If you’ve been hearing an annoying creaking sound from your mountain bike’s bottom bracket area, don’t panic!
While it can be disconcerting to hear something so loud from your bike that was once so quiet.
There are some elementary steps you can take to correct the problem and get back to enjoying your ride without the worry of it spontaneously falling apart on you.
Not only can creaking make you think something is wrong with your bike, but it can also make your bike harder to pedal and feel more uncomfortable to ride.
This article will explain why creaking bottom brackets happen and what to do if you are plagued by one.
Several factors can cause creaking sounds from your mountain bike’s bottom bracket area, but it’s usually because of worn-out bottom bracket cartridge bearings. The BB area houses all of the essential components on your bike, including the bearings and seals that allow the cranks to spin smoothly, and it’s necessary to keep them lubed up to allow a smooth ride.
Why Is My MTB Crank Creaking?
A creaky bottom bracket might indicate that your bottom bracket bearings need service.
Several common causes of a creaky bottom bracket include a loose fit between your frame and crankset, loose bearing cups in your bottom bracket shell, or worn-out bearings.
All these issues can be fixed at home without too much trouble if you’re well prepared with essential tools.
The most common cause of a creaking bottom bracket is loose bolts. The two small bolts that secure your crank arms to your bottom bracket can loosen up as you ride.
If not appropriately tightened, a change in crank arm position or riding terrain can cause them to vibrate against other parts of your bike, resulting in a characteristic creak when you push down on your pedals.
It is easily remedied by tightening those bolts and should be done periodically throughout regular maintenance to keep it from happening.
A loose or worn-out bearing is the second most common cause of a creaky bottom bracket.
If your bottom bracket shell isn’t tight enough or you have too much play in your bottom bracket bearings, it can be transferred through your cranks and cause that annoying creak.
The third most common cause of a creaky bottom bracket is loose or worn-out bolts.
Likely, you didn’t tighten the crank arms enough when you installed them, so as you pedal, your cranks flexing can cause them to make contact with other parts of your bike, which results in annoying noise.
The last cause of a creaky bottom bracket is a bottom bracket shell that’s too long.
If you have spacers underneath your bottom bracket and separate from your frame as you pedal, it can cause vibration and result in that annoying noise.
It can be easily remedied by tightening or removing spacers between your frame and the bottom bracket shell.
If you’ve ruled out loose bolts, worn bearings, and overly long bottom bracket shells, your only other option is to replace your crank arms.
The good news is that it’s an easy and inexpensive solution you can often do by yourself.
However, if you aren’t comfortable making that repair, plenty of local bike shops will happily take care of it for you.
How To Fix My MTB Crank Creaking?
If your crank is creaking, you have a worn bottom bracket. There’s an easy way to check. It needs replacing if you can hear a squeak or rattle inside your bottom bracket.
- Remove your cranks and take out your bottom bracket bearings—check if they’re dry, oily, or if there’s water trapped in them. Now, put a small amount of oil into each bearing (don’t use too much) before sliding them back into place.
- Inspect your bottom bracket for damage. If your bottom bracket is worn and there’s water in your bottom bracket bearings, clean and dry them out before replacing them with new ones.
- Check if your spindle is loose by checking if it turns freely inside its bearings.
- Suppose your bottom bracket is damaged or worn. If there’s no damage, you can add a bit of lube to your crank arms and bearings before putting everything back together again.
Now your bottom bracket creak should be gone.
If it isn’t, you might have damaged your cranks or chainrings—there’s a good chance if there’s a problem, it’s actually with them and not your bottom bracket.
If that seems to be the case, follow the above steps to check everything.
#1. Check Your Bottom Bracket Shell
Before you do anything else, you’ll want to inspect your bottom bracket shell.
The shell is what your bottom bracket bearing fits into—it should be round and free of any cracks or rough edges that might cause it to rub against your bearings while they spin.
The shell is usually removable, so you can swap out a damaged one for something new, but if there’s a crack in yours, you should probably consider replacing it.
#2. Remove and Clean Your Bottom Bracket Bearing
If your bottom bracket bearing is still creaking, you’ll need to remove and clean it.
The best way to do that is with an old toothbrush and some soapy water—make sure you get all the gunk out of your shell while you’re at it.
#3. Replace Your Bottom Bracket Shell
Before reinstalling your bottom bracket bearing, you’ll want to replace your bottom bracket shell if it has any cracks or rough edges that could cause issues.
You can swap out damaged shells for new ones at any bike shop. If you’re unsure what kind of shell you need, get in touch with your local bike shop, and they should be able to help.
#4. Reinstall Your Bottom Bracket Bearing
It’s time to reinstall your bottom bracket bearing—ensure you don’t get dirt or grime on your freshly cleaned bearings.
#5. Replace Your Bottom Bracket Cups
Now that your bottom bracket bearing is clean, it’s time to reinstall it into your bottom bracket shell.
You can do that with a bottom bracket tool or just a hammer and some rubber mallets—it might take a few tries, but you should be able to get everything in there without too much fuss.
#6. Lube Your Bottom Bracket Cups and Bearings
The last step is reinstalling your bottom bracket cups, which you can do using a cup tool, a hammer, and some rubber mallets.
Just make sure you don’t damage your new bottom bracket shell while you’re at it—it shouldn’t take much force to get them back in place, so be gentle if that doesn’t work right away.
When your mountain bike crank creaks, it is due to issues with the bottom bracket.
It might be due to a worn-out bottom bracket that needs lubrication, or it might be loose and rubbing against something.
It can also result from the crank area, hence the need to know how to fix these problems and eliminate the noise.
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