A persistent squeak, creek or click can be a torturous experience for a cyclist. All bikes suffer from them, from time to time and they are a good wake up call that something isn’t quite right.
Today, I’ll be sharing part of the maintenance section of the new London Cyclist Handbook. Whilst there are cyclists out there that are really good with bike maintenance, there are many more that find it a bit fiddly and a bit of a pain. The “Lazy Cyclists Guide to Bicycle Maintenance” section is written with the latter in mind. It’ll share some great tips for making bicycle maintenance painless, as well as guide you through the most common repairs.
Anyway – enough with the self promoting and on to solving annoying squeaks..
Bike noises will generally fall in to two categories.
Creaks and ticking noises are caused as two surfaces, which haven’t been cleaned and lubricated in a while, come in contact with each other.
Deeper clunking and more worrying noises indicate a bigger problem. Often, this can be traced back to the bearings. They are either worn out or they require fresh lubrication.
Whichever category the noise falls into, one thing is clear: When you take your bike to the mechanic to demonstrate the problem, the noise will disappear.
So, let’s track these illusive noises down..
Pedalling related noises can sometimes be traced back to the saddle. The slight rocking movement as you move your bodyweight side to side, can create an irritating noise. You should note the position of your saddle on the rails and then loosen it, clean it and apply a small amount of lubricant along the contact points.
This is one of the components that should be regularly cleaned and lubricated. Pull the seatpost out of the bike frame, clean it thoroughly using bike degreaser both inside and out and then re-apply quality grease.
This can also sometimes be the source of problems. Try doing some detective work. When the creak appears doesn’t it continue if you move off your saddle and rest your weight on your pedals?
The seatpost clamp should be a tight fit. Quick release seatposts are more prone to problems. For most London cyclists, replacing them with bolt seatpost clamps not only removes creaking issues, but it also makes life harder for thieves.
This is a little more complicated to remove, clean, re-grease and tighten. Of course, it is sods law that many bike squeaks can be traced back to here. Either get a bike shop to take a look at it, or consult with a bike maintenance manual.
Loosen the pedals one at a time. Note that each side has different threading. A counter clockwise turn on the right pedal will loosen it. Meanwhile, a clockwise turn is needed on the left pedal.
With the pedals removed, clean them and apply a thin coat of grease to the threads. You should also add grease to the crank arm threads.
When you are re-installing them, on the correct side, remember to firmly tighten.
If you are using cleats then these too should be cleaned and greased.
If your chain is squeaking as it moves around, then it needs cleaning and oiling. Use degreaser to thoroughly clean the chain, allow it to dry and then apply either a wet or dry lubricant. If after a clean you can see the chain is rusted then replace it.
If when you apply the brakes you hear a squealing sound, then you should clean your brake pads and rims.
You should also check the surface of the pads. A bit of sandpaper can help smooth up rough surfaces, but if they are worn too far, then it’s inexpensive to replace them and you’ll save yourself a costly wheel replacement.
V-brakes in particular can sometimes benefit from being toed in. This is where the front of the pad meets the rim before the back. Consider tweaking this if you are hearing squealing as you brake.
If you are getting rattling noises while your wheels are turning, then check for loose spokes and nuts. Clean and apply a small amount of lubricant to spoke nipples and eyelets.
Remove the skewer, wipe it clean and apply grease.
If problems persist then it may be the hub bearings. Consult a bike shop.
Over time these can dry out and can cause noises as a result. Remove them, clean them thoroughly and put them back together, remembering to add grease.
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.