Creaky bottom bracket? Check these first
With winter waning and the joys of spring displacing the bad memories of wet, salty roads you may find that your bike has picked up a few creaks over the darker months. The primary culprit is often the bottom bracket, as it handles a lot of stress and is in the firing line for plenty of water and grime, but before you set about replacing it there are a few things that you should rule out first to save you wasting time and money before it’s absolutely necessary.
Creaks are usually attributed to metal parts moving against each other without sufficient lubrication, and in my experience there are a few repeat offenders. The easiest one to cause by accident, particularly if you’re overly enthusiastic with spray degreaser on your cassette while cleaning, is dry rear dropouts. This is only really the case for quick release wheels, and a dab of grease in each dropout is a quick and easy fix. I find this is particularly prevalent in carbon frames for some reason, perhaps down to some resonant properties of the frames not present in their steel and aluminum counterparts.
Secondly it’s worth checking your chainring bolts. If these aren’t tight the chainring can very slightly shift under pedalling, and the large contact area between the spider and the chainrings can cause some unpleasant noise. There is also a risk of dropping one or more bolts entirely while riding and risking tearing off your chainrings. If you can it’s worth taking the chainrings off every six months, cleaning the interfaces, and reinstalling with an ample coating of grease on everything. It’s always better to use too much grease than too little in this case, and you can always wipe away any excess with a rag.
Lastly, I find after particularly filthy rides my cleats (both MTB and road) can develop what’s more a squeak than a creak. For mountain bike pedal systems a few generous drops of candle wax on the cleat itself should alleviate the issue for the medium term, while for road I prefer to modify the pedal itself with a strip of climbers finger tape on the pedal platform. It’s made of extremely durable, sticky backed canvas and does a decent job of deadening any sounds. A drop of wax in the toe end of the pedal too wouldn’t hurt if this is a recurring issue for you. If it flares up on a ride and it’s driving you mad I’ve found stuffing a bit of grass into the pedal toe should get you home in silence.
If you’ve checked all of the above and are still plagued by creaking under pedalling then it may unfortunately be time to look at the bottom bracket after all.
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