For the last several months, my Trek has been making a ticking noise. It’s gotten louder and more persistent, rather like Captain Hook’s nemesis crocodile in Peter Pan. It had become my nemisis too. Any second I expected to hear the greeting “Hullo, zeeba neighba.”
The source of the sound was in the drive train; it was periodic with the revolution of my pedals, so I figured it must be the chain, the bottom bracket, or the pedals. My pedals, being toe-clip style, are likely to make noise, because they have four screws holding the pedal platform onto the pedal axle, and two more holding the toe clip onto the pedal. Especially the latter two tend to work loose, just from the various pressures and stresses of riding. But when I hear them making noise, I tighten them up, because random noises irritate and worry me. What if it’s something really serious—and every now and then it is.
This noise was so loud and so persistent, however, that I didn’t believe it could be from the pedals. I tightened and the noise was still there. I could even feel a physical jolt when it clicked on every single revolution. People on the trail seemed to hear me approach. And yet on the workstand I could not make the bike make the noise.
Finally last Sunday I did what needed to be done. I removed the pedals from the Trek, and swapped them out for a pair from another bike. Actually, it was a bit more complex than that, since each of my other two pertinent bikes had mismatched pedals, thanks to a minor emergency a while back that’s not worth explaining now. Soon I had all three of the bikes on the ground, pedal-less. (I am pretty meticulous about greasing the bolts when they go in the sockets, so a medium-firm pull on the pedal wrench is enough to dislodge them).
With the alternate pedals on, the Trek glided along in blessed noiselessness. Needless to say I was relieved that the pedals were the problem, because a decent pair only sets you back about $30, while bottom brackets are expensive. One forgets that after a few thousand miles the axles and especially the bearings on pedals are bound to be seriously worn.
Furthermore, this is a fix that even I can make. I got to the local shop before it closed and picked up a new pair of pedals, as well as new toe clips and straps. Partly for cosmetics, yes, but also Performance Bikes carries toe clips in two sizes, not the usual one-size-fits-all. The larger Men’s 10+ size puts the ball of my foot on a much better spot on the pedal. The “maiden voyage” of these pedals was this morning’s ride, and the smooth, quiet ride made the bike “feel” more solid and powerful. Psychology counts for something. By the time I was returning home my ears got used to the smaller, more nuanced musical, mechanical sounds of the drive train that had been masked: The chain running over the gears, the chain being lifted onto the big chainring, the sprockets clicking through the derailleur, the . . . wait, what’s that funny little rattle the chain makes every so often? Can’t be anything serious, but still . . . Hold on, Arn, let’s just enjoy the ride!
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2012.