With this series of quick questions, we’ll feature quick fixes and collect feedback from seasoned riders on specific DIY mountain bike repairs. While much of this trackside yardage is covered in our repair articles and videos, it is a space for longtime riders and readers of the Singletracks community to share their knowledge. Please enter your experiences and related tips in the comments below. Do you have a quick question? Email [email protected]
About a decade ago, I was climbing behind my friend Tony Pereira when the saddle clamp bolts on his Thomson seat post started to squeal loudly. We cycled to Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood for a few chic party rides among the blueberries on the Timberline to Town Trail. Tony had a pocket speaker activated, so he didn’t hear the crackle right away, but when he noticed it, he angrily stopped to find the source. He’s got enough animosity for squeaky bikes that he carries a thin lube in his bag to silence them, and back then he only rode hardtails to limit the need for that little tube of lube.
Squeaky bikes can ruin a ride for some people, even if the cacophony echoes from someone else’s frame. Aside from plugging your ears or walking uphill and only going downhill to muffle the sound, there is no easy fix for a cracking case. There is also no way to generically diagnose them. Whatever the source of the noise, there will be a multitude of possible parts to check, clean, lubricate and tighten before silence can be restored.
How to silence squeaks and crackles is one of the most common technical questions readers get and one that is almost impossible to answer. For this query more than any other, we want to hear the stories and experiences of readers with silent bikes. With the power of your unique and squeaky experiences combined, we should all be able to solve the noisy puzzle. I’ll start with a story from my own recent squeal hunt that saw most of the bike wrecked before realizing the obnoxious chirping had a ridiculously simple source.
Squeaks and crackles are caused by loose, under-lubricated, worn and / or dirty moving parts. Sometimes the quickest way to silence them is to just check all the fasteners and make sure they are tight. If you think the sound might be coming from a suspension pivot, try compressing the suspension by pressing directly on the frame to see if you can reproduce the sound. Then push separately on the bike via the saddle. Seatposts and seat rails are common culprits, so checking them independently can help limit the variables. You can also let air out of the shock or remove the coil spring and compress the suspension with the rear wheel removed to see if the problem is with the hub or linkage.
For the front panel, the number of possible noisemakers may seem smaller, but it really isn’t. The steerer tube may be loose, the bushings may be warned, or the noise may come from the headset, axle, handlebar clamp, or grip clamps.
If the clicks are from your transmission, you’re in luck. Sort. It’s a rare day when someone’s transmission would not benefit from a cleaning, lubrication service and deep adjustment. If you narrow the problem down to the transmission, this is probably the perfect opportunity to take it all off and give it a full bath.
My most recent crunches could be felt in the pedals, and it only happened while actively pedaling, so I thought it was coming from the rear half of the bike. The bond was silent throughout its journey, but sometimes it takes a specific force to make things cringe. One that cannot be replicated in the bike rack. People around me said he seemed to be coming from the middle area more than the BB, so that’s where the hunt started.
I removed and reinstalled the derailleur hanger with fresh Loctite, re-greased the skewer, then cleaned and re-greased the Horst pivots. The smaller pivot bearings on the back of the bike tend to wear out quickly, but they’re still smooth. This job didn’t do the trick, so I took the hub apart for full service, still to no avail. Then I swapped out the BB and the chainring, as both needed to be refreshed, and then I cleaned and regreased all the bits in the drivetrain. Yet this noise persisted. My seat post is held inside a cleat, and I thought maybe the crunch was moving along the frame to my feet, so I pulled the post out for full service. Nada.
I was testing a stack of clipless pedals at the time, and when I threw in a new set, the noise stopped. While I feel silly that I didn’t check the pedals first, the process of finding out the noise gave my bike much better service in the spring than usual. Maybe the crunches can help in some ways?