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Weekly Wibble: Noises Off

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Photographs: Offside-LeEquipe

I got a new bike this winter: disc brakes and mudguards, the perfect machine for hours of steady miles in the lanes. We were very happy together.

It didn’t last long. The thing is, the bottom bracket started creaking horrendously after a couple of weeks’ use. What began as one of those annoying little clicks when out of the saddle on a climb evolved into persistent groaning at any time of day, on any terrain. I just had to look at the thing for it to start making complaining noises. Liz Taylor and Richard Burton enjoyed a more stable relationship than me and the new bike. Divorce proceedings were imminent.

Racing cyclist, black and white, muddy ditch, broken bike, Barry Hoban, Paris-Roubaix

The manufacturers sent me a new bottom bracket: Chris King, no less. This would solve the problem, I was assured. Sadly not. It was worse than ever. The decree absolute would be swift, I figured, as we hadn’t really consummated the relationship.

A rather shirty email was composed to the manufacturer, stating that I would “not only eat my hat, but yours too” if the bottom bracket was not the culprit. I even included a sound recording of the racket from the bracket. Take that, bicycle manufacturer guy.

Recall to the service centre for inspection came the reply. The mudguards were removed, ready for packing, and I rode to the office.

No squeak. Nothing. Silence. The noise had disappeared as curiously as it had arrived. Cancel the divorce proceedings. And prepare two hats for consumption.

Rohan Dubash told me a story a while back of a man who arrived at his place having driven half way across Surrey, hoping he would be able to solve the incessant noise emanating from the bottom bracket of his very expensive machine. Rohan took the bike out of the car, tightened the rear quick release skewer a couple of turns, then sent him on his way. Case solved.

Yet when it came to my own bike and its infuriating foibles, Rohan’s cautionary tale was conveniently forgotten. Pedals, headset, stem, even chainring bolts were checked, slackened and re-tightened in a bid to halt the discord. But the quick release skewer? Who’d have thought it?

Now, Mr Bicycle Manufacturer Guy, if you’d care to provide me with a hat of your choosing, I’ll prepare the side salad. And a fat slice of humble pie to go with it.



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