Top five pesky bike noises that can easily be fixed

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Please welcome our newest Ella contributor, Annie May. Hailing from the ‘burbs of Minneapolis, Annie has been riding bikes pretty much every day since she was 18. When a job opened up at a local bike shop, Annie turned her bike commuting lifestyle into an income, and has been fixing bikes for the past six years. She’s currently serving the bike commuters of Seattle Children’s Hospital in Seattle, Wash.


I work on about five bikes a day, dozens per week. And every day people come in with the same complaints: “It’s making a noise”, “Something’s rattling”, “Do you hear that clicking sound?”

Every day.

Sometimes people will ride for months on end with a noisy bike, others will come in after a single brake squeak. In general, your bike should not be making a lot of noise. And while noises are often harmless, like a dry chain or some brake rub, it’s best to locate the source of the noise as soon as it starts happening. Here are the top five reasons your bike might be rattling, squeaking or creaking, and how to silence it:

1. Rattling coming from the wheel? It may be a loose Presta valve nut. Make sure it’s snug to the rim.

2. Squeaky/extra loud chain: Check to see if it’s dry. If so, lube that chain!

3. Creaky saddle: Make sure the nut(s) underneath your saddle are tight. Also check to make sure the seat post is greased. To do so,  mark where your post is with a piece of tape, then loosen the seatpost clamp and take the post all the way out. If it’s not greasy, apply a thin layer of polylube. seatpost grease or carbon grease (all available at your local bike shop).

4. A loose headset can make clunky noises when riding over bumps, or become creaky in general. Test your headset by grabbing the front brake and pushing the bike forward. There shouldn’t be any play or wiggling in the headset. Check all the bolts on your headset and stem for tightness but be sure to not over-tighten them. Usually about 6nm will do.

5. Rubbing noises: check to make sure your brake pads aren’t rubbing. Before you start messing with your brakes, first make sure your wheels are in the dropouts correctly and the quick releases are tight.

If noises persist, swing by your local bike shop! Also feel free to ask questions in the comment section below.

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