Bike Maintenance 101: Fixing annoying noises

In our previous issues of Bike Maintenance 101, we covered What Not To Do with your bike, and subsequently How to Clean Your Bike.

In What Not To Do, we showed you the major no-nos when it comes to tweaking with your bike, in the absence of a professional bike mechanic. 

Meanwhile How to Clean Your Bike was a basic guide to what you should be doing to clean your bike at home, so you don't need to bring it into the shop and pay someone to do it for you. 

But you’ve now got your bike clean and shiny as if it were new, you may have discovered some infuriating creaks and squeaks. The following 10 steps have essential advice to help keep your bike running smoothly and quietly. Silence is golden...

CRANK BOLTS

A common cause of creaking is loose crank bolts, particularly on square taper and splined axles. Two- piece-style external bottom bracket cranks, such as Shimano’s Hollowtech II, can creak if pinch bolts are loose. Remove and clean the crank bolts. Check if the bottom bracket has developed bearing play; if so, replace it. Check cranks with separate spiders for tightness because loose spiders will creak.

Bike Maintenance 101: Fixing annoying noises

SHOE CLEATS

Clipless pedal systems rely on the secure interface between the shoe cleat and the pedal itself; sometimes a cleat can work loose and cause noise. Use grease or Threadlock on the bolts and tighten them fully. You might find that you’ve also either worn the cleat out or the outer/midsole of the shoe to a point where noise is generated with each stroke. Go shopping for fresh ones.

Bike Maintenance 101: Fixing annoying noises

PEDALS

Other causes of noise can include loose/improperly adjusted pedal bearings, and worn bearings. Spinning the pedals and getting a crunchy feeling spindle will diagnose a bearing problem. Adjust/ replace the bearings as necessary and/or give the pedal a thorough service. Lubing the pedal mechanism and its springs can help quieten things down too.

Bike Maintenance 101: Fixing annoying noises

FRAME FITTINGS

A rattle can simply be loose frame bolts or fitments. Check all bolts are tight, again, Threadlock could come in handy. If cables are rattling excessively, consider using cable donuts (available loose from most bike shops). Unthread the cable inner from the outer, thread on as many donuts as necessary, rethread the remainder through the outer, then cinch up and readjust the mechs/brakes.

Bike Maintenance 101: Fixing annoying noises

STIFF CHAIN

Isolate the stiff link and move to the middle of the bottom chain run. With the chain in both hands, flex the chain to work the link loose. Or, place the link in a chain tool and run the chain tool pin up to the tight pin, turn the handle one-eighth to one- quarter of a turn clockwise to press on the rivet to spread the chain. Remove the tool and check the link. Repeat until it’s no longer stiff.

Bike Maintenance 101: Fixing annoying noises

SEATPOST & SADDLE

A creak when pedalling hard in the saddle is often due to the saddle rails not being clamped tightly enough in the seatpost clamp. Securing them should sort this out. If they’re torqued correctly and there is still creaking, it may be that the seat clamp binder (either a bolt or quick release) may need lubing to prevent dry creaking, tightening up slightly, or both.

Bike Maintenance 101: Fixing annoying noises

CLIPPING CHAIN

In most cases resolving this is a case of adjusting the shifter barrel adjusters: shift into the largest chainring and the smallest rear sprocket, then shift one gear at a time. If it doesn’t shift there is insufficient cable tension (add a quarter turn at the shifter barrel adjuster). If it jumps a gear, there’s too much tension (back off the adjuster). When it shifts as it should and is silent, it’s set up.

Bike Maintenance 101: Fixing annoying noises

SLAP-SLAP-SLAP!

Chain slap is noisy and damages the bike as it chips the chainstay’s paint. To keep thing smooth and to protect your frame, either buy a neoprene chainstay protector or make one from an old inner tube: cut it into a section about half as long again as the chainstay section you need to protect, cut it along its length, then wrap it along the chainstay. Secure with small zip ties and/or electrical insulation tape.

Bike Maintenance 101: Fixing annoying noises

STEM & HANDLEBARS

A loose stem or bar can creak, particularly if the bolts lack greased threads as they may not tighten properly. Remove, clean them (if necessary) then grease the threads, and re-secure. Do the bolts up bit by bit, rotating around each of the bolts in turn – don’t just cinch one up to torque and then the other. Don’t over tighten clamping bolts, especially important when fitting carbon bars.

Bike Maintenance 101: Fixing annoying noises

HEADSET

If there’s play in the headset undo the stem steerer clamp and tighten the headset bearing preload cap with an Allen key. If there’s still play the bearings could be shot, or the headset cups could be fitted incorrectly. If the latter is the case, check the head- tube isn’t ovalised. If the head-tube’s true, remove the headset cups using a headset cup removal tool, then grease and refit the cups with a headset press.

Bike Maintenance 101: Fixing annoying noises