Riding a bike is a lot of fun, but a faulty bike can easily ruin a good ride. A problem many cyclists face is a strange clicking noise after changing a new bike chain.
There are many reasons why this can happen, and it’s even something an experienced bike mechanic will face at times. A new chain clicking noise is not ideal, and shouldn’t be ignored.
In this article, we’re going to get you up to speed with diagnosing and fixing new chain clicking noises to get your bike running smoothly and quietly in no time. We’ll be covering:
- #1. Are You Using The Correct Chain?
- #2. Is The Chain Going Round The Drivetrain Correctly?
- #3. Is The Chain The Correct Length?
- #4. Is There Anything Wrong With The Quick Master Link Or Pin?
- #5. Do You Have Other Worn Out Components?
- #6. Are Your Gears Indexed Correctly?
- Robbie’s Video Maintenance Guide: Diagnose & Fix New Chain Clicking Noises
Let’s dive into fixing new chain clicking noises!
#1. Are You Using The Correct Chain?
A common mistake cyclists make when fitting a chain is using the wrong type of chain.
It’s so easy to do and nothing to be embarrassed about if you have done it. You would not be the first or the last!
The most common mistake is getting a chain that is not compatible with the speeds of the drivetrain (the number of gears in the cassette). Cassettes with a higher number of sprockets have smaller gaps between them, meaning a narrower chain is required.
You can usually use the same chain on a 6, 7, or 8-speed bike, but 9-speed cassettes and above require a chain specific to that speed. Using the wrong width can easily produce new chain clicking noises, reduce drivetrain efficiency, and create problems with shifting.
To diagnose, check the box your chain came in, or if you’ve thrown it away, you might be able to see this information in the writing on the side of the chain (on the photo above, you can see a small “x11” written on the chain links, showing it is an 11-speed chain).
Compare the number of speeds compatible with your chain against the number of sprockets in your cassette, and replace the chain if necessary.
#2. Is The Chain Going Round The Drivetrain Correctly?
When installing a chain, it has to run through the drivetrain correctly. There’s no corner-cutting, and there’s only one way it works correctly and doesn’t cause any damage. If you’re not paying attention, this is very easy to get wrong!
Surprisingly enough, you can fit a chain into a drivetrain wrongly and it will sometimes work, but it will start clicking and cause you issues later down the line.
This happens when the chain is not going through the derailleur cage correctly, and I have even seen mechanics get this wrong occasionally when not focusing.
To diagnose, check if the chain sits on the inside point of the derailleur cage, where it will click and make odd noises while you’re riding. If the chain is left long enough here, it will just wear through the derailleur’s cage, and then you will need to buy a new one.
The easiest way to fix a chain that isn’t going around the drivetrain correctly is to remove it and start again. Use a chain link tool to unclip the master link, rethread it, and then use the tool to install the link again.
- If you end up needing to replace the derailleur, check out How To Install A Rear Derailleur here.
#3. Is The Chain The Correct Length?
Getting a chain the correct length isn’t always as simple as you might think.
It’s pretty straightforward if the chain on the bike is already correct, but if it wasn’t or it was very stretched, there’s a good chance it’s probably wrong.
If the chain is too short, it can put too much tension on the derailleur. If it’s too long, it can become too slack, which can cause a clicking noise while it runs across the chainstay.
Getting a chain the correct length can be challenging, and it can take a few attempts to get it right when learning.
To see if the chain length is correct, shift into the smallest cog on the cassette and the smallest chainring. There should be no slack on the chain here, and there should be a small gap between the derailleur arm and body. If not, the chain is too long.
Then try to shift into the largest cog and largest chainring. If you can’t, it’s too short.
If the chain is too long, you can release it via the master link and cut it down to size. If it’s too short, we recommend installing a new chain altogether.
#4. Is there Anything Wrong With The Master Link Or Pin?
The quick link – commonly known as the “master link” – is what you use to join the chain together while still giving it flexibility.
It’s two small pieces of chain that can be taken apart and put back together using a chain link tool.
If not properly installed, the master link can cause a new chain clicking noise as it passes through the drivetrain. Another problem that I have come across as a mechanic is bent master links, which also make a clicking sound.
To diagnose a broken or incorrectly installed master link, you need to inspect it visually.
Locate the master link on your chain. It will be the only link with oval holes on the chain. Once you have found it, inspect it, and you will also want to ensure it has flexibility too. If it is broken or faulty, it can be cheaply replaced.
If you don’t have a master link and have a pin instead, this could cause a clicking by not being installed properly and not offering the flexibility the chain requires.
For chains without master links, I personally work my way around each link to check if it is flexible, and if I find one that isn’t, I swap it with a master link.
#5. Do You Have Other Worn Out Components?
When it comes to chains, cassettes, and chainrings, they all wear out at different rates.
Provided you look after your bike and make regular changes, you can usually work through three new chains per cassette, and two to three new cassettes per chainring set.
If you fit a new bike chain on a very worn cassette or chainrings, you will get clicking noises, chain slips, and a generally unpleasant experience riding your bike.
This is normal as parts generally wear together, and you must change parts before others are too far gone for new parts.
To diagnose if you have other worn-out parts, you need to inspect them visually. “Shark fin” shaped teeth on the chainrings and cassette sprocket are a classic tell-tale sign of wear, but it can be very difficult to tell by eye alone.
If you can’t notice, it will be down to how it performs when out riding, or you can go to your local bike shop for their opinion.
If you have any worn-out parts, you will need to change them to ensure the bike will continue working properly. Some cyclists say chains will wear in eventually, but it’s not fixing the underlying problem of worn parts.
#6. Are Your Gears Indexed Correctly?
Indexing your gears is the process of setting them up so they shift properly across the cassette.
If they are indexed properly, you get silky smooth shifting, and the bike is much quieter compared to if they are not indexed.
When you change a chain, your bike gear indexing doesn’t change, but it doesn’t mean they don’t need indexing. If you have had a very dirty, worn chain before, you might need to make some micro-adjustments.
To check if the gears are indexed correctly, get the bike in a stand and shift through all the cogs on the rear cassette going up and down while pedaling.
If they are not shifting correctly or making clicking noises on some gears, you should have them indexed (or do it yourself with the guide below!).
Robbie’s Video Maintenance Guide: Diagnose & Fix New Chain Clicking Noises
Check out the BikeTips YouTube Channel here for walk-through bike maintenance guides and more!
Now You Know About New Chain Clicking Noises…
A clicking bike chain can be incredibly annoying and ruin a good ride. There are so many reasons for clicking a chain, and it’s important to investigate the problem as soon as possible.
We hope we helped you find the solution to your clicking chain and are now riding smoothly and clicking free!