Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My Bike Is Making A Sound...

A couple of days ago Click and Clack, National Public Radio's Car Guys, announced that they are retiring. If anyone has earned the right to stop and smell the cappuccio it's those two greasy guys but with 25 years of call-in shows to draw from, their producers will be able to remix and recombine old car problems with Click and Clack laughing at their own jokes for many more years to come. Still, as someone who has spent about an hour each week yelling things like "vacuum leak!" or "bad tie-rod end!" at his radio, I'll miss them. And future generations will have to find somebody else to call when the flux capacitors blow out on their hoverboards.

My son Eric has always found it odd that despite my general avoidance of automobile ownership, I am a faithful Car Talk listener. I like to point out that the weekly humor and tales of problems I don't have only strengthens my resolve to live car free. And through all the laughter, you can tell the Car Guys are pretty good mechanics. They listen to people's problems, ask good questions and often their answer is "bring it in to your mechanic." That's often the best advice. Diagnosing a mechanical problem over the phone is hard work.

I know this because, perhaps under the influence of Click and Clack, I answer a lot of calls at the shop that begin with "My bike is making a sound..." Depending on how swamped we are at the shop with actual customers and actual bikes, I may engage the caller in a quick round of twenty-questions involvng queries like "is it a click or a creak?" or "does it happen every time the pedal turns or every time the wheel turns?" At least 90% of the time, the answer resolves to "bring it in and let me look at it."

Clicks, creaks and clunks are symptoms of something wrong and shouldn't be ignored. I know folks can't always get to the shop and thus make calls to guys like me. And, of course, these days we have the internet. In preparing to write this blog post I sent a query out on Twitter asking folks for odd tales of noises and problems and got back terse tales of broken spokes, loose chainring bolts, ill-seated bottom-brackets, cracked seat rails, a crank hitting the kickstand and, my favorite, a metal drawstring tab from a sweatshirt tinking against a toptube.

I avoided having to write an extensive post on the subject by employing my favorite bit of mechanical advice. I've said and written this many times before, but it's so amazing and so effective it bears repeating: You can find the answer to almost any bike-related problem by typing the words "Sheldon Brown" together with your query into your favorite search engine. For example, typing:

"Sheldon Brown bike making a sound"

into Google, brought this page up as the first hit:

Check it out, the page is another great example of Sheldon's brilliance. Sheldon was a genius and his genius lives on in all the web pages he lovingly crafted. Sheldon may be gone, but his helpful ghost lives on. And if you can't find your answer on the net or on the phone, remember your local shop has real people, with real tools who make their living by solving real problems.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA


The Velo Hobo said...

I’ll be sure to send them a farewell note inscribed on the back of a vintage 1959 Fender Music Maker Electric Guitar autographed by Elvis Presley. I think they’d appreciate that. They will be missed, Jack

recumbent conspiracy theorist said...

Sheldon's great! I love reading that website.

Conrad said...

Sad to hear Click and Clack are moving on. I also enjoyed listening to that show. As a veterinarian, I participate in the animal version of that routine. I listen and offer the best advice I can, and then 90 percent of the time advise people to take their animals to the vet.

doc said...

I still laugh about the problems the guy was having with his toaster because he lived at a high elevation; and to this day I am amazed at how, after a caller describes some obtuse engine/transmission symptom, they are able to correctly guess the color of the car. Great stuff.

TJC said...

They will be missed. As is Saint Sheldon. I am encouraged by the fact that Harris Cyclery has taken the courageous step of continuing his work and augmenting his work with additional material.

Barb Chamberlain, Bike Style Spokane said...

I'm another bike rider who listens to them every so often (and I do also own cars so I learn things). A Bike Talk show would be great, wouldn't it? I nominate you as a host!

Sources of funny sounds on my bike:

Cyclometer parts out of alignment so the little round part on the spoke is actually brushing the pick-up piece on the bike (I'm using technical terms here, obviously). This happens pretty frequently so I finally recognize it now and can fix it right away instead of wondering for a few miles.

A leaf caught in the spokes.

Misajdusted brake calipers.

Scariest cause: One strap on my Po Campo pannier came unbuckled and was dangling and flapping into the wheel! My best friend Betsy (founder of Belles and Baskets in Spokane), riding behind me, said in her best Mom Keeping Kids Calm in Face of Disaster Voice, "Um, Barb, you need to pull over and stop now." Disaster averted.

And of course, the very sad chunk-chunk created by a flat tire.