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How to stop your bike squeaking

Winter cycling
Cyclist magazine
12 Mar 2021

Play chase the squeak as we show you how to quieten down loud and unruly bikes

Few things are more annoying than a creaking bike. Nothing gets under the skin quite like the eek of a bottom bracket or the squeak from a headset. Short of not having mudguards on a rainy day, it’s also the thing most likely to earn you some stink eye on a group ride.

But with almost every component interface being a potential source, how do you work out which is the culprit? One popular trick is to squirt some lube on each point in turn. The one that squeaked last is likely to be the source. Once you’ve located the source, you can then address the root cause.

Obviously, just don’t apply this logic to your brakes!

To help you one your quest for quietude we’ve rounded up some of the usual suspects along with advice on how to shut them up permanently.

You will need: • Grease • Assembly lube • Bike degreaser • 5mm and 4mm allen keys

Grease - Buy now from Wiggle for £17  
Assembly lube - Buy now from Wiggle for £7.99  
Bike degreaser - Buy now from Wiggle for £9.99  
Allen keys - Buy now from Wiggle for £19.44

Time taken: Varies  
Money saved: What is the price of peace and quiet?

How to stop your bike squeaking

Step 1: Creaking from the stem/bars

Your stem contains a plethora of bolts, each of which can be a source of squeaking. The interface between the stem, its faceplate and bars is also often a culprit as dirt can work its way in between.

Take everything apart, clean with degreaser, coat the bolts with grease and reassemble to the correct torque.

Step 2: Creaking from the headset

Both the top and bottom bearings of your headset can be a cause of creaking from the front of your bike. Slacken it off and wipe down the outside of the bearings and the inside of the frame or headset cup. Do the same to the top cap.

Give each a wipe with a small amount of grease and reassemble.

Step 3: Creaking from the cable/frame interface

A surprising source of noise can be where the cable outers meet the frame stops. Twist your handlebars from side to side. If you hear creaking, the cables may be the source.

First squirt a little bit of light lube into the frame stop. If this quietens it, decide if you can be bothered to disassemble it and clean properly.

Step 4: Creaking from chainring bolts

Loose chainring bolts can cause squeaks with every pedal stroke. First check that all yours are tight. If this doesn’t shut them up and the noise is definitely emanating from the crankset, try removing them.

Clean the bolts, chainrings and crank spider with degreaser and reassemble with fresh grease.

Step 5: Creaking from pedals

If you’ve swapped your pedals recently, they may be loose in the cranks. First check they’re tight. If noise is still coming from that area, brush down your pedals and cleats and coat with some silicone spray.

If this still doesn’t quiet them down, it might be that the bearings need servicing.

Step 6: Creaking from the bottom bracket

Creaking each time you pedal is often a sign of something being up with your bottom bracket. Annoyingly, this often means disassembling everything for cleaning and regreasing.

If the parts are new, this is often enough on its own, although there’s also the possibility of the components being worn out.