How to Fix Bike Noises

How to Fix Bike Noises

Bike noises such as creaks, squeaks, and clicks are more than just irritating when riding your bike: they may indicate a serious problem that, if left unattended, could result in injury and/or damage.

Noises can sometimes be difficult to locate. Identify where you think the noise is coming from, and then take steps to eliminate it.

To diagnose and repair the most common bike noises, you need to have a basic understanding of bike parts and how they work. You should take your bike to your local shop if you're not sure how to fix something.

How to Fix Bike Chain Noises

How to fix a Squeaky Chain

Lubrication is necessary for a squeaky chain. Place the bike on a stand or lean it against a wall with the drivetrain facing you so that the pedals can spin freely. Put a drop of lube on each chain link as you pedal backwards with your hand. Keep pedaling backwards to work the lube in.

Before your next ride, wipe off any excess lube with a clean rag and pedal backwards.

You should replace your chain if it is severely rusted or has stiff links.

How to Fix a Clicking Chain

When your chain jumps up or down a gear on the back cassette, you hear a clicking noise. You can typically fix this by adjusting the tension of the cable that runs from your shifter to your rear derailleur. The barrel adjusters may be located on the shifters, cables, or near the rear derailleur, depending on the style of your bike. Use them to adjust cable tension.

Rotate the barrel adjusters 14 turns at a time. If the chain seems to want to fall into a smaller cog, turn the adjusters clockwise. If the chain will not shift up to the larger cog, turn the barrel adjuster counter-clockwise.

You should see a bike technician if the barrel adjuster hasn't solved the problem after you've turned it more than a full turn. Derailleur hangers can bend and cause clicking noises.

How to Fix Squeaky Bike Brakes

Squeaking brakes are one of the few squeaks you can't fix with lube. Don't lube your brakes.

First, check if your wheel is properly attached:Make sure your wheel is properly seated in the dropout of your front fork or rear part of your frame before attempting to silence a squeak. If the wheel is not seated properly, it will be off-kilter and may rub against a brake pad or part of the frame.

Next, check if your wheel is true:If your wheel is not true (not wobbling side to side), put your bike in a stand or lift the squeaky wheel off the ground and spin it.

Watch the brake pads and the rim if you have rim brakes. Your wheel needs truing if there is any wobble or inconsistent rubbing between the rim and brake pads.

Watch the brake pads and rotor if you have disc brakes. If you see wobbling and rubbing, either your wheel needs truing or your rotor may be bent.

Bring your bike to the shop if your wheel needs truing or your rotor is bent. Once your wheel is true, you can proceed with the next step.

Check for dirt and wear: Using rubbing alcohol or a cleaner designed specifically for brakes may help you clean your brake pads and rim or rotor. Sand the pads and rotor lightly with sandpaper (with disc brakes, it would be easier if the pads were removed from the calipers first). 

Then, check that your brake pads haven’t worn down too much. In order for the metal piece that holds the pads not to touch your rim or rotor, there needs to be enough padding.

In most cases, rim brake pads are marked to indicate when they need to be replaced.

Examine disc brake pads by removing the wheel and looking at the space where the rotor spins, or by removing the pads themselves. In general, disc brake pads should be replaced if the pad thickness, including the metal holder, is less than 3mm. Don't squeeze the brake lever when the wheel is off.

Check the alignment of your rim brake pads:  When you brake, if your rim brake pads are hitting the rim flat, they will squeak. With a hex wrench, adjust them so that the front of each pad contacts the rim slightly before the rear. This is known as toeing in the pads.

You should take your bike to a shop if your brake pads are off-center, whether you have disc brakes or rim brakes. When brakes are off-center, one side of the brakes makes contact with the rotor or rim before the other, resulting in poor braking.

How to Fix Rear-Suspension Pivot Noises

A mountain bike's rear suspension has multiple pivot points that can squeak if they're loose or dry, or if the bearings need to be replaced.

Check that the pivot bolts are tight using the appropriate size hex wrench. Torque wrenches should be used to tighten pivot bolts according to the bike manufacturer's specifications.

Lubricate the joint between the pivot and the frame. You can check for play by wiggling the internal piece of the pivot. If lube and tightening don't fix the squeak, take your bike to a mechanic.

How to Fix Front-Suspension Noises

How to Fix a Squeaky Bike Suspension

Your front shock may be locked out when you're riding technical terrain if it's squeaking. Squeaking can result from this. Open it up on technical terrain to stop the noise.

How to Fix a Clunking Bike Suspension

If your front shock is clunking, you may need to add pressure. See our blog post for detailed instructions.

If these solutions do not work, or if your shock is leaking a lot of oil, take your bike to the shop.

How to Fix a Squeaky Bike Saddle

When your saddle squeaks, the saddle clamp that attaches to the rails of your saddle needs to be tightened. Find out how your saddle is attached—with one or two bolts on the fore and/or aft sides of the post or on one or both sides.

Tighten the bolt or bolts with a hex wrench or star-shaped torx wrench, whichever is compatible with your saddle bolt(s).

Confirm that the saddle clamp is within the fore-and-aft limits of the seat. The rails of most saddles show maximum forward and rear positions.

You should see a bike mechanic if your saddle is tight but tips forward or backward, or if it continues to squeak. You may need to replace your saddle if your saddle clamp is worn or defective.

How to Fix a Creaky Bike Seat Post

If the creak is coming from your seat post, not your saddle, it probably needs lube. Remove the aluminum seat post by loosening the bolt at the collar, then wipe off any grease or grit. Put the post back in your bike frame after applying a light coating of paste grease with your finger. If your post is carbon, use carbon fiber paste instead of grease.

How to Fix a Squeaky Bike Crank

Squeaky cranks are usually caused by a loose bolt. You can check for play in your cranks by pulling on one side and wriggling it. Check that the crank bolts are tight using a hex wrench-bolts should be hand-tight.
Have the bike serviced at a shop if tightening the bolt doesn't stop the squeak, or if you have play when the bolts are tight.

How to Fix a Squeaky Bike Derailleur

Squeaky rear derailleurs can be caused by dry pulley wheels. First, clean them with a pre-moistened bike-specific cleaning towel or diluted citrus cleaner and a rag and/or cleaning brush. Apply lube to the axis of each pulley wheel, then spin the pedals to work the lube in. Place a drop of lube on the hinges of the front and/or rear derailleurs to prevent them from binding.

How to Fix a Rattling Bike Headset

Over time, bolts on the head can loosen, resulting in wobbly steering and rattling noises. You can check for a loose headset by placing your bike on the ground, engaging the front brake, and rocking it from front to back. You may have a loose headset if you hear a clunking.

Step 1: With a hex wrench, loosen the two horizontal pinch bolts on the stem.

Step 2:Tighten the headset cap bolt gently. When you tighten it too much, you'll feel resistance when you turn your handlebars side to side and may hear a squeaking sound when you ride. Retighten the side bolts once you have the correct tension.

Once the bike is on the ground, sandwich your front wheel between your legs and aggressively turn the handlebars side to side. The side bolts need to be re-loosened and the center bolt needs to be re-tightened if they move independently of the wheel.

Clunking can be caused by bushings in the suspension rather than a loose headset in bikes with front suspension. If your bike is still clunking after following the steps above, take it to a qualified bike technician for a thorough inspection.

How to Fix Creaky Bike Pedals

Apply lube to the pedal springs and the joint in the spindle. Wipe off any excess lube. Your local bike shop may be able to service your bearings if your pedals are grinding or stiff.

Check to see if the cleats on your bike shoes are tight if lubricating the pedal springs doesn't eliminate the creaking. A loose cleat can cause creaking.

How to Fix Creaky Bike Handlebars

If your handlebar has any up and down play or creaking, you should tighten your stem bolts. Using a hex wrench, tighten the four bolts at the center of your handlebar where it attaches to the stem while holding the front wheel between your legs. The top, bottom, and left and right bolts should all be tightened roughly evenly.
Have your bike checked out by a qualified bike technician if this solution does not eliminate the creak. The creaking may be caused by a crack.

How to Fix Squeaky Bike Brake Levers and Shift Levers

If your shift or brake levers are squeaking, add a drop of lube to the cable, which is accessible when the brake lever is engaged, or when the shift lever is pressed.

How to Fix Rattling Bolts

There are many bolts on a bike, and any one of them can come loose and rattle as you ride. If you hear rattling, try to locate the source and tighten all bolts in that area. Check the bolts that attach your bottle cage to your bike frame. A loose cage can cause a lot of noise.

General Bike Maintenance Advice

  • A qualified bike mechanic can address clicks, creaks, and squeaks before they become a problem.
  • Keeping your bike clean and well lubricated will minimize wear and tear as well as squeaks and creaks. For more information, read our articles, Basic Bike Maintenance and How to Clean a Bike.
  • Keep a tube or tub of paste grease in your tool box, as well as a bottle of liquid lube suitable for the conditions where you ride. Use bike-specific cleaners and lubes.
  • Torque wrenches are the only way to make sure all the bolts on your bike are tightened to manufacturers' specifications. The tightness of bolts is often noted right next to them, whether they're on your rotor or your stem. As you tighten the bolt, the wrench will release its pressure when the proper tightness is reached. A torque wrench is not the same as a torx wrench, which is a star-shaped bit wrench.

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