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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.
The CycleOps Trainer Tire: The Best $40 I’ve Ever Spent on a Tire. It’s So Good (AND QUIET) I Still Can’t Believe It.
I was sure my CycleOps trainer tire was going to be a gimmick. Surely it would start squeaking within a week of installing it on my trainer wheel… and I’d be relegated to writing the “well, it was quiet while it lasted” post, dejected. My high hope was maybe it wouldn’t be as noisy as a standard road tire…
Let’s back up a minute. I own a normal, “dumb” trainer. On purpose. It’s not entirely dumb, though. It’s a CycleOps Magneto trainer and it is unquestionably “neat-o”. The harder you pedal, the more resistance it gives you. 18-mph is just as hard or harder on my trainer than it is outside. With that much resistance in the flywheel, though, normal tires end up squeaking after I melt them during intervals (I’ve melted Specialized tires at a mere 23-mph). Once they’ve melted, they’re done. Every pedal stroke elicits a tiny squeak as the tire tries to stick to the flywheel. I installed a Bontrager tire several weeks ago, an AW-2 if memory serves. A terribly slow but undeniably reliable road tire, I figured if anything could work quietly on my trainer, this would be the tire. It was spectacular. For two weeks… and then the squeak appeared.
Exasperated, I remembered the shop had a couple of CycleOps tires made by Kenda specifically for the trainer. I went in for a visit hoping they still had one in stock. As luck would have it, $40 trainer tires are not high on the COVID demand list because there were four on the shelf – a painful purchase, but I needed quiet. After a couple of weeks, I have to say, I’m nothing short of impressed.
I hit 30-mph during intervals last night, several times – a full-on effort in the 50/12 gear as fast as I could pedal and not a squeak. Not even when I’d dropped down to an easy gear for recovery. In fact, I just walked over and felt the tire surface – it feels the same this morning as it did the other day. No sticky melted rubber.
The CycleOps tire by Kenda is legit. It takes everything I’ve got. And quietly. Without protest.