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Thread: Creaks. Again!

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    Young wippersnapper Buggington's Avatar
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    Creaks. Again!



    My Landy MTB seems to be rebelling yet again. It's been creaking and squeaking for almost a month now - I've had various things replaced. The first, which was done a couple of weeks ago was the headset bearings - after being ridden fairly hard (I live up a two mile long hill, which means a lot of strain!) or being off roaded (happens often) it has a creak whenever I turn the handlebars.

    Like I say, a couple of weeks ago I creaked my way to the LBS and asked what they thought it was. The reply was the headset bearings which I duly paid the £20ish privilege of having them replaced. All was well for a couple of weeks, until I took it round some woods today, where the noise came back. Grrrr

    It seems to be when I have weight on the front of the bike that it's at its worst - I've asked my dad about this and he wedged the front wheel between his legs and gave the handlebars a shake, which replicated the sound exactly. He first thought it was the front wheel (he then sounded shocked when I asked to swap his front wheel in!) and then the forks. I'm now completely lost as to what this could be - any ideas?

    Reply soon - before it drives me crazy!!!

    Thanks,

  2. #2
    Senior Member bikeman715's Avatar
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    It could be your handlebars and stem . Check every bolts and make sure they up to tension . 120 in- lbs .
    bikeman715

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    Young wippersnapper Buggington's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikeman715 View Post
    It could be your handlebars and stem . Check every bolts and make sure they up to tension . 120 in- lbs .
    I've now been out and tried that - it's not made any difference (although I don't have a torque wrench, but I figures 120in-lbs is a lot, so I tried to do them up some more and they didn't move so assuming the LBS torqued them up last time, all is well there). I've tried moving the handlebars, nothing doing.
    I also managed to convince my Dad to let me swap the wheels over - nothing there either.

    EDIT: Any more suggestions?

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    If you have a typical welded frame with a thin-walled headtube and pressed-in headset I suspect that you might have some bellmouth in the lower headtube.

    This isn't rare in well used mountain bikes, as the continual pounding stretches out the tubing allowing some movement of the headset cup in the frame. It's this very problem that was a major factor in the movement to integrated headsets.

    If your tube is bellmouth you'll notice that the force to press in a headset is reduced, and there is no real cure since you can't shrink the tube back to size. You can get rid of the creaking by using some bearing retainer when mounting the cups (this will make removal more difficult). I've also had success painting the pressed-in section of the cup to build up the diameter a bit. If you try this, use a piece of paperboard with a hole in it as a mask to prevent overspray and be sure to allow the paint to cure until fully hard before pressing in.
    FB
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  5. #5
    Young wippersnapper Buggington's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    If you have a typical welded frame with a thin-walled headtube and pressed-in headset I suspect that you might have some bellmouth in the lower headtube.

    This isn't rare in well used mountain bikes, as the continual pounding stretches out the tubing allowing some movement of the headset cup in the frame. It's this very problem that was a major factor in the movement to integrated headsets.

    If your tube is bellmouth you'll notice that the force to press in a headset is reduced, and there is no real cure since you can't shrink the tube back to size. You can get rid of the creaking by using some bearing retainer when mounting the cups (this will make removal more difficult). I've also had success painting the pressed-in section of the cup to build up the diameter a bit. If you try this, use a piece of paperboard with a hole in it as a mask to prevent overspray and be sure to allow the paint to cure until fully hard before pressing in.
    Thanks for the response - but I don't understand it! Is there any chance of a slightly more...plain English version?

    But from what I've gathered this sounds fairly major - and the bike is a 7005 aluminium frame, with just under 1200 miles on the clock and is 18months young, so surely this is too early for frame stuff to start going?!

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    OK, by bellmouth I mean the flaring or enlargement of the end of the head tube. Think of the end (bell) of a clarinet or trumpet (though obviously much smaller).

    When a mtn bike is ridden hard the continual pounding on the fork transfers to the inside of the headtube by way of the headset. It's the same as if you took a ball peen hammer to the inside end of the tube. The continual pounding stretches the metal making the inner diameter larger until the headset is no longer secure.

    Now, with less force holding it, the head cup can move in the frame. It doesn't matter how tight you make the headset, since the movement is between the cup and frame. Since yours is only a slight creak, and not any serious (visible) movement, I venture that you can solve it by using a bearing retaining adhesive when pressing the headcup, or possibly by painting the lip of the cup.

    If you have trouble understanding, you might print my posts and bring them to the shop for their consideration.

    fb
    FB
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    WARNING, I'm from New York. Thin skinned people should maintain safe distance.

  7. #7
    Young wippersnapper Buggington's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    OK, by bellmouth I mean the flaring or enlargement of the end of the head tube. Think of the end (bell) of a clarinet or trumpet (though obviously much smaller).

    When a mtn bike is ridden hard the continual pounding on the fork transfers to the inside of the headtube by way of the headset. It's the same as if you took a ball peen hammer to the inside end of the tube. The continual pounding stretches the metal making the inner diameter larger until the headset is no longer secure.

    Now, with less force holding it, the head cup can move in the frame. It doesn't matter how tight you make the headset, since the movement is between the cup and frame. Since yours is only a slight creak, and not any serious (visible) movement, I venture that you can solve it by using a bearing retaining adhesive when pressing the headcup, or possibly by painting the lip of the cup.

    If you have trouble understanding, you might print my posts and bring them to the shop for their consideration.

    fb
    Ah, I see So...do you think this could happen to an 18 month old MTB that has only done 1200miles, mainly on road?

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    It shouldn't but it's possible. It's also possible that the original diameter was at the large end of the allowable size range.

    Traditional headsets depend is a press fit that stretches the head tube slightly putting the material in tension so it retains the cup securely. The beat amount of interference was determined back of the day of lugged steel frames, which surrounded the cup with a band of steel roughly 1/8" thick (tube + lug).

    When they eliminated the lug on welded frames, or substituted aluminum for steel no one bothered to adjust the level of interference to compensate for the reduced or weaker material so where there used to be plenty of reserve strength, now there's very little, or possibly some underbuild.

    Years ago when I was selling tooling to frame builders, Chris at Fat City was reporting some loose headset issues on his frames. I had some undersized reamers made which helped a bit, but in the end we agreed that the better solution was for him to add a ring to the ends of the tube to restore decent wall thickness. He was one of a very few builders to adopt this solution to the problem.

    I can't guaranty that securing the lower head cup will solve your problem, but since you've tried everything else you might as well give it a shot. In any case it's a low cost experiment with no downside, and beats spending dough replace what might be perfectly good hardware. In short you have nothing to lose but the creak.
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    An ounce of diagnosis is worth a pound of cure.

    “Never argue with an idiot. He will only bring you down to his level and beat you with experience.”, George Carlin

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    WARNING, I'm from New York. Thin skinned people should maintain safe distance.

  9. #9
    Young wippersnapper Buggington's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    It shouldn't but it's possible. It's also possible that the original diameter was at the large end of the allowable size range.

    Traditional headsets depend is a press fit that stretches the head tube slightly putting the material in tension so it retains the cup securely. The beat amount of interference was determined back of the day of lugged steel frames, which surrounded the cup with a band of steel roughly 1/8" thick (tube + lug).

    When they eliminated the lug on welded frames, or substituted aluminum for steel no one bothered to adjust the level of interference to compensate for the reduced or weaker material so where there used to be plenty of reserve strength, now there's very little, or possibly some underbuild.

    Years ago when I was selling tooling to frame builders, Chris at Fat City was reporting some loose headset issues on his frames. I had some undersized reamers made which helped a bit, but in the end we agreed that the better solution was for him to add a ring to the ends of the tube to restore decent wall thickness. He was one of a very few builders to adopt this solution to the problem.

    I can't guaranty that securing the lower head cup will solve your problem, but since you've tried everything else you might as well give it a shot. In any case it's a low cost experiment with no downside, and beats spending dough replace what might be perfectly good hardware. In short you have nothing to lose but the creak.
    Too true, thanks. Is this an easy thing to check? Would I have to remove the forks to try this? Also, I know this is a bit late in the game to mention, but does it matter that it's only when the weight is transferred from side to side (ie when I turn the bars)? Would this make any difference? Because I'd have thought that the direction in which it "bell bottom"'s is along the front/back axis of the frame, rather than side to side where the noise is?

    Cheers!

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    I'm working under the handicap of not seeing the bike for myself. I've assumed that a knowledgeable shop eliminated the simple answers.

    From your earlier posts it seemed the creaking occurred under load when riding, not simply from turning the bars.

    Creaks when turning the bars could have a different cause entirely. If the head tube or fork steerer is slightly curved, the headset cups will be misaligned. Then if you have a close tolerance (high quality) headset the edge of the cone could rub slightly on the skirt (overhanging part) of the cup causing a creak or chirp when the bars are turned. Sometimes the misalignment is visible as a slight wobble of the crown race or top cup as the fork is turned.

    As far as my bellmouth theory goes, you're right that most of the stretching would be to the back of the tube, but it acts as a ring under tension, so any enlargement anyplace would act as enlargement as a whole anyway.

    I'd start by checking for cup wobble at the headset, then by removing the fork and coloring the outer lip of the cups and inside of the cones with a permanent marker, reassembling and riding a while and then removing the fork to see if any was rubbed off. If so, it's a misalignment issue. If not, try securing the cup in the frame.

    BTW- it's also possible that the crown race is a bit of a sloppy fit on the fork. This is less common, but not rare.

    Creaks are the hardest thing to diagnose on a bike, so you have to go through a series of eliminations until you hit on the answer. You develop a theory, and test it, then if necessary move on to the next one. I always approach these problems trying the simplest least costly and lowest consequence solutions first.
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    “One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions” - Adm Grace Murray Hopper - USN

    WARNING, I'm from New York. Thin skinned people should maintain safe distance.

  11. #11
    Young wippersnapper Buggington's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    I'm working under the handicap of not seeing the bike for myself. I've assumed that a knowledgeable shop eliminated the simple answers.

    From your earlier posts it seemed the creaking occurred under load when riding, not simply from turning the bars.

    Creaks when turning the bars could have a different cause entirely. If the head tube or fork steerer is slightly curved, the headset cups will be misaligned. Then if you have a close tolerance (high quality) headset the edge of the cone could rub slightly on the skirt (overhanging part) of the cup causing a creak or chirp when the bars are turned. Sometimes the misalignment is visible as a slight wobble of the crown race or top cup as the fork is turned.

    As far as my bellmouth theory goes, you're right that most of the stretching would be to the back of the tube, but it acts as a ring under tension, so any enlargement anyplace would act as enlargement as a whole anyway.

    I'd start by checking for cup wobble at the headset, then by removing the fork and coloring the outer lip of the cups and inside of the cones with a permanent marker, reassembling and riding a while and then removing the fork to see if any was rubbed off. If so, it's a misalignment issue. If not, try securing the cup in the frame.

    BTW- it's also possible that the crown race is a bit of a sloppy fit on the fork. This is less common, but not rare.

    Creaks are the hardest thing to diagnose on a bike, so you have to go through a series of eliminations until you hit on the answer. You develop a theory, and test it, then if necessary move on to the next one. I always approach these problems trying the simplest least costly and lowest consequence solutions first.
    Gah!!! Sorry about that!

    Right, I'll describe the problem fully.

    On my Landy MTB (still fairly new, spends much of its time on road) there's a creak coming from the handlebars when I put turn the handlebars, or put strain on them (like when climbing a steep hill). This tends to happen when I've been riding it hard, either off roading harshly, or standing on the pedals for a while. Whilst it can be heard without me on the bike, the noise is a LOT louder when I'm sat on it (although I'm fairly light - 105 lbs).

    The problem can easily be replicated by holding the front wheel between my legs and turning the bars, which my Dad reckons may be the forks. The headset bearings have already been replaced and all the bolts on the stem and handlebars are adequately tight (I don't have a torque wrench, but it seems pretty tight).

    What are headset cups and crown races? I'm a bit of a noob at this stuff...

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    just a thought...

    i had a terrible creak in the headtube area of a fairly new bike. it had an aluminum fork with a steel steerer tube.

    turned out it was the interface between the bottom race and the fork crown. fixed it by inserting a very very thin piece of teflon between the fork crown and the bottom headset race. a couple wraps of thin dental floss between the crown and race would probably have worked as well. i added some grease in that area too.

    never had another problem. 25,000 miles and counting.

  13. #13
    Young wippersnapper Buggington's Avatar
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    I sound like a total noob here...but...

    What's the crown?

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    OK, let's go back to the basics.

    I'm not familiar with the bicycle, so give me some more details.

    What kind of fork? steel, aluminum or carbon? and is the steerer (the tube that runs from the fork to the stem) metal or carbon.

    what kind of headset? threadless (the stem goes outside the fork steerer) or threaded with large nuts holding the headset adjustment and the stem going inside?

    if threadless, what's the total height of the spacers between the stem and headset? and how tall is the head tube, from the lower headset cups to the top headset cups?

    BTW- here are links to expolded views of headsets with the parts named.

    threaded headset

    threadless headset
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  15. #15
    Young wippersnapper Buggington's Avatar
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    I'm not too sure what the forks themselves are made of, but they're pretty cheap, so possibly steel? And like I say they're inexpensive forks so I'd say metal steerer tube.

    It's a threadless headset with about 6cm of spacers, though it's hard to say because I'm not next to the bike (it's 11pm here in the UK). Looking at the threadless diagram I struggle to see where the lower headset cup is...so I dont know about that! Sorry none of this is very helpful...

    Does the fact that it only happens after a period of strain make any difference to what it might be?

    Thanks again for all the responses - thats what makes this forum as good as it is

  16. #16
    Young wippersnapper Buggington's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the responses, but just to get this up in the list again - bump!

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    I know it sounds dumb, but try this: remove the seat and lubricate the seat rails with a shot of WD-40 where they attach at the clamp. I had a difficult time diagnosing a persistent squeak on my bike and at the advice of a friend I lubed the seat rails. Bike is completely quiet now.

  18. #18
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    I've had problems with the saddle assembly before - it drove me nuts, but it creaks when I wedge the wheel between my legs and turn the bars so it's definitely up front. I think the bike thinks it's singing or something...

    Thanks, but any other ideas?

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