Creaks and Groans

Part of the reason I ride a bike is because I like the silence. Well its not really silent. But it is quiet. I like the sound road tires make on the pavement. That really cool sound of thin rubber on pavement when you get up to speed. I like the sound mtb tires make on a well cared for piece of single track. I love the sound of a free wheel hub when you are blasting down a hill and the sound of a nicely functioning disk brake when you apply just a little bit to keep yourself under control. I love the sound of heavy breathing when you are climbing a steep pitch at race pace. Yeah, those bike sounds are awesome.

But there is a darker side to the sounds bikes make. Sounds that make my skin crawl. Creaks and groans. Sometimes they start as little ticks that just aren’t supposed to be there. Sometimes the sounds deteriorate into something that sounds like you are torturing your bike torture every time you turn the crank. There is nothing more annoying than being out on a bike ride and having your bike creak and groan. Stand up that hill? You can hear every effort you put onto the cranks. It sounds like your bike could explode. Instead of enjoying the ride every creak and groan reminds you that something is WRONG. I stop enjoying my ride and start thinking about that sound. I hate that.

Creaking and groaning? Yeah, that drives me crazy.

Sometimes the fix is easy. Clean your bike. Lube your chain. Sometimes its not so obvious.

When I got back from ORAMM my bike started with little creaks. At that time I was more concerned about the fact that I only had one working brake to worry about the creak. Because of my lack of brakes I was forced to spend a lot of time on my road bike. In Connecticut last week it got worse. By Saturday when I rode with Bailey I had had enough. The bike was a creaking, groaning disaster. Uphill, downhill, standing, sitting, pedaling, coasting. It didn’t matter. It was a bike riding nightmare. Nonstop torture. To top it off this is THE bike I am bringing with me to Michigan while I am on sabbatical. It has to be in top shop because I will not have any backup.

I decided I needed to fix it even though they are sometimes they are very very hard to find.

Now, lots of times those creaks and groans come from the drive train. It’s a good place to start. Two things argued against those as the source in this case. These noises seamed independent of the drive train. Pedaling or coasting it didn’t matter. My bottom bracket was replaced before ORAMM and it was highly unlikely that it went out again. I did check my cranks to make sure they were tight. They were.

My bike is a Salsa El Mariachi Ti.


One of the cool features about this bike are the dropouts. Salsa devised this thing they call “alternator dropouts“.

These dropouts were designed to allow Salsa bikes to convert between geared and SS. The dropouts allow you to tension the chain AND they do it in such a way that you do not need to adjust the disk brakes when you make the change. The brakes are mounted to the dropout and rotate with the dropout. As you tension the chain the brakes move with the dropout and wheel so no brake adjustment is needed. Very nice. As a bonus, if you loose your rear derailleur you can bypass it, tension the chain and wham instant SS. Great in an emergency is say you are out riding Tour Divide or something.

Now. Lots of times creaking noises come from metal on metal rubbing. The one spot on my bike where metal rubs and can potentially creak is in the dropouts. I checked them and the bolts seamed tight. But I decided to take them off and given them a good cleaning. This would be ignoring “Salsa Alternator Dropout Advantage #5”: minimal maintenance.

There was a fair bit of dirt on both the frame and dropout (and in between) which I cleared off. Then I again ignored “advantage #5” and put a thin layer of grease on the dropout before I put them back on. My thought was that a little layer of lubrication would reduce and metal on metal creaks. (And if this was a totally stupid idea I could easily wipe it off and be non the worse.)

When I was done….Ha! No more creaks. My training ride on my newly silenced bike was pure torture, but it was because of the ride, not the bike. Nice.

(Authors note: I also serviced and lubed my dropper post. That is SUPPOSED to be cleaned and lubed periodically. Maybe that was it instead of the dropouts. Humm…… 🙂 )


5 thoughts on “Creaks and Groans

  1. Pingback: Magic Salsa | A Year of Living...humm...dangerous?

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