After spending thousands of dollars on a mountain bike, the last thing you want is to hear are squeaks, slaps, and knocks while you’re riding down the trail. For some noises, the fix can be as easy as tightening a bolt, or lubing your chain. Others might require you to be a bit more crafty and creative. Either way, it is very rewarding when you’re cruising down the trail and the only sounds you hear are your cassette buzzing and your tires rolling through the dirt.
Squeaks and creaks are most often caused by a lack of lubrication. Proper lubrication not only keeps your bike running smooth and silent, but also extends the service life of your bicycle and components. Lubing your chain should be a regular practice, but if it sounds like baby birds are following you, lubing your chain will silence them right down. If you still hear squeaks or creaks from the drivetrain area, checking to make sure that your bottom bracket, pedals, and axles are sufficiently lubricated will often do the trick. Still creaking?
Some less common issues can be cassette pins that need a drop of lube, or improper spoke tension. Your drive train is not the only part of your bike that gets mad when it goes without lubrication. Suspension pivots can also be the source of the ever-dreaded creak when they are not properly cleaned, maintained, and lubricated. Maintenance intervals vary between brands, so be sure to check your manual to find the proper service interval for your bike.
Does your bike howl like a wolf in the woods every time you touch the brakes? The simple solution is just not using your brakes! No howl, and you’ll go way faster! On a serious note, there are a few little tricks that can help quiet your brakes down. Running organic pads rather than metallic pads can help reduce or even eliminate the noise and also increase modulation. However, there is a catch, organic pads tend to wear faster and fade more than metallic pads on long downhills.
Contamination on the rotor or pads can also be the root of the problem. Before you go out and buy a new rotor and pads, you can try sanding the pads and putting the rotor in your dishwasher, followed by some sanding. The heat from the dishwasher will help remove the contamination from the rotor and the sanding removes the top layer of the rotor, as well as gives the pad a rougher service to grab, which means better braking performance. Be sure to properly bed your brakes in after you reinstall the pads and rotors. If this process does not work, then you may have to resort to new pads and rotors. When you finally rid your bike of the howling, you will be reminded of how nice it is to brake in peace.
If your bike sounds like you just bowled a strike every time you ride, there’s probably something wrong. The knock is one of the worst sounds, but is usually a pretty simple fix. Checking your bolts should be part of your regular routine. When checking bolts, it is critically important to abide by the manufacturer’s torque specifications, especially with carbon. Loose bolts can cause your bike to make unnecessary noise, but more importantly, it can be extremely dangerous.
A few bolts that are known to come loose and cause noise are the headset top cap, derailleur hanger bolt, and linkage bolts. Keeping these torqued down to the proper specification will help keep you safe and your bike silent. Another source of knocking that is easily fixed is cable housing. Using cable ties, or zip ties to hold your cables together will prevent the cables from knocking against each other. Also, making sure that your housing is zip tied securely to the frame will stop them from smacking and rattling.
Few things sound worse than your chain bouncing off of your chain stays and chain guide. Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but chain slap has been one of my pet peeves for quite some time. In an effort to eliminate this terrible sound, I have tried just about everything, and found a few worthwhile solutions. If you are running a chain guide and are tired of hearing your chain rattling around inside of the guide, you can line the inside of the guide with the soft side of velcro to eliminate the noise. One solution that we can thank the bike industry for is the invention of the clutch derailleur. The clutch mechanism holds tension on the chain, which not only reduces noise, but also helps prevent chain drops. Over time, your clutch may start to wear out, but most derailleurs have an adjustment screw, which allows you to increase the tension that the clutch puts on the chain. In an effort to protect your frame from metal on metal contact (or metal on carbon), installing a chainstay protector will prevent scratches and reduce noise.
The only slap that is worse than the chain slap, is the sound of a rock smacking into your downtube. As your front tire rolls, it can kick rocks up, which is why a downtube protector is a great investment. It prevents cosmetic damage, while also reducing the terrible sound of a rock hitting your frame.
Having a bike that rips quietly through the trail truly enhances your riding experience and allows you to keep your focus on the trail. Whether it’s chain slap, or knocking from a loose bolt, your bike will be eternally grateful when you fix it. Taking the time to do simple maintenance or apply these tricks will reduce noise as well as extend the life of your bike. Take care of your bike and it will take care of you!