With this Quick Question series we will present fast fixes and collect comments from seasoned riders around specific D.I.Y. mountain bike repairs. While much of this trailside triage is covered in our repair articles and videos, this is a space for longtime riders and readers in the Singletracks community to share their knowledge. Please type your related experiences and advice in the comments below. Do you have a quick question? 🤔 Email [email protected]
Roughly a decade ago I was climbing behind my friend Tony Pereira when the saddle-clamping bolts in his Thomson dropper post started to creak loudly. We were pedaling up toward Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood for some classy party laps between the huckleberries on Timberline to Town trail. Tony had a pocket speaker cranked, so he didn’t hear the creaking right away, but when he noticed it he stopped angrily to find the source. He harbors enough animus for creaky bikes that he carries a thin lube in his pack to silence them, and at the time he would only ride hardtails to limit the need for that little lube tube.
Creaking bikes can ruin a ride for some folks, even if the cacophony is resonating from someone else’s frame. Aside from plugging your ears or walking climbs and only riding on descents to drown out the sound, there is no simple fix for a case of the creaks. There’s also no way to generically diagnose them. No matter where the noise originates there will be a host of possible parts to check, clean, lube, and tighten before silence can be restored.
How to silence squeaks and creaks is one of the most common reader tech questions and one that’s almost impossible to answer. For this query more than any other, we want to hear reader’s stories and experiences with quieting bikes. By the power of your uniquely creaky experiences combined, we should all be able to solve the noisy puzzle. I’ll kick it off with a tale of my own recent squeak-hunt that saw most of the bike torn down before I realized that the obnoxious chirping had a laughably simple source.
Squeaks and creaks come from loose, under-lubed, worn, and/or dirty moving parts. The fastest way to shut them up is sometimes to simply check all of the fasteners and make sure they’re properly tight. If you think the noise could be from a suspension pivot, try compressing the suspension by pushing directly on the frame to see if you can reproduce the sound. Then, separately push on the bike via the saddle. Seat posts and saddle rails are common culprits, so checking them independently can help limit variables. You can also let the air out of the shock or remove the coil spring and compress the suspension with the rear wheel removed to see if the issue is in the hub or the linkage.
For the front end, the number of possible noise makers may seem smaller, but it’s really not. The fork crown-steerer could be loose, the bushings could be warn, or the noise might originate in the headset, the axle, the handlebar clamp, or the grip clamps.
If the clicks are coming from your drivetrain, you’re in luck. Sorta. It’s a rare day when someone’s drivetrain wouldn’t benefit from a thorough cleaning, lube service, and adjustment. If you narrow the problem down to the transmission it’s likely the perfect opportunity to remove everything and give it a thorough bath.
My most recent creaking clicks could be felt in the pedals, and it only happened while actively pedaling, so I figured it was coming from the rear half of the bike. The linkage was silent throughout its travel, but sometimes it takes a specific force to make things creak. One that can’t be reproduced in the bike stand. Folks around me said that it seemed to originate in the hub area more than the BB, so that’s where the hunt commenced.
I removed and reinstalled the derailleur hanger with fresh Loctite, re-greased the skewer, and then cleaned and regreased the Horst pivots. The smaller pivot bearings at the rear of the bike tend to wear quickly, but these still felt smooth. That work didn’t do the trick so I took the hub apart for a full service, still to no avail. Next, I swapped the BB and chainring, as both were due for a refresh, and then cleaned and re-greased all of the drivetrain bits. Still that noise persisted. My seat post is held inside a shim, and I thought maybe the creaking was traveling down the frame to my feet so I pulled the post for a full service. Nada.
I was testing a pile of clipless pedals at the time, and when I threw on a fresh set the noise ceased. While I feel silly for not checking the pedals first, the process of finding the noise meant that my bike got a far better springtime service than it usually would. Maybe creaks can be helpful in some ways?