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To Thine Own Crank Be True: The Number One Creakiest Thing On Your Bike and How To Silence It (sadly, not for good).
Tighten down those Boas, boys and girls. Cinch up those helmet straps ladies and gents. Smack your quads and call me (big)daddy, let’s take this baby out for a (quiet) spin!
I’m not going to beat around the bush with this post. Well, except for that first spectacular paragraph, which is fantastic, but other than that, let’s get into it!
There are a pile of crank types out there and they are not all created equal. If you want simplicity that just works, you want Shimano. Lightweight, works spectacularly… and costs as much as an entry-level mountain bike? S-Works or Campagnolo Super Record. Next level, you can’t afford this $#!+? THM Clavicula. Reasonable priced but a tad heavy? FSA or Praxis for the alloy cranks. SRAM Red, Rival or the high-end FSA models are decent.
They all break down a little different and some are going to be more susceptible to collecting grit than others and grit is the problem. It causes more creaks in a bottom bracket/crank interface than anything else known to cycling – that grit can also be exceedingly difficult to get out of the little nooks and crannies of the bottom bracket so it quiets down, too. Every group has one of those cyclists who you hate to see get out of the saddle because you know, the second that ass leaves the saddle, their bike will sound like someone chewing on Pop Rocks with their mouth open.
The main key to a non-creaky bike is to keep that bottom bracket and pedal spindle clean and properly lubed. Most cranks only require loosening a bolt or two to get the crank apart (or two clamp bolts and a cap for Shimano – and that cap requires a specialty tool), but for my bang for the buck, my BB30 S-Works crank is the best, least maintenance crank I’ve got in the stable, then the cranks on the tandem (I’ve never serviced them in the four years we’ve had the bike and they’re still silent as the day I brought it home[!]). Most will let in a little grit or dust over time and will eventually start clicking and creaking. FSA and SRAM cranks have wavy washers to preload the systems, so there’s a rather large gap at the crank spindle that’ll let dirt into the works so those have to be cleaned often to keep them quiet.
Being the mechanic of the house, I won’t deal with a crank that has a wavy washer because breaking a crank down every time I run my bike through a puddle isn’t exactly my idea of fun.
Anyway, what’s important to know is that those quiet bikes don’t get or stay that way on their own. An S-Works crank will stay quiet on its own for the most part. A Shimano will need to be cleaned a few times a year. A wavy washer crank, figure every two or three weeks, maybe more (if you ride through a puddle). The point is, if you take care of your crank, keep it clean and lubed, it’ll reward you with not being the Pop Rock person in the pace-line.
I sent out the invite to our cycling friends Friday afternoon, hoping five would show up for our Saturday morning ride. It was due to be cold and quite breezy, so I figured it would be a small crew. The text list has grown in the last four years since I began putting rides together. It started out as a twelve-person text. The list has more than tripled.
My hope of five was vastly underestimated.
Friends started filing in around 8:20… Phill, Brad, Joel… then Mike and Diane rolled up. Then McMike… my wife and I made it a gaggle. We rolled out, heading west to unknown territory, roads most of us had never seen before – we ride paved roads out that way all of the time, never dirt. We were out for a straight up dirt road adventure.
We picked David up along the way, maybe five miles up the road, to make nine.
The ride was, for the most part, moderate and fun. There were times when it got a little fast, but as soon as someone fell off the back we’d hold up. We had almost every style of dirt bike there is, from mountain bikes to entry-level gravel bikes, right up to a $4,500 epic, a Crux and a Salsa Warbird. It was a diverse group, let’s say that.
Late fall in Michigan can’t be beat for dirt road cycling. Mountain bikes, gravel bikes, cross or fatties, and this autumn has been utterly spectacular. Cold, most of the time, with a few warmer days, but mainly dry. The “mainly dry” is the important part for me – I can ride in the cold, I hate riding in mud.
And so we rolled down the road, keeping a decent pace but certainly not crushing it. We laughed and caught up, told jokes and poked fun at each other as we rolled along. We simply had a good time in the cold sunshine.
Cycling makes things seem normal again for me. COVID, politicians, shutdowns, the utter silliness of politics, uncertainty… and the frustration of a nation, myself (obviously) included, that gets sucked into arguing the extremes to the benefit of politicians who consistently lie and flout their own rules and regulations to illustrate just how silly the rules, regulations and politicians really are… it all goes away for the time it takes to make it around a 35-mile dirt loop on my gravel bike with my friends.
Thankfully, talk of politics on bike rides is fading and turning to more pressing topics, like “where does that road go?” Here we were, nine friends out for a late autumn two-wheeled adventure. So it was yesterday morning for more than two glorious hours. When we pulled into the driveway, I couldn’t have been happier.
And I was so excited to see so many mountain bikes, I pulled mine out of the garage and got it ready to ride in case it was possible this morning. We’ve got a rain/snow mix moving in just about the time we’d clip in, so doubtful… but that mountain bike sure cleaned up nice. I just may pull her back out for a ride over Thanksgiving weekend.
Having so many bikes to choose from presents a fun problem to have; which one to choose?!