Bike noises drive me crazy. It’s like the thing is trying to tell me something, something that could possibly become a real problem, but I don’t understand the language. But like I said the hardest part is over. I don’t know what I don’t know and so I’m on the phone with the bike shop guys about having them take a look. These guys stay busy because they’re good at what they do and aren’t out looking to give anyone a hair cut, just good service. We talk for a minute and because it’s off season they offer to look at it right away, translated to mean that I can drop it off and they’ll call me later. No problem.
Within 30 minutes they call and tell me the rear spokes are corroded where they cross and not tight enough causing them to load and unload, or click. The spokes are bladed stainless, or flat, and this is a common problem. When they swap out the wheel with a known good one the noise goes away.They offer to re- lace my wheel using basic round stainless spokes which they have in stock for $100.00 and I agree. Aero spokes are a lost cause for a guy like me. You already knew that.
I pick the bike up the next day and when I get home I go for a ride. I don’t get very far and the same intermittent clicking noise is there. Dag Nab it! They missed something. Maybe it is the bottom bracket!
Life’s Lesson Learned: Take your gear along when you pick up the bike at the shop and take it for a spin to see if it meets your satisfaction.
I have no time to fuss with the thing because when it’s in the shop I can’t ride it and the weekend is coming and while I have other bikes I need the TCR especially for Saturday.
Lessons learned: Don’t take a knife to a gun fight.
I call the shop and explain to them that they missed something and I suggest to them that maybe it’s the BB after all and I want them to have the parts in house when I bring it in after the weekend, They agree but they’re doubting my diagnoses which they don’t say but I can tell.
Saturday rolls around and I’m riding with the fit lads and lasses and my bike is starting to sound like a popcorn maker. We reach the half way rest stop where all things cycling makes for great conversation. I explain my noisy bike and some of them have noticed it too. One very experienced rider takes it out for a spin and gives the BB a clean bill of health. The conversation becomes about the rear wheel. I tell the tale of the re-lacing and how it didn’t fix it and they suggest that I use a little tri-flow at the spoke crosses, the nipples and where the spokes meet the hub.
When I arrive home I apply the tri-flo to the spokes, nipples and where the spokes connect to the hub. I do not remove the rim tape and lube the nipples from the inside as suggested in Jim Langley’s Keep It Quiet. Nothing changes and I’m officially done. It’s going back in the shop. I get to thinking about how even if the tri-flow worked it’s not really fixing the problem it’s just masking it. The wheel has about 20,000 quiet and trouble free miles on it with no lube and so something else is the real issue. “What about the wheel bearings?” Nope. The wheel had some lateral slop in it which I had repaired a month or so ago and yes the wheel was clicking at that time. Anyway it’s time for me to keep my hands off the thing and let someone else deal with it.
The bike shop guys are waiting for me Monday morning ready to swap out the bottom bracket like I requested. I ask them to investigate the rear wheel again because of the conversation and diagnoses resulting from Saturday’s ride. They agree. The noise has gotten to the point where their #1 mechanic can hear it even when coasting. The spokes are clicking, loading and unloading regardless of them being new. By tightening the drive side spokes and loosening the opposite side they can quiet the wheel some, but….there’s something going on with the hoop (rim). It’s stressed or fatigued not allowing the spokes to be evenly tightened without being noisy. Hearing this I condemn the wheel. Riding on iffy tires is bad enough, knowing that the wheel was questionable would be a distraction I don’t need.
The shops solution is to give me my $100.00 back and offer me a used wheel set they have that was taken off another bike for about $250. I take the replacement wheels for a spin and I agree to buy them. The price seems fair and while I can’t recommend buying used wheels, buying them from a friend or the bike shop would be the exception. What is not said in so many words by the guys at the shop is that the wheel I condemned was cheap and not worth fixing. True.
I’m starting to get a nice collection of old bicycle wheels and I find the wheel art photo above inspirational. The bike is quiet again and the new/used wheels roll real nice and didn’t break the bank. They’re Giant P-SA but I’m yet to discover who the manufacturer is. They’re alloy 35 mm disc with double butted spokes and they look good on the TCR. It’s interesting that the spokes only cross on the drive side. Working through this problem has been educational to say the least. By simply replacing the wheel with a known good one the noise was isolated. For what it’s worth I should have stopped right there, now I know. If you’re a casual rider your wheel set may take you all the way through your riding days. No such luck with me. I ride a lot and have been known to ride on the roubaix and gravel. Hitting a few too many chuck holes was too much for my light weight inexpensive wheels and who’s to say riding on expensive wheels would have been any different. The difference may be that the better wheels may be worth repairing. But at what cost? Everything on the bike is a wear item and the cost of keeping it all together can really add up. Diagnosing and repairing the things that I can helps me to save a few buck and while the spoke noises were a new one on me I hope that my ear is now better tuned to finding this problem in the future. I do have my eye on some higher end wheels. I’m not interested in deep disc areo. I’m looking at sets that are tried and true, been around for awhile and have a reputable brand name. Wheels that go back to the factory for service. Brands like Shimano and HED come to mind hoping that the end will justify the means. It would have been cheaper had it been the BB. Shimano Press Fit installed should run about $75.00 but………The BB I have has >30K miles on it, lasting longer and going further than my original TCR frame. Until the next time I wear something out it’s once again peaceful on the bike. Thanks to all those I ride with for putting up with the racket and thanks to the folks at Real Bikes in Venice Florida for seeing the job through.
Nice looking wheels really set the bike off. That’s probably the biggest reason road bikers like the deep disc aero look. A good set will improve performance but everything on the bike, including the wheels and the rider are wear items. Deciding to repair or replace components comes with experience. Upgrades bring great joy while breaking down on the road is a hassle. Wheels that fail while riding can cause all kinds of mayhem. We’ve all seen the race videos of the rider’s wheel collapsing, tacoed, and taking down the line. Even a broken spoke can cause problems. The wheel starts doing a salsa dance or worse yet, looses brake clearance and locks up. Whoever’s turning the wrench, doing those simple maintenance items and inspections is time and money well spent. We may not speak the language but a noisy bike is trying to tell us something.
Hopefully the rider needs little repair, maybe just a simple rebuild after those extended times off the bike. It’s the total package, the machine and the rider. Take nothing for granted. Just like those irritating bike noises are telling you something, your tired sore stiff aching body is too. It’s telling you more rest is required and maybe you’re not eating enough, hydrating properly. To recover quickly my muscles want protein. A good dose (36g) within 30 minutes added to my after ride smoothie does wonders for the repair, for me, an old guy trying to maintain lean muscle. This may not be for you. Like me you’re probably bombarded with nutritional advise. Be smart and do your own research.
Not if but when you break a rear spoke stop right away and remove as much of it as you can. If you can’t remove it wrap it around it’s neighbor. If the wheel interferes with the brakes open the brakes up all the way. If it still interferes grab the wheel with both hands, one hand where the spoke is missing, the other @ 180 degrees opposite and give it a twist to see if you can straighten it enough so it rotates freely. It Should be safe to ride with one missing spoke but do me and everyone around you a favor and stay on the back. I have no advise for riding with a broken front spoke but that sounds a little scary. And there’s always plan B. Call for extraction.