What's causing that noise from my bike?

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Knowledge Level: Beginner

It’s a beautiful morning, you’re riding along a quiet and picturesque country lane. Your bliss is shattered though as a repetitive creak starts to accompany every pedal stroke. You stand up, sit down, stop and tighten a few bolts but just can’t get to the bottom of it. Use this guide to put an end to those annoying squeaks, creaks, clicks and clunks.

Clicking when pedalling

See if you can identify if the click corresponds to your downstroke with either foot. If it does, first look at the shoe on that side and check to see if the cleat is cracked or excessively worn or if there’s any damage to the sole. Move onto the pedal and ensure that it’s sufficiently tightened. If this fails to solve the problem, check the other side too. Next check that the crank arms are tightened and finally look for any play in the bottom bracket.

Clunking from fork

A clunking noise and sensation from the front of the bike is caused by a loose headset. Tighten it enough to remove any play but be careful not to over tighten as you can easily cause your steering to become stiff or even crush the bearings.

Metallic rubbing or scraping noise when pedalling

Is likely to be caused by the chain rubbing on the front derailleur. Try to avoid extreme chain lines, such as using the smallest chainring with the smallest cog on the rear cassette, check that the limits of the derailleur are correctly adjusted and learn how to trim the front derailleur to the gear you’ve selected at the rear.

Rubbing or scraping noise when pedalling and freewheeling

The most likely culprits will be your wheels and tyres. Check that they’re sat correctly within the frame and not rubbing on it. With the bike standing up open the quick release skewers and then retighten. This will align the wheels correctly. If you have mudguards, check that they haven’t been knocked and are rubbing. Look at your brakes and ensure that they are correctly aligned and aren’t rubbing on the wheel or tyre. If none of these steps solve the problem, you may have a buckled wheel or damaged frame and this should be checked before riding again.

Creaking

Creaking normally indicates movement between components and can often be cured with the turn of an allen key. Likely suspects are the seatpost clamp, crank arms, cleats and handlebar/stem joint. Before tightening, especially with carbon frames and components, double check manufacturers’ torque guidelines and don’t exceed them. Some grease on the seatpost (assembly paste for carbon) or inside the stem clamp can also help banish creaks. If the creak persists, it could indicate a crack in the frame so don’t ignore it.

Squeaking

If it sounds as if you’ve got a mouse as a passenger, again check that your seatpost and bars are correctly set-up, tightened and lubricated. Also examine your saddle and ensure the rails are firmly held in position. Make sure that your chain is clean and lubricated as a dry or dirty chain can be squeaky. Cleats are a common cause of squeaks. Check they’re tight but a squeaky cleat can be infuriatingly difficult to cure. Wax based furniture polish can work but often it’ll be a case of replacing them. Squeaks can also come from dry bearings or bushings so, pedals, jockey wheels, hubs and the bottom bracket should be ruled out and, if necessary, serviced or replaced.

Squealing

Squeals are normally associated with braking. Check you’re using the right brake pads for your rims. This is especially important if you’re swapping between alloy and carbon rims as using the incorrect pads or not changing them can dangerously effect braking performance or badly damage the rim. Ensure that the pads and rims are clean. Brake pads should be “toed in”. This means that the leading end of the pad should make contact with the rim first and, if this isn’t the case, can cause squealing. How easy this is to remedy depends on the type of brake and, if you’re ensure, consult with a qualified mechanic.

With disc brakes, if the pads are new, it can just be the case that they need bedding in. Find a hill that’s clear of traffic and obstructions and, while descending it, firmly apply the brakes several times. If you haven’t recently installed new pads, check that the pads are not overly worn or contaminated and that the rotors are clean and not warped.

Ticking

If you hear a ticking sound when braking, the problem will be with your rims or brake pads. Inspect both carefully and look for damage or foreign bodies. If it occurs when pedalling or freewheeling, they’re are a number of likely candidates. Check to see if any wheel magnets are clipping the sensors or shoe buckles are bushing past the cranks arms or chain stays. If you have deep section wheels that require long valves or extenders, these can cause a ticking noise. This can easily be cured with a piece of electrical tape to prevent the valve moving.

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