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I have often noticed that, whenever a race bike is running with free wheel (so no active pedals movements), I can hear a distinct "tick tick tick tick" coming from the rear wheel, sounding more or less like a speedy clock.

That doesn't happen neither on my cheap city bike, nor on my more expensive tourism bike. Is it a matter of proper lubrication, or is it also an indirect index of how good the gear is?

I would guess that if I hear a sound, some energy is being spent to generate it, and that energy comes from the bike motion. Therefore I would assume that a better bike with lower resistance would be more silent.

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    Some hubs are louder than others. Though manufacturers would like you to believe otherwise, the loudness has very little to do with quality, either way. (The energy consumed by a freewheel/freehub mechanism, in proper operating condition, is minuscule.) – Daniel R Hicks Mar 14 '17 at 12:09
  • the number of ticks per wheel rotation could indicate high quality as it will have many points of engagement, however several high quality hubs don't use a system that would produce clicks, yet they will engage quickly – Paul Mar 17 '17 at 2:05
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No. Expensive hubs that roll well can be loud or quiet. Cheap hubs that do not roll well can be loud or quiet.

There are numerous factors that go into the sound that a hub makes while freewheeling. Among them are design (engagement points, engagement design, etc), the shape and design of the hub (the sounding chamber to some extent), the material the hub is made out of, the amount and type of lubrication in the system, the drive train running the hub and lastly the build of the wheel itself. All that being the case it's not possible for the average cyclist to listen to a hub and determine it's quality. A skilled mechanic may be able to listen to a specific brand and model of hub that they are familiar with and have some idea if is in good working order, however, that is a level of expertise you'll rarely encounter.

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  • Just to add to this I had to replace my Fulcrums, replaced them with the same model, same price, but the hub is now silent on them – Cearon O'Flynn Mar 15 '17 at 17:00

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