Nothing takes away from a Zen-like ride more than a creaky/noisy bike. However, figuring out where that creaking sound is coming from can be a challenge. In this post we will talk about the top 12 areas that cause creaking in your bike.
To save time, the first step should be to take the bike around the neighborhood and try to determine when the noise happens. Shift your weight on the bike and notice if the noise happens when you are:
Armed with a general idea of when the creaking sound is happening, let’s now cruise through the list of possibilities.
12 Solutions to a Creaky Bike
- Quick release (QR) – This should be the first area to check as it is really common. Make sure the wheel is centered and that the QR is tight. Both can cause the bike to creak. Now might be a good time to pull the skewer out, wipe it clean, and apply a light coat of grease.
- Stem blots – Dry, crusty bolts or dirt under the face plate of your stem can cause creaking. Take all bolts out, clean them, and apply a light layer of grease. Wipe the bar and faceplate clean (don’t apply grease here) and reinstall and torque to the correct spec. Uneven bolt tension can also be a source of creaking.
- Seat rails – If you notice noise only when sitting, there is a good chance that your saddle is the culprit. Unlike stems, where the bolt is usually the guilty party, with seats it is usually contamination between the saddle rails and the clamp. Clean the rails (no grease) and reinstall your seat.
- Headset – Remove the stem and fork from the bike and pull the bearings out of the frame. Take a clean rag and wipe the bearing contact services, the bearings, and reassemble with a light coat of grease.
- Linkage bolts – If your ride is full squish, loose linkage and frame bolts can be a cause of creaking and/or cause some serious damage to your suspension system. Use a torque wrench and snug all linkage bolts to manufacturers specifications.
- Pedals – It is typically assumed (with good reason) that most noise comes from the bottom bracket area. We begin troubleshooting this area with the most overlooked area…pedals. Pull the pedals off, clean the threads of the pedals and cranks, apply a light coat of grease, and reinstall. Don’t be “that guy” that tightens the pedals too much. Pedals just need to be snug there tough guy.
- Cranks – We move to the cranks, which obviously catches a lot of dirt and crime. Depending on the type of cranks you have, you will either want to pull the spindle and clean and grease, or you will want to uninstall from the bottom bracket and clean and grease these contact points.
- Chainring Bolts – Chainring bolts are ofter overlooked in the creak troubleshooting game. Given the amount of stress the chainrings endure, it is a good idea to clean, grease, and torque these bolts as well.
- Bottom bracket – Uninstall the bottom bracket, clean the threads on the frame as well as the threads on the bottom bracket, grease and reinstall. Be sure to also grease the spindle contact area of the inboard portion of external bearings.
- Derailleur hanger – Most bike manufacturers install hangers without any grease, so this can be a sneaky area for noise. As with everything else, uninstall, clean, and grease.
- Cassette – Grab your cassette with your hands and see if you can rock the cassette at all. If you feel any play, it is time to take apart, clean the hub, grease, and reinstall/torque.
- Spokes – Spoke tension can be a cause of creaking. As spokes loosen up (especially with wheels that aren’t hand built) they can cause your bike to creak. Grab and squeeze all of the spokes, near the hub, and if you notice any loose, it is time to tighten them up or to take the wheel to your local bike shop and have them tru the wheel for you.
If none of the above work, throw the bike out and get a better one. You wanted a better bike anyway. Cheers.