Why does my mountain bike click?

If your mountain bike is making a clicking noise, it’s something I’ve dealt with before, and it can have several causes. One common reason is the drivetrain. If the chain or gears are dirty or poorly lubricated, they can make a clicking sound while pedaling. I regularly clean and lubricate my chain to avoid this.

Another possibility is that the chain might be worn or the gears might need adjusting, especially if the clicking happens in specific gears. Loose spokes in the wheels can also cause clicking; I check for any that might need tightening. Additionally, a loose bottom bracket or pedal bearings can produce a clicking noise. I make sure these are tightened correctly and well-maintained.

Lastly, sometimes debris caught in the tire treads or small parts that have loosened elsewhere on the bike can be the culprit. I do a thorough check of the bike, tightening any loose screws and bolts. Identifying and addressing the source of the clicking is important not only to eliminate the noise but also to maintain the bike’s performance and safety.

Different Causes

Great, so what is causing the bike noises? Well, it can be the result of different things you need to check:

  • For example, a dry chain or a bearing can result in an annoying sound.
  • Another main problem can be the bearings, such as the bottom bracket, hubs, headset, and more, causing a creaking sound.
  • Finally, sometimes your seat post and saddle rails can make clicking noises as it is dirty. But, again, all it needs is a cleaning to remove the grime.
  • The chainring bolts can also creak but are easy to fix by tightening the bolts and giving them the right torque spec if you have a torque wrench.
  • If the headset rattles, it can result from a loose one and tightening the side bolts on the stem, then the top one can resolve the problems.
  • If there is constant clicking, it can come from stretched shifter cables. First, check to see if the derailleur is aligned and that the hanger is not bent. If turning the tension does not help, then you might need a new shifter cable.
  • Whether you have a carbon frame or any other type of frame, make sure to check it as the fork crown might be causing the sound and need repairing.

While these are some of the concerns, it helps to start working from one point to figure out where the noise is coming from.

bike chain

As explained, when you are pedaling hard, a clicking sound can result from anywhere. So give your bike a bit of tender loving care with the guidance provided here.

The Bike Chain

Suppose you hear a rattling noise; check the chain first as it might not shift properly, resulting in the chain hitting the frame. Bike chains stretch with time, and even if you adjust the derailleur tension, it does not help. So the next steps are to replace it.

Alternatively, you can look at the following as well:

  • Bike chain rubbing on the front derailleur will make clicking sounds. You may find it only happens in some chainwheel sprockets. When properly adjusted with the shift lever helps remove the noise.
  • Another creaking noise can result from a stiff link and finding where the chain is joined when installed. When installed, the pinhead tends to pull upwards along with the chainplate causing a squeezing sound. To rectify it, you can bend that chain area to display a Z-shape and flex the chain back and forth.
  • A bent link can cause chain-jamming or make a chain fall off and needs a repair to bend it straight using a chain tool and adjustable wrench. To determine if this is the cause, you can shift your bicycle into a small gear as the chain will be at its slackest. Then, slowly backpedal and keep an eye on the chain that runs through the rear derailleur pulleys.
  • Lastly, mixing a new and old chain can result in a cluck between them, so instead, use a new chain. After all a bicycle chain lifespan is limited and you may be left with no option but to buy a new one.

Derailleur Cage Concerns

When you have a bent derailleur hanger that is not aligned, it creates a cracking sound when pedaling. The problem is that the cage might be poorly bent, so to fix the problem, you need a hanger alignment gauge to indicate if it is the case.

Sometimes, when you have a 12-speed system, it throws off your shifting even if it is not visually bent. You may even find that the derailleur hanger rubs against the frame. You need to remove the part and clean the frame and hanger using an anti-seize to the surface to fix this.

Or you may need to replace it entirely.

Problems With The Pedals

Yes, even clipless pedals can cause an annoying noise. However, you might only notice it happening with every pedal stroke you make. So the best is to remove the pedals using a pedal wrench and give them a good greasing. Also, make sure the washers between the crank and pedal are intact.

Furthermore, when squeaking happens with each rotation, it can be from your shoe cleats as well. To help remove the problem, you can use a sugary drink to quit them as it works as a makeshift lubricant.

But we recommend using a cleaning lubricant instead. If it still makes noise, then it is time to have it replaced with new ones.

Slightly Loose Bottom Bracket Bearings

Creaks are frustrating and sometimes mysterious on your mountain bike. Another common cause is the bearings. So you will need to look in several places to make sure it is working smoothly. So you can look in the following areas:

  • Bottom Bracket
  • Loose Headset
  • Suspension
  • Linkages

These are some places to check, but if you’re not sure it is a bottom bracket, you can do the following. First, grab both the brakes and place your foot on the pedal the closest to you. When body weight is added to the pedal and creaks, it is most likely the base bracket.

If there is no creaking sound, you need to check the bearings in the hubs, linkages, and headset. Bearings wear out with time, primarily if you use a mountain bike cycling over wet or sandy trails.

Rubbing Tires

With wheel revolution and you hear a rubbing sound, we recommend checking it out as soon as possible. The cause of the problem might be a front-wheel tire rubbing the whole time. However, the fact is that it can result from a crookedly installed wheel, the wheel might be out of alignment, or one of the fenders is misaligned.

Lift both ends of your bicycle to spin the wheels in a forward motion and look while listening to find out where it is rubbing. Or you can check to see if there is a scrape mark on the outside of the rim.

While a scrape mark from a brake shoe rub you will notice when using your brakes.

Rear Wheel Alignment Out

Other concerns could be that your rear wheels alignment is out and needs realigning. Sometimes a spokes cross will also cause a rubbing or clicking noise. If you have lifted your bike and spun the wheels and there is no noise, it can be a detached spoke or even a flat tire. Sometimes the spoke holes wear out.

Usually, this happens when it carries weight. So tilt the bike to one side with the other section underneath you as you would do coasting. Or you can lean forwards and backward as the tension of the spokes changes resulting in the noise.

Alternatively, you can squeeze them together to see if you have loose spokes. Lastly, another culprit is noisy thru-axle or a quick release causing the sound. Finally, the axle can be dry or dirty, and best to remove the part to clean and re-grease it.

Final Thoughts

We hope that the information provided helps you to find that annoying click sound. By working through your bike and providing it with some maintenance might help to solve the problem. An added note is to check that the center bolt on your bicycle is tight, as they might not even be the ones mentioned above. If the sound persists, then it helps to visit a bike repair shop to help.


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