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Need help - rear wheel spokes clicking/popping

Old 05-26-17, 01:52 PM
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j_e_r_e_m_y
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Need help - rear wheel spokes clicking/popping

Hi all, hoping someone here might have some advice that can help with an issue I'm having.

For the last few weeks, my the spokes on my rear wheel (Sun CR-18, Formula flip/flop hub, 36 spoke) have been more and more frequently making a clicking or popping sound when I'm pedaling. I had been told that this is usually the result of the spokes not being properly tensioned, but I just had that done at my LBS and it didn't make a bit of difference.

Any thoughts on what else might fix the problem? It's extremely annoying, and I'd love for my new bike to be enjoyable instead of irritating to ride. What's really weird about this (to me at least) is that I've gone my entire life without having had this problem, and now the last 3 sets of wheels I've had have all made the same clicking noise.
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Old 05-26-17, 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by j_e_r_e_m_y View Post
the last 3 sets of wheels I've had have all made the same clicking noise.
That makes me think something else might be making the noise. Are you sure it's the wheel/spokes? Does it occur at all times, or only under certain conditions?
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Old 05-26-17, 01:58 PM
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Unfortunately, not everyone who works on bike wheels knows what they're doing. I suspect the advice you got (properly tension the wheels) is correct, but the "fix" isn't.


Facing a second trip to the LBS, I'd be (a) asking for recommendations from other cyclists; (b) trying another bike shop/mechanic; and/or (c) get yourself a tensiometer and spoke wrench, and fix it yourself.
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Old 05-26-17, 02:03 PM
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I'm fairly sure, but I guess it could be from elsewhere. It only occurs when pedaling, and usually uphill, although I have heard it on flat roads and some declines as well.

If it's from another part of the bike, that makes it even weirder to me, since the other wheelsets I presumed were making that sound were both on different bikes with different drivetrain components. Seems strange that the same noise would occur in all these different circumstances with that many variables involved. What led me to think it was the wheels was that the first time I noticed this noise was when I put a new set of single speed wheels on a conversion a year ago.
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Old 05-26-17, 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
Unfortunately, not everyone who works on bike wheels knows what they're doing. I suspect the advice you got (properly tension the wheels) is correct, but the "fix" isn't.


Facing a second trip to the LBS, I'd be (a) asking for recommendations from other cyclists; (b) trying another bike shop/mechanic; and/or (c) get yourself a tensiometer and spoke wrench, and fix it yourself.
Yeah, I'm not thrilled about taking the bike back to be serviced again - it's my only mode of transportation, and it's a pain to have it gone for even a day. I'm also a little worried that the shop might not have done a good job - I had them tension the wheels along with doing a few other things, and there were a few indications that they might have rushed through the work.
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Old 05-26-17, 02:12 PM
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Are the spokes loose? On the first set of wheels I built I didn't tension the spokes enough and EVENTUALLY the rear spokes loosened (even with even spoke tension). I noticed it eventually when I started hearing the spokes click. So I properly tensioned and trued the wheel and I haven't had a problem since, in many thousand miles.
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Old 05-26-17, 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by corrado33 View Post
Are the spokes loose? On the first set of wheels I built I didn't tension the spokes enough and EVENTUALLY the rear spokes loosened (even with even spoke tension). I noticed it eventually when I started hearing the spokes click. So I properly tensioned and trued the wheel and I haven't had a problem since, in many thousand miles.
There were a few that were loose prior to the shop working on the wheel, but they all seem (at least by feel) to be properly tensioned now. But again, perhaps they didn't do that good of a job and they're still off. It's encouraging to know that you were able to solve the problem with proper tensioning, though.
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Old 05-26-17, 02:24 PM
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I had this on some 36 spoke wheels as well. The fix for me (given to me by Mike Varley at Black Mountain Cycles) was to clean and lubricate the spokes at the hub and where they crossed. Apparently, sometimes some grit will get in there and cause that occasional maddening noise.

I started by cleaning and then lubing the crosses with TriFlow oil. Putting a little oil on a thin rag and running it through the crosses, sort of like flossing teeth. That got most of it. I had to go back and wipe and lube near where the spoke heads pass through the hub and that knocked it all out.

Hope that's the fix for you as well.
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Old 05-26-17, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by j_e_r_e_m_y View Post
There were a few that were loose prior to the shop working on the wheel, but they all seem (at least by feel) to be properly tensioned now. But again, perhaps they didn't do that good of a job and they're still off. It's encouraging to know that you were able to solve the problem with proper tensioning, though.
I wouldn't have considered my spokes "loose" when they were making noise. Is the wheel still true? I'm assuming it was true after getting it back from the shop.
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Old 05-26-17, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by corrado33 View Post
I wouldn't have considered my spokes "loose" when they were making noise. Is the wheel still true? I'm assuming it was true after getting it back from the shop.
It is true, that was never really the issue. These are basically new wheels that I got from Velomine, so they've got maybe 300 miles on them. Ben there suggested that I have them tensioned after they broke in a bit, and once I started hearing the clicking I figured it was time to get that done.
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Old 05-26-17, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Jarrett2 View Post
I had this on some 36 spoke wheels as well. The fix for me (given to me by Mike Varley at Black Mountain Cycles) was to clean and lubricate the spokes at the hub and where they crossed. Apparently, sometimes some grit will get in there and cause that occasional maddening noise.

I started by cleaning and then lubing the crosses with TriFlow oil. Putting a little oil on a thin rag and running it through the crosses, sort of like flossing teeth. That got most of it. I had to go back and wipe and lube near where the spoke heads pass through the hub and that knocked it all out.

Hope that's the fix for you as well.
I'll give that a try this weekend - it'd be great if it was that simple of a fix!
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Old 05-26-17, 02:39 PM
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Check every spoke hole in the rim for cracks around the nipples.

Frequently a recently trued wheel will pop a little bit. Squeezing spoke pairs for "stress relieving" may help some. Usually the popping will go away after a few days or weeks riding.

There was a recent discussion about spoke windup. It is noticeable with bladed spokes, but may also be a problem with round spokes that isn't always noticed. It is possible unwinding wound-up spokes would reduce popping, but it would be difficult to do without a reference point from before the wheel was trued.
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Old 05-26-17, 02:50 PM
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Originally Posted by j_e_r_e_m_y View Post
new wheels that I got from Velomine
Which ones?
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Old 05-26-17, 03:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Jarrett2 View Post
Which ones?
They're Sun CR-18's with Formula hubs, the 36 spoke version.
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Old 05-26-17, 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by j_e_r_e_m_y View Post
They're Sun CR-18's with Formula hubs, the 36 spoke version.
Oh yeah, you said that earlier. I ask because the ones that were creaking on me were Velocity Deep V's from Velomine as well.
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Old 05-26-17, 04:37 PM
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They may not have stress relieved the wheel. Squeeze parallel spokes on either side of the wheel.
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Old 05-26-17, 06:14 PM
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Wheel bearings?
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Old 05-26-17, 07:07 PM
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I had the same thing on a vintage bike, 36H, 3 cross. The spokes were way loose. A Park TM-1 tension meter is not expensive and will resolve the uncertainty in about 2 minutes without the bike leaving your possession.
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Old 05-26-17, 08:45 PM
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@j_e_r_e_m_y

Sun CR-18, Formula flip/flop hub, 36 spoke is that a sealed bearing hub?

The only reason I ask is that I had a similar problem on a front wheel on which I did everything you did and all that was suggested.

It was finally cured by lubricating the hub.
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Old 05-26-17, 09:22 PM
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Jermey;

Check the tension; here is a no cost method.

Reference: https://www.sheldonbrown.com/spoke-pitch.html

There are free tone generator apps for cell phones, so you can have your phone generate the tone to compare to the tone the spoke makes when you pluck it like a guitar. Your spokes are around 290mm long.

I also put a bit of Tri-Flo at the spoke bend, where they cross, the inside and outside of the nipples.

I build my own wheels, I have only experienced clicking/popping in two cases:
* right after the wheel build - first 50 feet only; if it doesn't go away by then end of the driveway, then:
* when the spoke tension is not sufficient.

Let us know what you find out.
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Old 05-27-17, 11:51 AM
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Skip the tone generator, unless your goal is to identify a roque spoke not in tension with the others on the same side.

1. Lubricate the crossing points for each crossing pair of spokes. 1 drop of Triflow will be enough.

2. Do a stress relief cycle:

a. Put on a pair of deerskin or leather gloves.
b. Squeeze parallel sets of spokes on both side simultaneously SUPER DUPER HARD for 1-2 full rotations. It should make you go "OW!"

That should help set up the wheel to smooth out what is called "fretting" at the crossing spokes. Should go away after about 20 miles assuming it is the crossing spoke points that are the problem.

However, IF you discover that the wheel has gone seriously out of true or dish or has loss noticeable tension AFTER you do the stress relief action...

...return to the shop that touched up the wheel for you and ask for a redo with the following requirements:

1. true
2. tension
3. dish
4. stress relief

5. wheel is done ONLY IF wheel stays true, dished and at tension after the stress relief action.

=8-)
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Old 05-27-17, 12:02 PM
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Originally Posted by SquidPuppet View Post
That makes me think something else might be making the noise. Are you sure it's the wheel/spokes? Does it occur at all times, or only under certain conditions?
Yes. It could be bad bearings in the hub, freewheel/freehub, or even bottom bracket or pedals.
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Old 05-27-17, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
Yes. It could be bad bearings in the hub, freewheel/freehub, or even bottom bracket or pedals.
Hence the "IF factor" in my post...

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Old 05-27-17, 12:49 PM
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I really appreciate all the responses - you guys rock! Going to try the tri-flow oil and stress relief that @mrrabbit suggests at some point this weekend, that sounds like a simple, low cost way to start. If that doesn't help, I'll pony up for the park tensioning tool that several folks have mentioned. It seems like a worthwhile investment.
@OTS - the hubs are sealed cartridge bearing models, so I'm not sure that lubricating them is the answer or really even possible. Please correct me if I'm wrong about that, since that also sounds like a pretty easy fix.
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Old 05-27-17, 01:10 PM
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Originally Posted by j_e_r_e_m_y View Post
I really appreciate all the responses - you guys rock! Going to try the tri-flow oil and stress relief that @mrrabbit suggests at some point this weekend, that sounds like a simple, low cost way to start. If that doesn't help, I'll pony up for the park tensioning tool that several folks have mentioned. It seems like a worthwhile investment.
@OTS - the hubs are sealed cartridge bearing models, so I'm not sure that lubricating them is the answer or really even possible. Please correct me if I'm wrong about that, since that also sounds like a pretty easy fix.

I don't think it's possible if the hubs have sealed bearings, someone can chime in if I am wrong.
My hubs were non sealed so it was an easy fix.
Good luck in getting this fixed, I can relate.
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