Why Is My MTB Headset Creaking? (Beginners Guide)


Routine maintenance is the most prevalent cause of creaking on a mountain bike. Regular inspections are critical, and any problems discovered should be addressed as soon as possible.

In tough terrain, the best mountain bikes emit the sound of creaking. The wear and tear are generated by the pieces rubbing against each other.

Older mountain bikes may lack components like ball bearings that are standard on newer models, intended to alleviate this issue.

Your MTB headset squeaks because the compression bolt isn’t holding it together. Using your fingers to turn the headset spacers will result in a loose front end. Even if you’ve had a loose headset, it’s most likely owing to an improper installation error.

Reasons Why Your MTB Headset Creak


Your mountain bike may start to creak for several different reasons, but in most cases, the problem is caused by components that have become loose. 

This is a question that a lot of people who ride mountain bikes have probably questioned themselves.

The creaking sound is frustrating and can shock you when you are outside enjoying the fresh air. 

#1. The Head Tube

The creaking sound that a bike makes can be extremely annoying, and it may also be an early warning indication that there is something really wrong with the bike that could put the rider in harm’s way.

When you hear a creak coming from your bike, you first need to give it a thorough cleaning and check it for cracks.

Pay extra attention to the creaking handlebar clamp and stem, as well as any welds and the areas around the headtube and bottom bracket shell. 

There is no use in proceeding with this process any further if there are cracks already existing, even though it can seem like a laborious one.

If you discover a possible crack, it is in your best interest to consult with the local bike shop in the neighborhood.

Finding a creak’s cause could involve trial and error if everything else appears to be in working order.

There are some creaks that can be located with relative ease, while other times, the noise is moved away from its original location.

There are some creaks that are quite difficult to locate, and bike experts have run into brand-new bikes that have suffered from creaking issues that they have been unable to fix using more traditional methods. 

After communicating with the company that made the frame tubes, it was discovered in one instance that the miters of the frame tubes were not aligned properly, which was the source of the noise.

The process is made significantly more difficult by the use of motorbikes with full suspension.

However, if you follow the techniques that have been outlined in this article, you should be able to fix the vast majority of creaking problems.

It is in your best interest to get some “anti-seize” of high quality and apply it to the stem of the bolt as well as the area beneath the head.

Thoroughly cleaning all of the components being disassembled will allow you to inspect each component for any signs of damage carefully.

#2. Bad Bolts

There are two components that are responsible for ninety-nine percent of creaks and clicks on motorbikes.

These components have either become “dry” or have some dirt embedded in the area where their surfaces meet or in the threads.

When you finally track down the source of the creak, fixing it will most likely consist of nothing more than cleaning the area and then applying the right chemical before reassembling the component.

Despite the fact that it may sound strange, Lube helps maintain loosen stem bolts and other things in their proper place.

Even if two components are not meant to move against each other (for example, the seat post and the seat tube), there should still be something between them, so they do not rub against each other.

It is not the solution in every situation – certain interfaces ought to be lube-free or include anti-seize in there – but in most cases, it is.

You should also give some serious thought to purchasing a torque wrench.

When components are overtightened, it causes them to not sit appropriately up against their neighboring components, which can let dirt enter the system as well as generate stress riser creaks.

It used to be that torque wrenches were both expensive and difficult to locate in torque levels relevant to the best mountain bikes, but this is no longer the case.

There are a few different things to stop your bike from creaking, such as retightening any weak screw connections or replacing any components that could be the noise source.

This noise, commonly created by metal-on-metal contact, makes for an uncomfortable experience when going down steep slopes or riding over uneven terrain.

If you cannot hear this noise when the bike is moving, there may be something wrong with the bike’s suspension.

If you are having trouble, have it checked out at a local bike shop or by a technician.

How To Fix A Creaking MTB Headset?

There are tons of ways to fix a creaking headset. However, the professional way to fix your headset is by removing, replacing, or installing a new MTB headset.

Some new threadless headsets—the older standard design and interior style—require headset presses and crown-race-setting equipment.

In addition, makeshift tools like wood blocks, hammers, and vices may damage the headset and frame.

If you don’t have the necessary tools, take your bike to a bike shop; they may not be worth purchasing, considering how seldom you’ll need them. A retailer can help you find the right-sized headset.

Nowadays, most threadless headsets are integrated headsets, where the bearings may be inserted into the head tube (along with any associated components like races, washers, compression ring, and dust cover).

First, add a small grease layer where the bearings will fit inside the head tube. Then, check the bearings to determine the headset size and angle.

If your headset is loose, the compression bolt is not doing its job and holding the headset together.

You can quickly turn the headset spacers with your fingers, which will result in the front end of the device feeling loose overall.

 However, loose headsets are pretty uncommon, and the cause of any looseness is almost always improper installation.

It is essential to remember that the steerer needs to be cut three to five millimeters away from the top of the stem.

As a rule of thumb, cut three millimeters for alloy steerers and five millimeters for carbon steerers so that the top cap may be securely fastened onto the stem.

When the compression bolt is tightened, the tension created by the top cap pressing against the top of the stem causes the entire headset assembly to become more rigid.

Therefore, if there are less than two millimeters of space between the steerer and the top cap, the steerer will prohibit the top cap from making a secure connection to the stem.

When the compression suddenly seizes rather than progressively getting tighter, this is the telltale sign that something is wrong.

Any professional who knows what they’re doing with bike assembly will notice this immediately.

You will also see that any spacers between the bottom bracket area and the dust cap can be twisted to the left or right since they are not firmed up against each other or, in the instance of one spacer, against the stem at the top and the dust cap at the bottom.

This is something that you will notice.

The problem can be fixed by removing the fork and recutting an additional 1-2 three mm off of the steerer. This will enable the top cap to fit securely within the top of the stem.


With this knowledge, you can maintain your MTB headset. You are now familiar with every component that is operational in your headset and how to gain access to it and repair anything that is defective.

For example, one of the sealed bearings may need replacement. Seals can be removed, bearings cleaned, and seals replaced.

Josh Matthews

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