Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
Last week’s Tech Talk was actually a rerun from 2020 of a column I wrote covering bike noises, how to find them and fix them, i.e. shut them up. Like Jensie’s famous chant “Shut Up legs,” I think you can argue that clicks, ticks, creaks, squeaks, clunks and all those other mystery noises can be even more annoying than aching, tired legs. And, it’s definitely satisfying when you find the noisemaker and shut it up.
So today I want to share two videos I recently made on the subject. The first is about wheel noises. Being made up of so many parts, wheels make noises that can be challenging to figure out and to fix.
I’ve written about bike noises extensively over the years. My bike website has a story called Keep it Quiet! that I and readers have contributed to for over 20 years in fact. That’s a great resource: https://jimlangley.net/wrench/keepitquiet.html.
However, every noise in that resource is described in text only. In this video on wheel noises I was finally able to record the sounds wheels make so that you can hear them to compare to the music your wheels are making.
Here’s that video:
“Funny” Wheel Noise That’s Built In To Most Bikes
I didn’t cover it in the video so I’ll mention it here. One wheel noise that people sometimes complain about is the normal ratcheting noise just about every adult bicycle makes when you’re coasting. It’s just what bikes do, but if you’re new to riding I can see how it might be disconcerting.
Also, how noisy that sound is depends on the design of the rear hub. On some bikes you might barely hear it, on another it might be loud enough to drive your riding pals crazy. What do you prefer, a loud or quiet hub?
Check Things Besides The Bike Too!
One important thing to keep in mind about bike noises that a few readers pointed out in the comments to last week’s story is that noises aren’t only caused by the bike. They can come from your clothes, including your shoes. And accessories such as fenders (mudguards) and bags, lights, etc. can make all kinds of noises. So be sure to investigate these in your search when an annoying rattle or clunk pops up.
A Click Or Tick NOT From The Bottom Bracket
The second video is a real time-saver for finding and shutting up a click or tick that sounds off every pedal stroke, whether you’re sitting or standing. It’s a noise that has stumped many mechanics over the years including me (but just once 😉 ).
It sounds like it’s coming from the bottom bracket or crank and you might start taking things apart to find and fix it. But don’t do that first. Instead try what I show in this video first:
It’s always fun to find and fix annoying bike noises. So please share your secrets if you’ve shut up some interesting noises on your bikes.
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s cycling streak ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.
This may have been covered previously….but, just in case….I had a fellow rider ask me to fix/eliminate a rattle in his bike. I checked everything on the bike but could find no obvious cause….except that it occurred when pedaling and coasting and when seated or standing off the saddle (so that essentially eliminated the drive train and saddle/seat post). On a hunch, I removed his under seat pouch and that solved the issue (turns out that his two CO2 cartridges were clinking together).
Rick Oshlo says
Re: the seat post video. Do you recommend using the spray lube/penetrant around the top of the collar on a carbon bike w/a carbon seatpost? I’ve been under the impression that using a lube in that situation can lead to seatpost slipage under normal clamping force and that a carbon assembly compound should be used. That does necessitate at least partial removal of the seat post to apply the compound since it is non penetrating.
Jim Langley says
Thanks for the great question, Rick. The collar and bolt are usually aluminum and steel respectively and that’s where you hope to get most of the spray lube. A little overspray on a carbon seatpost clamped in a frame shouldn’t cause a problem. But I wouldn’t advise intentionally trying to soak the seatpost or flooding the seatpost/seat tube area trying to get the spray down into the frame. The noise is usually coming from the binder bolt. Hope this helps explain better. Thanks again!
“A little overspray on a carbon seatpost clamped in a frame shouldn’t cause a problem.”
May be it shouldn’t, but it likely would, so it is highly desirable to protect a seatpost/seattube before spraying.
Rick: I never use oil/grease/lube on carbon. To apply the carbon paste, I raise the seat post and apply to the areas of the post which will be in contact with the carbon seat tube in the area where the seat post clamp will apply pressure – same with the collar.. No harm in applying to the seat post below the clamp area as well (could make it easier to move/remove the seat post in the future).
Brian Douglas says
With all due respect to the estimable Jim Langley, I NEVER use aerosols around disc brakes due to the risk of brake pad and rotor contamination. My experience in shops and training new mechanics, as well as dealing with customer’s numerous disc brake contamination problems keeps me far away from discs, even a neighboring repair stand.
If you find yourself needing to use them nearby, cover the open end of the aerosol spray tube to contain any overspray into the rag. If you see the cloud of micro-droplets backlit from a light source, you’ll see why I suggest drip application; like covering your sneeze!