Friday Group Ride #410

Friday Group Ride #410

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.

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  1. AG

    I am a tinkerer by nature so a quiet drivetrain, cranks and pedals is something I aspire to maintain. Out here in SoCal we have very dusty mtb trails so dry lube has been revelatory. The long, grinding mountain climbs demand silence…a squeaky pedal can be like slow torture. But, I use wet lube on my road bike because it seems to dampen tiny klinks and ticks in the chain. I think my derailleur hanger is off-alignment by a few microns as the whirring of the chain is a little off. Drives me nuts. I bet if I wore earbuds and listened to music while riding I could save a lot of money on lube!

  2. Shawn

    I am so tolerant of so many things — dirty gloves, mismatched wheels or tires, frame so dirty you can’t read the brand — that bother my ride-mates, yet I have no explanation why I cannot ride a bike that’s making any unwanted noise.

  3. John

    A bike is a simple machine as things go, and I agree a properly maintained bike should be almost silent…the hum of tires and the murmur of the chain is all I want to hear on a solo ride. I’ve had a squeaking I couldn’t figure out on recent rides , even with some time on the stand. I finally figured it out after the last ride as I walked to the fridge for a cold beverage… it was my shoes! I’m not sure if it’s cleats or leather, but some cleaning and greasing is in order.

    I’ve also just got a 1x MTB I just started riding and one of my favorite things about the bike is how quiet it is, even over super rugged rock gardens the chain noise has been eliminated!

  4. Dave

    After 8 and a half years and 50,400+ miles I must admit to tolerating a little unwanted noise from my drivetrain. Oh I’ve replaced the chain and cassette and regular intervals , but the balance is original equipment. There are relatively minor rubs and whines, but absolutely no “wheezing and squeaking” and certainly no signs of ” imminent collapse.” I’m good about eliminating noises originating from other places, like pedals or saddle noises or other various clamping bolts.

  5. Aar

    A silent drivetrain is divine!

    Chasing divinity is constant and I’m a weak mechanic who overspends on silence. The squeak in my shoe/cleat interface reminds me to focus on my pedal stroke when I fatigue. I get schatenfreude when the squeaky drivetrain rider gets gapped.

    1. kurt erickson

      yes, i have shared in that joy myself when someone with a cacophony of squeaks and grinds falls off a bit. Heck, i even found myself glad once when a rider like that pulled ahead and gapped me! In my mind, i knew that if i just soft pedalled a bit, that the annoyance would be gone and I could solo on the short distance home. Besides, with all of his noise, i couldn’t hear my own racket! 😉

  6. Lyford

    There’s a very slight mis-indexed sounding tick in the middle of my cassette. On either side of that the drivetrain is quiet. Annoying.

  7. Fausto

    My old 9 speed Campy low end stuff is silent compared to my newer 11 speed Campy. Funny how that is. My Look pedal and clear noise and s a constant battle to quiet. The saddle rails after 6 months need love. On group rides you hear the symphony of bottom bracket creeks.

  8. Mark

    Yeah, that ever-so-slightly out of adjustment front derailleur.

    My headset has a bit of a *thunk* when braking hard. Tightening the HS cap a bit fixed it for a while, but it’s back. Maybe the stem is slipping. I’m going to have to use my torque wrench to cinch the stem to spec.

    But also my accessories. My mini pump mounted on my cage bosses has a removable hose that was rattling around in the pump handle last week. I put some closed cell foam down the pump shaft, but since it’s a long pump with a short hose, I had to put a lot of the foam in there. I just know the foam will compress and the rattling will be back. Luckily, that’s only on the rougher roads.

  9. Eric

    It is funny how keyed into noises cyclists are: is the front derailleur rubbing, is that tire running flat, is that a seat post or a bottom bracket creak, is that a car approaching from behind, can I hear the rider pedaling behind me. Not something one would naively think.

    My 9000 bike has been blissfully silent until just recently; the saddle has started creaking. I’m hoping that a few drops of oil at the base of the rails fixes that. But the noisiest thing on it right now are the brake pads; they need to be toed-in a bit.

    My 9100 bike (a Parlee) has a hidden seat post bolt that is more trouble than it is worth. It needs periodic removal, cleaning and tightening or it starts creaking. I happen to have just done that yesterday. The rear derailleur is also noisier than I’d like. Possibly a little b-tension tweaking needed.

    Lately, I’ve been wondering if it is time to update to Di2. I’m really impressed by the consistency when working on friend’s bikes.

  10. Mark Beaver

    We have a 400 km brevet this Saturday, starts at midnight, home by dark. I recall on last year’s 400 chatting in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere by dynamo light, that we could actually who was riding behind us or beside us in the darkness by the subtle noises each bike makes in motion. Each bike a little different.

  11. Jim

    I think the saddle and post on my mountain bike need a good cleaning. It creaks something awful. Not all the time, mind you, but enough. To eliminate the noise would be a simple task, but I just don’t seem to get around to it. At last night’s Wednesday MTB series out my way, there was a guy I was going back-and-forth with all race. At some point, he asked what on my bike was making all the racket. He would drop me on parts of the course, and I would find a way to bridge back up. I like the mental game created by each succesive catch, made glaringly apparent by the creak of my saddle. Maybe I won’t clean it. Not just yet.

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