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The Mystery Noise

Posted: 29 September 2020 Tips & Tricks

A common problem we're asked to solve is the mystery noise -- the little click or creak that wasn't there last ride but has suddenly appeared now, or, even more frustratingly, seems to randomly come and go.

Many of you who've experienced this try to establish what the possible issue(s) are before bringing your bike in. This is hugely helpful as it not only reduces wasted time looking for causes (and therefore reduces your repair bill) but also gives us some handy guidelines to work to. (Imagine your car mechanic's reaction if you said, "There's a bit of a creak... sometimes...but not at other times... See ya!")

Here's the best way to try and work out what's causing the problem.

What kind of noise is it?

Is it a single click, a series of clicks, a groan or more of a creak? (Bonus points if you can record it.)

What does it relate to?

Think about the parts of the bike that are connected to this noise. Does it go away when you stop pedalling? If it does, is it one click per pedal revolution (left, right or both) or a series?

Where is it coming from?

This can sometimes be difficult to ascertain with modern bikes as large-diameter frame tubing tends to resonate noise, making it difficult to pinpoint the source. Try anyway. Is it coming from the front, rear or middle?

Does the noise happen only when you're sitting down and pedalling?

Test this by pedalling both seated and standing.

Andrew, testing out theories.

Have you washed your bike recently?

Excessive use of water, especially with high-pressure sprayers, can force moisture into your components and frame and cause unusual noises. (Here's a quick technique refresher.)

Have you had an accident?

On more than one occasion, the mystery noise has turned out to be a cracked frame. Yikes! (Or 'hurray' if you want a new bike and have a good insurance policy.)

Time for a new seat post!

Does the noise only occur in certain gears?

Ride in different combinations while keeping the load constant and see if the noise continues.

Are there any other associated issues?

When the noise occurs, do your brakes rub on the rim/rotors, or do your gears slip?

Do any bearings feel rough?

As bearings wear out, their tolerances increase, sometimes resulting in a creaky ride.

If you have a dual-suspension bike, does the noise go away on the road?

If the answer is 'yes', it could be pivot-related. (Don't worry, we can fix those, too.)

Does it only occur when climbing a steep hill at max effort?

This can be a tricky one to re-create at the shop because, as you know, Waymouth Street is pretty darn flat.

"I can't work out why my bike is noisy after the last race."

Finally, have you recently performed any home mechanics?

While many of you are more than competent enough to do the basics, the question needs to be asked. You can tell us. Just think of us like a doctor for your bike.

Still can't work it out? We'll take care of it for you, so your bike will stop driving you (and anyone you ride with) bananas.


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Thanks for your massive effort in retrieving the internal cabling on the Ridley. It's a job I would never have been able to do myself, and I cringe with embarrassment to think of the three of you working on the one bike for an hour to get it done. [BMCR: That's what we're here for…Karim Soetratma
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