There are three broad categories of bike noise tolerance among cyclists:
- Absolute Silence: Some riders want no noise coming from their bike whatsoever. They regard any click, creak, buzz, or rattle as an affront to them, and a condemnation of their machine. All noises must be corrected immediately, even if it means halting the ride. People like this are almost all roadies. Or, in extreme cases, they may be triathletes, in which case they may need to be treated pharmaceutically.
- As Long As It Rolls, It’s Fine: On the other end of the spectrum are people who simply don’t care about noises their bikes make. Creaky chain? So what. Chuffchuffchuff sound from the brakes? Hey, as long as they do their job. A loud metallic twang every time you go over even a slight bump? Whatever. These people generally ride wearing iPods, and eventually, they wind up riding alone.
- As Long As I Know What It Is: Somewhere in between these first two types is the group of cyclists — the sane cyclists — who realize that a bike is nothing but a contraption in service to your cycling experience. As a machine, it will wear, and it will have imperfections. And that means it will make noise. However, it’s a good idea to know what those noises are, so you can be aware of whether they’re serious. Do they need attention now? In a week? Never? As long as we (for I put myself in this group) know what’s going on, the noise is unimportant.
And that is why my ride into work today just about drove me insane.
It’s been a long, cold, windy, snowy, rainy winter, so today’s weather is especially welcome. When I rolled out the door at 7:15am, it was cool but not cold. My long-sleeved jersey was zipped up all the way, but I didn’t need the bulk of a jacket. My Ibis roadbike felt smooth and fast.
Even better, I knew I had a wonderful commute home to look forward to this afternoon, where I’ll be able to where shorts and short sleeves. Forecast calls for mid-70’s.
I was just so happy to be out on the road again, and excited at the prospect of getting in about 40 miles a day of riding each day, just by riding my bike to work and back (not to mention the fact that I’ll be saving about $50 / week in gasoline alone by biking to work).
But there was one problem. A really annoying, confounding one.
Just a few minutes into the ride, I noticed a strange sound intermittently coming from below. A clicking sound, with no rhythm to it at all.
I started the ritual of bike noise discovery.
First, does it continue when I coast? Sometimes it does, for a second, but then it stops.
Does it happen always when I pedal? No. Weird.
How about when I stand and pedal? Yes, that’s when it happens. Whenever I stand and pedal, I’m getting that weird clickaclickclickclickaclack sound.
And sometimes when I’m sitting, too, but not always.
So I get off my bike and take a look, trying to figure it out. I can’t. The bike’s totally quiet. Thinking maybe the magnet’s too close to the cadence sensor and is knocking it when I pedal hard enough to flex the frame, I tweak it back a little, and start riding again.
And there’s the intermittent sound. I can’t even tell where it’s coming from is what’s driving me crazy. I turn my head side to side, triangulating, trying to figure it out. I can’t locate it. All I can tell is that the sound’s coming from somewhere below, which isn’t especially helpful.
Maybe the bottom bracket? Hard to imagine it being that — the sound’s too erratic.
By now, this thing had gotten into my head. I was no longer enjoying the ride. I was no longer watching the road. I was just trying to figure out where that stupid random clicking sound was coming from.
And then, suddenly, I figured it out. I made one simple adjustment, and I was on my way, the problem permanently resolved.
Your Diagnosis The Answer I’m curious to see whether anyone — or maybe everyone — can tell what the source of the noise was, based on how I’ve described it. All the clues you need are here, and I will add that I felt a little bit silly that it took me so long to figure the source of the noise out. I’ll post the answer here later this afternoon, after seeing what kind of responses are posted in the comments section.
As many — surprisingly many, in fact — of you have deduced, the sound was…my jersey zipper pull striking my helmet strap fastener. Which actually made it hard to discover the problem, because the sound was coming from right below my chin — which is not a spot my ears are used to pinpointing as a source of mechanical issues.
Oh, who am I trying to kid? It was just goofy of me.