Ghost creaks can show up for many reasons. Due to the ability of noise to travel throughout a hollow frame, wheel creaks are often confused with creaks from other parts of the bike. Isolating the true source of the noise is essential to effective troubleshooting, and tactics to isolate the cause are outlined below.
Isolating the wheel:
The first step to isolate a creaking wheel is to swap to a different wheel. If creaking is suspect in both wheels, swap one at a time. If you do not have access to a separate set of wheels to test with, your local dealer may be able to help isolate the issue.
Isolating the creak- front/rear wheel:
- Check that the skewers are properly tightened and the wheel is straight in the dropouts.
- Try a different set of skewers- in some cases the skewer itself will creak under load.
- Apply a small amount of lube to wiped down spoke crossings- spokes run at high tensions can creak at the intersections.
- Lightly grease the dropouts- this will help with any friction.
- Ensure that the cassette lock ring, hub bearings, freehub body, derailleur hanger, and rotor bolts are appropriately tightened, cleaned, and greased.
Other potential causes of creaks:
- Some splined cog carriers fit loosely on the drive shells. Since both are made of aluminum, they may creak under certain riding conditions, including wet or dusty conditions.
- On some carriers the titanium cogs creak at their attachment points to the spider.
- Check bearing and shell specifications, as they could be inconsistent, and cause a small amount of play. If this is the case, it is best to contact your hub manufacturer as they will have the resources to properly diagnose issues.
- Additionally, creaks can be caused by/occur from, and are not limited to, the bottom bracket, the stem/handlebar contact area, compression plug, stem, pedal threads, pedal bearings, seatpost, saddle clamp, saddle rails, headset bearings, cables in the cable stops, bolts in a frame, etc.
Tech Note: Check out Chris King's hub tech page for more information on causes of hub creaks.