The Sweet Sound of Silence: The Art of Keeping (or making) Your Bicycle Quiet. A Comprehensive List of Common Problems I’ve come Across…
If you have an older bike, mine at 25 years old, 18, 9, 4, 4, and 3, you pretty much accept that there are small creaks and clicks that develop over time. Still, nothing beats a quiet bike, and a creaky bike sucks! Following are some of the things that make a good bike annoying…
- Dirt in bottom bracket: This causes a distinctive, random clicking sound in certain bottom brackets – simply take the crank out, clean the dirt out, lube it, and reinstall it. My FSA crankset with a wavy washer was notorious for this problem (same crank, same problem on my wife’s bike). The S-Works crank I have now is sealed up tighter than a frog’s butt so I don’t have problems anymore.
- Loose headset: Stem bolts and lock nuts will loosen up from time to time. Tighten everything up and you’ll be good to go.
- Loose chain ring bolts: This is commonly the problem for that random clicking that I mentioned pertaining to the dirty bottom bracket/crank. These do loosen up over time and the clicking can drive you mad trying to locate it… This should be culprit number one when you have a click or creak that sounds like it’s coming from the bottom bracket. Either tighten the bolts, or take them out, one at a time, and clean the threads, lube and reinstall them.
- Spokes grooved: Where the spokes cross over on the rear wheel (usually on the cassette side), over time the spokes can become grooved. Take a small file or piece of sandpaper and get rid of the groove. Lube at the intersection, between the spokes helps too..
- Loose quick release skewer: They should be tight, but not ridiculously tight where it becomes exceedingly difficult to operate the skewer lever. You shouldn’t have to use the fork or chain stay for leverage to open the quick release, but you should have to put some muscle into it.
- Loose brake bolt (torque wrench): Loose brake bolts will make noise… Always tighten with a torque wrench per the frame manufacturer’s specs!
- Loose threadless stem: Threadless stem bolts should be tightened once a week with a torque wrench. They can loosen over time if the Loctite on the threads wears out.
- Cable housings: These can knock together and cause a noise but most people aren’t picky enough to require correcting this. I did say most. I am not most when it comes to the Venge. If you happen to be that picky, you can pick these up at the local shop for cheap:
- Loose/dead shifter springs. Your shifters will rattle a bit every time you hit a bump. Install new shifters or live with the noise…. Unless you’re running Campagnolo components. I’ve heard they can be rebuilt. I reserve the right to be wrong on that.
- Loose cassette: This is a rarity, but worth remembering when you get a rattle you can’t track down.
- Loose cone race/bearings: You’ll feel this in the wheel if you give it a vigorous shake side to side. Just remember, a certain amount of play isn’t bad – “loose is fast”.
- Rubber grommets at certain wheel hubs: These will make a weird “whooshing” sound…. A little light lube (Boeshield T-9 is what I use) will quiet that down.
- Plastic spoke protector*: This little piece of uselessness can be the cause of noise, rarely. See below, and the photo above, of my cassette.
- Reflector mounts*: Loose reflector mounts. See below, but tighten them up or replace them if necessary.
- Loose derailleur mount: This is a tricky one but not uncommon. I’ve had a few friends derailed by the derailleur mount. It’ll make some funky noises and it’s not easy to nail down.
- Seat Post/Saddle Collar: No matter how well you maintain your bike, you can develop a creak in the seat post or saddle collar at any time. I maintain my Venge impeccably and mine started creaking wildly. The problem here is that the more you care for your bike, the easier it is to overlook the seat post. The creak will have no rhythm to it, it can creak whether in the saddle or out and no matter where you are in the pedal stroke…. Simply loosen your seat post clamp, work the seat post up and down a few times and tighten the clamp up again. This one drove me nuts for more than a week.
* If you didn’t know this already, fast, racer type people who only ride during daylight hours remove their reflectors. Most cycling-specific clothing and shoes have enough reflective surfaces you don’t need more reflectors… besides, they add weight. And they’re ugly. Chuckle. I don’t have one reflector on any of my… one, two, three… Five bikes. Riding without reflectors may be “illegal” where you live – and I would NEVER suggest flouting the law! Me without my muff! That said, do what you wish – I choose lights over reflectors when I ride near dusk (once a year). If you feel reflectors will make you safe and more visible, definitely leave them on. Now, the plastic spoke protector is a lawyer-required item. They’re installed to protect shop owners and manufacturers from cyclists being stupid. The sure mark of a noob is a plastic spoke protector still on the bike, behind the cassette. I don’t have a spoke protector on any of my bikes because I know enough to not let my shifting get so far out of whack that the derailleur could shift the chain into the rear spokes. If what I wrote just now makes your eyes glaze over because you have no idea what those words mean, leave your protector on. You need it and we need to be able to identify you when you ride with us. Call it a win/win.
It is a rare occurrence that I ride alone, especially for more than 18 miles, but such was the case last night.
In the last couple of weeks most of my miles were completed on my old school Trek. It’s so tuned up and dialed in, it’s almost riding as well as my good bike.
Tuesday night, riding with my wife, I finally made the verbal error of expressing my amazement at how quiet and exceptional the Trek is lately. It’s riding like it’s a new bike.
When I installed the new shifters a few weeks ago, though, I reused all of the existing cables (they were in excellent shape). Unfortunately, I frayed the rear brake cable and the front derailleur cable when fishing them back through their housings. I noticed and fixed the brake immediately, the shifter cable took a bit to notice…
On waking yesterday, I decided to head into the office and fix that cable before work…. On wheeling the bike out the door I noticed the headset was loose, and not just a little, there was some serious play in the fork. I’d just had it adjusted and tightened at the shop a few days before.
With the old quill stem, the fix is easy…. If you happen to own a 32mm headset wrench or two. It’s not so simple, if you don’t. I didn’t, but I can share a neat trick to work around it temporarily.
To use a full-size 32mm wrench (or adjustable wrench, as I have), simply line up both nuts, the lower adjuster nut and the upper lock nut, and tighten both until the headset is properly tightened. Then loosen and raise the stem to allow some clearance for the wrench. Keeping an eye on the lower nut, tighten the lock nut… If the adjuster nut moves when you tighten the lock nut, hold the adjuster nut steady by wrapping a shoe lace around it and pinching it tight (or twist it a few times and pinch it)… This should give you just enough tension to get some bite on the lock nut when you tighten it.
I used the trick above, then picked up a headset wrench at the local shop for $16 because using a shoelace to grip a nut instead of dropping sixteen bucks on the right tool is silly. That said, it’s done.
Then came time for yesterday evening’s ride. Wednesday is typically a short, 17-1/2 mile ride, at an easy pace but we went easy and short on Tuesday to miss some passing rain… and I’d eaten a decent breakfast and lunch with pizza coming up for dinner. I needed to burn some calories before pizza. I took the Venge this time, too.
I opted for a traditional weekend run, an out and back 28 and change and quickly discovered why we only ride that route in the early morning, or on the weekends. Traffic sucked after rush hour! Once I got to the back roads though, about six miles in, things improved.
As I headed out I set my sights on an 18mph average. Not slow, but definitely easy enough. I headed out into the light breeze and quickly worked up to a sustainable (heh) pace around 19 mph but felt it a little easy. I bumped it up to 20. Then 21. Twelve miles in, I had a grin stretched across my face.
I finished the ride strong with a mild tailwind, keeping the speed between 21 & 23. I ended up with 28-1/2 miles at 19.6 mph but chose to ride for a bit to chat with a guy who rides his mountain bike by our home pretty regularly. I was just over 30 miles at 19.2 when I pulled into the driveway.
That pizza was extra tasty as hungry as I was once I finished my ride.
I felt good all night long. My daily bike ride is like working steps for my sobriety or daily prayer for my sanity.
This is some good, old-fashioned family fun. Gulp. “Is it hot in here?”
Hold the Front Door, with the Phone… err Somethin’! A Stroke of Luck + a New, Old Saddle on the 5200 = Butter!
After the Northwest Tour and having my butt in a saddle that I put up with rather than enjoyed, 200 miles in three days, I decided I needed a change. That Selle Italia just wasn’t getting it, and now that I have the bike dialed in so well I want to spend more time on it. Not an exciting prospect with the Selle.
Now, the idea was to get through this with as little as cost as possible. I thought about taking my Specialized Romin off of the tandem and putting it on the Trek but I love that saddle on the tandem. Then I remembered the old Cannondale sitting out in the garage. I figured it was worth a try.
I took the level reading with my handy-dandy app (-3.6%). Unfortunately, like a dope, I was so excited to give it a try, I forgot to measure the distance from the saddle to the center of the handlebar. Doh! I took the measurement from the Venge. 22-3/8″.
I set it, nosed it up to -1.7% because it’s a contoured saddle, and called it good. I figured I’d try it to see how it felt.
I took it for a ride yesterday evening and…
Butter. It was one of those, “Why didn’t I switch that out sooner” moments. Riding the Trek is different, but almost as comfortable as the Venge now.
Eventually I’ll probably trade that saddle for something a little more Bontrager, butt for now, at least I can be comfortable, and when one is cranking out 220+ miles a week, comfort is king.
Oh, I almost forgot the stroke of luck!
I keep written records of my bike’s measurements at my office. Top tube to tip of saddle, saddle tip to center of hanflebar, saddle height (exactly 36-3/8″), etc. I checked my sheet yesterday and the old saddle was set on the Trek at 22-1/4″. The new measurement matches the Venge, as I wrote earlier, 22-3/8″. I still have to check my knee angle over the pedal axle (because that dictates the saddle position), that it works, but I was surprised to have enjoyed the extra reach on my ride yesterday…. Go figure!
Here are some contrast and compare photos…. I could have cheated the angle of the camera to show whatever I wanted but I didn’t. You’ll just have to take my word on it.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this post for five years…. Reading a post written by a friend of mine provided just the push I needed. Enjoy, I hope.
Every person who overeats wants to know what it takes to get that magic Dwayne Johnson/Michael Phelps diet: Eat a ton of s#!+, whenever I want! Woohoo! First of all, it’s just the Michael Phelps diet. Look at The Rock’s diet. It’s boring. Chicken, broccoli and rice. Repeat. A LOT. Phelps eats like heavy people want to, but only when he’s training to crush a$$ in the pool eight hours a day.
Well, I can tell you how that works for cycling. Now, we’ve all heard the crap that you can’t outrun a bad diet, right? Well you can’t, so stop daydreaming. You can outride a decent diet though, depending on what your definition of “decent” is. If you’re looking for that “Double Quarter-Pounder with Cheese, Fries and a Diet Coke” for every lunch and dinner diet, you will die of heart disease so forget about it – that’s not “decent” by any stretch of the imagination. Not even cycling can keep the lines clean if you’re going to eat like that – and that’s really the problem. The Fast Food diet isn’t just bad, it’s bad.
Let’s just say you just want to enjoy eating like a heavy person, without the “being heavy” part, though. How much do you have to ride to lose weight, or even maintain a decent weight once you’ve hit your goal? I can help, but I have a feeling you’re not going to like this…
- 5 miles in 50 minutes or more per day, on any type of bike, 5-6 days a week: These calories don’t count for weight loss or maintaining weight. Don’t be discouraged though – the exercise will do wonders to transform your body and health. Any weight loss will be due to improvements in diet though. Seriously. No, I don’t care that this exceeds the government minimum. The government minimum is for sissies – and if you didn’t know that… ooh, sorry for breaking it to you the hard way. [Ed. I should add that we all have to start somewhere – everyone, including me, is slow and can only manage a few miles at a crack to begin with…. You have to start somewhere, and you’re not a sissy for starting. The idea is progress though. If you stay at five miles for more than a couple of months, well…. (it took me a week or two to start increasing mileage)]
- 10 miles in 50 minutes a day, on any type of bike, 5-6 days a week (50-60 miles a week). Now we are getting somewhere! Just not far enough to eat more than your average 2,000 calorie a day diet for a man, 1,600 calorie diet for a woman. This will do exceptional things for your health though. Keep it up! If you’re trying to lose weight, you should drop 200-400 calories from your normal daily intake and the weight will fall off well. If you’re skinny and want to gain, eat like santa for six months. If you want to maintain, stick to the recommended 2000/1600 calorie a day diet. Keep in mind, a footlong Subway sub is between 750 and 1,200 calories. That’s no drink and no chips. Beware. 2,000/1,600 calories isn’t much.
- 15 to 20 miles a day in 45 minutes to an hour-twenty a day, six days a week. 90-120 miles a week. Hey, it’s time to celebrate! You get one fast-food lunch or dinner and one Coke – per week to celebrate your hard work. I know, not exactly sexy. You’re doing great though! Keep it up.
- Now we’re going to switch to just “miles per week” because if you’re riding this much, you’re putting some serious effort into it. 150-210 miles per week! This will take anywhere from 10 to 15 hours a week. Using a decent diet, you’re going to be losing weight like you mean it. If you’re looking for that extra food, guilt-free, well we’re not quite there yet. Your portions can increase a little bit and you don’t have to worry about the occasional small ice cream cone. Homemade burgers (not the Food Network 5,000 calorie burgers, we’re talking the stripped down burgers, are acceptable fare now and again). Ice cream enters the fray once a week, but only the small or “baby” size. Just enough to get you a taste.
- 200-250 miles per week! See number 4. You get to go from 1 burger a week to two (not at the same sitting). You also get a second baby-sized ice cream, also not in the same sitting.
- 250+ miles a week. Don’t be silly, you’re still not there yet. You just figured out that you’re riding so much you don’t want to eat enough to gain weight. You want to stay fast now, so you decide to eat sensibly because you feel like a Million Dollars compared to when you were heavy.
So there you have it. I wish I could give you better news, but I can’t. I ride a thousand miles a month and with a decent diet, maintain my weight. If I were to eat like a heavy person, I’d weigh three hundred pounds.
P.S. I’d get used to feeling hungry. It kind of goes with being lean and mean. Chin up, though! It beats the $#!+ out of doctors and medication!
UPDATE: I did want to mention one thing: The trick is, with a lot of exercise my understanding of the word “amount” has changed over the last fifteen years. I eat quite a bit to fuel my cycling habit, or more precisely stated, my understanding of how much I eat has changed. When I was a skinny fella back in the day, I used to eat like a bird. Today, throwing down a half a large pizza is relatively normal for a Wednesday…. but therein lies the rub – it’s only a half of a pizza. How many people chow down an entire large, or even a medium? Folks, normal people can’t ride enough to fix that. The only thing that can fix that is cutting back the consumption.
I’ve taken my Venge on every big tour I’ve ever done. Two DALMAC’s, a Northwest Tour, the Horsey Hundred three times…
The Venge is light, agile, fast and comfortable as I could hope for. It’s also sexy.
The Trek is heavy by modern standards, 20, maybe 21 pounds to the Venge’s 17 and change. It’s nice, no doubt about it, but it’s just not the race bike the Venge is.
With a bunch of new parts on the Trek and rain in the forecast for the Northwest Tour, I decided to take it over the Venge – it is my rain bike after all, and it’s riding like new after the new parts.
Actually, to tell you the truth, I’ve been crushing on the Trek, according to my wife at least. I have been enjoying it immensely of late.
The funny thing about Northwest is that it’s more “climby” than anything I will do all year long. There’s a lot of up.
I used the granny gear, 30/25, twice out of novelty and once because 17% on the second day…. I didn’t technically need it for either of the three. Still, while I would normally be grinding up the hills, I was spinning easy this year. Unlike years gone by, I always had plenty of gear.
Also, the extra weight of the bike wasn’t as big a negative as having the extra gears was a positive. In other words, net awesome. By a long shot.
Not only that, I know my way around that Trek so well I could do much of the maintenance blindfolded.
The end result was a much more enjoyable trip than I could have anticipated. The 5200 is much more impressive than I could have hoped – and I’ll never disparage my triple again. It is awesome.
We rolled out as it began sprinkling. The forecast sucked, 40 to 60% chance of rain over the next three hours but we drove up the the Michigan northwest to ride our bikes with friends and that’s what we were going to do. Besides, Chuck and I both had our ride/rain kryptonite; we both had our rain vests in our back pocket.
It rained a total of three minutes the whole ride, not enough to even get us wet. In fact, it turned into a beautiful day.
As you can see, rain kryptonite, AKA carrying a rain vest on one’s person, works. We made it the whole 60 miles without a major drop of rain. It sprinkled a bit, early on bit that was it.
We finished off the day, well to be fair, I finished my day with the rest of the group who were riding on, at Dinghy’s in Frankfort, Michigan. We all, all seven of us, had the Smoked Chicken Cherry Wrap. My God that was one good wrap.
A perfect day riding with friends.
As a side note, and I’ll write more about this later, upper lower peninsula Michigan is, and should be, one of the great cycling meccas in the United States. Very little traffic, great roads, fantastic towns, and more freshwater coastline than anywhere on Earth. We met a couple from South Carolina, up for their own ride with a senior group. Our meeting was chance. They gushed about how excellent the north of the lower peninsula was for cycling… and about how much fun they were having sightseeing…
I realized that I take my State for granted. This flaw will be rectified in short order.