That little noise your bike is making isn’t just an annoyance. If you don’t fix the problem, it might lead to expensive damage to your bike – or a crash.
So what can you do? The good news is that in most cases, the noise your bike is making is a symptom of an easily fixed problem. If you don’t do anything, your problem might destroy your cogs, bearings, or derailleur. But with just a few minutes, some lubricant, and some basic tools, you can diagnose the source of the strange sounds your bike is making. Better still, there’s a good chance you can fix the source of the problem.
Want to know more? Here’s a comprehensive rundown of the most common types of bike noises, what causes them, and how you can fix them.
My Bike is making odd noises – where are they coming from?
Before we dive into specifics, let’s go over how to figure out what part of your bike is making noise. The key here is to isolate various parts of your bike and see if you can reproduce the noise.Electric bikes built for everything and priced for everyone. Shop Rad Power Bikes, America's #1 electric bike brand. Get out. Go further. Ride Rad.
As an example, let’s say you hear a weird noise while you’re pedaling. Stand up while you’re riding and see if the noise persists. If it keeps happening, it’s not the seat. If it stops, there’s a good chance that the noise is caused by your saddle as you shift around. Once you’ve eliminated the seat, investigate your pedals, cranks, chainring, and bottom bracket and see if you can narrow down which one is causing the noise.
Don’t forget to check your cables, water bottle mount, and other gear that you’ve got bolted to the bike. These can rattle around or even squeak as you ride. If one of these external bits is causing your noise, you can usually fix the noise with a couple of twists of a screw, a zip-tie, or a bit of tape.
How to Fix Bike Chain Noises
A noisy chain might not be a serious problem now, but it will lead to a serious problem later. Your chain spends its life pulling and tugging at your cogs, chainring, and derailleur. If your chain is dirty, dry, or in the wrong place, it’s going to wear down these components very quickly.
How to fix a Squeaky Chain
If your chain is squeaking, it’s almost certainly in need of a clean and a bit of fresh chain lube. This is a very quick, painless process that should be done fairly regularly to keep your bike in tip-top shape. Ideally, you’ll want to wash your chain with a degreaser, but even a damp cloth and some diluted dish soap will work wonders for removing excess dirt.
Be sure to thoroughly rinse and dry the chain before moving on to the next step. You don’t want to get your degreaser or soap mixed in with your fresh lube.
Once you’ve done that, use a dedicated bike
If you’re lost looking at all of the lube options, we’ve been fans of Muc-Off Dry Lube for a while. It offers a great blend of performance, ease of use, and cost for the more casual cyclist. If you’re super serious about your chain’s health, however, or you have a more expensive drivetrain, you’re not going to beat out an immersive chain wax when it comes to keeping your bike in perfect health.
How to Fix a Clicking Chain
If your chain is clicking, it’s rubbing against part of your bike in a way that it shouldn’t. There are a couple of causes for this, but the most common issue here is that one of your derailleurs isn’t indexed properly. This is a very fancy way of saying that you need to adjust your shifters so that your chain rests directly on each gear rather than resting in between.
Adjusting your shifters is something you can do on your own at home.
We’ve got a full guide to adjusting your shifters here. Take a look at your rear derailleur and make sure it’s aligned correctly (straight up and down on the same plane as your cogs) before you begin this process, as a bent derailleur hangar will throw the whole thing out of whack. If this is the case, you’ll want to fix your derailleur hangar before you touch any of your limit screws or adjusters.
If you need to adjust your shifters frequently, that’s a good sign that your cables might be getting stretched out. Shifter cables are cheap to replace, but the process can be tedious and obnoxious if you’re not an experienced bike mechanic. We recommend calling your local bike shop and asking how much they charge for the task before you dive in and do it yourself.
There are a few other causes for clicking chains that are worth mentioning. You might be “cross-chaining” your bike or using an inside gear on the front with an outside gear at the back or vice-versa. This causes your chain to take an odd angle, which can lead to bumping against your front derailleur cage or other hardware.
In general, it’s not a good idea to use these combinations of gears, so try to get into the habit of adjusting your front gear to match the chain’s position on your rear cogs.
How to Fix Squeaky Bike Brakes
If your brakes are squeaking, one of three things is happening: something is misaligned, there’s gunk in your brakes, or your pads are worn out. A few simple tests can give you a good idea of what’s causing your noise.
First, spin your wheel and carefully watch your brakes. Do your brake pads keep an even distance from your rim or disc as your wheel rotates? This is a pretty good sign that things are aligned correctly. If there’s a visible wobble or your pads look like they’re not adjusted correctly (they’re off to one side or brush against the disc/rim), you’ll want to adjust your brakes.
Next, look at the surface of your brake pads. Look for signs of wear or a loss in pad material. If your pads look worn, replace them. Brake pads are extremely cheap, so you might want to replace old brake pads at this stage regardless.
Finally, take some rubbing alcohol and a cloth and thoroughly clean your rims or discs. In some cases, oils (like skin oils) or other contaminants can wind up on your braking surfaces, which can cause a nasty squeaking noise.
You can find more information about this topic here.
How to Fix Rear-Suspension Pivot Noises
Your bike’s suspension has lots of moving parts. Unlubed pivot points or loose bolts will cause the surfaces of your bike to rub against each other as they move, causing squeaks.
The fix here is simple: tighten the stuff that’s supposed to be tight and lube the stuff that’s supposed to be lubed. If you can, find your bike’s manual and use a torque wrench to tighten everything to the manufacturer’s specs, then dry lube everything that moves.
As you work, try to isolate the part that squeaks and manually move it to check your progress. If you can’t fix it via tightening or lubing, you’ll want to visit your local bike shop for a more experienced opinion.
How to Fix Front-Suspension Noises
How to Fix a Squeaky Bike Suspension
If your front suspension is squeaking, there’s a good chance you simply forgot to unlock your fork. Simply flip your lockout switch to the unlocked position to allow your bike’s shocks their full range of movement.
How to Fix a Clunking Bike Suspension
Forks will often clunk when they’re not adjusted correctly. If your fork is clunking, the first thing you’ll want to do is try to add pressure. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to adjust your fork and set it to an appropriate stiffness to avoid bottoming out.
If this doesn’t work, you’re often looking at a much more complex fix that may involve disassembling your fork. In this case, you’ll probably want to visit your local bike shop for a professional consultation.
How to Fix a Squeaky Bike Saddle
A squeaky bike saddle is almost always the result of your saddle moving when it shouldn’t. Start by tightening up the bolts that hold your saddle in place. Take a hex key (or star torx wrench, if your saddle requires it) and snug up all of the bolts. Then, ride your bike and see if the saddle squeaking continues.
If your saddle keeps squeaking after you’ve tightened up the bolts, you probably want to replace whatever is squeaking. Squeaks are caused by things moving against each other under pressure.
Your saddle shouldn’t move while you’re riding. If it continues to squeak while things are tight, this means that you’ve got a worn-out or defective component, which could lead to an unexpected saddle shift while you’re riding.
How to Fix a Creaky Bike Seat Post
Cleaning your seat post and applying a little bit of lube will quickly fix any noise that your post might be making. Simply pop your post out, clean off any grit and grime, and then apply a very thin coating of grease. You should be good to go!
How to Fix a Clicking Presta Valve Nut
If there’s a mysterious rattling noise coming from your bike’s rim, check your valve nuts. The nut that holds your valve stem out from your rim should be tight, but only finger-tight. If this is your problem, you’ll be able to fix it by simply screwing the nut down by hand.
How to Fix Popping Spokes
While you’ll sometimes hear people say that their bike spokes “popped,” this doesn’t refer to noise as much as it refers to the spokes themselves breaking. If you’ve got a broken spoke, you’ll want to replace it, fast. The spokes in your wheel are balanced against each other in order to keep your wheel true. Remove one of them and your wheel is going to be lopsided, weak, and vulnerable to more damage.
Your local bike shop will be able to replace single spokes at a fair price.
If your spokes are creaking or otherwise making noise as you ride, either your spoke tension is way off or you need new spokes. Again, the best fix here is probably to take your bike to a shop. Just like with a broken spoke, you’ll want to do this quickly to avoid further damage.
How to Fix a Cluncking Cassette Cogs
If your cassette is clunking as you shift, you’ve got one of two problems. One, your cassette isn’t properly tightened, allowing the cogs to move a little bit. Two, your cassette stack is using an incorrect spacer, allowing the cogs to move a little bit.
In both cases, your fix is fairly simple. A properly tightened cassette with the correct spacers shouldn’t clunk. Tighten down your lock ring to the manufacturer’s specifications (this might be a lot tighter than you think) and make sure that you’re using the right spacers to make your cogs fit on your freehub.
The spacing issue mentioned here isn’t usually a thing you’ll encounter unless someone has installed an unusual combination of cogs and freehub body. If you’ve got a used bike and think this might be your issue, consider getting in touch with the previous owner and asking about any aftermarket upgrades they’ve performed.
How to Fix a Creaky/Squeaky Thru Axle or Quick Release
If your thru-axle or quick release is squeaking, a bit of lube will probably solve your problems. You can try applying a few drops of lube externally and see if that fixes the issue. If not, try pulling out your axle, cleaning it, and thoroughly lubing all of the surfaces that see movement. While it’s out, be sure to check the bearings – if the noise is coming from your bearings and not your axle, you’ll want to replace those.
How to Fix a Squeaky Bike Crank
If your bike crank is squeaking, that’s a sign that something is moving when it shouldn’t be. Start by feeling for play and tightening your bolt. Your bolt should be hand-tight, but that doesn’t mean it should be loose. Be sure to also check for other sources of the squeak, like your pedals, chain, and other nearby components.
If tightening up everything near your crank doesn’t fix your squeak, you probably have issues with your bottom bracket. Taking apart your bottom bracket can be a pain and will require specialized tools, so it’s a good idea to at least check in with your local bike shop and see how much they charge before you start attempting a fix on your own.
How to Fix a Squeaky Bike Derailleur
Your derailleur has a couple of pulley wheels that can squeak when they get dry or dirty. If yours are making noise, start by cleaning them off with diluted dish soap or a bike cleaner. Next, apply a small amount of lube to the axle of each wheel. While you’re at it, it’s not a bad idea to lube the other hinges in your rear derailleur.
How to Fix a Rattling Bike Headset
If your headset is rattling, it’s usually just a case of you having a screw loose – literally. To fix this, loosen the screws that hold your handlebars to your headset, then tighten the screw on the top of your headset by hand. Don’t overtighten this, but do make it snug. Next, re-tighten your handlebars most of the way and try turning your wheel from side to side.
If it turns freely and the rattling has stopped (check by engaging your front brake and trying to move the handlebars forward and backward), you’re done! Finish tightening down your handlebars so that the wheel can’t turn on its own, and you’re all set.
If the wheel doesn’t steer freely, loosen your headset screw and try again. If the steering is free, but the rattling persists, try tightening the screw. This process can take some time, so have patience.
If this doesn’t seem to work after several repetitions, you might have bad headset bearings that need replacing. This is more likely to be the case if you’ve been ignoring a loose headset for a while, as that will transfer shock from the road into the bearings without proper compression, causing them to wear out much faster.
How to Fix Creaky Bike Pedals
If your bike’s pedals are creaking, you’ll first want to apply a bit of lube to all the moving surfaces. If that doesn’t work, spin your pedals and try to feel for the health of your bearings. If they feel worn or gritty, you’ll want to replace them.
While diagnosing this issue, if you wear cleats on your bike, be sure to investigate your cleats as well. Loose screws in your shoes can cause a squeak, too. Tighten these down as best you can to eliminate any strange noises from your feet.
How to Fix Creaky Bike Handlebars
If your bike’s handlebars are creaking, you’ll want to tighten them down so they can’t move. Make sure your handlebars are oriented correctly, and then tighten the stem bolts in an X-shaped pattern until they’re quite tight and even.
If creaking persists after you’ve tightened these bolts, you might have a crack in your handlebar. This can be hard to spot with all of the stuff on your handlebars, so consider either taking your handlebars off to inspect them or enlisting the help of your local bike shop.
How to Fix Squeaky Bike Brake Levers and Shift Levers
If your bike makes a squeaking noise as you use your brake levers or shift levers, your cables are rubbing on something as they’re being moved. Add a small amount of lube to the cable, and the problem should go away. To get at your cable, actuate the corresponding lever so that the top of the cable is visible past the housing.
How to Fix a Clicking Bottom Bracket
If your bottom bracket is clicking (or squeaking or grinding), you’ll want to take it apart, clean it, inspect it, and re-lube it. This is a fairly involved process that will require some specialized tools. We recommend getting in touch with your bike shop to see how much they’d charge to service your bottom bracket. In addition to being properly equipped to quickly and easily service your bottom bracket, they’ll also be able to help replace any parts that are worn out, making the entire process quick and easy.