In this article I will describe four basic steps you can take to eliminate creaking noises from the bottom of your bike when pedalling. The noise I am describing is usually most obvious when pushing down hard on the pedals. To me it sounds like slowly opening a badly oiled door. Whilst not always a sign of something majorly wrong, it can be very annoying to you and those cycling with you!
What I am not going to tackle in this article is any of the more complicated issues that can cause creaks such as bottom bracket problems or bearings. This is designed as a quick troubleshooting guide to help you resolve some of the more common and easy to solve difficulties you will encounter.
In my experience going through these steps will help you eliminate most of the creaking noises that happen whilst you pedal, and I hope it will solve the majority of the problems you come across. As always, if you are still struggling after this then your local bike shop should be able to give you further advice.
Step 1 – Remove and Grease Pedals
- SAFETY: Put chain onto large cog of front chainring to ensure you don’t catch your hand if you slip
- I find this can quite often be isolated to one side of the bike. When out cycling try clipping out of the pedal on one side, and cycling with one leg for a few metres. If the creaking stops, but then starts again when you try the same thing on the other side you may have isolated the noise to one of the pedals.
Replace the pedals and secure tightly. A torque wrench would put this value at about 40nm. If you don’t have one, get them pretty snug. The quote I’ve seen that seems about right is, “tight enough so you are using your muscles, but not so tight you are straining them”. Remember, pedals thread in the opposite direction to the way you pedal, so they will be kept tight as you pedal forward.
Step 2 – Remove and Grease Cleats
Before removing the cleats draw around them with a pencil. The graphite should be enough to show a thin line in the muck that builds up on on the sole and will make putting the cleats back in the same place easier.
Remove the cleats with the allen keys.
Clean down all the parts of the cleat and grease the bolt threads. You can also see from this photo mine are looking a bit worn and will need replacing soon.
Replace the cleats on the shoes, tightening the bolts up so the cleat cannot move under pressure.
Step 3 – Tighten Front Chainwheel Bolts
There are usually 4 or 5 bolts on the front chainwheel, and if these are loose they can cause noises. Remove and replace the bolts one by one. Do not remove them all at the same time. Grease the threads in the same way would have done with the pedals and cleats.
When replacing, mine suggest tightening to 10 Nm with a torque wrench.
Step 4 – Remove and Grease Seat Post
- If the creaks when pedalling only happen when you are seated and stops when you stand up then there is a chance the creak is the seat post. Whilst the creak might sound like it is coming from the bottom of the bike, noises can easily resonate along the inside of the frame and appear to be in a different place to where they started.
Mark the current height of the saddle with some electrical tape to make it easier to replace correctly.
Use an allen key to loosen the seat post bolt and remove completely. Clean the old grease from the seat post.
Re grease the seat post. Put a bit extra around the top to help create a seal and stop water running down the seat post when attached to the bike. The electrical tape will keep this as a straight line after you remove it.
Replace the saddle.