I’m not a neat freak. I’m not compelled to store my cycling kit alphabetically, or iron my cycling socks, or line up my drink bottles in the cupboard in order of height. What I am a bit particular about is my bike.
I won’t ride a dirty bike.
Not because I’m trying to be enigmatic, or because I’m following The Rules, but because it spoils it. On a clean bike, with fresh legs, I feel like a cyclist. The bike can be splashed with mud, grit, and grime ten yards down the road, just as long as when I left the house it was clean.
I can hear you now, thinking: “…bit OCD that”.
But it’s not. OCD is a mental illness. I just like a clean bike. Although I try not to judge, I can’t help but inspect the bikes of my riding companions pre-ride. If they’re dirty, I hardly ever say anything, but a fact is a fact.
“It’s their bike…” I have to remind myself.
The same applies to a noisy bike. I like to hear the swish of tyres on tarmac, the gentle click-click of a clean and greased chain, and the satisfying ‘clunk’ of a well indexed gear change. But if my ride is accompanied by any combination of clicks, clanks, squeaks, or creaks that aren’t supposed to be there, that will also ruin my ride. A noisy, rattling bike is not right, and it needs to be made right. Simple as that.
Apart from anything, a quiet bike is faster. If not actually, then at least theoretically.
The problem with bikes is not only that they get dirty, but that they are made up of several dozen components which are capable of clicking, clanking, squeaking, or creaking.
If the noise comes with every pedal stroke it ‘feels’ like it’s coming from the bottom bracket, but it probably isn’t. If the noise stops when you stand up it’s probably coming from the seat post, but it might not be. If the noise gets louder when you increase the torque it could well be your wheel bearings, but there’s no guarantee.
Then there are the pedals, the cleats, the chain-ring bolts, the jockey wheels, the cassette…
After riding with a persistent click for about two months this year, and systematically checking every possible cause, I’d concluded that there was a fundamental defect with the frame. I checked the warranty and was steeling myself to send it back to the Wilier factory in Italy for god-knows how long, to get god-knows what result.
And then I found a bolt I hadn’t checked – part of the front derailleur. It seemed a long shot but I removed it, cleaned it, greased it, and tightened it back up. I then swung a leg over my bike, expecting to have ruled out another possibility from the tedious list of possible culprits. Only to be met with…
Glorious, mechanical, Italian-made silence.