Noise from spokes(?)

A few weeks back I bought my first 36” wheeled unicycle, a UDC Trainer/Titan from UDC Sweden. I have been using it to commute to and from work a few times each week (just under 30 minutes each way). I have also been going out in the evenings to cycle around the neighbourhood and practice my control on a few of the steeper hills around. No off-read stuff, primarily smooth tarmac (ok, there is the odd pothole). I am guessing I have averaged between thirty minutes to an hour of cycling every day since I received it. So a fair bit of usage but not massive mileage, in the grand scheme of things.

Anyway, late yesterday evening I came back pretty late from meeting up with a friend and as it was quiet out and I was on an empty cycle path I noticed a sound on every rotation. Hard to describe exactly but somewhere between a click and a rub. It is not constant but I haven’t quite found the pattern for when it appears. It might be due to changes in road camber or when I am going downhill slightly and holding back the speed of the wheel with my legs.

My suspician is that it is coming from the spokes (given there isn’t many sources of noise on such a simple device, outside of a little tire roar). Is this something I should worry about? Do I need to fix something or adjust something to prevent breakage? Any thoughts or suggestions would be gladly received.

P.S. If it is spoke related, I have zero exprience changing or adjusting them but I also have no problem going to a bike shop and paying for them to make some adjustment. Though I do wonder if it was a problematic spoke (or spokes) if I would need to buy replacements first before I took it to a bike shop, given their unusually long length.

Creaking sounds that appear to originate from the wheel when pedaling are usually from the crank/hub interface. This is especially true of tapered axles. Sometimes tightening can fix the problem but it may be necessary to remove the cranks, clean the contact surfaces, regrease them, and then reattach them.

Clicking noises can be from the spokes but it’s less common than noise from the hub being loose (in the case of aluminium shell hubs over steel axles), the cranks being loose on the axle, or the pedals being loose on the crank.

If it is actually from the spokes, in my experience there’s little you can do aside from replacing them all and making sure they’re all done up tight enough the second time. Once they’ve gained indents at the joins (clicking in and out of these is what makes the noise), you can’t very easily reverse that.

@harper: I wouldn’t really call it a “creak”. Hard for me to discribe. Maybe I should try and record the sound.

Nonetheless, based on this and the feedback from @mowcius I’ll have a look around the hub, axle and cranks…

You described what my 26" does. Except I think my noise is in the pedals. I’m going to switch my pedals and report back.

I’ve previously had a very slightly bent pedal axle which was causing a far louder click than it had any right to cause, so trying different pedals is a good first step!

Perhaps some form of strumming (like on a gitar) is the best way of decribing what I am hearing

I read somewhere on this forum that all new wheels need their spokes tightened.

My 29, which I got new four years ago and have since ridden at least 500 miles, had never had its spokes tightened, and it started making weird noises recently. Some spokes had become very loose, but fortunately (somewhat miraculously) my wheel was still pretty straight.

I went around the wheel with a spoke wrench (available at your local bike shop for 2 or 3 pesos) and tightened each spoke 1/2 turn by a method I learned on this forum: start at the valve stem, tighten the spoke right next to it (#1), then skip two spokes and tighten spoke #4, then #7 and so on, until you get back to the valve stem. Then you follow the same pattern, but starting with spoke #2, and then do it all over again one more time, starting with spoke #3. For a 36-spoke wheel, this is the safest method for getting all the spokes tightened without damaging your spoke eyelets. If you wait until your wheel goes out of true, of course, everything will be a bit more complicated, but I think inspecting and truing wheels and adjusting spokes is stuff it’s best to do yourself.

When I first rode my 29 after doing this, it made a lot of noise, but then quieted down a little. After I tightened all the spokes another 1/4 turn, it did the same thing, but eventually it became completely silent. I probably could have gotten away with tightening all the spokes one full turn right at the start as long as I used the method I just described.

I am not sure this is what Ruari should do. He may have a different problem, but this is my best guess.


Good thinking but no shoelaces. This is how I was dressed (picture taken just before i set off on the ride home)

I’ll keep it in mind for future once I have looked over everything else tonight

Canoeheadted makes a good point. I’ve had unexplained noise from unicycles caused by:

  • Those little plastic ferrules on the end of my shoelaces catching the crank on each revolution
  • My keys in my back pocket banging against the back of the seat on each pedal stroke
  • The fabric of my trousers catching the frame or the tyre (especially on larger wheels)

Eliminate this type of thing and that leaves the unicycle as the culprit.

Every part of the unicycle is under a cycle of strains as you pedal. Everything from a loose bolt holding your seat to the seat post, down to the bearing clamps could be the problem. Check and tighten everything. It will help you to get to know the unicycle.

That said, the most likely source is either the crank/hub interface or the spokes.

If it’s the crank/hub interface, check for tightness. If unsure, remove the cranks, clean and refit them, then ride for 5 minutes and retighten them. This is an easy job but you do need a crank tool. These are readily available from any bike shop or online. You will use it again, so it’s a few quid/bucks well spent.

If it’s the spokes, it may not be a problem at all. Noises from the wheel are amplified by the wheel itself, and sound worse than they really are. I had clicky creaky noises on one or two of my unicycles when they were new. It varied with changes of temperature and humidity. Temperature changes cause the different metals to expand at different rates. Changes of humidity may affect the friction between two spokes where they cross. In all cases, the problem has resolved itself.

You can check each spoke by doing the “ping test”. Just ping it with a fingernail. It should ring brightly. If one spoke feels loose or sounds dull, it is a simple matter to tighten it slightly. Ideally, you should remove the tyre and tube. Then use a spoke key (readily available, cheap) to tighten the spoke. In the unlikely event that the spoke now projects too far into the rim, you’ll need to file it down a bit to stop it puncturing the tube. I have never known this happen in real life, but it can.

A unicycle is a simple device and with common sense and patience you can check and adjust every part of it with tools that are cheap and readily available. It is satisfying to do so.

Truing a wheel, rather than just tightening a loose spoke, is more of a job, and personally, I’d consider paying a local bike shop to do that. However, if your uni is new, it is unlikely to need this.

Good luck.

Yesterday I got on my 24" and it started creaking loudly. I checked the tension of all the spokes by firmly squeezing all the crossed pairs. I got back on, and the sound mostly stopped. I’m not sure what squeezing the spokes accomplished; maybe it has something to do with releasing latent unevenness in the tension of the spokes. This may be a good test of whether spokes are involved in the sound.

A well built wheel should only need to be fine tuned after a few hundred miles, but sadly in my experience, unicycles do not come with well built wheels.
KH and Nimbus unicycles at least tend to come with wheels that could do with some tightening. For a lightly used bike the tensions would likely be OK, but with the force we unicyclists put on them they really should be tighter.
They’re often not very true either but that’s less of a problem now most people are running disk brakes rather than rim brakes.

Excuse me, while I get naked and have a quick ride around the block! :stuck_out_tongue:

More seriously, thanks to everyone for all the advice. I’ll look into it and check everything and report back!

A friend recently bought the very same Titan 36er and the spokes got very loose after riding awhile. I’d second Mikefule’s suggestion, do a ping test on each spoke to check for any loose spokes. If any are loose and you don’t want to learn a new skill, take it to your local bike shop and they will fix you right up.

Tightening and truing is not that difficult to do, do an online search for many good how to videos on the subject. I recently replaced the hub on my new 36er and picked up the knowledge and tools online. The only tool I bought was a spoke wrench. I used a free frequency app to check and set the tension on the spokes. It is really quite easy and a very useful skill to pick up.


Embrace the music!

Yes, identify the loose spokes, but do not tighten them! If your wheel doesn’t need to be trued, tighten all the spokes uniformly the way I explained on the previous page, and there is a good chance the loose ones will no longer be loose.

You could pay someone to true your wheel. It is not that hard to do yourself, but it is definitely more difficult than just tightening all spokes at once, and getting good at truing wheels takes some time.

There is also a musical way to true wheels, especially larger wheels with long, resonant spokes, but I have never done that, even though I tune other string instruments all the time. Apparently some people true their wheels with just a spoke wrench and a tuner (or tuner app on a smart phone).

You can get the tension very close by just tapping each one and comparing it to the others. No tuner required.

Truing however is done by measurement rather than sound. Every spoke could sound the same but you could have a wheel that’s well out of true.

For many years I trued wheels with just a spoke key and a plastic ruler. I now have a tension meter but it’s not necessary, it just makes things a little faster and means you can check tension while listening to something else (personally I like to listen to podcasts while wheelbuilding).

Photos, or it didn’t happen.:smiley: