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click / creak when pushing down on handlebars

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click / creak when pushing down on handlebars

Old 06-23-11, 11:53 PM
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click / creak when pushing down on handlebars

My setup: Lynskey 230 (20.75 cm head tube), Cane Creek headset, Edge 2.0 fork, one 2.5 mm spacer, Ritchey WCS stem and bars. Lynskey installed the headset cups, I installed everything else.

So I already tried taking the stem off, greasing both sides of the spacer (and the bottom side of the stem), and reinstalling the stem and bars (properly torqued). I may have also lubed the stem bolts. No luck.

I'm thinking that maybe pushing down on the bars might be bending the steerer tube slightly, which could apply uneven pressure against the headset and possibly making the headset move a bit within the frame, or maybe the headset race is moving a bit where it's seated on the fork? (I did not apply any lube when installing that). It could be something in the bars instead, but they're alloy bars so I don't know why they would make any noise, and the junction between bars and stem doesn't look like it should be slipping any.

Any ideas? Should I take the fork out, and/or maybe lube the 3 places where the headset is seated?

Thanks.
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Old 06-24-11, 03:08 AM
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You won't believe this - but the first place I'd look is your seatpost. Nearly every weird noise on my bike, including sounds I'd swear were coming from up front, have resulted from my seatpost.
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Old 06-24-11, 09:39 AM
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True story about the seat post.... One of those strange but true deals!
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Old 06-24-11, 10:15 AM
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Nice try, but I can make it happen when standing beside the bike and the only thing that's touching the bike are my hands on the bars.
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Old 06-24-11, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by jayp410
My setup: Lynskey 230 (20.75 cm head tube), Cane Creek headset, Edge 2.0 fork, one 2.5 mm spacer, Ritchey WCS stem and bars. Lynskey installed the headset cups, I installed everything else.

So I already tried taking the stem off, greasing both sides of the spacer (and the bottom side of the stem), and reinstalling the stem and bars (properly torqued). I may have also lubed the stem bolts. No luck.

I'm thinking that maybe pushing down on the bars might be bending the steerer tube slightly, which could apply uneven pressure against the headset and possibly making the headset move a bit within the frame, or maybe the headset race is moving a bit where it's seated on the fork? (I did not apply any lube when installing that). It could be something in the bars instead, but they're alloy bars so I don't know why they would make any noise, and the junction between bars and stem doesn't look like it should be slipping any.

Any ideas? Should I take the fork out, and/or maybe lube the 3 places where the headset is seated?

Thanks.
to eliminate the seatpost/seat as a possibility, stand on pedals coasting so as not to be sitting and push on handlebar in the same way that you mentioned that makes it creak. does it STILL creak? not seatpost/seat combo.

sit on seat coasting with feet OFF pedals. push on handlebar as previously described. STILL creaking? not bottom bracket/pedals/chain/cassette or any part of the drivetrain for that matter.

by process of elimination you've most likely narrowed it down to fork/stem/headset/handlebar.

this is not foolproof, there can be other factors causing creaking even if you are not involving the parts eliminated by non-use.

it's a negative test, not positive.

just the other day, i had an annoying creak.

day one: convinced it was seatpost/seat because when i stopped pedaling it went away. got off bike and jerked said seatpost/set around trying to make it creak. repeated several times. gave up.

day two: previous failure to make determination of seatpost/seat forced me to look elsewhere. previous evidence and experience suggested BB. pedal creak, not pedal no creak. simple right? not seatpost/seat so must be BB. get off bike push on crank/pedals, torque frame. no creak. hmmm...

day three: creaking more now. i often ride without using handlebars. noticed creaking went away when "handless". hmmm. hands on, creaking, hands off, no creaking. get off bike and torque handlebars. creaking!!!!

stop at LBS up the road. tell mech i think my stem or headset is creaking. i suggested maybe stem needs greasing. he did it in 3 minutes, and for free! no less.

creaking stopped.

persistence, persistence and again persistence.

Last edited by hueyhoolihan; 06-24-11 at 02:39 PM.
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Old 06-24-11, 02:36 PM
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I'm sure some will disagree, but here's my method for getting rid of pernicous creaks and clicks.

1. Determine if it's the saddle or the bars. It's usually the saddle, but it sounds like you're pretty sure it's the bars.

2. If it's the saddle, note the position, take off the saddle, apply WD40 (horror) to the rails, reinstall.

3. If it's the bars, note the position, open the stem, apply WD40 (horror) to the bars, reinstall.
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Old 06-24-11, 03:43 PM
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What's the stem clamp dia and bar dia? I know you see where this is going, but sometimes sticking a different bar on there works.
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Old 06-24-11, 07:09 PM
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OK - I took another look, and found some more clues. I can sometimes (but not always) get it to creak by pushing down hard on the frame just behind the head tube. However I can get it to creak badly when pushing down on either side of the bars - that produces 3 or 4 clicks vs. only 1 when pushing down on the frame. So it seems to be more susceptible to side-to-side pressure than front/back. (It's possible that there is more than one source of a creak involved).

This leads me to believe that it *could be* the joint between the stem and carbon steerer tube (although I did tighten that carefully with a Ritchey 5 N-m torque wrench, tightening one bolt a little, then alternating to the other). However, I did install the stem with no lubricant of any kind...is that wrong? (Should I use something special for carbon?) If not that, it's got to be something that the side-to-side pressure is doing to the headset or spacers. (I also tried loosening the pre-load cap bolt on the steerer tube, but it did not affect the creaking).

At any rate, I am around 95% sure the problem is in the top portion of the headset / stem area. I was able to isolate the sound with my ear, by just standing over the bike and putting my head near the head tube.

(TubineBlade - The stem and bars are both Ritchey WCS oversized - 31.8 mm. I don't think the problem is with the stem/bar joint, although I could be wrong).

Last edited by jayp410; 06-24-11 at 07:12 PM.
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Old 06-24-11, 07:41 PM
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i would remove the handlebars, just letting them hang, and try making it creak pushing on the toptube as you described. if you even get one creak, i would think the problem lies in the headset or stem.

if no creak at all. i would then remove the stem and try again. if there is even one creak i would think headset.

as a side note (not that i have any reason to think this is the cause of YOUR problem), but as evidence as to how insidious these types of problems can be, i had a creak that turned out to be between the lower race and the fork crown. a little teflon tape did the trick. still working after 15 years and 30,000 miles.
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Old 06-24-11, 07:55 PM
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You should have a pro look at it, but I think...though not being there this is purely speculation...that the bar and stem which sounds like their make of carbon where not torqued correctly and may have been over tightened and thus damaged the carbon, it's also possible they weren't torqued tight enough, but most people don't realize they need to be torqued to and exact inch pound and over tighten. The method you employed to tighten yours is correct but did you get the torque settings from the Ritchey manual?

Other problem could be the bar and or stem have been stressed out and thus fatigued beyond it's usable life and may need to be replaced. To check clean off all the grease with rubbing alcohol then check for cracks, which could be as fine as a human hair so look closely, near the steer tube clamp. Also clean and check the stems faceplate, Ritchey's 4 axis mounts had a tendency to develop hair line cracks. Then take a part and clean the spacers check for cracks and roughness, if you find roughness on a spacer you can smooth this with emery paper, then regrease. Check the compression plugs as well, clean and regrease the cones, then just tighten and loosen over and over till the noise goes away, sometimes those plugs creak due to the steer tube flexing.

While your doing the above you might as well clean and regrease the bearings unless sealed then just grease all the surfaces. Check those bearings, if their rusty that would cause the problem too. Thus replace the bearings.

That's not a sleeved bar is it? Sometimes there's minute play between the interface of the bar and the sleeve and it will creak, nothing can really be done about that nor is anything broken.

The only other problem could be with the head tube itself, but those are more robust then the stem and a failure there would be rare unless you recently crashed the bike. Also the headtube on the frame may not be faced correctly, but I doubt this since the noise is new.

Too much going on to pin point it just by reading about it in this case so I may have over done it...sorry.

Last edited by rekmeyata; 06-24-11 at 08:03 PM.
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Old 06-24-11, 09:12 PM
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Thanks guys. A couple things I'm suspecting right now are 1) when I took the stem off last time, the surface of the carbon steerer tube was smooth in a couple places, which probably indicates movement and makes it easier to move in the future...and maybe the motion that created that smooth spot is causing a creaking noise (I just don't know how to fix that), and 2) I'm still wondering if there might be a problem between the race seat and the fork crown - and maybe there are two different creaks going on.

I'll have to try all of your suggestions above - probably taking it to the LBS as step #1.
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Old 06-25-11, 10:37 PM
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OK, curiosity got the better of me and I took the fork out. The steerer tube is smooth to the touch, but there are some even smoother shiny / metallic looking spots where the bottom of the stem has evidently been rubbing a little against the steerer tube. Right now I'm guessing that the creaking noise is caused by the motion that is causing the shiny spots. Is this normal? Should I be lubricating this, putting carbon assembly paste on it, etc.?

BTW - When putting the stem on / taking it off, the stem feels like it is the perfect size for the steerer tube. There is no wiggle room at all that I can feel.

Any thoughts? Thanks.



There's also a shiny spot on the front of the steerer tube, at the bottom of the stem:
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Old 06-26-11, 10:43 AM
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I was convinced I had a creaking bottom bracket. The owner of the LBS tightened the front wheel skewer tighter than I would have ever thought necessary. No more creak.
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