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Annoying Noises – What Do They Mean?

By Christopher Ashley

No one wants the embarrassment of a noisy bike on group rides, or the irritation when riding solo. Most sounds can be avoided by regularly servicing your bike – making sure grease is where grease should be, and fixtures are as tight as they should be.

If you fancy yourself a bike whisperer, here’s a quick guide to diagnosing faults – using the power of your ears.

Tyre rub

If you hear one ‘fffft’ for every turn of the wheel, your tyre is rubbing against something. Get off your bike immediately – a rubbed tyre can fail quickly and dramatically, but most of the time it’s easy to fix.

If you’ve recently changed a tyre, check if your wheel isn’t crooked. If not, there might be a leaf in a mudguard or the fender may be rubbing against the tyre. Finally, check that your brake shoes are aligned and don’t touch the tyre when you spin the wheel.

Chain rub

It’s easy to tell when the chain is rattling constantly – the sound is coming from beside your right foot. The chain’s rubbing against the derailleur either on the inside in the low gear or the outside in the high gear.

Here we see Tony 10 Speed fix the problem – you can read more about the legendary no-nonsense mechanic in our article.

Loose spokes and the curse of The Phantom Tick

You’ve noticed an annoying intermittent tick. To figure out what’s causing it, shift your weight forward by getting out the saddle on a climb. If the sound gets more intense or stops altogether you’ve got a loose spoke.

Get off your bike and spin the wheels – if you don’t hear the tick the spokes are performing differently without your weight on the bike. You’ll probably survive the cycle home, but make sure you fix this by truing your wheel at the earliest opportunity.

Pedals or bottom bracket?

If you’re hearing clicks or creaks synchronised with your cadence, you need to check on the following. First, make sure your pedals are screwed in snug to the crank. If you’re still hearing a regular clunking sound your bottom bracket may be worn out.

Congratulations, you’re a hardcore cyclist! Now, either remove your bottom bracket and inspect, or pay your local bike shop the very reasonable fee to do it for you.

Don’t get paranoid

Sometimes these sounds are just part of your bike’s character, so paying for a second opinion from your local pro-mechanic is worth it for your own piece of mind. Now you can focus on enjoying your bike – and your rides.