As promised, I present to you the tale of my road bike’s bottom bracket. I know what you are thinking:
1. What’s a bottom bracket?
2. He promised us this? Oh boy.
3. How does he always know what we are thinking?
The bottom bracket is that piece of your bike that connects the pedals and the crank and allows them to spin. It’s kind of like an axle. The name “bottom bracket” suggests there is something called a “top bracket,” but if there is such a thing I haven’t discovered it. Anyway, it was during a weekend ride two weeks ago that I heard a rattling sound coming from beneath me. Bike noises are notoriously hard to diagnose (at least for me, they are). Within a few miles, the noise became extremely loud and I began to wonder if my bike would fall apart underneath me. Fortunately, it did not and I labored home with my bike more or less intact. I then inspected it more closely and concluded the sound was coming from my bottom bracket.
This was not good. I could only imagine how much it would cost to fix this. I was also mildly annoyed that one of the selling points of the Trek 2.1 was that the bottom bracket was of high quality and I wondered how something so wonderful could break so soon.
It was with some trepidation that I took my bike into the shop, where the manager quickly determined that the noise was NOT coming from my bottom bracket, but was, in fact, coming from my rear wheel’s hub. It was a little embarrassing to be completely wrong in the source of the noise. I guess I never considered the hub because I had the bearings repacked just two months ago.
The good news is that Bontrager agreed to pay for the overhaul of my hub and the shop degreased/lubed the drive chain and adjusted my brakes in the bargain. The bad news is that my hub is supposedly on its last legs, with lots of pitting and wear. It is so bad that the mechanic advises me to bring it in for a service whenever it rains. I am not to put high pressure water on the bike when cleaning it (just a gentle rinse, thank you). Apparently, water is a bad thing for hubs.
The store manager advised that I should consider getting some new wheels. I mentioned that I thought a wheel should last longer than 15 months and 3,500 miles, to which he had little to say. When I mentioned that I had read and noticed from personal experience that big riders tend to wear out wheels, the mechanic and manager both agreed. Perhaps they were being polite. Perhaps they were willing to grab any excuse to sell me some wheels. The mechanic suggested that Mavic wheels would be a nice upgrade. “They’re bomb proof,” said the mechanic. “Not only that, but you’ll be surprised how much faster you can go.”
Bomb proof sounds good. Faster is nice as well. They also have sealed bearings, meaning it is much more difficult for water, grit, etc… to get in there and gum things up. I’ve never heard of Mavic, but amazingly two different people in two different countries both mentioned to me on this very day that they had recently bought Mavic wheels. One is the illustrious Tootlepedal, and the other was a coworker you do not know and will therefore remain nameless.
I have decided to delay any wheel purchasing decisions until the spring. There’s no point in spending $220 or more on components and ruining them with winter riding. In the meanwhile, I took the Trek out on some test rides this weekend and thoroughly enjoyed the feel of a quiet wheel and a tuned drive train. I stopped off at the Sacred Heart Chapel and took the below pic for your enjoyment. It is right off the busy Hoadly Road, a stone’s throw from a Walgreen’s, and is a testament to a by-gone day in this region. The church’s website states that this structure was erected in 1937 and is a replica of the original church built in 1916 about a mile away on Spriggs Road (that building is no longer standing). The congregation built yet another new church in 1987 in Manassas but keeps this building as a chapel.