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How to silence a noisy bicycle

Sebastian 29. June 2017

Read this post to find out how to silence those annoying creaks and unwanted noises.

If your bike is creaking, clicking, clunking or making some other unwanted noise, riding can get annoying really fast. There are plenty of reasons why your bike could be making such a noise and I could write a book listing all of them. However, silencing that annoying sound can be as easy as finding the loose screw or applying a little grease.

For this post, I went back to our shop and asked our mechanics about the most common unwanted noises on a bike and how to fix them. But remember, silencing these pesky noises is a trial and error process, so the first attempt at fixing it may not work. The best way to go about it is to roughly locate where the noise is coming from (front, middle, or rear) and start the silencing process that requires the least amount of effort. This is how I have organized the post to hopefully make things easier.

Before beginning, you should deep clean your bicycle so that everything is easy to see and work on.

Where do the noises come from?

Most often, theses annoying noises come from two surfaces rubbing each other under load. Over time, this can lead to increased wear and tear that can damage your bicycle components.

Installation Tips:

  • Use Loctite when torque values lower than 5 Nm are required.
  • Threads should be greased.
  • Carbon fibre components should be installed with friction paste.

Why carbon fibre components need friction paste:

When mounting carbon parts, make sure not to use normal grease. Friction paste should be used because of the lower torque values required for carbon. The friction past has small particles that increase the friction between two surfaces, allowing for the lower torque values to be used.

Noises from the front of the bike

Is there a creaking or other noise coming from the front of the bike when you are pumping and pulling on the handlebars? The most common reason for this noise is the clamp between the steerer tube, stem and handlebars or the steerer tube itself. The following will show you how to check.

Clamp between handlebars and stem

The first thing I would do, is check the clamp between stem and handlebars. Start, by removing the handlebars and cleaning all the areas where they make contact with the stem. Also clean the stem clamp. Now, re-install the bars and note the required torques when bolting everything down.

Take apart the cockpit, clean and grease.

Take apart the cockpit, clean and grease.

Clamp between steerer tube and stem

If you are still hearing a noise, then you should move on to the clamp between the stem and the steerer tube. Take everything apart and clean all the contact points as well. When re-mounting everything, make sure to note the required torques.

The clamping surface between the steerer tube and stem can also creak.

The clamping surface between the steerer tube and stem can also creak.

Steerer tube or headset

Another source of unwanted noise is a dry, ungreased steerer tube or headset. To get to this area, you need to remove the stem and the upper headset assembly. This allows you to take pull the steerer tube / fork out of the frame. After that, you should remove the bearings and grease the headset cups.

Now, you should clean and grease the steerer. Note that even though the crown race and the top of the steerer are the only parts to make contact with other components, you should grease the entire thing. This protects the steerer from any corrosion that could occur from water.

Often bearings crack in their cups. A little bit of grease can help.

Often bearings crack in their cups. A little bit of grease can help.

After re-installing the steerer tube / fork you most likely need to adjust the headset play. To do this, see the following blog post: 

https://www.bike-components.de/blog/en/2017/04/how-to-adjust-headset-play/

If there is still noise coming from this area, you should remove the headset cups from the frame and clean, grease and re-press them.

Noises from the middle of the bike

If you have localised the unwanted noise to the middle of the bike, the culprit is most likely located around the saddle / seatpost or the bottom bracket. You can further pinpoint the noise by determining if the sound is occurring while you stand up and pedal or while you are sitting. When the noise happens while standing in and pedalling, there is a good chance the bottom bracket, chainring or pedals are to blame. If the noise occurs while you are sitting it is most likely the seatpost in the frame or the saddle clamp.

Seatpost clamp

Checking the seatpost clamp is relatively easy. There are two possibilities. Either the sound is coming from the contact area between seatpost clamp and seatpost or the seatpost / seat tube itself is just dirty. Here, you want to clean everything and re-grease the seatpost. Note the required torque when you retighten the seatpost clamp.

When the seatpost gets dirty it can creak.

When the seatpost gets dirty it can creak.

Saddle clamp

Due to the fact that saddle clamps come are often sprayed with water and dirt from the rear wheel, they can begin to creak as well. The best thing to do here, is to take the saddle off and disassemble the clamp. If your saddle has aluminium or steel rails, you can apply a small amount of grease. If they are carbon make sure to use friction paste.

The saddle clamp can get very dirty. Cleaning and greasing it can help get ride of noise.

The saddle clamp can get very dirty. Cleaning and greasing it can help get ride of noise.

Pedals

Pedals are under a lot of stress and they deal with whatever the weather and street throw at them. That means they get dirty and the threads are often wet, leading to the perfect place for a creak or other unwanted noise to arise. Most of the time, all you need to do is remove the pedals from the cranks as well as clean and grease the treads.

Creaking pedals usually means dirty threads.

Creaking pedals usually means dirty threads.

Another place to check, are the pedals bearings. Here, you are looking to see if there is play and how the pedals turn. If there is a lot of play (1-2 mm) or the pedals no longer turn very well, there is good chance that the sound is coming from the bearings. Now, you can either send the pedals in to the manufacturer, if they are under warranty, or you can try to take them apart and clean and re-grease.

Cleats

Creaking and other noises can also come from your cleats. The most common for this is the connection of the cleat to the shoe. If not positioned or tightened correctly, the cleat can move causing the unwanted noise. To fix this, all you need to do is retighten the cleats. If that doesn’t work then apply a little grease on the surface between cleat and shoe and bolt the cleat back on.

Sometimes the cleat will continue to make noise. Here, the problem is the connection between the cleat and the pedal. By spraying a little Teflon spray on the cleat, you can usually silence the noise.

Chainrings

When pedalling, there is a lot of force applied to the chainrings. If the chainring bolts are not completely tight, then the two metal surfaces will rub against one another and creak. This can also be simply caused by dirt. Either way, you need to take the chainrings off the crank, clean them and re-install to get rid of the noise. A little bit of grease where the crank and chainring make contact can also work wonders.

The crank and chainring contact surface needs to be extremely clean.

The crank and chainring contact surface needs to be extremely clean.

Note the pin on the largest chainring. It should be behind the crankarm.

Note the pin on the largest chainring. It should be behind the crankarm.

Bottom Bracket

Bottom brackets can also make annoying noises when they are not well greased, dirty or worn down. Here, you want to take the cranks off the bike, and first check if the bearings still turn smoothly. If they are hard to turn, the creaking sound may be coming from the bottom bracket.

Test the bottom bracket by spinning the bearings.

Test the bottom bracket by spinning the bearings.

Do you have the tools to remove your bottom bracket cups? If yes, remove them from the bicycle and clean the threads as well as the bottom bracket shell on the frame. After, re-grease and re-install. Note the required torque when doing this.

The bottom bracket cups can also move and cause creaks.

The bottom bracket cups can also move and cause creaks.

If you bike has a Pressfit bottom bracket, often the bearings creak. The only way to fix this is to remove the bearings and repress them into the frame. Because of the special tools required, you should take you bike to a bike shop for this service.

Noises from the rear of the bike

When a creaking sound is coming from the rear wheel, then the culprit is often the connection between freehub body and cassette. To solve this, remove the cassette, clean and re-install. When re-installing the cassette, apply a small amount of grease to the freehub body. If there are still noises coming from this area, then the freehub is most likely the problem. To fix this, you would need to take the entire thing apart and because of a freehub’s complexity, we do not recommend doing this yourself.

Brake rotors

In the case of creaking coming from the brakes, you need to check if the brake rotors are tight. You can do this by pulling on the front or rear brake and moving the bike back and forth. If there is a slight movement of the handlebars and/or creaking coming from the brakes, go ahead and check the tightness of the brake rotor bolts. Usually, all you need to do is retighten them.

Make sure the rotors are tight.

Make sure the rotors are tight.

Swingarm

It is very difficult to localise any noise coming from a swingarm. An easy way to tell, is if you hear creaking while pushing through the rear travel. To check, sit on your bike and without your feet on the pedals, push the swingarm through its travel. If you hear a creak, then the swingarm is most likely to blame. Of course, this takes into account that you have checked for creaking at the saddle/seatpost area.

To silence the unwanted noises, take the swingarm apart and check all the bearings. If they do not turn smoothly, you can either clean them with brake cleaner and re-grease, or by new bearings.

Make sure to clean the bearing housings on the swingarm as well. If they are dirty, it can also lead to creaking.

Smooth ball bearings in the swingarm keep the bikes performance at its best.

Smooth ball bearings in the swingarm keep the bikes performance at its best.

Cassettes

Sometimes the cassette can creak as well. The best thing to do here, is to remove it and apply grease to the freehub body and then remount. Be sure to mount it in the correct position. If you are unsure how to remove or remount your cassette see the following post:

https://www.bike-components.de/blog/en/2017/05/how-to-change-your-cassette/

Creaks be gone

We hope these tips helped you get rid of those pesky noises on your bike. The best way to keep them from happening again, is to maintain your bike as best you can. So get out and ride your squeak free machine.

If you have any questions or your bike is still creaking after following this guide, comment on this post or call our service team and we will be happy to help.