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Recently the cranks on my bike started to creak. I checked with my usual "bike-bible" Park Tool. They recommended dis-assemble, lubricate, re-assemble.

So I did that.

Remove cranks. Remove spindle. Clean. Lubricate. Reassemble.

No, the creak is still there.

(To find out the source-area of the sound I had a friend riding the bike slowly while I ran alongside listening. And the sound where coming from the area of the bottom bracket/cranks. I am happy no neighbor saw me...)

For each revelation of the cranks there are two creak-noises. If I, when on the bike, push down with both feet I hear a noise. Turn 180 degrees without pressure, push down again and there is the noise again. If I am "too soft", low pressure there are no sound. Since I have clips I have tried to only work with one foot to keep a constant load during a revelation, there where no detectable sound then.

Anyone have any idea what is wrong on the bike? And how I should fix it?

/Leif

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creaking sounds are usually hard to isolate just by listening.. Can you describe more about how you reproduce the noise? Only while pedaling, only when stand pedaling, only when putting pressure to the pedals versus just spinning, etc –  Christopher Scott Aug 25 '10 at 21:36
    
I've had this on one of my old bikes and I've never been able to fix it properly so would be very interested in hearing a good fix. It was definitely coming from my bottom bracket area. –  Mark Ingram Sep 3 '10 at 21:29
    
I had a creaking noise like this (coming from my left pedal, only on a heavy downstroke), and then just down the street from my house, my left crank fell off. And that's the story of how I learned to check bolt tightness after every few rides. –  Jared Harley Sep 7 '10 at 2:30
    
On my ride last week I was getting a very slight ticking sound from the area of the BB, when the right arm was in about the 8-oclock position. Independent of load. The crank arms were definitely tight, as was everything else. But the mechanic on the ride said he'd have a go at it, and he tightened the pedals and the crank bolts, getting maybe 20-30 degrees out of each. The "tick" went away. –  Daniel R Hicks Jun 19 '12 at 21:42
    
i have relubed and rebuilt the bb and pivot points on my bike and the "tick" was still there. I spent many sleepless nights wondering where it was coming from. After all was said and done, it was the pedals where it screwed into the XT arms. It was bone dry inside. I would have said over $100 if I checked the pedals first. –  user4932 Sep 2 '12 at 1:43
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13 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

There are many possible causes of creaking. But Deemar has the most likely reason in this case - the cranks are loose on the axle. Think about how a creak is produced. It's one item sliding over another. But instead of sliding it's repeatedly sticking then jumping. The amount of movement might only be a fraction of a millimetre. The OP would have noticed if the cranks were really loose. But in this case the looseness may be at the microscopic scale.

You can easily test this without having to run alongside the bike. Get on the bike with the brakes on and your shoulder against a wall. Rotate the pedals so the cranks are horizontal and bounce up and down with your weight equally on both pedals. This twists the cranks and axle as far as possible in one direction. Then rotate the pedals to a position 180 degrees from that (the other foot forward) and do the same. This twists the assembly as far as possible the other way. Repeat the procedure listening all the while for creaks. Testing in this way avoids many other sources of noise such as wheels, chain, seat, etc. Take care. If something breaks or your foot slips off the pedal you'll hurt yourself.

When new the cranks have a square tapered hole which fits exactly onto the tapered square on the axle. As Deemar says, if it has been wobbling for a while the hole will be damaged and you may never get a satisfactory fit. On my bike I fixed it (at least for now) by carefully reshaping the inside of the square holes with a file and cleaning the square shaft on the axle. Then I assembled it with grease. To get the parts to bed in together I applied the following procedure repeatedly. Bash the crank a few times with a soft hammer. Bounce up and down on the pedals as above. Retighten the bolt. Eventually the soft aluminium crank took up the shape of the hard axle and the creaking was completely eliminated. You will probably need to do this for both cranks.

Remember that the amount of movement between the crank and axle may be so small it's imperceptible. You may not see it moving. But you will be hear the result when you do the pedal bouncing test. On my bike the noise was really loud and infuriating and now it's completely silent. I will re-tighten the bolt periodically. If it loosens again I may have to replace the cranks and bottom bracket.

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Are you sure the creak is coming from your cranks?

It could be the rear hub, it could be the pedals themselves, it could be some combination of things which when you put your weight on them causes a creak. Are you putting extra weight on the bars when you get the creak.

I've had creaks from: the seatpost, the headset, the rear hub, the front hub, the brakes, the pedals and of course the cranks/spindle at various times.

There's a discussion about a perpetual squeak on cycle-chat here: http://www.cyclechat.net/topic/67337-the-squeak-goes-on/

Just because the creak occurs when you put pressure on one part it doesn't mean it's that part creaking.

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if you are positive it's coming form the bottom bracket, and you have already R&R'd them, try using Teflon tape instead (plumber’s tape), wrap it around the cups and reinstall them - this should fix any squeaks in the BB.

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Every few years I am getting creaks from this area in my MTB, it's invariably the bottom bracket giving out and needing to be replaced. If you cycle a lot in the mud, rain etc., it's not abnormal to replace your BB every three years or so.

Also, if you have a full suspension frame, it could be joint bearings.

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Does the chain get tighter in certain points of the revolution? This could be the culprit. When you put weight down, and the chain has a lot of tension, things will creak.

Chain tightness could come from overtightened back wheel placement, the actual chain links, chain-wheel/cogs not being perfect circles, or even improperly spaced chain teeth.

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Other possibilities not mentioned are chain ring bolts, rear quick release, frame crack, and depending on the make and model of the frame an internal frame piece used during frame construction can also creak.

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It sounds like the cranks are loose on the spindle - hence the creak every pedal stroke / 180 degrees. If the cranks have been loose for a while, then the action of riding the bike will have usually rounded either the square taper on the spindle, or the hole on the cranks. If this has happened, then you will never be able to tighten that set of cranks up tight enought to remove the creak.

Your choices end up being either putting up with the creak (and having to tighten the cranks up every week or two) or replacing the cranks and possibly the bottom bracket. If you do replace the cranks, make sure that you grease the tapers on the bottom bracket spindle prior to installing the cranks. This will ensure that the cranks do not bind prematurely, preventing you from properly tightening the cranks.

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Based on the number and diversity of answers you've already received, you can probably guess at the real fact: there are a lot of possibilities, and it's difficult (at best) to be certain which applies.

My addition is that there are a few cases that can be nearly impossible to fix. One obvious case in point is titanium bottom bracket cups, especially installed in an aluminium or titanium bottom bracket shell. For most practical purposes, if you decide to use one fo these combinations of parts, you can almost resign yourself up front to some amount of creaking. The creaking isn't a major problem in itself, nor does it necessarily mean there are any other problems.

At the same time, it does mean one thing: you have to be extremely careful about maintaining the rest of the bike. You no longer have an instant alert when something is ready to go wrong (and many of the problems that creaking can signal are serious problems -- things you don't want happening in the middle of nowhere).

Edit: One other point: back when I was working as a bike mechanic, a couple of us did some testing on the best ways to install crank arms. We eventually decided that greasing was a poor idea -- while it does prevent the crank arm from "binding" prematurely, it also prevents it from really holding well. Worse, when you use grease and torque the crank bolts properly, the crank arm will seat "deeper" on the BB axle. In our testing, this led to cracking the crank arm about 5-10% more often than without grease.

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i got this problem which is how i found this post on google! excellent answer from the last person above! i have exactly this issue, the titanium spindle with 2 sealed bearings either side (6903 stainless with rubber seals, 30mm x 7mm x 17mm) used with an alloy cup on the drive side and the non drive side uses a shimano alloy threaded type cup which are usually used in sealed bottom brackets. i have an idea which may fix this.

i am about to buy some perspex tube off ebay which is 30mm over all diameter and is the same width of the spindle between the 2 sealed bearings (about 59mm for a 73mm spindle). so what this will do is hold the bearings together strong whilst i tighten the non drive side type cup. hopefully this should work, since it simulates a cartridge type bottom bracket but its a light weight version. only weighing around 130 grams for 2 cups, 2 bearings spindle and may be another few grams for the tube. i been looking into light weight components you see :-)

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I tried all the usual and got a nice spring tune up out of the deal.

Nothing worked - then, on a whim, I detached the pedals from the crank arms, greased them a bit, then tightened them back up- problem gone...

who woulda guessed, the actual piece my foot was touching was doing the creaking

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Hi, welcome to bicycles.se. As this is the same suggestion (more or less) as someone else, this would probably have been better as a comment. –  Mere Development Apr 8 '13 at 10:45
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More than likely the crank arm is not sitting on the BB spindle correctly, very common! See if you can define where the creak originates, if it is from the chainset side, the following will apply;

Perhaps slightly dirty when installed, both the spindle and the corresponding contact surface of the crank arm or chainset must be clean then greased on installation.

I had the same problem recently. Removed the chainset, cleaned, greased and re-installed, problem solved!

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Remove your cranks, clean the spindle ends with alcohol (but don't get it on the bearings), then reassemble and torque the bolts to max specified torque with a torque wrench. The issue is very slight contamination between the two parts, leaving a gap for infinitesimal movement. You could also try torquing it first, before disassembly. It must be very tight.

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I had this problem and it baffled my for ages, changed BB's tightened crank arms and greased pedal threads and still there. Turned out to be the QR on the rear wheel! All that stress and I sorted it in 30 seconds!!!

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As not being a native English speaker: What is QR short for? –  leiflundgren Mar 12 at 9:57
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