A curious creaking

A few months ago I paid a rare visit to my local bike shop. I had fitted a new chainring and chain and thought I'd better fit a new cassette as well. I'd already bought the cassette but although I have a chainwhip and lockring remover I can never generate enough brute force to undo the lockring. Normally I would just take the wheel in, have the lockring loosened in the bike shop, then fit the cassette myself. However as I was cycling out that way I put the new cassette in my saddle bag (my LBS doesn't stock campag) and let them do the whole job.

They're a friendly bunch in the bike shop but their passion is mountain bikes and they seem to view campag components with deep suspicion. Its easy to fit a campag cassette, you just align the splines on the plastic carrier with the splines on the freehub and slide the whole lot across.

Cassette 2 001

Line the white plastic bit up with the freehub and Bob's your uncle

I explained this to the mechanic but he was not convinced. He preferred to take the whole lot to bits and fit the cogs and spacers one at a time. Fair enough, its still a simple job.

Job done, he then tightened my headset for good measure. I didn't actually want the headset tightened as I intended to have it replaced by Roberts in the next couple of weeks. It felt too tight to me but the mechanic reckoned it was much improved so off I went. My bike had been running sweetly before but now it had a pronounced creak especially when I put pressure on the pedals. I wasn't too pleased – I was right the headset was too tight – but I supposed I could live with it for a short while.

A couple of weeks later Roberta had a smart new headset. She also still had the same creak. There couldn't be anything seriously wrong or Roberts would have spotted it. So what on earth could it be? All nuts and bolts were tight. Perhaps it was just my shoes, they do creak a bit. I squirted pedals and cleats with GT85 but it made no difference, and to be honest it had seemed too strident to be just coming from my shoes. What else then? Saddle? I greased the rails to no effect. I searched the internet and discovered references to creaking seatposts so I took it out and regreased it but that made no difference either. Could it be the pedal bearings? They felt smooth enough but maybe they weren't. I swapped the pedals from Roberta with the pedals from Why? bike. Roberta continued to creak. Why? didn't. So not that then. I was starting to run out of options.

I sat and thought long and hard. I'd overlooked the fact that the creaking definitely started with my visit to the LBS. That just left the cassette as the probable culprit. I didn't think there was anything to go wrong with a cassette but I fitted my spare pair of wheels and Eureka! Silence! No creaking! It must have been the cassette but I can't think why. I was a bit fed up with the whole matter by this time so I just left the wheel on my list of 'things to look at one of these days'.

A couple of days ago I returned to the LBS to get them to loosen the lockring for me. I took the cassette apart, cleaned it all up and put it back together again.

Cassette 2 003

Dismantled cassette

I could find nothing wrong with it. I put the wheel back on and went for a ride. No creaking. Does anyone have an explanation? I don't think it is possible to assemble a cassette incorrectly, it just won't go on. Could the lockring have been too tight? I have no idea but I'm very glad that it is finally silenced!

8 comments on “A curious creaking”

  1. Patrick wrote:

    Actually Hilary, the lockring perhaps wasn't tight enough. I also had an untraceable noise a few months ago (or perhaps last year). Eventually I took off the wheel and tightened the lockring as hard as I could. Cured! (I think Garry had the same thing)

  2. Hilary wrote:

    Patrick wrote

    the lockring perhaps wasn't tight enough

    When it creaked it had been tightened by a bike shop mechanic and was certainly too tight for me to undo. When I tightened it, presumably with less pressure, it didn't creak.

  3. Kern wrote:

    Those are super-clean cogs, Hilary – mine would never come anywhere close to the carpet :).

    I haven't the faintest about the creaking; must be a gremlin. I'm sure Alan will come up with a more logical (and fanciful) explanation.

  4. Patrick wrote:

    Kern wrote: Those are super-clean cogs, Hilary.

    They are. Shimano cassettes (mine anyway) won't come apart that way. Most of the sprockets are riveted together.

    Hilary wrote: ... brute force to undo the lockring.

    I agree with you about chainwhips. Horrible things. I can never remember which way it goes on or which direction to pull. The lockring remover tends not to engage properly either (it keeps slipping out when the wheel is held vertical).

    I'm pleased you identified the culprit 😎

  5. Chris wrote:

    My Shimano cassettes come apart with the aid of a drill, bench vice and automatic centre punch. The spacers are nowhere near as bling as yours though, Hilary 😎

    Lately I've put my wheel on top of the garden table and allowed the hub to drop in to the space where an umbrella would go. I find I have more control when I'm removing or replacing the cassette, particularly as mine don't have the rivets to hold the cassette body together.

    It's very satisfying to be able to solve a creaking noise. Are you without a torque wrench like me?

  6. Patrick wrote:

    Chris wrote: top of the garden table ... where an umbrella would go.

    LOL (very true)

  7. Mick F wrote:

    I can only think there was some "foreign body" in the cassette innards – perhaps not allowing the cogs and spacers to bed in properly. There is no way that the creak could be caused by the lockring being too tight.

    I never tighten mine up anywhere near the recommended torque because they are difficult to undo, so I tighten mine up by feel. In fact, it is possible to undo a lockring with just a couple of pencils pushed through the spokes and into the back of the cassette to lock it whilst you undo the lockring. You don't need a chainwhip – providing you don't overtighten it in the first place. Also, take off your cassette regularly to clean the sprockets – this also helps in removing the lockring because it doesn't get the chance to seize on.

    Anyway, at least your creak has gone!

    Regards to all,

  8. Hilary wrote:

    Mick wrote

    I can only think there was some "foreign body" in the cassette innards

    That would make sense as all I did was take it apart, clean it and put it back together again.

    I'd like to take my cassette off regularly to clean it instead of cleaning it in situ but I can never get the damn thing off! Perhaps I'll try again in a couple of weeks before its had time to tighten up too much. I'd like to try your pencil method but I've just bought myself a better chainwhip – the previous one was part of a Lidl tool kit and didn't fit terribly well.

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