Home   Cyclingnews TV   News  Tech   Features   Road   MTB   BMX   Cyclo-cross   Track    Photos    Fitness    Letters   Search   Forum  

Maintenance & repair

Wheel truing
Rear mech adjustment
Brake/gear cables
Front mech adjustment
Headset standards
Washing your bike
Headset replacement
Fixing creaks
Dual pivot brakes
Wheels & Tyres
Fitting & removing cogs
Mounting tubular tires
Hub bearing adjustment
Freehub adjustment
Setting chain length
Fitting a chain
Splined-axle cranks
Torque primer
Frame alignment
MTB position
Road position
External bearing cranks
Shimano pedals
Spoke tension balance
Derailleur overhaul


Trouble Shooting a Creaking and Squeaking Drive Train

Level of Difficulty: Simple to intermediate

Creaking and squeaking noises that occur while riding are some of the most irritating bike problems. They often appear to come from the drive train but because they are transmitted through the structure of the bike can actually start in many other places. The secret to diagnosing them is to methodically inspect the whole bike, not to assume that because a noise coincides with pedalling it is coming from the drive train.

Useful Tools and Supplies

Creaking and squeaking noises can be a sign of more serious problems. Damage to component parts may result if they are left unattended. Creaking is usually caused by two things rubbing together, such as a crankarm rubbing on a spindle. Many of the solutions below rely on adequate torque on the parts. For more on torque see Park Tool's torque table. Thread preparation is also critical.

Correctly diagnosing the source of the noise can be difficult. It may help to have a friend assist you. Have them flex the parts while you listen and feel for noise. Creaking will often resonate enough to be felt as well as heard.

If during a ride you hear a creak or squeak once per revolution, it is probably located in the crankset and pedal area. If the noise is once every 2 - 3 revolutions, it may be in the chain. There can be several causes of creaking. You may need to proceed through the drive train step by step, part by part to eliminate potential problems. Here are some of the possible sources and remedies for drive train creaking.


Tighten crankboltsThe most common cause of creaking is the crankarm being loose on the spindle. Remove the crank bolts, lubricate the threads and under the bolt head, and re-install. Tighten the bolts to the manufacturer recommended torque. Use a torque wrench if possible. Typically, 300 inch-pound is considered a minimum torque, which is 50 pounds of effort holding a wrench six inches from the bolt. This is surprisingly tight - using a torque wrench a few times to 'educate' your hands is good practice even if you don't use one regularly.


Secure chainring boltsThe chainrings are held to the cranks by chainring bolts. Use a hex key wrench and check each bolt. Hold the back chainring nut from spinning with a chainring nut wrench. Again a mild thread locker or grease on the threads is a good idea. Secure steel chainring bolts to about 60 inch-pounds, which is about fifteen pounds of effort holding a wrench four inches from the bolt.

Pedal shoe cleats

Check cleat bolt securityIf you have riding shoes, the cleats under the shoe can loosen and also cause noise. Use a mild grade of thread locking compound or grease on the bolts, and tighten them fully. Even regular "street shoes" on a platform pedal can cause noise. A shoe lace can tap against a crankarm, and the rubber can move and squeak under the sole.



Secure pedals into crankarmsTighten pedals into crankarms. The torque typically recommended is 300 inch-pounds, which is about 50 pounds of effort hold a wrench six inches from the pedal. Pedal bearings can also creak. Spin the pedal and listen for noise. Different makes of pedals have different bearing service options.


Chainring cassette to crankarm

Some cranksets use a chainring mounting arms (spider) that is removable from the crank arm. There is a lockring on the backside of the arm that may need tightening. Remove the crankarm and then remove the snap ring with a screwdriver. Install a lockring tool on the ring, and loosen counter-clockwise. Drip some mild thread locker onto the threads, then tighten the ring to 400 inch-pounds. Use a torque wrench or apply 66 pounds of effort holding a wrench six inches from the ring.

Bottom bracket

The bottom bracket may not be properly secured into the frame. Most bike frames use a threaded bottom bracket shell. If the bearing cups or retaining lockring are not tight, there may be movement between the internal and external threads.

Adjustable bottom brackets - Remove both arms and check both cups for tightness.

Cartridge Type - Check cups or lockring for security. Tighten to at least 300 inch-pounds.


Tight linkListen for dry links by spinning the chain in a repair stand. Lubricate as necessary, with a drop of lubricant on each roller and rivet. Look at each and every rivet to check misalignment in the chain plates. Inspect for twists in side plate, or burrs, cuts or other damage to the side plates. Place chain in a gear combination that relaxes the rear cage, and spin chain backwards. If the chain hops as it passes of the pulley wheels, it may have a tight link. This can be fixed using the tight link cradle of a chain splitting tool, or by pressing on the tight link and flexing the chain from side to side (that is, perpendicular to the way the links articulate).

Derailleur pulley (idler) wheels

The two pulley wheels of the rear derailleur spin as the chain turns. Use a light lubricant to quiet them.

Wheel and Spokes

Creaking can be the result of loose spokes in the rim. Spokes may be moving in the rim or spokes may rub one another at the spoke interlace. In either case, increase spoke tension, using a spoke tension meter if possible. For more detail see Wheel Truing. Some rims are made with a hollow section, and junk can collect in this hollow area causing a rattling.

Housing End Caps

If there seems to be a creaking when the handlebars are turned, inspect the housing end caps where they enter the frame. These end caps are often metal, and may creak inside the frame fitting as the housing is moved side to side. Lubing is a temporary fix. It is sometimes possible to shim the cap for a tighter fit.


Frame crack above derailleur mount Frame crack on chain stay
Fork crack above brake hole

It is possible non-drive train creaks will masquerade as coming from the drive train. After checking other possibilities, check the frame itself for problems. A crack in a weld or a glued joint that is separating can also cause a creaking sound. If you suspect a crack, stop riding the bike and take it to a professional for further evaluation. The images below show a crack above the derailleur mount, a chain stay that has failed, and a fork crown cracked. None of these bikes were crashed or wrecked. Once a crack has developed, repair is difficult and is often practically impossible.         


The saddle may also be loose on the seat post, causing a creak as the saddle rails move and rock. Check security of the saddle rail binder bolts. The seat post can move slightly in the frame seat tube, especially in the fit inside the frame is marginal. Knurling the post, or even cutting off excess post may help.


Headset fit

The headset connects the main frame to the fork and front wheel. Some headsets rely on a tight pressed fit on parts into the frame or fork. If the fit is not properly tight the parts may move and creak when stressed. In some cases the fit can be improved using a "retaining compound". It may be best to consult a professional for this repair.

Stem and handlebars

Bar failure at center

Bar center sleeveA loose stem or bar bolt may also cause a creaking sound. If the bolt's threads are dry and without lubrication, they may not secure properly. Remove bolt, grease the threads and under the bolt head, and re-secure. Some handlebars use a center section that is pressed on, called a sleeve. This sleeve may become loose with use, and may begin to creak. Replacement is the best repair in this case. You may try a penetrating thread locking compounds if you have one, but it is likely to keep creaking. A center sleeve is seen in the left image. In the above, the bar had no center sleeve. However, the bar developed a crack where it was held by the stem. A catastrophic failure was imminent.


Rear Cogs

The rear cogs are not a likely source of a creak, but they should be checked in the interest of thoroughness. For cassette cogs, check security of lockring. Inspect teeth for burrs and wear, which may cause a pop noise rather than a creak.

Content for this page courtesy Park Tool. For more on Park's range of tools and workshop supplies, and further repair and maintenance help see: Park Tool's website


[1] Suggested Park Tools