Remedies for a ‘clicking’ bike

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The four worst words to be heard in a bikeshop are me-bike-is-clickin or any variation there of. It may also be described as ‘me bike is screeechin’ or my particular favourite ’tis like they do be a bird in the back wheel’. The reason why bike shops dread to see a bike coming in clicking is because it can be literally just about any part of the bike that is causing the noise. However there is light at the end of the tunnel . Below is a list of the most common wide and varied causes that can cause a bike to ‘click’ ‘knock’ bang’ ‘screech’ or ‘tweet’ ;

Simple ones first :

1 – Front derailleur cable too long or bent outwards towards crank. This can cause the crank to come into contact with the cable on each revolution causing a ‘click’ each time, usually when in the big ring. On the other side, when in the small ring it may come into contact with the rear tyre causing a ‘screech’

2- Left hand crank loose. This will cause a click with every revolution , especially when out of the saddle.

3 – A buckled wheel where the rim is joined and then rubs of the brake blocks causing a click each time.

And now for a few more difficult ones but very common all the same ;

4 – Dirt in the seat tube. Over time with a constant spray of grime which works its way into the frame via the split under the seat collar a clicking sound will be heard. It is easily diagnosed by taking note if the noise stops when out of the saddle. As long as the seat clamp under the saddle is tight then it is usually dirt in the frame causing the noise. Just remove the seatpost and clean, then clean the inside of the frame and smear anti-seize paste for aluminium seatposts in alu or steel frames or ‘fibre grip’ compound if it is a carbon seatpost or frame or both.

5 – Check the threads on the pedals. We use Shimano anti seize paste on all pedal threads when building a bike which is long lasting but ordinary grease can sometimes dry out if enough has not been applied. Remove the pedals, clean the threads and apply a good dolop of anti seize to the threads before re-fitting.

6- Check that the bottom bracket is not worn by checking for play at the cranks. If both sides have any play then it is probable that the bottom bracket is worn and as most nowadays are sealed units will need to be replaced. If there is no play and the crank bolts were tight but the noise seems to be coming from that area remove the cranks and check that the bottom bracket itself is tight. How tight should it be ? As the now BCF and former Irish National Mechanic the famous John Keegan once said ‘Tighten the f**k out of it’ Also check the chainring bolts are tight .

7 – Bars and stem – Check that all bolts are torqued correctly, 5nm is usually plenty.

8 – Check that the headset bearings are in good shape and that there is no play in the the headset. Many factory assembled bikes have that bare minimum of grease applied which can dry out and cause a click. Liberally apply plenty of grease to these bearings as any excess will always be pushed out anyway which can just be wiped off afterwards.

9 – Aluminium front dropouts can sometimes cause a creaking sound. Apply a thin coat of grease or anti-seize to each side and this problem is solved.

10 – Loose spokes are another common cause of a clicking sound so check that all are tensioned correctly. Loose retaining nuts on presta tube valves can also cause a rattling sound as can loose bottle cage bolts.

11 – Rubber seals on some wheels have a tendency to also dry out over time but a bit of grease sorts this out easily.

12 – Wheel and freehub bearings when worn will also make themselves heard. Check each wheel and the rear cassette body for play and replace if necessary. Oh yeah, that reminds me, freewheels often make noise when freewheeling or pedaling backwards, this is normal and different brands do have different sounds so don’t worry about that one.

There are a few more causes out there but these are the top 12 that we find most often.

What will often also happen is that the bike will be creaking and clicking out on the road but as soon as it touches the shop floor it stops and the mechanics test ride will find no noise whatsoever. You will take the bike home and for 10k it will run like a dream until the noise returns louder than ever. That is just the bike expressing its personality and having a little fun with you. Don’t worry about it as you’re not alone !


3 thoughts on “Remedies for a ‘clicking’ bike

  • May 23, 2012 at 3:57 pm


    I crashed my bike a month ago, and only went out for my first spin on it Monday night since the crash. There was no real damage done too the bike in the crash (i took all the impact, ha ha), the brake hoods were bent in at 90 degrees and a few scratches was the only damage.
    On Monday night, i heard a loud click every time the left hand pedal was at the top of the stroke, is that related to point no 2 in the post above?
    If so, is there a specific tool i would need to take it off and clean or tighten the crank?

    Some great reading here by the way!



  • May 27, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    Hi Jay,

    It is possible that your left hand crank is now loose. Depending on the type of crank on the bike you may need a special tool other than an allen key to tighten. eg shimano cranks have a threaded plastic or aluminium cap that has a specific tool to fit.

    Hope this helps,



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