Silent running

One of the lesser touted joys of cycling is the minimal aural impact as you speed through the countryside. Aside from creaking knees, wheezy breathing and the occasional spittle-flecked invective*, your passage is registered merely as a soft whum of tyre on smooth tarmac. Off road of course, it’s a bloody riot of noise as chains slap stays, suspension squishes and components grind in a strange harmony only broken by the counterpoint of fleshly limb on unyielding stump.

But road riding should offer restful respite to such noise pollution, and yet this has not been the happy state of affairs visited on the Jake. Firstly it’s not really a road bike, too heavy, too soft, too compromised by tyres, angles and components. I’m fine with that because a switch to dirt and it comes alive in a way that pastes a shit eating grin on your face right up until the point when thin tyres beget zero grip. And when the groaning stops, you start smiling again.

Unless you are listening to a transmission of thrashing metal. The serial offender in this criminal approach to noise abatement was the rear mech which had fallen off the straight and narrow. I’d go as far as to say it was crooked – not only that it’d roped in “Big Charlie The Cacophonous Cassette” into attempted GBH on the rear wheel.

So armed with a big chain, these two made light work of a heavy metal noise even the MP3 player couldn’t quite drown out. Recently I’ve adopted a radical approach to bike maintenance in that I’ve not done any. It’s not just laziness – more a realisation that after spending time and money fitting new parts, the problem would be as bad or worse or maybe different, I was always poorer and some poor bike shop owner had again suffered at the hand of my unending stupidity**

Sadly the reverse isn’t true either, and no amount of giving it a stern look was going to kick start some kind of self healing process. A closer examination showed the seven year old components were really badly worn which was rather disappointing. Talk about built in obsolescence – seven years? I’ve got children older than that.

Cash was relunctantly exchanged for things shiny and a mere three hours later, all sorts of precise – yet quiet – clicking noises sold me a belief I’d actually fixed something. It would have been about ninety minutes had I not gone exploring in the dark recesses of the cunning shared brake/gear lever. My random prodding released a tightly wound spring from deep inside the component, and only an outstanding piece of fielding by the dog handily placed at third slip saved me from buying a new one of those.

I’m thinking of putting him up for the upcoming Ashes series. Anything he can’t catch, he’ll retrieve, always happy, positive and a keen team member, can’t bat for shit but that doesn’t seem to be much of a requirement nowadays. And – an added bonus this you’re not going to get from Ian Bell – he’ll have a good chew of the opposing bowlers legs before making off with his sandwiches.

So a happy silence accompanied me on a sweaty ride to the station through weather best described as “hot, damp flannel”. I could barely contain my smugness as a single click of the shifter would instruct the spankers new mech to serve up the next cog. Which was better than good when compared to last week, where the first two shifts did nothing before a third would slew the chain across multiple sprockets without bothering to clamp any of them.

A result then? Yes and, because it’s me on the spanners, no. Firstly I’d unknowingly created the sub-niche sport of “hardcore commuting” having failed to reset the brakes and leaving them lightly gripping the wheel. I thought progress was proving mightily difficult, but was so pre-occupied with my silent transmission I’d failed to investigate.

If I had, I may have noticed the mech was still on the piss. Closer inspection proved this to be simply because I’d bent the mech hanger during on of my many traction-lite moments in the woods. It’s easily fixed at a cost of£4.20. That’s approximately one twentieth of the cost of all those new parts I’d identified as the root cause of the problem.

Maybe I’ll go back to doing nothing.

* generally brought on by a bloke in a BMW/AUDI/Generic Cockmobile attempts absent mindedly attempts to kill. Some of them do it on purpose as well. But only once, and I’m safe until they find the bodies.

** “Did you fit it with the 14mm spanner as I explained” / “Yes, and far from it be from me to tell you your job, it was RUBBISH for hitting it with. I went back to a hammer, and now it’s broken

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