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The annoying sound

Old 03-21-19, 10:21 PM
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The annoying sound

A week or so ago my hybrid began exhibiting an annoying sound when I was riding it. It started out with a clicking while pedaling -- maybe a single click, or a couple clicks per revolution of the cranks. But it got worse. It got so bad that riding along I was sure I would annoy passers-by, homeowners, people with a sensitivity to fingernail sounds on chalk boards, and so on.

I was sure it was coming from the bottom bracket, so I purchased the appropriate specialty tools, removed the crankset, and took out the bottom bracked to inspect. It was flawless. I wasn't totally convinced; perhaps it only clicks with sufficient weight and force on it. But no matter what I did to it I couldn't make it misbehave. So it went back onto the bike. Next I inspected the chainrings to assure they were tight. They were. Had the pedals developed a problem, perhaps? Were the crank arms loose? No, no.

Next I went after the headset. Maybe it wasn't the bottom mech at all. In fact I was sure that while I was pedaling if I leaned this way or that on the handlebars I could make the clicking become creaking. So that had to be it. Took the handlebars and stem off, carefully removed the disk caliper mechanism, took out the fork/steering tube, inspected the bearings, and applied a little marine lube. I reassembled everything and went for a ride. Had I solved it? One stroke, two strokes.... no sound!? Well, yes, there was the clicking again. We've probably ruled out the headset.

Feeling silly for not having checked before, I surveyed the rear rack's fasteners, checked over the fenders, examined the frame looking for stress cracks, all to no avail. Yet the sound was still getting worse, and still seemingly impossible to pinpoint. I tried locking out the front suspension, unlocking the front suspension, adjusting its preload, re-examined the pedals, but nothing helped.

I checked and lubed the chain, removed the rear cassette, inspected front and rear hubs, re-torqued the cassette, checked all cable paths, checked that the FD cable's bitter end wasn't tapping a chainring as it went around, but still came up with nothing.

Finally I took it down to the shop. At first they were checking spokes for a noisy one, and kept trying to lean on the headset as I had been doing. Then one shorter mechanic hopped on and rode it around the shop quietly. Then two tall staff members hopped on (one at a time) and rode it around with all the clicking I had been experiencing. The difference? The short guy couldn't sit on my seat.

We concluded the seatpost or rails must be creaking, and I rode the rattle-trap back up the hill to my home where I went on to clean out the seat tube, and re-lubricate the seat post myself. My late afternoon ride was blissfully quiet. Problem solved. It was the seatpost interacting with the seat tube.

So while it was unpleasant and inconvenient for a week or so, I learned a few things: I learned how to service a bottom bracket, learned how to service a head set, got more practice removing the rear cassette, and in the end learned that on a contraption designed for efficient transfer of pedal power through the drivetrain any sound can resonate through the frame and sound like it's coming from somewhere else.

Last edited by daoswald; 03-21-19 at 10:26 PM.
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Old 03-22-19, 05:19 AM
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Most of the bike "servicing" I do on my bikes is done as a result of trying to get rid of various noises. I'll overhaul and re-grease everything to get rid of some annoying tick or click. Often, I never figure out where the sound was actually coming from, and find myself more grateful than curious, so I just shrug my shoulders and ride off.

Grateful, of course, that I did not end up with, "The Sound That Never Ends" (it just goes on and on my friend):

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Old 03-22-19, 05:47 AM
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ALWAYS Suspect the seatpost first. The test to see if it's the seatpost is to stand while pedaling.
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Old 03-22-19, 06:26 AM
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I chased a noise, click-like, for a week of riding. Turned out to be a loose spoke.
"Skepticism is the first step in critical thinking." -- Me
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Old 03-22-19, 11:18 AM
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Ditto, been through that noise-chasing route several times.

And, ditto, at least it motivated me to service long neglected BBs and other bearing surfaces.

Most recently a creaking sound was driving me daffy. I'd already checked everything else so I was pretty sure it was the rear spokes. The bike was fine until I rode over a curb. I went down off the curb very slowly and tried to unweight myself as much as possible. It was a fairly low curb with a softly curved edge so the impact didn't feel heavy. But the creaking noise popped up almost immediately.

The rim looked straight and all the spokes felt fine so at first I didn't suspect the wheel. I rechecked the crank arms, BB lock ring nut (it had loosened before and I got a Hozan tool to tighten it properly), everything else. No go. It had to be the spokes.

I removed the tire, tube and rim tape and oiled the spoke nipples, let it soak in overnight, and loosened/re-tightened each spoke to be sure there wasn't a twisted spoke that was trying to de-stress itself. Nope, didn't solve the problem -- and it was a PITA to re-true the rim.

This was my first wheel with black painted/enameled spokes and I noticed they creak at every crossing when pinched. So I applied a droplet of Boeshield T-9 to each spoke crossing, hub juncture and nipple hole juncture, waited overnight, rode again and... same creaking.

Finally I grabbed a jar with residual scented candle wax. Most scented candles use extra solvent to soften the wax so it burns more efficiently in those containers. The wax can be scraped off with a fingertip. I applied some to each spoke crossing, worked it in between the friction points by squeezing the spokes until the creaking diminished. I even applied some to the freehub body, inside of the cassette, lock ring threads, and quick release axle and contact points with the dropouts.

Took it for a test ride... blissful silence. Helped that I'd switched temporarily to roadie slicks rather than my usual hybrid tires. On a cool, quiet, wind-free night ride, while cruising along at around 12 mph, there's nothing quite like the sound of ... nothing. It's almost eerie. You can hear the scuttling of critters along the roadside... coyotes a mile or more away... highway sounds miles away... one of the pleasures of cycling, that non-intrusive cruising.

Keep those scented candle containers. That wax is handy stuff.
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Old 03-22-19, 11:23 AM
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Seat posts are notorious and luckily easy to diagnose. The ones that I hate are the PF BB noises.
I also fear frame cracks as sources of sounds too.
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Old 03-22-19, 12:17 PM
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Two bikes with press fit BBs, two bikes with creaks. New ride, after 10K miles, no creaks. Threaded BB.

I'll never buy a bike with a press fit crap BB again.
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Old 03-22-19, 12:29 PM
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The noise I chased down last year turned out to be a loose cassette lockring. Once I removed and replaced it it became silent. The mechanic that put it on in the first place was incompetent (that would be me.)
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Old 03-22-19, 01:06 PM
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I have traced a stubborn creak to a front QR skewer, I have traced a click to a cable hitting the crankset (easy one), and the dreaded seat rail to clamp creak.

Another easy one was a stupid PF BB standard.
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Old 03-24-19, 07:08 AM
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Seat rail for me. Drove me nuts until I stood to ride a steep hill and miraculously the noise stopped. Easy fix but frustrating to find.
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Old 03-24-19, 10:25 AM
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Ice cubes rattling in the water bottle for me.. always had me wondering why the sound went away after an hour or so :-)
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