Friday, April 13, 2012

Not Music to My Ears...

No doubt I have noted my extreme dislike of inefficient noises coming from my bike, whichever I may happen to be riding. The clatter of a dry drivetrain, squeak from a derailleur pulley (or two), or creak from a pedal are not music to my ears. Lively birdsong on a lazy morning, or the haunting melody of any number of renditions of Wichita Lineman, I will gladly accept on a daily basis. Those squeaks and creaks I cannot. It is not merely the sounds themselves, but more importantly it is what they stand for. Those offensive sounds invariably reflect back to me - and not in a good way. It is one thing to ride along some lonely road with no other ears around, but when anyone else is near that creak or squeal might as well be a shouted accusation: "This guy's failing with his maintenance here," or "hey everyone, look this way, guy can't even take care to lube his chain."

When situations develop on the road, I find myself soft pedaling as I pass someone, in order to keep a creak at bay, or hoping, praying that, as I pass there will only be a single squeak rather than a series. That way the people I pass might mistake the sound as coming from a nearby startled bird rather than from me. An opportunely passing vehicle also does a nice job of masking any rogue squeak or creak. Like a good detective I often find myself searching for a pattern in the sounds - there are real reasons to do so - but out on the road my reasoning has more to do with timing. You see if I discover a pattern I can predict when the squeaks or creaks will occur, and in turn, pick my moments to soft pedal. The system may not silence the offensive sound, but it will postpone it until momentum has carried me and my bike beyond earshot.

I have been searching in vain lately for a particularly nasty and offensive sound, or combination of sounds, actually. It started a couple weeks ago as a clatter when in a single gear, then spread to a second. Lately a squeak has been added to the Zappa-esque harmony. From this concert's first mechanical notes I began making adjustments - everything from tweaking barrel adjusters, and lubing just about every moving part within reach. My efforts have also included completely tearing apart the rear hub (and reassembling it) when I became convinced the offending notes were being played by it. This was all to no avail, and process of elimination suggests that I now need to make a good examination of the bottom bracket. But, those Campy Ultra Torque systems with carbon crank arms are a little more touchy, not to mention expensive, than the good old steel and aluminum jobs, and I am not willing to go at it without a proper torque wrench held firmly in my grasp to guide my actions. And so, an otherwise fine sounding machine will be emitting some off-tune notes from time to time (if only they were that infrequent), and you need not point them out if you happen to find yourself keeping pace next to me - my red-embarrassed-face will tell you that I already know.

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