What's that creaking?
We all ride lots of miles and a silent bike is much more enjoyable to ride than a noisy bike. But we've all experienced it... that clicking and creaking that pops up out of the blue. Most people will look to the BB first and point the finger there as it seems to make the most sense. But is the noise really coming from the BB?
First it is important to understand that the source of noises on bikes are very hard to pinpoint. Almost all noises sound like they could be coming from the BB. Hence the reason the BB gets blamed. So you install a new BB only to find the noise persists. What now? Here are some common places to check before you decide the BB is at fault.
Clicks are usually caused by a small movement between two parts, usually metal. Creaks are more involved and can be caused by numerous things.
This list is not in any particular order, so you should try each one individually and test ride before moving on to the next possible source.
- Loose chainring bolts. Make sure to grease and then torque each bolt.
- Loose pedals. Grease the pedal threads and re-install making sure to torque them properly.
- Loose, dirty or worn cleats. Check cleat bolts and replace cleats if worn.
- Loose derailleur hanger. Try some Loctite on the bolts that hold the hanger in place.
- Dirty quick releases. Clean and grease them.
- Dirty dropout. Wipe both front and rear dropouts so they are completely clean. Then apply some grease to all sides of the dropout so that when you clamp down the quick release, the grease is spread in between the dropout and hub.
- Hubs that need to be serviced. Whether just grease or news bearings, hubs should be maintained.
- Chain issues. A stiff link, maybe a dry chain? Clean and grease your chain.
- Seatpost/saddle issues. These are often times easier to identify as they go away when you stand up and pedal, but you should still check for tightness in all bolts and maybe even clean and grease the saddle rails.
- Is your crankarm touching the front derailleur cable? This one gets overlooked all the time.
- It could be your headset. Take it apart and apply lots of grease to all touching parts. Then re-install the headset and stem and torque the bolts to spec.
- Handlebars are known to click and creak due to loose stem bolts. Take the faceplate off, clean it and re-install torqueing the bolts to spec. Most clicks here are due to too low of torque on the stem bolts. Make sure you've got them tight enough.
- Loose cable guide under the BB shell. Make sure to tighten the bolt holding the cable guide on. It is a good idea to use some Loctite on the threads of the bolt as road vibration can cause it to loosen.
- Cable housing rubbing against each other. This is more common with older external shift cable Shimano setups and once drove me insane until I realized what it was. This is harder to fix since the housing will always tend to rub each other. An easy fix is to wrap some electrical tape around each piece of housing where they rub each other.
- Cable ferrules. They often times will click because of a slight movement between the ferrule and the metal ferrule holder attached to the frame. An easy fix is to wrap the ferrule with electrical tape (or switch to plastic ferrules, BUT this degrades performance slightly).
- Headset spacers. Many riders use several spacers (two 10mm spacers to make 20mm or a 20mm and a 5mm to make 25mm, etc.) and these can move ever so slightly under load. The fix is to use a one piece spacer cut to the correct height. These are hard to find in anything other than the standard 5mm, 10mm and 20mm heights BUT, fear not as we make carbon headset spacers in 5mm - 50mm in 5mm increments.
- Spokes and nipples! There are several places here to apply some lubricant. The first is the spoke head. It can rub and/or move slightly against the hub causing a click. I like to put a drop of oil or chain lube on each spoke head so that it lubricates this area. The next spot is where the nipple exits the rim. If you look closely, you can see a small gap that could click under load. Again, a drop of oil or chain lube on each nipple so that it drips down into the rim. The third spot is any crossing spokes that touch each other. I like to flex the spokes so they aren't touching, clean them with a shop towel and then add a dab of grease so that when they touch again, they are lubricated and won't make any noises.
- This was sent in by Facebook Fan Gregory R: "I once had a click that came from an over-tightened bottle cage bolt on the seat tube. When I would be out of the saddle powering up a climb or sprint, I (guess I would) cause a slight bit of flex in the seat tube and that in turn would make the cage bolt creak. Weird but true."
- Seat post length. This is a weird one but common. If you are using a longer seat post, one that extends fairly far into the frame, it can flex when riding. This flexing motion can cause a noise as it contacts the inside of the seat tube. The solution for this is to cut the seatpost shorter or change to a shorter seat post. If cutting, make sure to leave enough post in the frame to follow the manufacturer's minimum insertion length.
- Here is a recent one that just happened to me. My bike had been silent for months and all of a sudden, not 5 minutes into a ride it would click once (and then twice) every pedal stroke, but only when standing. Before getting to crazy thinking it was something in depth, I asked myself "what has changed since the last ride?". The answer was nothing, other than putting on my front wheel. So, I tightened the front quick release a bit and BAM... noise gone and I can ride in peace and quiet again!!
- Another strange one here. I was having a clicking when climbing. I pulled the BB, greased the threads and bearings and re-installed the crank. The noise went away but came back a few weeks later. So I once again pulled the BB, greased it and the noise went away again... only to come back a few weeks later. So this time when I pulled the BB I looked inside the BB shell on the frame. I noticed some clear coat overspray. I removed that, re-installed the BB and crank and now the bike has been silent for a year.
- Another new one! Check your cassette. I had a clicking, almost pinging noise. Checked the usual places which didn't help, even switched the BB even though I know it's almost never the BB causing the clicking, still didn't help. Finally I changed cassettes and the clicking went away. This was a Shimano cassette. Shimano cassettes have been known to click recently, so if you have clicking and ride Shimano, check your cassette!