The sound of your gears shifting on your bicycle should always be the same. When it starts to make a different noise, you probably need to pay attention because it’s an indication that there’s a problem.
There are no good ‘weird noises’ when it comes to a bike. Why does your bike make noises when shifting gears?
The main reason why your bike makes noise when shifting gears is chain dryness. If you don’t clean and lubricate your chain regularly, the chain can rub against the cage of the front derailleur, cassette, crank rings, and jockey wheels causing friction. This causes issues with your drivetrain and wear unnecessarily on the chain, gears, and other components.
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Why Does My Bike Make Noise When Shifting Gears
It’s normal to be concerned over a bike that makes noises when you’re shifting gears. After all, common sense and a little bit of experience with any type of wheels and gears will tell you that they shouldn’t change the sound they make.
A good rule of thumb for riding a bike is to check out any sound it makes that’s out of the ordinary, not just when shifting.
Below I’ve collected the top five most likely culprits for this sort of sudden tone change. Most of these are problems you can fix at home with basic tools and a little bit of knowledge about how bikes are constructed.
I’ll show you where to look so you can troubleshoot and hopefully fix it yourself so you can get back to riding right away.
1 – Needs Lubricant
Metal rubbing against metal makes a terrible noise. As the two hard surfaces grind on each other, it is not only loud but destructive.
For metal parts to work better together and glide smoothly along one another’s surface, a lubricant like oil or grease is required. In this case, it’s not the shifting itself but the chain moving that causes the sound.
As Road Bike Bros, “Dry chain wears much faster. Lubrication helps prevent the rubbing of rollers, plates between each other very effectively. Don’t forget about friction between the chain and cassette, crank rings, jockey wheels… The first sign of the dry chain is its noise. Usually, the chain becomes louder. Some chain lubricants after drying out start squeaking.”
To add lubricant, you need a clean, degreased chain. Then you place a drop between each link on your chain.
It’s best to do this with the bike elevated off the ground, and once you have each link lubed, you’ll want to manually rotate the pedals a few times to spread it out evenly.
2 – Dirty Chain
When dirt and debris in the chain are the issues, you will probably hear grinding sounds. The chan will store dirt between links, and then as those travel around the gears, they deposit some of that dirt.
Pressure may allow the chain and gear to work together without additional sound once you get moving, but as you switch gears, the grating of gravel, dust, and other detritus will become apparent.
Cleaning a chain is one of the most straightforward bike maintenance tasks, especially if you have a Finish Line Shop Quality Bicycle Chain Cleaner from Amazon.
This cleaner clips onto your chain directly and does the job for you with no mess and no wasted time. Since it only takes a minute, anyone has time to keep their chain clean.
- Heavy-duty bicycle chain cleaner with EcoTech Cleaner & Degreaser Concentrate and chain lube
- Cleaner clips directly to the chain--no need to remove the chain from the bicycle
- Three-brush rotating design and scrubber pads clean the chain quickly--usually in less than a minute
- 30-degree exit angle eliminates mess; magnet at bottom collects metal filings and various contaminants
- Clean your chain without removing it--in just one minute
3 – Rusting Parts
Your gears and chain are exposed to the elements, so their protective coating and lubrication eventually break down.
When this happens, the metal they are made from gets exposed to oxygen and moisture, a problematic combination for metal. Even rust-resistant metals will eventually corrode.
Once rust gets ahold of the chain or other parts of the drivetrain, shifting can cause the uneven, rusty surface to make noise.
If you catch it early, a little cleaning and adding a new protective layer will help. However, when you wait too long, you will have to replace parts completely instead.
The only thing worse than metal grinding metal is when it’s rusty because it will become brittle and flaky.
4 – Chain Rubbing
If the sound you are hearing is clicking, it might be caused by the chain rubbing against the cage of the front derailleur.
This is a common issue as chains stretch out over time or become slightly displaced with the normal movement of your bicycle.
The angle of the chain can easily cause rubbing, though it may be more pronounced as you switch to certain gears.
5 – Dirty Bearings
Dirty bearings can be a more significant issue than most items on this list because you can’t clean sealed cartridge bearings.
Most modern bikes use this style because they are better protected. However, you might still find loose cartridge bearings on older bikes from the 90s or before.
Restoration Bike describes it well. “Since, as the name suggests, sealed cartridge bearings are sealed, they are less vulnerable than their loose counterparts. Loose bearings are sealed away within the hub with a cone nut, which might or might not contain a rubber or plastic seal around it… cleaning your bicycle by hosing down the hubs or even worse, using a power washer, may force water into places it shouldn’t go, like your hubs.”
Helpful Tips To Know About Bike Making Noise When Shifting Gears
Typically, the noise you hear when shifting gears indicates a problem with your chain or sometimes the bearings.
Regardless of which it is, you can often repair or replace them at home. Still, there are a few other potential causes for this phenomenon.
Here are more helpful tips to know about bikes making noise when shifting gears.
- Try adjusting your cable tension if your gears are making noise and not shifting correctly. This simple trick may stop the problem.
- Your shifter could also be the one to blame. If a bike wasn’t put together, lacks quality parts, or hasn’t been serviced often enough, this is more common, though it can happen to any bicycle. When the shifter isn’t moving the derailleur far enough, it can cause rattling gears.
- When the outer limiting screw isn’t set correctly, it can also contribute to gear noises. Specifically, it can cause a clicking sound which is easily remedied by turning the screw an eighth to a quarter turn.
Happily, a chain is a straightforward and inexpensive fix. However, you should also look at your gears and bearings if a new, clean, or freshly lubricated chain doesn’t resolve the issue.
When shifting, problems with seized and dirty bearings can also cause noises, though it’s less common than chain issues.