I have a clicking noise in my primers front end which is most obvious when I'm climbing in the saddle. I tried increasing the preload and playing around with the spacers to no avail. The preload is already set pretty tight (5nm or so), but the bars still rotate well. The clicking is a bit better, but still there. Any ideas what to try next? How tight is too tight for preload? Can I damage the fork or steerer tube by overtightening it?
Good call on other areas to check. The saddle/rail interface is a bit "loose" at the rear of the saddle. So regarding the headset, the bearing cap is tight and i can't move it around. When I check for play (lock up the front break and wiggle the bike back and forth checking for play), it's hard to see any obvious play in the headset. And I can't replicate the clicking sound.
I still feel that the sound comes from the front, but i'll try to push some tape in between the saddle rails to see if i can temporarily silence the sound. process of elimination i guess!
The hollow tubes of the frame allow sounds to transmit, so just hearing it from the front doesn’t mean that it’s originating from the front. I get a weird clicking like that pretty regularly, for a long time I was like you and kept checking for a loose headset. I finally figured out that it’s almost always one of my pedals, and the clicking transmit up through the cranks and into the frame. When climbing, I lean forward, so my ears are now closer to the stem, where it sounds like it’s coming from. I have OneUp flat pedals and it seems like I need to pull them apart and clean them every couple months, especially in the summer when everything is dry and the dust works it’s way into the pedal.
Excellent point, didn't think about the frame transferring sound and resonance like that. I'll have to play around with the bike to see where the clicking is coming from. It happens under load when climbing. I'll do some testing this weekend
Update: Thanks for all the helpful inputs and responses. I have been trying to track down the "clicking" noise(s) for the past few weeks based on all your inputs and was finally able to minimize it for now. Fingers crossed it stays silent.
Here is what happened (for others trying to figure this out in the future):
Took fork out and cleaned all the interfacing surfaces, then also greased the spacers below the stem -> result: still clicking
Removed and re-tightened the stem/handlebar/preload to the correct torque values -> result: still clicking
Removed the handlebar from the stem and greased the stem/handlebar interface, then retorqued to correct values -> result: this helped quite a bit, much more quiet on climbs now and doesn't click as often.
Removed the stem cap and greased the bottom, then set preload and retorqued the stem -> result: clicking noise is mostly gone now! So the cap was also making noise, but there was still some clicking coming from somewhere when I was out of the saddle sprinting
--> now i realized that the clicking "noise" may actually be different noises happening in similar situations (e.g. under heavy load/climbs/sprints/etc.) and coming from different parts of the bike
Removed, greased, and retorqued all the rear suspension linkages (top/bottom/shock) -> result: barely any clicking noises! hooray! finally a mostly silent bike
So I still have a slight clicking noise at times under heavy load and i believe that's still the stem cap making that noise. Maybe i'll try filing down the fork a bit to give it some more clearance. But the "clicking" wasn't just from a single source, they were coming from different parts of the bike. Mostly up front (stem/handlebar) and some through the rear suspension. I'll tinker some more to see if I can get rid of the remaining click that I hear, although it's 90% improved so far.
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