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Technical FAQ: Mystery creaking solutions

  • By Lennard Zinn
  • Published Aug. 25, 2009
  • Updated Oct. 8, 2010 at 5:19 PM EDT

Feedback about creaking cranks

Dear Lennard,
You offered good crank noise advice, but my top two in order are:

  1. Rear axle/dropout noise: therefore remove rear wheel, clean the dropouts and the axle area, lube, replace.
  2. Pedal threads: therefore remove pedals, lube, replace. The noise does seem to emanate from the crank area. I spent years figuring this out.

-Alan

Dear Lennard,
Re: the recent question about creaks and noises: I have one rear wheel that will creak like crazy if the skewer isn’t tight enough. It sounds like a bottom bracket noise but there is just enough movement in the vertical dropout with each stroke to drive me crazy until I fix it. The wheel stays put but makes a lot of noise. Also, I’ve found that some Asian QR skewers are not well lubed when delivered. A little WD-40 on the cam and bearing of the lever side will do wonders for noise free operation.
-Larry

Dear Lennard,
I had a somewhat similar occurrence on my Roubaix SL. One time the bottom bracket bearings were loose and had play, replaced ‘em. At another point it was a crack in my rim, which would flex and pop and it was hard to localize, replaced ‘em. Another time was when the chain would grip the lower pulley wheel on the rear derailleur and cause a click/tap as it came free and the rear cage sprung back. Maybe look for a tight/pinched link. One other area for the guy to check and oil would be both the spoke nipples and the inner spoke attachment points on the rear hub. Don’t get sloppy on the rim with oil as braking could be compromised.
-George

Dear Lennard,
I have one more suggestion for the annoying click emanating from the bottom bracket to add to the answer that Nic Sims provided. I ride a Specialized Roubaix Pro, and after checking all the same that Nic suggested except the derailleur hanger, I decided to check my pedals. They were the only other revolving at the same rate as the cranks and my ‘click’ occurred on every revolution of the crank.

The first obvious thing for me to check were the bearings; but they are smooth as silk, so I was going crazy. I figured it had to be the bike … somewhere. I happened to look at the bottom of my shoe, only to see a cleat bolt head that looked longer than the others. Oops, it was not loose, but it wasn’t tight either, so I tightened the bolt (cleat) and voila, the noise was gone. The cleat wasn’t moving laterally because the other two bolts were tight, but it was bending and apparently ‘snapping’ back into place each time around.
-Ralph

Dear Lennard,
I am a mechanic at a Specialized concept store and we have come across this noise problem also. The noise IS coming from the bottom bracket bearings. The fix (per Specialized warranty section) is to remove crankset and bearings.

Clean the bearings outer surface and the bottom bracket sleeve with alcohol. Then apply slip fit retaining compound (Loctite Retaining Compound 638 Green Slip Fit) to the inside surface where the bearings are pressed in. Reassemble and let sit for 24 hour curing. We’ve done a half dozen bikes, including mine, in the last month.
Brian

Dear Lennard,
I would like to make a small addition to the noise issue being experienced by Geoff on the Specialized, even though this may not be the cause. I consider myself quite bike savvy, but it stumped me for a long time.

My girlfriend had mysterious noise emanating from the drivetrain of her Felt F4. It took us about 300Km on several rides to determine the cause. The lock ring on the cassette was not tight and the cassette rings were ‘dinging’ against one another.

It’s a simple fix, but one that’s hard to pinpoint.
-Tyler

Dear Lennard,
Have the person check his cleats on his shoes. If he has a shoe with two bolt mount plates in the shoe, but uses say something like Look pedals (three bolt), then the plates can break loose and click with every pedal stroke as they move back and forth in the track in the shoe. It will start and stop depending on the pressure on the plate. It will drive you nuts! I use silicone to glue the cleat mount plates in place and the clicking goes away.
-Brent

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Lennard Zinn

Lennard Zinn

Our longtime technical writer joined VeloNews in 1987. He is also a framebuilder, a former U.S. National Team rider, and author of many bicycle books, including Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance and Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance, as well as Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes and Zinn's Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in physics from Colorado College. Readers can send brief technical questions to Ask LZ.

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