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I have trouble shifting into an easier gear, and I hear a ticking sound. What’s causing this?

Ask a Pro — Diane Stibbard

The problem is the shifter cable. You need MORE tension on the cable. Turn the adjustment barrel on the rear derailleur a quarter to a half turn counterclockwise. You can easily do this yourself.

I don’t expect you to be expert mechanics, but it’s good to know what different sounds on the bike mean. That way you can identify the problem and either repair it yourself or be able to explain it when you take it to a bike shop. Here is a list of the most frequently encountered problems:

1.  Trouble shifting into a harder gear, accompanied by a ticking sound. The shifting cable is also the problem here. You need LESS tension on the cable. Turn the adjustment barrel on the rear derailleur a quarter to a half turn clockwise. (You can do this yourself.)rear derailler adjustment barrel

2.  Slow to shift into a harder gear (without any sounds). This means the cable housings are worn out and should be replaced. This is a job for your local bike store mechanic.

3.  Noisy in all gears, and the shifting is very sloppy. This means either the chain is worn out, stretched, and needs to be replaced, or the rear cassette is worn out and needs replacing. Take the bike into your local bike store. where they can verify which parts need replacing. Often, the chain and the rear cassette need to be replaced around the same time.

4.  A squealing sound when braking. This sound means the brake pads need to be toed in (turned in) a bit. Loosen the bolts that secure the pads to the calipers and tilt the front of each of the pads inward very slightly, [in toward the rim] then re-tighten the bolts. You may then need to adjust the cable tension barrel clockwise a bit to create a bit more space between the brakes and the rim.

5.  The shift lever is slow to respond or is not responding in either direction (harder or easier gearing).  The shifter cable is frayed, and is about to break. Return home immediately and take your bike into the bike store to have the shifter cable replaced.

6.  A creaking sound when you ride standing up.  The headset assembly, which allows you to steer your bike, is loose and/or needs to be repacked in grease. If it’s loose, tighten it. If it needs repacking, take it in to the bike shop. Inspect the headset regularly for wear.

If you ride in the rain, water can seep down into the headset,  causing it to rust and seize up. If you have ridden in heavy rain, once you get home, turn your bike upside down and let any excess water drain out. You might also want to remove the saddle, and let any water that may have seeped down into the frame drain out as well.

Here are a few other bike maintenance tips you can do to help keep your bike in good working order:

1.  Keep the chain and gears clean (wipe down with a rag, and put one drop of chain lube on each link of the chain. Then re-wipe the chain again with a clean rag). Do this after every second ride. Click here to learn how to clean and lube the chain.

2.  Rain and grit are drive-chain eaters. Clean and dry and relubricate your bike after every rainy day ride.

3.  Do not store your bike outside (even if it’s sheltered) particularly in the winter. The dampness will corrode parts, even aluminum, and break down lubricants.

4.  Before every ride check to see if your tires are inflated to the correct psi (the psi number is printed on bike tires).

A clean bike is a safe bike. Have a happy, safe and problem-free ride.

If you have a question you’d like Diane to answer please email it to [email protected]

Diane Stibbard Ask a ProAs a world-class duathlete, Diane Stibbard brings a rare combination of expertise, motivation and knowledge to her coaching. She knows that the driving force to reach any goal comes from a deep desire within. As a trainer, she has a unique ability to help individuals embrace this desire to achieve their athletic potential.

Diane provides training programs for recreational and competitive cyclists, duathletes and triathletes, including nutritional counseling and personal training. To learn more, contact Diane at [email protected] or at LinkedIn.

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