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How to Fix Bike Creaks & Noises

Ah, the soundtrack of a good mountain bike ride: quiet woodland noises, your tires tearing through fresh dirt, the buzz of your freehub as you coast through downhills, and the occasional breathy pant as you crank up the climbs. But what’s that annoying creak, and where on your bike is it coming from? More often than not, these creaks, clicks, groans, pops, and ticks on your bike aren’t anything serious, but they sure are annoying. The first step to fixing noises on your bike, like squeaky brakes or clunky pedaling, is to pinpoint the source. From there, simply applying some lubricant, or tightening some bolts can take care of the problem, other times some more maintenance might be required. Jump in with us and we’ll help you turn your creaky bike into a smooth and silent machine!

How to Pinpoint Bike Noises & Creaks?

The first (and often hardest) part of quieting your bike down is figuring out where noises are coming from. So we’ve broken down the most common offenders, and how to figure out which one is the problem. Unfortunately, it can be hard to locate the exact source of bike noises, so fixing creaks is more a process of elimination. While you may want to jump right in and start tweaking things, it's best to work through the different areas of your bike systematically, rather than playing whack-a-mole.

If your bike is creaking or making other noises, you should ask yourself this progression of questions:

Find a quiet area to ride around in, and try to figure out when the creak is happening, pedal hard while sitting down, pedal hard while standing up. Squish through the suspension without pedaling, do a wheelie and listen as the front wheel comes back down, try different gears. Try to isolate what you’re doing when the bike makes the noise. This will help you figure out where the noise is coming from. Then check the solutions we outline below.

How to fix creaky bike pedals, cranks, and bottom bracket

How to Fix Noises in Your Bike's Drivetrain, Bottom Bracket, Cranks & Pedals

If your bike only creaks or makes noises when you’re pedaling, there’s a good chance it’s somewhere in your drivetrain. The prime offender is usually your bottom bracket. If your bike only creaks while you’re putting down power through the pedals, check to make sure your bottom bracket is tight and greased. You will need a special tool to remove your bottom bracket. Look up the type of bottom bracket your bike has in order to get the correct tool.

Also, check to make sure your rear axle is snug, and your derailleur is securely bolted to the dropout. If the creak persists, check to make sure your cassette is not loose on the freehub, and clean and lube your chain. Those are the main areas you’ll find noises in your drivetrain.

An often overlooked source of noise is your pedals. Try spinning them without turning the cranks. Do they spin freely without noise? Shake them, is there any play side to side, or up and down? If they are binding, making noise, or wiggling at all, the bushings or bearings in them may need to be cleaned or replaced. Most good pedals have rebuild kits available to help with this. If you determine that the noise is coming from the pedal or crank area, and your bushings appear fine, try taking off your pedals, cleaning the threads, applying new grease, and then putting them back on the bike.

Finally, if none of that helps, it could be your freehub. Some freehubs wear out fast, and start popping and creaking under any sort of weight. The splines wear out and slip. Remove your cassette and pop off the freehub. Look inside it, are there metal shavings? Is there enough grease? Do things look worn? If they do, you may need a new freehub.

How to Fix a Clicking Bike Chain

If your chain seems to be clicking and feels like it’s skipping a little bit, it could be a problem with your derailleur’s adjustments. Likewise, a derailleur issue may present as the bike making noises in the highest or lowest gear. Try tightening the barrel adjuster a half turn at the shifter, and check out our guide to setting up your derailleur to troubleshoot further. When making changes to the barrel adjuster only make small changes, and try pedaling to see if you made the problem better or worse before you change more.

How to Fix Bike Creaks & Noises From Your Saddle

If your bike only makes noises while you’re sitting on the saddle, there’s a really good chance that the noise is coming from your seat rails, or your seat tube. The connection between your seat post and the frame’s seat tube is a prime candidate for ugly noises. Luckily, it’s an easy fix. Pull your seat post out of the frame, wipe it down, and wipe down the inside of the seat tube. If you’re riding an aluminum or steel frame, put a light coating of grease around the inside of the seat post collar, and slip your post back in, making sure to torque it to whatever the manufacturer recommends. If you have a carbon frame, do the same thing with carbon grip paste. Doing this eliminates most seat creaks.

If that doesn’t make a difference, it could be your seat rails. Remove your saddle (making sure to note the position it was in before) and clean and lightly grease those rails, and the clamp. Make sure both bolts on the clamp are torqued correctly, and there’s no weird flex or play in the saddle when you weight it. Taking care of the rails, and the seat tube should eliminate most creaks that only happen when you’re seated.

How to fix bike suspension noises

How to Fix Bike Suspension Noises

If you have a full suspension bike, it’s important to keep the bearings and bushings in the rear linkage running smoothly. If you don’t they can seize and cause noises, clunking, and other issues. To check your bearings or bushings, remove your shock from the bike and cycle the linkage by hand. If this is hard to do, or makes any noises, you need to clean and check your bearings.

If you feel comfortable with it, you can take apart the rear linkage, clean all the bearings, regrease them, and make sure they are turning smoothly. If they are binding at all, they may need to be replaced. Or you can have a shop check your linkage. Often the seals on bearings wear out and dirt or dust gets in, making them wear out faster and make noise. Bearing maintenance should happen at least one per year.

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How to fix bike headset and handlebar noises

How to Fix Bike Headset and Handlebar Noises

If your bike only makes noise when you lift and then weight the front tire, your headset is a prime candidate. To check your headset, stand over your bike, holding both brakes. With the brakes held, gently try to move the bike back and forward. If you feel the bike jiggling (not from the suspension or tires) or experience a clicking feeling, your headset is loose. To tighten your headset, loosen the bolts on your stem, tighten your topcap, and re-tighten your stem.If that doesn’t eliminate the noise, you may need to take your headset apart, clean, and re-grease it.

How to fix creaky bike wheels

How to Fix Bike Noises that Are Coming From the Wheels

Occasionally, you can have issues with your hubs that make things noisy. Usually they originate with the cassette being loose, but if that’s not the issue, check that your axles are torqued correctly, and that your wheels spin smoothly, if they grind or make noises, you could need to replace some bearings.

The spokes of your wheels can also make unsavory noises. Spin the wheel around, checking each of your spokes by hand, loose spokes and out-of-true wheels can sometimes make loud noises. It’s difficult to true a wheel at home, so if your bike spokes are making noises, you might want to bring your bike into a shop.

How to Fix Squeaky or Noisy Bike Brakes

Sometimes brakes can cause weird noises, even when you’re not using them. Or if they’re loud when you are using them, you might just need some new brake pads. Cleaning your brake rotors, for bikes with disc brakes, is a good first step. Use isopropyl alcohol for this job. If your brakes are still making noises, you probably need to replace your brake pads.

If the noises or squeaks in your bike brakes are not coming from your pads, first, check to make sure your rotors are bolted on tightly, a loose rotor will make some weird noises. Then check and make sure you’ve got plenty of brake pad left. Finally, make sure your callipers are tight and centered. You can recenter them by loosening both bolts that hold them to the bike, and then spinning the wheel fast. Grab the brake lever and lock the brake, have a friend hold it locked while you tighten the bolts back down. This will re-center the calliper over the rotor.

If you still have some noise as the rotor spins, even after re-centering the caliper, you may have a bent rotor. If it’s just a little bent it’s easy to gently tweak it by hand, if it’s really bent or warped, you’ll need a new rotor.

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