Getting My Bearings Packed

I took my bike into the shop Monday night for routine maintenance.  I’m 50 weeks into a one year free maintenance agreement which came with my purchase, so I wanted to take care of some nagging problems.  I’ve been having challenges keeping my rear wheel true since the shop replaced a broken spoke back in May.  There’s also a disturbing clicking sound coming from the head stem which I hoped they could explain and (better still) fix.

I met with the store manager, Levi, who kindly offered to tweak my bike on the spot.  He placed my rear wheel on a truing stand and got to work.  He was friendly and let me watch him adjust the spokes.  As we discussed my challenges, Levi mentioned that the wheel might need to be relaced.  That sounded ominous, but I didn’t press the matter.  We could jump off that bridge if we came to it, was my reasoning.

Levi finished truing the wheel and said he didn’t like the feel of the bearings.  “The wheel seems soft,” he said.  How on Earth he came to that conclusion I can only imagine.  It seemed perfectly normal to me.  Fascinated, I watch Levi unscrew a cap covering the innards of my wheel’s axle.  He looked inside and announced that my bearings needed to be repacked.

“Really?” I responded with my usual wit.  “How can you tell?”

“See how the bearings are brown?” answered Levi.  “They shouldn’t be that color.  They should be clear or green, the color of grease.”

I looked at the circle of bearings and confirmed they were indeed brown.  Faced with this incontrovertible fact, I agreed to leave my bike at the shop (which was my original plan anyway) and have them repack the bearings.  All of this would be covered under the warranty and/or free maintenance package, so I thought this was quite a nice arrangement.

Not my wheel, but you can get the gist of what I was looking at. My bearings were covered with brown goo, not completely dry as these are.

I picked up my bike last night and all was well.  Levi wasn’t in and I spoke to Chris, the shop mechanic (aka “Pit Boss”).  He had nothing dramatic to report.  He repacked the ball bearings, lubed the shifting cables, trued both wheels, tightened my rear brakes (which I had loosened due to the slightly untrue back wheel), lubed my chain, and cleaned the bike up after Sunday’s messy ride.  Chris checked out the head stem and couldn’t find anything which would cause a clicking sound.  That’s disappointing as I have no doubt it will reappear the moment I get back on the road.

While chatting with Chris, he asked me if I participated in the Reston Century on Sunday.  Levi must have mentioned it to him.  (I can imagine the conversation: “Guess who owns this Trek, Chris.  It’s an old, pudgy man who actually completed the Reston Century!”)  Chris rode the century as well, only he left earlier than me, rode faster than me, and consequently missed the mammoth thunder storm, unlike me.  We talked about the ride a bit and since hydration strategies came up during the ride and in the comments to my ride report, I asked Chris what he does.  It turns out he’s a Nuun consumer, like my temporary riding partner, Carol.

Chris also mentioned that my stock wheels would come out of true a bit more often than I would care for and he recommended that I consider upgrading to some Mavic wheels.  Mavic is a French company that makes high-end components.  Their cheap wheels go for about $120 apiece.  Someday, when I am a high-end rider, I might consider such a purchase.  For now, I’ll just keep adjusting the stock wheels when they fall out of true.

In return for all this work (and conversation), I wanted to contribute to the shop’s business in some small way, so I asked to buy a chain measuring tool.  As luck would have it, they were out of stock.  I couldn’t see anything else I might have a use for, so I simply thanked Chris for a job well done and headed home.

So that’s that.  No more free adjustments.  From here on out, I am on my own or I’m paying for the help.  It should be interesting!

Historical Marker Segment!

I neglected to include this in my ride report.  I rode 106 miles and encountered only one historical marker – a very low number for such a long trip.  This marker tells the tale of Major General Ben Fuller, the 15th Commandant of the Marine Corps and can be found at Fuller Park, the place I referred to in my ride report as “Hamilton Rest Stop.”  As a recently-retired officer, I found General Fuller’s career path to be a tad odd, namely:

  • He graduated from the US Naval Academy at the age of 19.  Nowadays,  graduates are 22 years old or older.
  • He wasn’t commissioned as a Second Lieutenant until two years after he graduated.  I can’t imagine what he did in the interval.
  • He was the Commandant as a Major General (two stars).  Today’s Commandant is a full General (four stars).

10 thoughts on “Getting My Bearings Packed

  1. This may sound crazy Steve, but I have experienced creaking before and always thought that it was coming from the stem. Not so – it was the seat post that was creaking. It’s sometimes hard to tell when you’re riding where the sound is actually coming from. So, if they could find nothing lose in the stem, it may because nothing is lose. Take a look at the seat area. The seat post, and perhaps also the seat itself. Just a tip from someone who almost went mad trying to fix a creaking sound!

    1. I’ve been befuddled by sounds while riding before. One time, I could have sworn my front wheel was making a noise when it was actually a loose spoke on my back wheel. The thing about this noise is I can hear it when I’m not on the bike. When I’m walking it after a long ride I can hear it when I turn the front wheel in either direction. It’s a clicking sound that seems to be coming from the head stem. It is much more pronounced after a ride than before one. Weird, I know.

  2. Based on my experiences, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and predict that your broken spoke won’t be the only one and that it will be hard to keep that wheel true. My first bike was a decent enough “mid level” model, but it had those types of OEM wheels. Started breaking spokes on a consistent basis. It was way cheaper to have the rims and hubs relaced with new spokes than to replace everything. A year or so later, the same thing happened on my wife’s bike, which had the same wheels. Again, cheaper to relace than replace.

    Both of the relaced wheels seemed very reliable after that, although both were sold not very long afterward.

    Just something to think about if the time comes….

    1. I’m afraid you may be right, Tracy. My hybrid broke down like this last summer. It was a cheaper bike with poorer quality parts, so things happened more quickly. After four months and 400 miles, I broke my first spoke. Three months and 400 miles later, I had broken two more spokes and had totalled nine flats. The Trek has held out longer – one year and 3,000 miles – but it is beginning to exhibit signs of breakdown like the hybrid. Hopefully, I’m wrong and it will continue to give me good performance. Since I upgraded my rear tire in Feb I haven’t had a flat (knock on wood) and one spoke per year for a Clydesdale such as myself is to be expected, I suppose. I’ll just keep losing weight and take some pressure off my tiring bike!

      1. The spokes pulled about an inch of the rim out inwards. The bike shop said that they had never seen a break like that before. To give the wheel credit, I was able to cycle home with the broken rim.

  3. I don’t know if you recall Steve, I had a creaking recently on my Giant Defy, I too thought it was the headset, but Graham at my LBS told me it was probably the gear/brake cable cluster around the bars. I was sceptical but I guess that’s why Graham is a bike shop owner and mechanic, he was annoyingly correct! The front gear cable was clicking in it’s frame end stop! A simple fix of changing the plastic cable stop for a metal one and replacing the outer,

    1. Interesting. The fact that the click occurs when I turn the wheel may mean the cables are aggravated with that motion. If that’s the case, here’s hoping the cable lube I got with my tune up solves the problem.

  4. I had to read all these comments as my cervelo has a weird creaking noise of late too. My hubby and I are planning our first big ride in a while, and it will be much smaller than I would like, but glad to be back at it. It has been so hot here that I am unable to ride for long distances in the heat. I am jealous that you have ridden in a century. It had been our plan to ride our first in September, my docs vetoed that for now. Soon though.

    Thanks for stopping by and I know I will be back. 😀

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