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My bike (Specialized Diverge E5) has a very annoying click. It's a light click, just loud enough to be audible. It occurs approximately 1-2 times per revolution (inconsistently). Occasionally there'll be no click for a ride, then it'll be back the next time. The click occurs at the same level regardless of how hard I'm pedalling, and even when I pedal backwards - but only when I'm pedalling. It doesn't matter which gear I'm in, and the clicking still occurs when I stand.

To try and resolve this, roughly from front to back:

  • I've replaced the cassette and readjusted the rear derailleur (and this has also been adjusted by a bike shop). The issue started when the freehub was replaced (also by a bike shop), which doesn't appear worn.
  • I've replaced the chain, and fully cleaned the drivetrain repeatedly.
  • I've replaced and regreased the bottom bracket, and I've checked the tightness of the crank arms onto the bottom bracket. I've tried with different pedals (same clicking noise), and with flats. And I've regreased the pedal threads.
  • I've regreased the seatpost and the bolt on the collar.
  • The front derailleur cable was replaced and the alignment checked by a bike shop.
  • The brakepads (front and rear) have been replaced
  • The headset has been regreased and retorqued.

The clicking has been going on for ~2 months now, it started when I took it into a bike shop to replace the freehub. As far as I can tell, none of the parts are wearing any faster than usual (eg I don't think it's a dangerous click, just an annoying one). At the same time, the bike has a new front derailleur cable fitted. The bike has ~5000 km on it.

I've checked all of the main culprits as far as I'm aware. I've taken the bike in to multiple bike shops who have all confirmed that the derailleurs are aligned and appear to be set up properly.

Does anyone here have any suggestions as to what it might be?

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  • 4
    Have you ruled out the saddle? (the rails can click inside the clamp)
    – Paul H
    Sep 5, 2023 at 20:25
  • @PaulH Great thought but " clicking still occurs when I stand." which is presumably pedalling out of the saddle.
    – Criggie
    Sep 5, 2023 at 22:41
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    I had exactly this problem a few months ago. It's fixed now, but what still bothers me a lot is that I didn't meet the mechanic who solved it, and so I still don't know what the problem was. I was certain it had to be an issue with the BB bearings—two scratches on the races—but it didn't seem that he replaced these bearings, or in fact anything.
    – Sam7919
    Sep 6, 2023 at 8:05
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    Loose bottle cage bolts and presta valves rings (the ring that blocks the valve) can also make noise that are not identifiable as such when not tight enough.
    – Rеnаud
    Sep 6, 2023 at 11:43
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    could it be just the end of your shoelaces hitting the crank?
    – Burki
    Sep 6, 2023 at 15:41

10 Answers 10

17

It's easy to miss causes which aren't strictly part of the drivetrain but contact it. Some I've come across that could cause a click only when pedalling:

  • The cut end of a derailleur cable or even brake cable touching something like the chainring, crank, or wheel (some designs need a very short end, or kink it over with pliers)
  • Accessory mounts, cable ties etc., again catching on moving parts.
  • My pump sliding in its bracket on the seat tube, until the hose exit fitting touches the inside of the crank
  • (More if it's when pedalling forcefully, or cornering) disc brakes combined with very slightly loose bearings, front or rear, or a rather flexible frame. Test by applying the lightest pressure to the brake lever when it's clicking.
  • Worn or loose cleats (though you've tried flats, so this is unlikely)
  • A shoe fastening touching the crank arm
  • A wheel that's very slightly out of true can brush against a mudguard or rim brake in one spot. This can change with tyre inflation.

And a couple that are parts of the drivetrain, very close to what you've tried:

  • You've checked the tightness of the crank bolts, but removing the cranks, cleaning, and regreasing would be worth a try.
  • You should probably have spotted it with all the cleaning etc.: a damaged chainring.
  • Or, as on a hybrid I have, a plastic chainring guard that doesn't sit quite right. These are rare on bikes that are expected to run perfectly.
  • I've even had a alignment sticker on the FD that could catch on the chain.

And a test - can you make it click on a workstand, perhaps by turning the pedals with the back brake lightly applied?

Another test - a completely different brand of chain, with a master link that works differently - or if your master link is the assymetric type with 2 pins fixed to one plate, insert it from the other side.

Also, can you just hear it, or can you feel it? If you've got rollers or a trainer, you could ride in bare feet for a more sensitive test, or minimal footwear in a safe smooth place where you can concentrate. This helped me track down an issue (that turned out to be pedal bearings), because I could feel it, while a cable tie catching the crank is only audible.

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    Tyre sprues was one I found once - brand new 28mm tyre with hairy bits on it still, which hit the chainstay and made a quiet noise and felt a little sluggish and draggy. The frame really limited it to 25mm. Ended up nipping them off with flush cutters.
    – Criggie
    Sep 6, 2023 at 10:50
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    @Criggie Good idea. I've never run with such tight tyre clearance to the frame that sprues could reach it because I run full mudguards (except on the MTB)
    – Chris H
    Sep 6, 2023 at 15:37
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    Speaking of accessory mounts, loose bottle cage bolts may be worth checking.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Sep 7, 2023 at 11:47
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I have had a similar issue with a very counter-intuitive solution: check your stem.

Assuming you are using a modern threadless steerer I would strongly recommend checking the interface between your stem and the steerer.

I had a similarly infuriating intermittent click. I tried roughly the same resolution on the drivetrain, along with some other suggestions from other answers like checking chainring bolts, wheel condition (seized nipples) etc. with no joy.

Running low on ideas I took off the stem which has accumulated a lot of salt over the summer, cleaned everything, added fresh grip paste and reassembled. Lo, the click was gone.

I was surprised as the click appeared at full pull going up hills (which made sense) but was also appearing riding at lower efforts as I moved my weight on the bars.

Good luck, hope this helps.

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Intermittent sounds - You're up against one of the most annoying, and hardest to diagnose problems out there. But your method and process of elimination is sound.

Why was the freehub replaced? My gut feeling is there's something in the new freehub which isn't right. Perhaps too few bearing balls, or a lack of lubrication.

Since the click appears while pedalling and not while coasting, we know it's somewhere between the rear hub and your pedals. I would suspect the rear freehub, given it was replaced just before this started.

OPTION 1: Eliminate the wheel/freehub, try and borrow a rear wheel from someone and go for a ride. I'd even be tempted to buy a cheap used rear wheel from ebay or similar, just for the purposes of a test.
It's always good to have spare wheels just-in-case, or you could onsell them after this is resolved.

OPTION 2: It may be worth removing cassette, then cleaning the outside of the freehub, and using an aerosol spray lubricant to flood lube in. Personally I'd use white lithium grease in a spray can and aim it at the cracks, and then some light oil like 3-in-1 or singer sewing machine oil to wash the lube deeper into the freehub. Work it back and forth for 5-10 minutes, and optionally use a hot air gun to gently warm the metal and help the lubricant flow. This is probably going to be messy.
If this improves things, its clearly a freehub prob. If nothing improves, that doesn't really show anything.

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    I can remember a recent (?) post where somebody had issues with cassette against the freehub itself and that was creating some noise. Not sure what the solution was but the OP afair even went with a new free hub with different body material and it was gone. Logic says if it occurred after a replacing that very part (and the LBS didn't do any other service), it must be related. Also had a creaky FH after the first season on a new wheel and how it came from factory, my shop just greased it and it is fine since then.
    – DoNuT
    Sep 6, 2023 at 5:57
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    Yes, but on the other hand, OP replaced the cassette. Yeah, if (presumably) Shimano's manufacturing tolerances are tight, the issue might still occur because the splines mismatch in the exact same way. I guess a replacement free hub usually requires greasing before it goes onto the axle, so perhaps the shop hasn't done a good job with the swap? At least I can't read that the freehub was checked afterwards and it might still be dry or assembled imperfectly.
    – DoNuT
    Sep 6, 2023 at 11:22
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    @DoNuT may be onto something. I've had a cassette that had a tiny looseness with its own lockring, but the old lockring was fine. That was just a cheap one though
    – Chris H
    Sep 6, 2023 at 15:42
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    "something in the new freehub"... for that matter, it might turn out to be a "refurbished" part rather than a new one. Sep 8, 2023 at 12:35
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    I had a click from a too loose cassette lockring. They need to be pretty tight.
    – Dan Gao
    Sep 12, 2023 at 14:26
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It hasn't been mentioned yet, so check your wheels for loose spokes and/or cracked rims.

When you pedal, you put side forces on your wheels. If there's a loose spoke or a cracked rim, that can cause a clicking sound.

I had the same problem as reported here: a clicking sound when pedaling that I simply could not locate the cause of. It stopped one day while I was riding when the crack around a spoke hole finally opened enough to allow my front wheel to go out of true - and stop clicking every time I pedaled. The crack at that spoke hole showed classic evidence of slow propagation followed by rapid failure. Luckily for me the result of the rapid failure was merely one spoke pulling through.

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I don't see the bottom bracket bearings being explicitely mentioned in the checklist. While the BB may be greased to death, they may still be worn and pedaling load is a different story than just "feeling the bearings".

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    Thank you for your reply. It's a threaded cartridge style bottom bracket, and I've replaced the whole thing - unless there's another part I'm missing? Sep 5, 2023 at 19:33
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    @user1150512 I see, too bad... these things can be a nightmare to diagnose. It's not always the obvious thing, so here's my final shot: Have you checked the chainring bolts?
    – DoNuT
    Sep 5, 2023 at 19:44
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    I've checked and tightened the 4 (5?) on the outside that need the special tool - are there any others that I might be missing? Thank you very much for your help Sep 5, 2023 at 20:10
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Since you already replaced quite a few parts of the drivetrain and tried different pedals, I would probably:

  • clean + regrease the through axles / quick release skewers
  • check all the chainring screws

If possible use a torque driver when reassembling.

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I just went through a similar experience. I was experiencing noise and decided it was time to sort through it and fix it. Bike is a Giant Anyroad 2. It was sold as a gravel bike with a 2x9 Sora components (except the crankset), but I am a strictly road cyclist. The bike originally came with a FSA crankset but I changed it out to a Shimano Sora with 165 mm cranks. Bike has quick release disc brake wheels. Frame is aluminum. Bike was new in March 2020 (purchased just before the start of the pandemic). A bit over 12000 km of road riding between March 2020 and now (Sept 2023).

  1. I was hearing noise whenever I was pedaling and seated. I took the saddle off, cleaned the saddle rails, and lightly greased the parts of the saddle clamp. I also did the same thing where the seatpost goes into the seat tube (it's a Giant alloy D-fuse, FYI). The 3rd area was where the saddle rails are attached to the saddle itself; these are just holes in the molded plastic and somehow the rails have been forced into them (or maybe the plastic was molded around the rails). There was no gap into which grease could be applied, but a bit of chain lube went in easily. All these areas were now silenced.

  2. After dealing with the saddle and seatpost, I noticed I had a bit of chain rub, so a bit of adjustment of the front derailleur solved that.

  3. After eliminating the chain rub, I could hear a sound that was consistent with the pedaling cadence. It was a sort of click and creak combo. It was most noticeable during high torque (ie climbing at low speed) and moreso while using the small ring. I took the crankset off and removed the small ring, cleaned/regreased all the threads, and reassembled. Next ride, noise was still there. I also tried putting teflon tape on the threads of the bottom bracket cup threads. It definitely made the fit between the BB cups and the frame feel more snug, but didn't fix the noise problem. My main pedals are a store-branded version of Wellgo R251, which work with Look Keo-style cleats. I also have a set of older style platform pedals with clips and straps, so I installed those pedals to see if the road pedals were the culprit, but the noise was still there. Next I decided to change the bottom bracket. I decided to put a Tiagra RS500 BB since it was less expensive than the Ultegra one. I was hoping this would solve it, but unfortunately it did not. While on my last ride, while climbing a steep hill, I was really hearing this click-creak and I noticed if I exaggerated the motion of allowing the frame to rock side to side while climbing, it made the noise louder. I recalled reading (somewhere on this forum) how a metal frame can transmit energy efficiently to other parts of the bike and generate noise at locations other than the point of application of the loads. So I got off the bike and opened up the rear wheel's quick release, tightened it by about 1/8 turn (45 degrees), and closed it back up. Hooray, the noise was 99% gone. Another steep hill revealed it could still make a bit of noise if the slope is steep enough. I tightened the rear wheel QR a bit more (about 1/16 turn), and finally, sweet merciful silence. So the noise, even though it had a frequency matching the cadence, was actually coming from the rear dropouts. I'm thinking the chain tension was causing a slight shift of the rear axle in the dropouts.

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  • Your conclusion in #3 is an interesting addition to the suggestions already made - metal frames resonating and transporting noise. If this is a real thing, diagnosing creaks and noises is even more fun when you can't even trust the noise when you think you've located it. Perhaps we should do a collective Q&A where all these points are listed (if it doesn't exist in such compile form, already).
    – DoNuT
    Sep 12, 2023 at 12:57
  • "So the noise, even though it had a frequency matching the cadence, was actually coming from the rear dropouts." How does that happen? The frame transmits minuscule motions (strain) that are initiated at the bottom bracket, but that trigger a click at the rear hub?
    – Sam7919
    Sep 12, 2023 at 15:15
  • @Sam especially with rocking the bike, it probably makes most sense to think of it as tiny amount of frame flex. It's closely related to the 4th bullet point in my answer
    – Chris H
    Sep 12, 2023 at 15:35
  • This is a great illustration of how the BB often isn’t the culprit. However, the OP does have a frame with thru-axles, which I suspect people usually tighten properly? Nevertheless, worth checking.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Sep 12, 2023 at 15:38
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    @Sam it's somewhere between the two cases. You can't remotely excite clicks in every bolt, or at least not in time with pedalling. But there are some components that can be excited in unexpected ways
    – Chris H
    Sep 12, 2023 at 18:59
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Did you replace the bracket bearings with a new set, I mean, a full new bracket?

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    Thank you for your reply - it's a threaded cartridge style bottom bracket, and I've replaced the whole thing. Sep 5, 2023 at 19:32
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I had (well, technically still have) a Specialized bicycle with an annoying clicking sound. Like you, I performed all sorts of repairs to try to diagnose and fix the issue.

I even brought the bike to a well regarded professional shop multiple times and had them tear it apart each time.

It was enough years ago (about 2 decades ago), that I don't recall the exact cause, but the shop said they did finally figure it out. I remember that it wasn't a dynamic (moving) part, but the shop determined it to be static part. I think it was either the handlebars or the frame itself. I'm about 80% sure it was the handlebars. It was reported to be the aluminum creaking from the stress of my body weight and the impact of the ride (it was my first aluminum bike, IIRC).

Once I was told that it wasn't a dynamic part, I learned to largely ignore the noise. The shop assured me there was nothing amiss, although I did always have a little fear that the common "click" sounds could lead to a big "crack" sound and the bike could experience a catastrophic and dangerous failure.

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It sounds like you haven't replaced the front chain rings. Is it possible that the old chain had stretched and caused the chain rings to wear, so now the new chain doesn't quite fit the chain rings properly? I recall when I was a kid I replaced the chain on an older bike without changing the cassette or the chain rings and it clicked like crazy as I pedaled.

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    Plausible, but his bike has only 5000 km down and I doubt that a chainring (or both) are done with after such a short distance if a minimum of maintenance was done and he said "no matter which gear", so both chainrings done is even more unusual. Also the fact that it is somewhat sporadic (heat expansion?) points more towards bearings, in my opinion.
    – DoNuT
    Sep 7, 2023 at 17:33

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