Every bike rider likes a silent, and smooth bike! But sometimes noises and creaks on a bike are hard to find. They can occur in bearings, the chain, small misalignments, or worn parts! The process is nearly the same for all bicycles, on or off road. In this article, it will be looked at, how your drivetrain can be completely silenced, cleaned, and made almost frictionless, to create a nicer riding bike!
Check It Out First
A common misconception is that creaking always comes from the bottom bracket. However, more times than not, the creaking will be coming from another component on the bike. While the BB can be prone to creaking, they can be expensive to replace, and are often more robust than you would think! Try rocking the wheels side to side, checking the frame pivot bearings, cleaning between the handlebars and the clamp, etc. Use your imagination. Sound on a bike can travel through the frame.
Second, check all of your drivetrain components. If the chain is worn (using a chain gauge), if the cassette is worn (inconsistent teeth), and the consistency of the front chain-ring. If any of these components need replacing, do so.
Also, check the gear shifting. If you have any problems with even shifting, visit our article on ‘gear adjustments’, for perfect shifting! And with that out of the way, let’s get on with your drivetrain!
Beginning at the back, remove your rear wheel and set it aside. Begin by checking all the bolts at the rear (derailleur, hanger, jockey wheels, etc). More often than not, thes3e bolts are loose. They need to be watched, and maintained, otherwise creaking, poor shifting, and damage can occur. Once these are all fastened, we can begin cleaning.
Fill up a bucket with clean, hot water and dish washing liquid (or bike cleaner). Also, grab a medium to hard bristle brush, and mix the washing liquid in. Now begin scrubbing the derailleur, and jockey wheels firmly with the hot water mix, and brush. Make sure you remove all the black gunk from the jockey wheels, as this can be a common noise. You can use WD-40, or another degreaser, to clean off these wheels. However make sure it gets washed off after applying. Dry off the derailleur and jockey wheels, and using a thin oil or a multi-purpose lube, and spray all the joints and hinges on the rear derailleur. This will keep the derailleur running silently and smoothly.
Now take the brush, and begin scrubbing the cassette. Make sure you use plenty of soap and water to foam it up. This will clean the components better, and make them shine! Once there is no black grease or dirt on the cassette, spin it a few times to remove the water and soap.
Replace the rear wheel, and the back-side of your drivetrain should be ready to roll!
Moving up to the front, begin by removing the crankset. There are many various ways to identify how this is done, but here is a great video on identifying and removing cranks!
Once the cranks are removed, begin wiping out the bottom bracket. Take a dry cloth, and wipe out the inside and around the bottom bracket. Don’t use any degreasers or solvents, as they can eat away the grease in the bearings. Once clean, feel the bearings in the bottom bracket. If they are smooth, keep them. If not, replace them. Once the bottom bracket is clean, regrease the insides, and leave in bike.
Moving to the front chainrings, take the soapy water and brush, and begin scrubbing the rings on the crank arm. Make sure they are completely clean and soapy before drying. Once dry, take an Allen key and tighten any loose chain bolts. These can often come loose, resulting in rattle or creaking. Also check the pedals. Sometimes its a good idea to remove them, clean and grease the threads, and replace them.
If applicable, take soapy water and give the front derailleur a good cleaning. Make sure its well clean, and free of any dirt or grease. Check all bolts are tight, both mounting bolts and the cable pinch bolt. Dry, and lube the pivots, as done previously on the rear derailleur. Wipe off any excess and work the derailleur back and forth by hand.
Now that the cranks are all tight and clean, as well as a smooth and clean derailleur, lightly grease the crank axle and replace into frame. Make sure there is no sideways movement of the crankset within the bottom bracket, as dirt can work into the bracket and wear components.
Last component is the chain! This is also a common cause of squeak, groaning and crunching from the drivetrain. Begin by measuring the chain stretch with a chain gauge. If the chain is worn, replace it. You can clean your chain either with a chain cleaner, or just by hand. Use the following techniques;
Begin by filling the chain cleaner half way with warm water. Now spray about 5 seconds of WD-40, and 5 seconds of degreaser to the cleaner. Finish with topping it full with a detergent or bike wash. With this mix, insert the chain, lock it down, and begin cycling it through the cleaner. Make sure the chain is coming out wet, or soapy. Rotate the whole chain through the cleaner at least 15 times.
Once the chain is fully degreased and soapy, remove the chain cleaner, and wipe it off with a cloth or rag.
If you don’t happen to have a chain cleaner, you can still clean your chain by hand. However it’s harder to achieve the same results by hand.
Take a brush and begin wiping down the chain with warm soapy water. Be generous with the water, as to soap up the chain well. Scrub the top, sides, and bottom of the chain well. Once the chain is fully scrubbed, work the drivetrain (by pedalling the cranks) a few rotations.
Now that the chain is clean, take your bike to the nearest hose, and begin hosing off the drivetrain. With the hose on a low pressure setting, spray the cassette and jockey wheels while rotating the cranks backwards with the opposite hand. As the components rotate, make sure to thoroughly clean off all the soap from the working parts. Once the cassette and derailleur are clean, move to the chain, then front bottom bracket and chainring(s). Allow the bike to dry in the sun, or by wiping it down. For a full guide to cleaning your bike, click here.
To finish off, apply a generous amount of chain lube to the chain, and let it sit for 5 minutes or more. Wipe off any excess lube before riding, and your done! Your drivetrain should be friction free, silent, and smoothly shifting! If you have any more problems with the drivetrain, take it in to your local bike shop, for a professional opinion!
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