Brain Blown

I’m not really one for blowing my own trumpet but I will this one time. When I had my bike shop I considered myself a decent mechanic. I found I was particularly good at diagnosing an issue and fixing it. You know, things like finding those annoying and intermittent creaks and groans that you probably need a bit of ‘bike shop mechanic experience’ to resolve. I loved them. Customers would come in pulling their hair out and go away happy their bike was silent again. Like a plumber fixing an annoying, dripping tap. Fast forward a few years and when my Ribble started to ‘click’ under pedal pressure I was pretty confident I could find out where it was coming from then sort it. How wrong was I?

While I was working the other side of Birmingham last year, I started to commute there more and the bike developed an intermittent click. At first it would only start about 30 mins into a ride and then just be annoying for the rest of the ride. I often couldn’t jump straight on it at work because of ….errrrr work so I tried to resolve it at home after firstly doing some ‘on-bike’ checks like riding out of the saddle to exclude that. Different gears. Pedal with my left leg then the right. When home I spent time swapping wheels, pedals, taking the seatpost out completely, taking the seatpost clamp off, removing the front mech and even removing and refitting the bottom bracket and chainset. None of these worked. Sometimes it improved but it would always come back. All I knew was it was from the rear and when I pressed on the pedals aside the bike I could feel the click through the frame but I’d be damned if I could find where it was coming from. My ‘experience’ told me most clicks and creaks usually emanate from a point on the bike that is clamped or bolted. The usual culprits are pedals, stems, seatposts and saddles but it was definitely none of them.

Just before xmas I took it to work to work on and strip until I found the problem and although I was convinced it wasn’t, I bought and replaced the bottom bracket. To my astonishment, it worked which blew my brain because it went against all my experience but that’s not the end of the story. Fast forward a few weeks into the new year and it started clicking again. Exactly the same sound from what seemed like the same place. Somewhere at the back of the bike. After swapping wheels and removing and checking the cassette, the only thing I had left to change was the chain but I’d never heard a chain click like that. It was worn but definitely not worn out. I’d also recently replaced my SPD’s for Look Keo road pedals. Was it those?

Yesterday, I went out for ride for the first time outdoors in over two weeks. The clicking started and gradually got worse. I did some on bike checks again. Pedalled with my left leg then the right. It was worse on the right, so from that I deduced it must be the bottom bracket area. The bottom bracket was new, fitted correctly and I’d checked and refitted the crank arms and checked the chainring bolts a few times before. I wondered if it was, in fact, the pedals and not the original issue. Just another one that had developed but sounded the same? I decided to swap them when I got home so I just carried on with my ride.

Now this is the weird bit. One particular singletrack lane I rode down was very wet and dirty from the recent rain running off adjacent fields. I had full guards on and after approximately two hundred yards through a few puddles, the clicking stopped. Just like that and my bike was silent all the way home.

Figure that one out? My suspicion now is the bolt behind the bottom bracket that secures the rear mudguard was the culprit this time. The water and mud ingressed into the bolt and ceased the click.

…but I have to say, it’s blown my brain


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