Squeaks, clicks and clunks during a ride can drive you nuts. These sounds can also signal an underlying problem of a larger mechanical issue that can affect the performance of your bike.
To solve the problem and maintain your sanity, here are 10 symptoms and solutions to the most common bike noises.
Symptoms: If the squeak occurs when you pedal, you probably have a dirty, grimy chain — particularly if you haven’t oiled or cleaned your chain recently.
Solution: Use some degreaser and an old toothbrush to clean your chain. Once you’ve removed all the grime, apply one drop of chain lube to each link. Remove any excess lube with an old rag.
LOOSE CLEAT SCREW
Symptoms: If you have a squeak in the same general area as your chain and you’re sure a dirty or worn chain isn’t the problem, a loose cleat screw may be the culprit.
Solution: Check each of your cleat screws and see if any have come loose. Retighten to see if it solves the problem. If it’s still occurring, it could be a problem with your pedal. If this is the case, try a few drops of lube on the pedal spindle.
WORN BRAKE PADS
Symptoms: When there’s a squeak coming from the wheel area and your wheels are true, it could be caused from dirty or worn brake pads vibrating against the rim.
Solution: Clean the braking surface of the rim. Then replace your brake pads if they’re worn and toe them in toward the rim. If the brake pads aren’t worn but are dirty, remove any grime with rubbing alcohol or other solvents designed for cleaning bike brakes. Once clean, rough the pads with sandpaper.
Symptoms: If you hear a clunking sound coming from the front end of your bike, a loose headset could be the problem. To check, grab your front brake lever and rock the bike front to back. If the headset is loose, you should be able to feel movement.
Solution: Loosen your stem bolts and tighten your headset bolt. Once you’ve tightened the headset, secure your stem bolts and check using the brake lever test.
LOOSE BOTTOM BRACKET
Symptoms: A clunking sound on the bottom of the bike that only occurs when you pedal may be coming from the bottom bracket.
Solution: If it isn’t a loose pedal, chances are you may have a loose bottom bracket. To tighten the bottom bracket, you’ll need to remove the crank arms. If you have bottom bracket tools, you can make the needed repair by either tightening the bottom bracket cups or adjusting the bearings. For less experienced home mechanics or if you lack the tools, you may need to visit your local bike shop.
CREAKS & CLICKS
Symptoms: The chain acts as if it wants to move up or down your cassette when pedaling in certain gears, even when you aren’t attempting to shift.
Solution: Most modern bikes will have barrel adjusters on the cables to adjust the tension. If the chain seems like it wants to fall onto a smaller cog, turn the barrel adjuster a quarter turn at a time clockwise until the problem is fixed. If the chain jumps to a larger cog, turn the barrel adjuster a quarter turn at a time counter-clockwise. If your problems persist after you’ve completed a full turn of the barrel adjuster, a bent derailleur hanger could be your problem and you may need a new derailleur.
SEATPOST AND SADDLE
Symptoms: Sometimes it can be hard to determine if the creaking sound beneath your bottom is coming from your seatpost or the saddle itself.
Solution: Look at the clamps on the seatpost first to see if it’s shifted forward or back from the markings on the rail. If it has, reposition the saddle to the correct position and tighten the bolts on the seatpost clamp. If the squeaking continues, the seatpost could be your problem. Remove the seatpost from the frame and clean it before reapplying grease. If your seatpost is carbon, you’ll need to use a carbon-specific paste instead.
LOOSE BOTTLE CAGE
Symptoms: Out on the road, it can be hard to determine where that loud rattling sound is coming from. One common trouble spot is the bottle cage. Luckily this is an easy fix.
Solution: Check the bolts that attach your cage to the frame to see if one’s come loose. Tighten as necessary, being careful not to over-tighten beyond the manufacturer’s specifications if you’re dealing with carbon parts.
TOO MANY WIRES
Symptoms: A consistent rattle or clicking sound at the front of your bike could be caused by your cables. This is often due to a poor initial setup where excess wire was left at the front end of the bike. During your ride, the cables can click against each other or the frame. It can also occur with internal cable routing, in which case your rattling sound can be even louder.
Solution: If you aren’t comfortable replacing and rerouting your shifter and brake cables, take your bike to your local bike shop (LBS) and let them know the problem.
SHORT VALVE STEMS
Symptoms: If you have deep section rims with a long valve stem, the rattle could be coming from your wheels — particularly if it only occurs when you hit a bump or ride over rougher surfaces.
Solution: For an easy fix, place some electrical tape over the top of the valve stem and secure it to the rim. This will keep it from moving around side-to-side during your ride and cancel out the noise.