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I’ve been trying to get rid of a ticking noise.

I think my next steps are:
a) check the chain ring for damage, and/or
b) Check the chain for damage, and/or
c) look for frame cracks

I don’t have experience doing any of those. My main ask with this post is for pointers, links, tips, to accelerate my learning curve.

Now I’ll give some detail…

Bike is an old alum Rockhopper MTB.
I got it earlier this year for commuting, knowing the drive train was nearing end of life. A ticking noise started, which motivated me to replace chain and cassette. While ordering those I also got new BB, upgrading from BB-UN26 to BB-UN300. Installed those three items and went for one noisy, nasty ride. Noise increased with leg power applied. Realized I should have replaced chainring too. Ordered new chainring, same as existing one - a cheap alum Deckas 38T 104BCD narrow-wide from Amazon. Also bought new chainring bolts. Next ride was much better. If I’m honest now I don’t remember if tick tick noise was there first ride, but next ride I noticed it and couldn’t stop noticing it even though it was relatively quiet.

  • The tick happens when right crank is almost at the top of rotation. I don’t remember where (angle) tick noise happened before I replaced lots of parts.
  • The tick does not happen if I’m just spinning with no tension on chain.
  • The tick does not happen if I only pedal with left crank (unclip right shoe).
  • The tick does happen if I only pedal with right crank (unclip left shoe).
  • The tick does happen if I’m out of the saddle, although it is not as regular- it doesn’t happen (or I don’t hear it) on some crank rotations.
  • Tick noise happens while clipped
  • Tick noise happens while using flat side of pedals
    • (I put new Shimano PD-EH500 pedals, clip on one side, flat on other, on almost right away after buying the bike.)

Things I’ve tried since then, which have not changed the noise:

  • Removed and replaced all crank bolts with extra loctite.
  • Removed and replaced BB-UN300, with extra loctite.
  • Tried to torque right side of BB to spec, but I only have big clumsy car wheel bolt torque bar and it’s hard to see torque numbers while keeping tool from falling out (It’s unclear to me if same torque spec applies to left side). Obviously replacing BB means I also removed and replaced square taper cranks on both sides.

Things I have not tried:

  • Carefully inspecting chain for damage.
  • Carefully inspecting chainring for damage.
  • Swapping pedals.
  • Carefully inspecting frame for cracks.

My eyes aren’t very good at close up work any more so finding teeny tiny signs of damage is harder than it should be. Magnifying glasses with side LED are on order…

I’m really hoping it’s not the frame….

Any more detail helpful?

[Edited Oct 9 - clarified when the tick happened and did not happen]

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  • I had a similar issue (might want to check the videos for comparison, see bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/89316/…) - all that happened is LBS took out the BB and greased it to death which helped for some months, it is coming back in lower temperatures. But my bike is carbon and the BB shell never was a perfect fit, also backed by the fact that they swapped bearings twice in 4 years.
    – DoNuT
    Oct 6, 2023 at 8:37
  • Apart from traditional things you should check like seatpost, stem mount, and pedals. I am surprised nobody mentionned spoke tension. It can creak just like a crank would. Oct 6, 2023 at 11:58
  • You can also simply ignore it until something breaks ;-). Oct 6, 2023 at 14:37
  • 2
    @Standaa-RememberMonica They do, but normally with a different frequency. Oct 6, 2023 at 14:37
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    On a ride recently a tick tick sound on my wife's bike was driving us crazy. It wouldn't occur when I was riding her bike, only when she was. Then we discovered it was her shoelace hitting the crank arm.
    – Robert
    Oct 10, 2023 at 22:08

4 Answers 4

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Generally the key to diagnosing a ticking noise is to associate that noise with the correct behavior. You have already narrowed the search to "while pedaling" so it's not wheel related.

For example, If the noise occurs once per revolution of the crank with the crank in the same position you know it's related to the crank. It could be a pedal, the crank arm hitting the front derailleur or some other crank related issue.

Or, if the noise occurs once per complete revolution of the chain I'd look for a chain issue.

It's easier to find these noises when the bike is in a rack. You can get the bike's drivetrain up at eye level, pedal and then listen.
Having the bike upside down, pedal and listen is a good second best.

In your case you seem to have narrowed the possibilities.

The tick does not happen if I only pedal with left crank (unclip right shoe). The tick does happen if I only pedal with right crank (unclip left shoe)

Based on this the issue seems to be on the right hand side of the crank.
pedal
clip
shoe
Seem to be likely suspects

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  • 2
    "For example, If the noise occurs once per revolution of the crank with the crank in the same position you know it's related to the crank." Not necessarily. I've had creaks that happened once per pedal stroke but came from a totally different part of the frame – presumably caused by the stresses induced throughout the frame from my pedalling motion. Oct 5, 2023 at 18:57
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    @WillVousden you are correct. That can happen
    – David D
    Oct 5, 2023 at 20:01
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    I've also had creaks that appeared once per pedal stroke, but only with the mass of a rider and not on the stand.
    – gerrit
    Oct 6, 2023 at 14:09
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You mentioned that it's less regular when out of saddle. That partially sounds like what I'm about to describe, but partially not. This answer may not be helpful to you, but I think it may be valuable for users who will find this question in the future.

I would add checking the seat post and saddle mount to David's list. I actually had a similar problem recently. There would be a clicking noise, synchronised with the pedal stroke, especially noticeable around 250 watts, but only when pedalling while seated - the noise went away standing up. I tried pushing the seat in all sorts of ways to replicate the sound, but that didn't work, so I discounted the seat post option at first. I actually had chainrings, chain and cassette replaced and was very frustrated that the issue didn't go away (they were very worn, so it wasn't a waste, but I thought it would help).

Removing, cleaning, re-applying carbon paste and reinstalling the seat post resolved the issue. Turned out that on the pedal stroke the weight balance on the saddle shifted enough to cause a click.

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  1. Since you get the sound when right crank arm is at 12 my top suspect would be the pedal/shoe/clip as David suggested. If something is a bit loose then the sound could be generated as you remove the pressure on the pedal/shoe/clip. I have had the exact same issue which turned out to be the pedal in my case. You could try to just sit on the bike and put pressure on one pedal at a time, let go to see if you generate a sound. Check both sides.

  2. I have had a similar(don't remember details) sound from a rear QR skewer not being tight. In fact it was dangerously lose, and resolved the issue immediately. (Demonstrates how traveling sounds can be misleading). Might as well also check the front QR.

  3. Have you tightened the right crankset-bolt properly? You don't want this being loose as it destroys the crankset as the square is rounded off.

  4. Bad bottom bracket/installation? I get something similar before the BB wears out. The first symptom can be FD rub in some gears since the spindle is wobbling slightly.

  5. I would check that the bolts in the headset/stem tube are ok even though it's long shot. Same goes for the seat tube.

  6. You write that you have replaced, cassette, chainring and chain, I assume all these parts are compatible?

I am assuming the sound is generated independently of what gear you are riding in. Making a deraileur/gear-adjustment unlikely. As for the torque when installing the BBUN300 bottom bracket I have also noticed that Shimano does not specify explicitly if they mean 50-70Nm on both sides. But my experience is that you can in fact over tighten the right side, and that you probably should aim for 50-70 right and then adjust carefully on the left as far as it goes without impeding the rotation of the spindle(I don't think you will get to 60 on both sides without having squeezed bearings, but I have installed my units without a torque wrench).

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  • Creaks can travel, so the advice to check non-obvious areas like the QR is good. I once had a creak caused by a broken QR nut (lightweight QR).
    – Weiwen Ng
    Oct 9, 2023 at 18:41
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[Edit - I've done 6 hours of riding now with no tick tick noise so I think this is solved. The problem was overtightening of the left side. I just backed it off 1/4 turn.]

Thank you all for suggestions.

After reading them and thinking about what I’d already done I decided the first thing I wanted to try was redoing the bottom bracket. It seems very possible that I had over tightened it using the long automotive torque bar (while not actually looking at the resulting torque number) .

So I redid it and arranged my body so I could apply force and still see the torque numbers, stopping at 50 on right side and at 40-ish on left. It felt like less force than I used last time.

Since it’s logical to only change one thing at a time I also:

  • switched to loctite 243 from 242
  • Popped out right side BB seal and gooped in more grease
  • Tightened seat clamp
  • Snugged bar/stem bolts

This morning's ride was delightfully quiet and made the cold rain much more bearable. Hopefully it will last multiple rides!

Thanks again for your attention and input!

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  • Ugh. I posted that too soon. The tick tick sound returned on the ride home, although only while standing or pedaling hard up hills. Its much nicer to not have a steady tick tick for the whole hour long commute, but I'd love to get rid of it completely. Anyone have guesses whether I should a) tighten right side by 10 nm; b) loosen right side by 10 nm; tighten left side by 10 n*m ? Oct 11, 2023 at 19:04

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