I had the strangest thing happen on my ride Tuesday night… I’m riding along and all of a sudden I hear this odd noise at the front of the bike when I’m out of the saddle, climbing a hill. It sounded like something was rubbing, or maybe like a bearing was going bad. In addition, I noticed a slight warble in the wheel (and by slight, I mean maybe a 2 or 3 mm). I checked the brake clearance by lifting the front end and spinning the wheel while I was out on the road and even though there was a warble, the wheel wasn’t rubbing on the brake pads and there was no noise with the pressure taken off of the front end – I had to look elsewhere.
I rode on and other than the noise when I was out of the saddle, the bike performed fine. When I got home the investigation began. First, I knew I had to true the wheel so I started there. I turned the bike upside down and cranked down the brakes using the barrel adjuster to determine the spot to start. Much to my surprise, one spoke had worked itself loose – and by loose, I mean loose. There was a fair amount of play in that spoke. Tightening the spoke fixed everything.
In the last three years or so, I’ve put more than 12,000 miles on my bikes and have never had a spoke loosen up on me like that so it was a quite a surprise to simply be able to put a 3/4’s of a turn on a spoke and eliminate two problems. Point is, bike maintenance is pretty simple and logical – as long as you understand the logic… and that’s kind of the trick, isn’t it?
UPDATE: Kecia, a good blog friend, added in the comments section that she had a friend crash because of a loose spoke. She brings up an interesting point that I really didn’t get into in my post but definitely weighed on my decision to keep riding rather than investigate immediately: I was on my 5200 which rolls on Rolf Vector Comp wheels. They are a deep-V, thick walled aluminum rim and are known for being among the most structurally sound aluminum wheels ever put on a bicycle. I reasonably believed that I’d be okay if I kept riding. Now, had I had this problem on my Venge which rolls on Vuelta Corsa SLR rims – a full pound lighter than the Rolf’s, I’d have stopped and looked at the spokes on the side of the road.