I lay in bed listening, the windows open, a fan cycling on and off. Blue jays screeched in their awful, nasally way, and starlings clicked and sputtered. The high, clear notes of a cardinal came and went. Leaves fluttered in rising and falling wind. It was nice, but not too nice. Not every sound nature produces fits in a symphony.
I thought of this on my bike the other day. I’ve been chasing a horrible whooshing sound that has to be the chain making some very minimal contact with the front derailleur, but only when I’m torquing the pedals, only in certain gears. It’s not a there’s-something-wrong sound, but it disturbs me. It shouldn’t be there.
This goes back to Rasputitsa (my long ago started “race report” for that event is somewhere in drafts still), when I took my bike from spit-polish clean to mud bath filthy in the course of 40 miles. At the end, my drive train sounded like an original cotton gin, and even after a vigorous hosing, a patina of filth clung to every centimeter. I ended up with a small bucket of bike wash and a toothbrush working through the cassette and chain and the derailleur pulleys. Vast improvement was achieved, but I’m afraid what I really need to do is recable and install a new chain, not hard jobs, but ones I can’t ever seem to carve out the time for.
Then my pedals started to squeak, again, not always, but only under effort. The left more than the right. This happens. I think the tensioning springs (Time ATAC) unwind over time. The solution is to re-tension them with the flathead screw on either side of the spring, and then as an added profelactic, I drip sewing machine oil over the springs themselves. The only challenge is that the tensioning screw isn’t usefully indexed. You sort of have to feel the tension building and not go past a certain point at which they just detension themselves again.
Like a starling, crackling and clicking at a feeder, not every sound your bike makes is good, even if it’s not entirely bad either.
This week’s Group Ride asks, what noises is your bike making now? And how great is that perfect sound of a new chain over chainrings and through a rear derailleur, a midrange hum, like water over stones in a stream. Maybe you don’t appreciate these things. Maybe you’re that person, who I half admire and half hate, who can pedal along blissfully with his or her bike wheezing and squeaking, oblivious to the sound of entropy, of imminent collapse, just happy to be moving through space.