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I have a set Shimano Tiagra 4700 levers/shifters on my Niner gravel bike (RLT 9 1 Star) and lately I noticed when moving forward, at speed or slow, there is a subtle click when pulling on the left side lever for the front disc brake -- no matter how light I pull. If it's of any relevance, the brakes on this bike are the stock SRAM BB5 Mechanical disc, Road version, 160mm Avid rotors. The bike is new (just picked it up May and I have about 210 miles on it). I'm not noticing any effect on braking performance but just wondering if this might be a potential problem.

I noticed this after going on a somewhat long ride a few weeks ago with moderate bumps, paved and unpaved as well as loose gravel surfaces. Could this be debris or sediment trapped somewhere in the components? I'm not all that familiar with disc brakes yet so any ideas/suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Edits from comments:

  • The lever is quite solid on the handbars and no wobble at all.

  • The click seems to depend on forward motion while riding. I've tried to replicate it by turning the bike upside down, then spinning the wheel and pulling on the brake lever -- no click, even if the wheel is spun backwards.

  • Does the lever wobble on at all in relation to the handlebars? They should be solid had have no movement. – Kibbee Jul 18 '17 at 19:53
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    As per @Criggie comment can you tell if the click is the pads shifting in the brake caliper? – mikes Jul 18 '17 at 21:54
  • @Kibbee - No, the lever is quite solid on the handbars and no wobble at all. – iflyimpilot Jul 19 '17 at 0:20
  • @Criggie The click seems to depend on forward motion while riding. I've tried to replicate it by turning the bike upside down, then spinning the wheel and pulling on the brake lever -- no click, even if the wheel is spun backwards. – iflyimpilot Jul 19 '17 at 1:11
  • Remember comments are ephemeral, and are intended to help the question improve. I've edited the last two comments into the question. – Criggie Jul 19 '17 at 2:26
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Sounds like it could be one of several things:

  • Loose headset. This is the most probable as it's not uncommon to need to re-adjust the headset as the bike breaks in a little, and it also fits with it being the front brake that's causing this and doing it a little bit with any amount of motion, but not otherwise. You can google "loose threadless headset" and get all the info you need about the topic, but the fast way of determining that it's the headset versus anything else (pad play in this case) is standing beside the bike, locking up the front brake lever with one hand, putting your other hand's fingers right over the gap between the stationary and rotating parts of the headset, and using your body weight to rock the bike forward and back, feeling for any undesirable movement at the gap. Check both the headset uppers and lowers. Lifting the front wheel off the ground a couple inches and dropping it is also a pretty good test on a rigid-forked bike that's not too junked up with accessories, although if there's any clunking you have to then differentiate whether it's from the headset or front hub.
  • Play from the front pads moving in the caliper. Most or all disc brakes have some degree of this, but usually the amount you can feel while riding is on the very subtle side, and it's also not usually an acquired problem, i.e. it stays the same for a given brake or set of pads. If you determine that this is what it is, there's nothing you can really do about it.
  • Theoretically, loose caliper or rotor bolts. Easy to check, and you'd be getting brake rub.
  • Upon closer inspection, it looks like bullet #2 is the culprit. I tested by turning the bike upside down, spinning the front wheel and looked closely at the front brake caliper area where the brake pad handles/spring clip stick out. When I apply the brakes, I would see the pads move a bit, which would create the clicking noise. I then carefully held the pads/spring in place and did the same thing -- no click. – iflyimpilot Aug 1 '17 at 15:41
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Not sure if we're having the same problem, but I recently raised the handlebars on my whip and didnt fully tighten the retaining nuts for the quill stem. When I would use the front brakes, there would be an audible click and the handlebars would shift forward very slightly. I tightened the nut, and now it's solid.

If I were you, I would spin the front wheel as fast as you can (not riding) and use the brake to see if the click happens. Do this upside down and upright. If you don't hear the click, it's likely the motion of riding that is causing something to shift. Bikes should be solid, so any shifting that isn't your chain should be looked into.

Also, a friend of mine has those fancy-schmancy brake-shifter-in-one levers and I've noticed when I ride his bike that when I pull the levers to brake, I also accidentally move the derailleur over just a little bit. If you're doing that unintentionally, it may be just enough to make the derailleur (front, I assume) rub the chain (clicking sound) , but not enough to push it onto the next chainring.

All in all, the best way to solve your problem would be to pay super super close attention to it. Find a quiet street with few cars and ride up and down that street, staring at where it looks like the clicking is, braking, looking, braking, looking...until you localize it, or go crazy.

  • Why was this flagged ? Seems a reasonable suggestion to check the headset for looseness. – Criggie Jul 19 '17 at 23:00

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