Ask a Mechanic | Wheel Noise

In this weekly column, our expert mechanic Daniel Slusser answers your bike maintenance questions. If you have a question for Daniel, please post it on our Facebook Wall or e-mail Daniel directly at

Question: I keep getting noise coming from my rear wheel. It’s a Hed 32 hole Belgium rim laced three cross to a Powertap hub. The spoke tension is nice and high and the whole combination is nearly new. I can’t figure out where the noise is coming from. Any ideas?  From: Alan

Answer: Ever heard the saying that “The squeaky wheel gets the grease?” A literal application of this metaphor is the way that most mechanics tackle this type of issue.

The first thing I would check is that your skewer is greased to prevent noise coming from the skewer and hub end caps rubbing together. It goes without saying that you want the skewer to be tight when closed on the bike. On your particular hub you have removable end caps that can move around where they interface the bearings and axle.

Next I would check the cassette. Make sure it is tight and that the freehub body is greased to help prevent noise that could come from the cogs rubbing against the body.

Phil Wood Tenacious Oil

Use Phil Wood’s Tenacious Oil where the spoke nipple meets the rim and to lubricate spoke intersections where they cross or meet the hub.

Another spot to check is where the spoke nipple meets the rim. I like to place a drop of heavy oil such as Phil Wood’s tenacious oil in this location. The oil helps to protect alloy nipples from scoring while keeping noise down. It also helps to prevent the nipples from ratcheting off of the spoke as cyclical loads are placed on it during every revolution.

You can use the same oil to lubricate the spoke intersections where they cross or meet the hub. Any place that you have metal on metal contact can cause noise so you may as well cover all of your bases.

Lastly, and I have a feeling this could be source of your noise; you may need to have your wheel built with brass spoke washers. These washers are placed under the head of the spoke and take up the slack between the j-bend and hub flange for cases when the j-bend is too long, the hub flange is too thin, or both. A sloppy fit here can cause creaking issues that I have experienced on wheels of my own. Unfortunately, this fix requires rebuilding the wheel.

With any luck one of the other fixes will solve the problem. If not, there is a vast number of wonderful high tech music playing devices available on the market these days…

Daniel Slusser is a professional bicycle mechanic with over ten years of experience. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from HSU and a master’s degree in history from Cal Poly University. When he is not riding, wrenching, or writing he enjoys spending time with his wife and two children.