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CSI Kuala Lumpur

I have finally closed my Creak Source Investigation.  The case started on Sunday 7th October 2012.  The date of my first ride in Malaysia.  The scene was Jalan Gombak, heading up toward Genting Sempah.  My steel bicycle started creaking at the bottom of the climb and continued to do so all the way to the top.  I posted my initial case report on Saturday 13th October.

My assumption that I had cured the creak was premature.  On the very next ride the creak returned, seemingly louder than before.  The rasping still seemed to be coming from the chain rings or bottom bracket.

Alchemy ISKY 1 1

While working on the bike at Van’s, YC and I noticed that two of the chain ring bolts were slightly stripped.  We didn’t have any spares so we reinstalled the stripped bolts.  Could those damaged bolts be the source of the noise?  Or could there be something wrong with the bottom bracket?

I went to another bike shop to look for a second opinion and to buy some replacement chain ring bolts.  The shop mechanic also thought it was a problem with the chain ring bolts.  That shop didn’t have any SRAM bolts in stock either.  So I still had a creaking bike.

Alzheimer’s must be setting in.  It was another week or so before I remembered that I had a spare crank set.  With sound chain ring bolts.  I had replaced the standard crankset on my titanium bike with a compact crank.  It was a relatively simple task to swap cranksets.  I also removed the bottom bracket cups, cleaned out the threads on the cups and the frame, applied grease and reinstalled everything.

The bike still creaked.

If I were Horatio Caine, or Mac Taylor, or D.B. Russell, I would have access to some sort of scanning device that would locate the source of the creak.  Sadly I do not. To paraphrase The Who, “Where are you? I really want to know”.

Having eliminated the bottom bracket and chain rings as the source of the noise it was time to widen the investigation.  The next option was to look at the rear of the bike.  I removed the cassette from the rear wheel.  The cogs and freewheel hub splines got a good cleaning.   Grease went on the splines before the cassette went back on the hub body.  I checked that the bolts connecting the seat stays and chain stays were properly torqued.  Then the rear wheel went back on.

The bike still creaked.

It was time to call a friend and expert.  Who better to put on the case than James Flatman?  He built the bike for me.  His suggestion was to go over the entire bike, no matter how far away from the apparent source of the creak a particular component was.  So I started with removing the stem and bar.  I had upgraded those three months ago so they didn’t need cleaning.  I made sure the bolts were properly torqued.

The bike still creaked.

Next on the list was the seat post, seat post collar and saddle.  The seat post came out of the seat tube and the saddle came off the seat post.  I saw why it is recommended that the seat post gets an annual cleaning.  Despite regular bike washes there was a surprising amount of grit and dirt around the seat collar bolt and the saddle rail mounting.  The seat post needed a wipe down too.

All the moving parts on my bike were now freshly greased or oiled.  All the bolts were tightened to specification.

The bike still creaked.

I was running out of leads.  I checked the pedals.  The bearings turned smoothly and silently.

Perhaps the bike had been banged around during shipping.  I inspected the frame.  Fortunately there weren’t any cracks.

The only thing left to check was the rear hub.  I Googled the instructions for how to disassemble an Easton R4 rear hub.  The Easton Cycling site has videos to go with this drawing.


Diagram courtesy of Easton Cycling

Off came the rear wheel, for the umpteenth time in this investigation.  I removed the cassette from the hub body.  Then removed the hub body from the hub shell.

I had cracked the case at last.

The pawls on the hub body were completely dry, as were the splines in the hub shell.  So every time the pawls engaged with the splines, i.e. every time I put pressure on the pedals, there was a metal-on-metal creak.  The spring-loaded pawls are the black parts in the photo below.

Easton Pawls

I removed and cleaned the pawls, the retaining spring and the splines in the hub shell.  Everything got a good coat of grease before reassembly.

I took my bike out for a 70 km ride.

The bike doesn’t creak.