Wednesday, March 7, 2012

.01% of Bike Squeaks Are Caused By This

EEE-ER- EEE-ER- EEE-ER!  “What the?!”  EEE-ER- EEE-ER- EEE-ER!  It sounded like little people bumping uglies on an old twin bed.  It was as high pitched and annoying as Stewie from “Family Guy” getting under Lois’ skin.  I was on Cincinnati’s Billy Goat Ride, a Tuesday night tour of our riverfront hill tops.  Every hill, every descent, every flat, it squeaked.  

According to Two Johns Podcast, 97% of all bike squeaks come from the front wheel skewer or a dry seatpost.  I must be a proud member of the 3%, because I was riding my CX bike and I recently overhauled it after Worlds.  The cassette and pedals were reinstalled.  Skewers and seatpost were re-lubed.  The bike was showroom perfect.

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I stood up and it was still there.  Bottom bracket?  Crank arms?  I unclipped and coasted.  EEE-ER- EEE-ER- EEE-ER!  Dammit.  It sounded as it was coming from all directions.  I couldn’t isolate it.  No wait.  It’s definitely coming from the front.  Cracked handle bar?  Stem clamp?  I rode no handed.  EEE-ER- EEE-ER- EEE-ER!

I worked at BioWheels bike shop six bikes ago.  I race.  I wrench.  I’ve built up every bike I own.  I’m qualified to know why your chain skips when every rider in town says its operator error.  This squeak was confounding.  It felt like it was in my head.  I stopped twice on the ride re-checking skewers, bottom bracket, pedals, headset, stem, brakes.  I even got off the bike and jumped up and down.  EEE-ER- EEE-ER- EEE-ER!  It still squeaked.

What?  It still squeaked?!  It’s not my bike.  It’s me.  I’m squeaking.  Boing, boing, boing, I jumped again.  EEE-ER- EEE-ER- EEE-ER!  It squeaked again.  In preparation for Saturday’s Sub9 Deathmarch in Indiana, I was testing a new Hydrapak Avila, a great ultra-light 70oz hydration pack with just enough room for race essentials.  I tugged the drinking tube.  Silent.  Maybe it was the tube, cartridges and mini-pump tucked in the pocket.  I swung the pack off and gave it a shake.  Nope.  Silent.  I jumped again.  EEE-ER.  I’m still squeaking. 

With riders departing the top of Kroger hill in Mt. Lookout, I remounted.  EEE-ER- EEE-ER- EEE-ER!  Something else on my person was squeaking.  Maybe it was my cellphone against my Zip-lock wallet.  I couldn't take it anymore.  I was near home and bailed on the ride at the bottom of the hill.

Warning: cable-helmet contact may be annoying
On my front porch with the motion detector light going on and off, to the amusement of my neighbors, I methodologically disrobed while jumping.  Hydrapak off.  EEE-ER!  Pockets emptied.  EEE-ER!  Shoes off.  EEE-ER!  Helmet off.  Silent.  Helmet on.  EEE-ER!  I took my light off my helmet and put it back on.  I jumped.  Silence.  I tightened the Velcro strap on the light and right there, with my helmet in my hands… EEE-ER.  It was the wire from the light, threaded through the rear Styrofoam vent at the base of my head that was squeaking.

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