My bike is making a clicking noise...
July 16, 2008 8:30 PM   Subscribe

My bike is making a clicking noise...

Hey everyone. I recently purchased a used bike and it is making a mysterious clicking noise. I have been able to isolate the noise to the rear tire, and it pretty much only occurs when the wheel is rotating on its own, as opposed to when I'm pedaling. I tried lying the bike on its side and spinning the rear wheel in an attempt to see what may be causing the noise, but I can't see anything physically tapping the spokes or any other part of the wheel as it turns, so I'm stumped.

Thanks in advance for any help!
posted by coolguy#1 to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Don't worry! It's probably just the freewheel pawl. They're louder on some bikes than on others.
posted by sciapod at 8:50 PM on July 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Is one (or more) of the spokes loose?

Could be that the bearings are misadjusted.

Maybe a broken axle?

The lock ring on the cassette (gears) could be loose allowing them to 'float'.

Assuming they're not riveted, the bolts holding the cassette together could be loose.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:51 PM on July 16, 2008


could also be the bolt that holds the freehub to the hub....
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:25 PM on July 16, 2008

Was the noise still there when you laid the bike on its side? Did it still disappear when you turned the cranks?

Brakes have a release mechanism so you can open them wider to take the wheel off. If you open your brakes do you still get the noise? Can you take the wheel off the bike and spin the gear cluster, then spin the wheel while holding on the both ends of the axle. Anything?

Is there any play in the axle, as in this video?

If it only happens when you're not pedaling, it's probably just a loud freewheel or freehub*, like sciapod said. Here's a video of some freewheel spinning action for comparison. Check it out at about 1:35 when the wheels slow down.

Here's a page on diagnosing noises, although a quick skim didn't give me any further ideas.

*There's a difference between freewheels and freehubs with cassettes, but I wouldn't worry too much about that yet.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:31 PM on July 16, 2008

Any used bike should be taken immediately to your local independent bike shop for a tune up. They'll find any problems and make it work great, for cheap.
posted by intermod at 9:47 PM on July 16, 2008

From my epic rear wheel struggle a couple of years ago (which isn't really over, just in truce):
Sometime during that period I noticed that the axle was slightly bent. It was slight, I intended to replace the wheel soon anyway, so I ignored it.
I repacked the bearings a couple of times, and the raceways stayed healthy till the end.

On a trip to Hamilton at the end of August I destroyed the hub. I guess I bent the axle a little more, part way through the ride. I stopped for lunch and noticed the rear bearing cones were loose. After adjusting, I got going again, and within 10km I started noticing a very unusual click after bumps and turns.

Upon inspection at my destination, it became apparent that the bearings were skipping over a ledge that was ground into the raceway (picture link again) - wow! So, on the other end of my trip I needed a new wheel immediately.
Now I'm not sure, but I think that the click may have been a lot more prominent when coasting/freewheeling.. It would make some sense, because when peddling the bearings are being torqued by the drive force, but when freewheeling in a straight line there is no torque on the bearings at all.

I don't think that is your problem, but..
posted by Chuckles at 11:24 PM on July 16, 2008

Don't worry! It's probably just the freewheel pawl. They're louder on some bikes than on others.

Yes, do you have reason to believe that this is not the normal noise everyone's freewheel makes while freewheeling?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:59 PM on July 16, 2008

Sturmey-Archer three-speed internally-geared hubs also make a perfectly normal ticking sound in two of their three gears, while you're pedaling (i.e., when you wouldn't expect to hear the freewheel pawls). It's kind of loud, and can be a little distressing if you don't know what it is.
posted by pullayup at 4:41 AM on July 17, 2008

Take the wheel out, hold the axle ends and spin it so the cogs can turn freely (simulating pedaling):

Can you hear the noise?

Yes: check the bearings in the hub/axle/hub internals.

No: go to the next step

Now spin the wheel, gently and put a finger on the cogs so they don't move, simulating freewheeling, you will have to figure out which way to spin the wheel to do this.

Does it make the ticking noise:

If its an even regular ticking noise its likely just the freewheel pawls. Nothing to really worry about, make sure its oiled/not to dry. It should also feel fairly smooth.

If its irregular, or more prominent, at some points (check when the wheel is spinning slowly)
there amy be something up but I would be hazarding a guess as to what it might be. Sometimes there is a problem with one of the pawls. You might want to get it checked out at your LBS.

Check the bolts, other parts of the drive train etc.
posted by tallus at 5:41 AM on July 17, 2008

Ticks and creaks can be a mindfuck. I went crazy last season until I realized that the knocking I heard was the little zipper pull of my jersey swinging against the buckle of my helmet. It didn't happen often enough for me to realize it.

What's the clicking like? Is it at a regular interval, or is it erratic? Is it like "click" or "ting" or "tick"?
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 5:55 AM on July 17, 2008

Could be the chain rubbing against the derailleur, I've had that happen to me before when my chain slipped off and I put it on wrong, and also when I've had my derailleur bent in an accident.
posted by symbollocks at 6:18 AM on July 17, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the quick replies. I'm pretty new to bike maintenance, and the bike is old enough that it's pretty hard to take the tires off (screws instead of thumb levers, which are relatively stripped) so I can't really take the wheels off, but yes the noise is regular (in the sense of the interval) and I have no other reason to suspect that something is wrong. It's just annoying... Could it have something to do with the fact that the bike is a 3 speed, in theory, but the guy I got it from told me not to try to shift the gears because they probably don't work? It's basically stuck in 1st, as far as I can tell, so could this be a possible cause? Also, does anyone know if there's a way I could see if it's possible to fix the gears, so I can use all three of them?

Thanks again!
posted by coolguy#1 at 7:57 PM on July 17, 2008

It should certainly be possible to fix the gears. QBP ( a bike part wholesaler) should have parts for many 3-speeds and any competent bike mechanic will be able to identify which model 3-speed hub you have and rebuild/repair it if possible.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:06 PM on July 17, 2008

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