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The Key to a Quiet Bike: Lube the $#!+ Out of Everything!

August 2021
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For a quiet bike, lube the $#!+ out of everything. I should add, clean everything first. This was the advice given to me by one of the best mechanics they’ve got at the local shop.

This isn’t quite the perfect rule, of course. You don’t use lube or grease on carbon fiber against carbon fiber parts (carbon frame, carbon seatpost = no lube – carbon paste is obviously acceptable). Everything metal on metal or carbon on metal gets the thick green stuff, though. In fact, for carbon to aluminum alloy, lube is necessary to block oxidation which, with a little sweat added to the components, will cement a seatpost into a seat tube so tightly, you don’t want to know what a shop has to do to your prized steed to get that seatpost loose. It ain’t pretty and there’s a chance your frame gets busted in the process.

Recently, just the other day recently, I put a cleaning on my Trek that was next-level awesome. Took the wheels off, the cassette, the crankset… I took it all apart and cleaned & lubed all of the important stuff before putting it back together.

It had been creaking badly after my Sunday 💯 miler that started out quite wet, just after a heavy rain. Today it’s utterly silent.

I should qualify this a little, too. My Trek is 22-years-old.

My eight-year-old Specialized Venge is a little tighter and simpler. It doesn’t require as much to maintain it.

Below is a list of items I deal with regularly. Master these maintenance items and your bikes will remain, for the most part, quiet and spectacular. Till you run them through a rain and grit grinder at least.

1. The number one, most important and obscure item is to deal with is the chainring bolts. They can loosen over time and they will creak. Loosen one at a time, lube the threads, and tighten each down. One at a time will do, though if you want to be technically correct, don’t seat the bolts till they’re all cleaned, lubed and installed. Tighten them the rest of the way in a star pattern last.

2. Seatposts. They’re notorious for creaking and they’ll ventriloquist creak on you. It’ll sound like the bottom bracket or even the headset. Loosen the collar, move the saddle up and down a few times and reset it at the exact proper height and tighten the collar. I almost threw my Venge in the ditch over this years ago. If you run out of options or ideas, try this. You’re welcome.

3. Bottom bracket bearings collect dirt. This would have to be my leading creak offender. I have to clean the Trek out at least twice a year, usually more. My wife’s bike is at least once a month. It’s quite a simple process and it keeps the crank spindle and bottom bracket bearings clean. This is especially bad if you’ve got a wavy washer in your system – figure once every couple of weeks with a wavy washer, especially if you ride in rain. Now, if you own a bike with a BB30 bottom bracket with metal cups and an S-Works crank… well, in that case, you will never have to take the crankset apart. Ever. Unless mine is the rare case, in which, yay me!

4. Headset bearings, especially the bottom one, collect dirt. Headset bearings should be cleaned at least once a year (end of season is perfect, that way the bike sits clean over the winter – this will help prevent rust and rot in the bearings). Lube everything liberally when you put it back together and live a happy, creak-free life. Well, at least for the most part. As the headset goes. Threaded headsets are a little trickier to deal with than threadless – there’s a trick to putting the headset and bearings back together tight, but not too tight, after you’ve lubed that system up to within an inch of its life.

Other issues that will cause creaks and clicks are worn spokes (where they cross), a loose derailleur (usually rear), a loose cassette (rare, but it happens), and a loose quick release skewer (one or both).

Now, when lubing the $#!+ out of whatever you’re lubing, if there’s any excess that squeezes out when you tighten parts up, be sure to wipe that off. That’s going to collect dust and/or grit and that’s bad.

And if all else fails, throw your arms up and take it to the shop. Or buy a new bike. A new bike always works for fixing creaks and clicks. If you can find one.


5 Comments

  1. unironedman says:

    So I’ve read this through carefully, and it says to buy a new bike. Is that correct? Asking for a friend 😉

    • bgddyjim says:

      That is correct. If your bike continually creaks and clicks, that’s a sure sign you need a new bike. This goes beyond the n + 1 or s – 1 kerfuffle and edges into “necessity”. We obviously can’t have a creaky bike. It just is what it is. This is a mental health thing, really. We can’t have emotional inadequacy difficulties related to a creaky bike, either. Making a cyclist live under those conditions is simply unacceptable (and un-American/un-Irish to be truthful. That’s just not who we are).

      If there’s a line, I just may have crossed it.

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