Noisy Bike Maintenance

30 June 2014

My bike has started making noises again. I hate that. I fitted a new rear cassette and chain about a week ago and there are two distinct sounds now - a jangle and a creak. It didn't do it when I first changed the cassette but now, 60 miles later, it does and it's irritating me.
text Like us, bikes nearly always make a noise when something's bugging them. Over the years I've become quite good at diagnosing bike problems by noise alone and should really be standing in front of Simon Cowell,, but instead I've decided to put together a list of sounds and possible causes for your enjoyment.

First noise is…

The Creak

There are two subcategories of creak, both of them make me pull a face like if I've been stabbed between the shoulder blades.

1. Indiscriminate Creaks

These are nearly always the saddle or the spokes. Check under the seat, give it a wrestle around to confirm the creak and then spray some oil up there or tighten the saddle to the seat post. If spokes need tightening they also can creak a little or rub together if the wheel's slightly buckled.

2. Regular Creaks

If the creak occurs whenever you put power on the peddle, it's your bottom bracket where the pedal cranks attach to the chainset. It's probably not tight enough, or worked loose or needs some more grease in there. Take the crank off, rub some grease inside and tighten it back up. Cranks need to be pretty tight.


For rattling always check your water bottle holder first, mine's always coming undone half way through a ride (well, it has done a couple of times). If it's not that, again there are two main rattles that I've broken down for you.

Tuc-a tuc-a-tuc-a-tuc-a-tuc-a-tuc-a-tuc-a

This is your chain catching on the front derailleur. This noise disgusts me, it's like a dentist's drill or a diarrhea smoothie.

To sort this I have to start with the obvious. Are you in front big cog to rear small cog or front small to big rear? If you are, changed gear immediately (big to big or small to small) and the problem will be solved.

If it isn't solved then you'll need to fiddle about with the adjustment screws on your front derailleur. These screws control the range of movement of the front mech. The inner one usually controls the mech's inward motion and the outer one the outer motion. Here's a guideline: the front mech's inner plate should be adjusted to be about 4mm from the smallest chainring and the outer plate 4mm from the largest chainring. That's a good starting point.


This is a slightly higher pitched rattle than the above and it comes from the rear derailleur. The rear derailleur is quite exposed so always check it hasn't been bonked with something and bent. The two pulleys under the cassette should line up exactly so the chain runs straight through. If it's bent, don't start whacking it back into position with a hammer because that's silly, I would take into your favourite bike shop, they have a tool to straighten it properly without smashing up your bike.

If the pulleys are lined up then the next thing to look at is the adjusting barrel located at the end of the gear change cable.

Here's what I usually do (or more accurately here's what the guy in the bike shop told me to do):

1. Change gear to the smallest cog on the rear.
2. Try and change gear to the second smallest cog
3. If it doesn't change the cable is too loose. Turn the barrel half a turn anti-clockwise and try again.
4. If it still doesn't work go for another half turn.
5. Do this for each of the cogs in turn, listening out for rattles.
6. If you make any changes always go back to the smallest cog to check that's still okay.
7. In general, help shifting to larger cogs need an anti-clockwise turn (tightening the cable), shifting to smaller cogs is a clockwise turn (loosening the cable).

I don't want to be pessimistic but even though you've done some great adjustment in the garage you need to take your bike up a hill. Things change under pressure.


Aaaarrggghh, clicks - especially when you’ve just started a ride. Mine’s usually my cadence sensor moving again but it could be a derailleur cable sticking out and catching the cranks or some grit in the brake pads or a dodgy axle bearing, if you’re unlucky. Usually a good look around the bike will solve the clicking problem.


Either you’ve run over a mouse (ha ha) or something needs oiled. The derailleur pulleys at the back can sometimes squeak and your brakes can if there’s a bit of grit in there.

Just for your information, my jangle turned out to be a tuc-a-tuc-a-tuc-a-tuc-a, so an adjustment of the front derailleur screws sorted it out. The creak was something to do with the saddle, but unfortunately it’s the seat post itself that needs replaced and not just a squirt of oil - I think it’s going to cost me a hundred quid. Ouch.

Thanks for reading.

Ian Young

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