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Sweet Baby Jesus, I Got the Last Creak In My Trek 5200 Figured Out

October 2021
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It’s been a rough couple of weeks months bike-wise. The Venge, after shifting horribly for a minute (frayed, and eventually broken, shifter cable) and getting new chainrings, chain, cassette and a rear derailleur, is now in the shop for open-bottom bracket surgery (this is a long story for another day). Then, after finally getting my Trek’s drivetrain figured out so it didn’t skip every time a mouse farted, I’d developed a nasty creak in the fork somewhere.

The shifting problem, or “chain skipping” problem to be clearer, ended up being a worn inner chainring. Don’t ask me how it got worn when I barely use it, but once I put the new chainrings on the bike, everything worked exactly as it should. The click/creak issue was a little more challenging.

First, the Trek’s click/creak wasn’t that big a deal. The Venge, that’s BIG. Second, we’re about a week away from full-blown gravel season so I’m almost ready to mount the Trek on the Trainer for the winter. Third, the Trek is 22-years-old! Should I be surprised if it creaks a little?

Well, it creaked a lot. Mainly out of the saddle, and I could recreate the creak by straddling the bike and torqueing on the handlebar.

It was simple deduction, Watson. It had to be the headset.

And I tried everything over two weeks. Specialty bearing grease (thick and tacky – not BBQ sauce!), tightening the grip nuts, loosening the grip nuts, regular lube, but lots of it… I even sanded some ridges of the fork race to make sure the surface wasn’t the problem.

That last item actually made it worse for a minute.

I was just about to throw in the towel and live with it until I got the Venge back so I could then take it to the shop and let them deal with it… when I decided to give her one last go. I thought, “Dammit, I know what I’m doing and I’m not about to let that creak win.”

As it turned out, the Chris King Gripnut, which is possibly on its last leg, has to be exactly the proper torque, or some pitting in the fork race from years of prior abuse, will allow the fork to move, ever so slightly, producing a click or creak when the handlebars are torqued out of the saddle. If the Gripnut is exactly right, and the locking Gripnut is tightened to within an inch of its life, the creak will go away. The trick is getting “exactly” exactly where it needs to be. Too tight and the steering drags (and the bike gyroscopes when the wheels roll). Too loose and it creaks.

I spent a perfectly quiet 22 miles on it last evening and it was glorious. Climbing hills, albeit small one’s, out of the saddle, gearing up for a sprint, it’s all good. I tried it all.

I almost got a little misty as Chucker and I were doing our second bonus lap around our favorite subdivision. I’ve got a lot of devotion wrapped up into that perfectly spec’ed out and kitted classic 1999 Trek 5200. I rebuilt it myself from the ground up, had it painted by one of my best cycling friends on the planet, in the exact colors I wanted, including having a nameplate set into the clearcoat on either side of the top tube… and it was my first road bike – a bike I barely had the cash for when I was only a few years into my first construction company.

I’m just as attached to the Trek as I am my Venge, and I’ve always used it as my go-to bike when I absolutely, positively need a bike I can rely on no matter what the weather throws at me. So, to get it back to “whole” again, and vastly superior to what it was when I brought it home (and 2-1/2 pounds lighter), is a relief.

I love that bike.


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