Jun 24 2013

Bike Noises


Left: good bearing Right: destroyed bearing


Bottom bracket

Well, I can tell you about the rides I’ve been on these past few months: the Chilly Hilly, the Seven Hills of Kirkland, the Flying Wheels Summer Century, Crystal Mountain, and part of the High Pass Challenge. I could tell you tales of soaking wet rides, endless cramps, and some spills, but maybe some other post. I _will_ tell you about some of these rides from a different point of view and as a famous comedian used to say, “If you’re not careful, you just might learn something.”

Bike to Work Month; sun, rain, wind were all there along with all the crazy riders. I was on my trusty Scott cyclocross for most of the rides. The bike took a beating; I replaced the rear brake pads some time
in March but later in May I found I had to replace the rear pads again. I then found that the shifting wasn’t
right – the cable had stretched so I sent it out to the bike shop. I then pulled out the Cannondale to finish out the last part of Bike to Work Month (May) and do a couple of training rides with Kary and Gail, Eddie, and John W. On one ride, I was trying to draft off the tandem. Draft, get sprayed by brown water, back-off, repeat; these training rides were starting to be like my commutes – wet and dirty!

On the Seven Hills of Kirkland, a third of the way in it starts to drizzle. But to make matters worse, I started to hear a grinding noise. No, it wasn’t my knees…it came from my pedals. I thought some dust got in the pedals and I’d grease them when I got home. I also heard some creaking.

A day or so later I went to pick up the Scott. I had the mechanic replace the rear brake pads (again) and the chain, and tune up the derailleur. But the mechanic pointed out that I needed new rims. Remember I told you I replaced the rear pads twice in about three months? Also that my rides were wet and dirty?

Just about then, Jason (the Jason who has really fancy bikes with mirror-like cogs) had some wheels for sale.
I waited to give other folks a fair swipe at them and then bought them. These weren’t just the cheesy wheels I had
on my bikes, these were Eastons! Before putting them on, I figured I’d fix the pedals to see if the grinding would stop. I discovered that the dust cap on the left side had disappeared. I took the pedal apart and found that a
bearing was completely worn away. Another ride or so and the pedal would have failed; so I got new pedals
and cleats. I tried them out on a short commute and found I had to adjust the cleat angle and eventually the
seat height. You need to be comfortable on a ride! The grinding was gone, but the creaking remained.

I finally yanked off the FSA wheelset I bought last year at the Bike Expo – the ones with the recessed spokes that needed a special spoke wrench where I paid more for the shipping than the wrench itself. The FSA’s were always dubious but made that cool buzzing sound that makes your bike sound like an angry bee.

I pulled off the cassette and put it on the Eastons and swapped out the front and rear brake pads. I went on a short commute and the creaking sound stopped – I think the cassette had been loose on the FSA’s.
On the Flying Wheels ride at the last stop in Carnation, I got a flat. I took it to the mech tent and as the guy
was replacing the tube, he showed me that the rear tread was thin and showed me the casing saying that I needed a new tire. Later in the ride I started to hear some loud pinging noises from the bottom bracket. I went and got new tires and re-checked the pedals and cleats, but the pinging was still there. I replaced the chain hoping it
would fix it, but it didn’t.

I was hoping not to replace the bottom bracket but since it was the only culprit left, I got a bottom bracket tool. Inexperienced mechanic that I am I almost stripped the bottom bracket ring. I took it into the shop and after they ribbed me a bit saying the bottom bracket looked pretty stripped, they took it off in less than ten seconds. That bottom bracket was as old as Eddie’s oldest daughter. I got a no-name brand bottom bracket and – the popping was gone!

The next ride was up to Windy Ridge at Mt. St. Helens. The mechanical problem on this ride was I couldn’t shift
from the big to the small chain ring very easily. I shortened my chain and tested it on the stand. My next ride
should be pretty good mechanically.

The lesson – make sure your bike is noiseless; if it’s talking to you, try to figure out where the noise is coming from. Here’s my summary:
Creaking – pop off the cogs, re-grease and tighten
Grinding – check the pedals (bearing is the top picture – the big rings used to be together; the center ring is completely gone)
Popping – check the bottom bracket (if you look close, you can see that I nearly stripped it)
Sore knees anterior (front) – move the saddle up
Chain refuses to shift from big ring to small – shorten the chain
Repetitive flats – get new tires
Happy Riding!

An update:

Shifting: The problem with shifting didn’t end with shortening the chain. I still had problems with the chainrings. I replaced the shift cables and adjusted the cable tension and this time it would flip off the big ring. So, during the STP I figured out how to get it back on the chainring by shifting to the small. But that was very unsatisfactory.

Creaking: It has mostly stopped, but when standing on hills there was still some creaking coming from the front. On the STP Eric P. mentioned the headset. My headset had not been checked during my eight years of commuting and training in pretty nasty weather.

I finally threw in the towel and took it to the bike shop – I’ve been going to Gerks in Issaquah: fast turn around, kind of pricey, but the staff is knowledgeable. They took apart the headset and the bearings came apart when the fork was dropped for inspection. I also got a new front derailleur since the old one was bent and one of the limit screws was frozen. Everything works a lot better now. My body now just needs some shop time.