This post deals with a topic that creates much headache to cyclists and mechanics. “My bicycle makes strange sounds”. So: what to do when a bike starts creaking, scratching, clicking, squealing or something similar?
In my experience, it’s necessary to first determine the source of the strange sounds (obviously). Once the source is pinpointed, solution is usually obvious – usually involves tightening something, lubricating, adding mounting (anti-seize) paste to a connection/bolt etc. But how to find out what’s making the noise? That is sometimes not as easy as it sounds (pun intended). Here I’ll explain the system I use when some noise seems very mysterious and source can’t be figured out.
TLDR: problems with “bicycle making strange sounds” are sometimes trivial, while sometimes frustrating. I tried to systematically process this subject, hoping it will help someone. All the details are in this article.
- Connected parts – introduction
- When does the sound occur and what does it sound like?
2.1. Sound occurs without pedalling, on a flat, good road
2.2. Sound occurs only on rough terrain
2.3. Sound occurs with any kind of pedalling
2.4. Sound occurs only when pedalling with force
2.5. One scenario at a time
- Testing without riding
- Testing by riding
- When all else fails
1. Connected parts – introduction
Fact: hollow bicycle frame tubes (whichever material it was made of) are perfect for transmitting sound! This needs to be stressed. A noise from the rear end of the bicycle can seem to be coming from the bottom bracket, or the front end when riding, because the tubes can transmit the sound all too well.
Bearing the afore mentioned in mind, now I’ll list the bicycle “part sets” in terms of noise making – which I use for eliminating probable sound causes one by one:
- Wheels (front and rear separately) – spokes can make pinging sounds, tyres can rub the frame, bearings can be damaged and noisy.
- Brake pads can rub on the rim, or discs, making rubbing, or squeaking sounds.
- Fork – bad, or misadjusted headset bearings can create creaking, or clunking noises.
- Shock absorbers, whether on the forks, rear wheel, or seatpost must be clean and lubricated, or they will squeak.
- Stem and bars – if they aren’t tightened properly, or if no mounting paste was used, they can produce crunching noises.
- Brake and shift levers (as well as brake calipers) can get loose and make all sorts of noises – especially on bumpy roads.
- Cables and housings can scratch and hit the frame, especially when turning bars, or riding on rough terrain.
- Seatpost can make creaking noises, especially when pedalling hard. Reason for that can be that it’s too short, too long, too narrow (improper size for the frame), or it just needs a bit of mounting paste coating before re-insertion.
- Saddle can be not tightened enough to the seatpost and make creaking sounds. Or the top part of the saddle can get a bit loose