing this excellent tip
Gustavo Gutiérrez Vargas!

What's the rattling around inside my frame?
"I installing a bottle cage to the vertical part of the frame tubing immediately above the bottom bracket and on the next ride heard a soft rattling sound inside my titanium frame. It turned out that there must have been some metal filings in the bottle holes because I could hear them when I picked up and shook the bike. When I took it apart I found more debris inside. Solution: I cleaned the BB all out, reassembled, and I have a quiet bike again!"

Thanks, Eric for this tip!

More helpful ones
"When I bought my Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheelset last March, 3 months ago, I noticed that I would get a little pinging from the spokes on the front wheel whenever I got out of the saddle, had weight on the bars, and rocked the bike back and forth a little. I never imagined that the pinging would develop into a full fledged creak that would drive me crazy whenever I tried to jump, sprint, or climb a steep hill out of the saddle but it did. It wound up sounding like the creak one would hear from a loose bottom bracket except that if I didn't rock the bike I could minimize the irritating sound. Solution: One drop of Tri-Flow where each spoke enters its nipple and at each point where the spoke enters the hub. Ride it around a little to work the lube in and it's good!
I also had a creaky headset. I don't care how good the seals are on the lower bearings, they get nasty, dirty, and gross. Solution: Diassembly, cleaning and greasing will end the creak."
Thanks Kerry of T2C Racing in Sandy, Utah!

Bruce Gray writes, "Appreciate this article Jim and I wanted to share three recent bike noise experiences:
Noise #1. An inconsistent chirping noise developed, sounding like it was coming from the rear derailleur jockey wheels. I pulled them apart, as I had only overhauled them two weeks prior, and wondered if I had lubed them wrong, or put them back in the wrong way, or something. Anyway, re-lubing didn't make a difference. I then swapped wheels thinking it might be coming from the freehub or hub.... nope. I then went through spaying one component after another with WD-40.
Solution: It wasn't until I gave the chain a thorough blast of WD-40 that the chirpy squeak stopped. In my 12 month overhaul performed two weeks earlier, I'd taken the chain off via a KMC missing link, and soaked the chain in diesel. I presume the re-application of oil afterwards wasn't intense enough.
Noise #2. A creaking developed when pedaling hard up hills in the saddle, and went away when out of the saddle.
Solution: Problem resolved when grease applied to carbon seatpost.
Noise #3. A creak with every pedal rotation coming from shoes/pedals traced to cleat pedal interface.
Solution: It went away when both surfaces sprayed with WD-40. not a good long term fix though." [Editor's note: try a wax or oil. Just don't walk across your new carpets when you get home!]
Thanks for the tips
Bruce Gray from Brisbane, Qld, Australia!

A reader named Mike says, "I had a rattle that was driving me crazy for months. I tried lots of fixes and even took it to a bike shop and nothing made a big difference. I incorrectly assumed that there was just one source for the rattle. Your article laid out a very systematic way to isolate the rattle (and also made an important distinction between rattles, creaks, clicks, etc and their causes).

I found a patch of rough pavement near my house. I went through your list of rattle sources one by one and only changed one thing at a time and then rode the rough pavement to see if there was a difference. It took me two hours to patiently follow this systematic approach. It involved taking things off and putting them back on several times in some cases, but it worked a lot better than the haphazard approach.

Solution: It turned out that several solutions fixed the problem, including tightening a loose cassette, greasing and tightening the water bottle bracket bolts (just tightening them was not enough) and greasing the dropouts for the wheels (not 100% sure about that this was really a rattle cause). I also found that the pump bracket that mounted between the water bottle cage and the frame caused a rattle that I could not fix no matter how I adjusted or greased. Therefore, I just took it out and will carry the pump some other way.

The rest of your article addresses the creaks and clicks that always show up. Now I have a systematic way to fix those also." Thank you again! Mike Salameh.
You're welcome Mike and I appreciate you sharing your tips!

Chris Watkins from Adelaide, South Australia wrote, "My noise happened on every right pedal stroke: a creak noise driving my riding buddies nuts. They could hear me 200 meters away! Only happened when sitting, not standing!!! Bloody annoying and got worse as the bike "warmed up!!" Sounded like it came from the bottom bracket, seatpost area so got that overhauled. $130 later, still happening. Seatpost, cleats, pedals, no good.


Solution:
Finally tried removing the bolt in the seatstay/dropout intersection (photo) near the rear wheel axle (I ride a Fuji Team carbon road bike). I took it out, greased the bolt and mating surfaces, reassembled and tightened, and voila, no noise. I'll now do it again but use locktite to ensure the bolt stays tight and my bike stays creak-free!"

Thanks, Chris!!

Cycling professor Bill Boggs wrote with these helpful noise-busters: "My local bicyle shop and others I've used wrap the white teflon plumber's tape you can get at hardware stores around the bottom bracket threads to keep the BB quiet. And I can tell you from experience riding them on my singlespeeds that only 2 brands of singlespeed freewheels are quiet or silent: Shimano and White Brothers (at $100, it better be). I have had only one click or clack out of many Shimano freewheels. Meanwhile Dicta, WCS and the others from India and wherever are worthless in my experience. One more thing that makes noise is worn SPD cleats. They can squeak. So replace them before they get to that point and keep them lubricated, too."
Appreciate it, Bill!

David Axel Kurtz of Cambridge, Massachusetts, offers this crazy noise-buster: "I ride a Specialized CruX Expert Carbon (2011, the one w/the Zertz dampers & SRAM Apex). After about 500 miles it began to develop a creaking noise. It would happen only on the left pedal downstroke (my cassette, as usual, is on the right). It sounded like it was coming from the bottom bracket. I could feel it in my shoe.

It was inconsistent. Some days it wouldn't happen at all. Sometimes it would go away after a mile or two. Some days it would be with me for 50 miles. Those days SUCKED. Sometimes it would be softer, sometimes I-can't-ride-this-is-too-embarrassing loud. Sometimes it would only happen on strong downstrokes. Sometimes a few very strong downstrokes would make it go away.

I ride clipless pedals; when I clicked out and pedaled only with my right foot it didn't occur. I spun off the pedals and put on non-clipless pedals (stolen from my girlfriend's childhood 3-speed); it still occurred. I re-seated both wheels, the chain, rear brakes, seatpost... tightened everything... oiled everything. Nothing helped.

Solution: Finally, while taking apart the ENTIRE BIKE, I noticed that the seat tube had a sticker on it, about a foot down. Or what was left of a sticker. It had been worn half to shreds and was doubled over itself. I peeled away the sticker, jumped on the bike, and tried riding - the noise was almost gone. I scrubbed the seatpost with the rough side of a sponge, let it dry in the sun, and then gave it a little bit of oil. Problem solved. CONCLUSION: Stickers are the devil." That's a weird one! Thanks, David!


Back

to the WRENCH page