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  • Alex Gibson

The Sound of Silence

Updated: Dec 9, 2021

"I wholeheartedly support the notion that we should ride our bikes aggressively, no holds barred."

The sign of a truly dialed bicycle is no sounds beyond the smooth mechanical operation of the various moving parts on your trusty steed. Be it a full-suspension mountain bike or a good ol’ rim brake road bike, there’s an allowable level of noise resulting from a drivetrain being engaged, derailleurs shifting, brakes gripping--a level of white noise that during the course of a ride fades to silence. If this is your norm, you ride a dialed bicycle. It’s likely that your drivetrain is clean and lubricated, bearings are in good condition, brake calipers aligned, all bolts greased and torqued with no unwanted play at any points on the bike. I wholeheartedly support the notion that we should ride our bikes aggressively, no holds barred. And with a bit of maintenance love you can do just that, and still keep your bike in a dialed condition.

Listen to your bike. When something sounds amiss, take a look, bring it to your local shop if need be, and don’t wait 5 more rides. Short of crashes, warranty failures, and the occasional misadjustment (professional or otherwise) the majority of issues can be detected early or prevented entirely by a small amount of consistent care. And that’s why we’re here to help! Many cyclists have heard of the infamous bottom bracket creak, but the actual source of a noise can be quite elusive, particularly on modern carbon frames where a small click can resonate through the frame and make it sound like it’s coming from the head tube rather than the dropouts. Point being, all the mechanics here at Mellow Velo have well over a decade of experience working on bikes so we know the best places to start looking for the culprit behind an unwelcome sound.

Our first step is generally to set out and ride the bike, sometimes with the client riding alongside, to do an assessment of where our sneaky sound might be coming from. From there we utilize our depth of experience and familiarity with a wide range of bikes and components to dive into the bike and get fresh grease in the right places. In an ideal situation, we find an obvious smoking gun such as loose or bone dry chainring bolts, worn bearings or improperly torqued bolts, just to name a few. The process continues with additional test rides until we’re ultimately able to crank the bike uphill under max torque and hear nothing but the bike functioning as it should. Intermittent creaks can bring a lot of frustration for both rider and mechanic but with patience and persistence we can uncover the source and get your bike sailing smoothly once again. No discussion of the sounds of a bike is complete without mentioning disc brake noise -- to keep it short, there is acceptable brake noise and there is problematic brake noise. Just keep in mind that those tiny calipers with pads not much more than a square inch are working really hard when they’re smoothly controlling your speed at 30+ mph on a descent. So take out those ear buds and really listen to your bike next time you’re pedaling up to the ski basin or cranking over rocks at Atalaya. Something sound off? Don’t be shy, bring your bike on by and we’ll do our best to get things smooth and “silent” once again.

-Alex Gibson-

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