22 May, 2014


As a guy who grew up wrenching on bikes in shops, at races, and in my own garage, I hate extraneous noises. Creaks. Squeaks. Squeals. Rattles. All of them are a sign of one thing - something isn't working correctly. Engineers don't design products to make noises they're not supposed to.

But chasing down a squawk or a ping can be tough. Bicycles are interconnected systems. A noise you think is emanating from one place could be someplace completely different. It's sort of like a water leak in your house. Where you see the puddle could be a LONG way from the source.

I've been wrestling one on my road bike for a little while. Like many, it started quietly and infrequently. And then grew louder. And louder. And louder. Kinda' like in Edgar Allan Poe's "Telltale Heart". OK, maybe it wasn't that loud. But in my head it was.

This one's from the drivetrain side, somewhere in the lower regions. After decades of listening to bikes, I can usually pretty quickly discern what type of issue I have. Carbon sounds different from aluminum. Aluminum sounds different from stainless steel. And so on. My creak is carbon-related. It's just got that pitch and cadence.

Carbon creaks are generally not good. Especially when you ride a carbon frame, like my Giant Defy Advanced Composite. But sometimes they're a minor issue - like a seatpost that needs a cleaning and a little carbon paste. Other times, they're an indicator of an impending failure. I've learned from fly rods that all it takes is minor weakening of structural integrity and chaos ensues.

But this one is weird. I know it's in the lower end, on the drivetrain side. It only happens when I come out of the saddle and hammer on the pedals. And it's very clearly only on one side. Oddly, somehow it feels outboard of the bottom bracket and it doesn't seem to travel up the frame.

Ah-HA! Cleats.

Cleats on cycling shoes are a lifelong pain in the ass. In the olden days, I remember nailing the cleats onto my Sidi shoes. Yep, you read that right - NAILING. Modern clipless systems have moved things forward tremendously, but still the cleat-shoe interface remains a trouble spot. This area takes a lot of stress, forces in all directions, and more. Three bolts (typically) connect the power of your legs to the bike's drivetrain. And, my Bont A-Three's have carbon soles. So, I re-tighten my bolts. Creak is still there.


On returning home from my first weeknight ride on Monday, I decided to investigate as the continued creak now has me thinking my frame is self-destructing. I also see plagues and locusts on the horizon.

One trick I've learned with cleats is the power of blue Loctite. If you don't keep some of this around the house, buy some. Today. Keeps problematic things with threads where they're supposed to be. So I figure time to tear down the right shoe and re-do the Loctite. First screw comes out easy, drop or two of thread sealant, re-torque and good to go. But the second one loosens, but then won't come free. Finally with some upward pressure from a screwdriver while twisting the Allen wrench it pops out. But wait - where's the threaded insert? I don't see it anymore.

Crap. Bonts are made in Australia. And while they make great shoes, they're in Australia. Just shipping something back to them takes weeks and costs at least $25. They're starting to get some US dealers, but I didn't buy mine from a dealer, so they'd have to go back to the Land Down Under. Then I notice something rolling around in the shoe. It's a regular old T-nut. And it's just popped out of the hole. After closer inspection the "teeth" that bite into the sole seem squashed.

Later that night, I find the Bont sells replacements for these (via Colorado Cyclist). Hmmmmm. This tells me this is not an isolated problem. So, I have some extras on order.

In the meantime, I have a backup pair. I'll be riding those tonight to see if my creak is still there or not. A report will follow.


02 May, 2014

Opening Day!

I've grown to love Opening Day of Detroit Tigers baseball in the past few years - probably Detroit's best party! Now I've got another opener to embrace; the smallmouth bass season in Michigan! The last Saturday in April will now be one for the calendar.

With a drift boat, a lot of potential water opens up for me. Weeks ago buddy Andrew and I hatched a plan to fish the opener, and his friend Brad joined us. Andrew's rowed for me before and Brand was game to give it a shot. All the work I put into the boat last year really paid off with minimal prep required to roll out to the Huron River. Hitch up the trailer, tie down the boat and GO!

Mike Schultz' S4 Sculpin fly pattern has become a proven performer for early season smallies (and trout all year), so I'd tied up a half dozen just for this trip in a few color combinations. This was one of the flies I made a real effort to master this off-season, and I think mine look pretty nice.

Our only real challenge of the day was access. We had to drag the boat about 50 yards across grass to a launch point. Drift boats are heavy. And they don't slide all that well! With a little huffing and puffing, we managed to splash down. A quick truck shuttle and we're ready to rock.

The upper portion of the float consisted mostly of me trying to remember how to row while Andrew and Brad worked on their rusty casting skills. Brad stuck one pretty early, but it popped off about as fast as it struck.

A bit later Andrew gets a hard hit. At first we're all thinking it's a dink - even the angler connected to the fish. But as it gets closer, we quickly realize this is a solid fish. Some quick net work and we're on the board with a nice fish that taped out at a shade over 16"! And with that, Andrew proves my S4's are getting  it done.

Now it's my turn to fish while Andrew rows. It takes a little while, casting into some nasty wind, but eventually my fly gets mugged. This is one of the things I've come to love about streamer fishing - especially for smallmouth - is the visual component. Seeing the chase, the strike, and the fight unfold is SO cool! And smallmouth hit flies like a truck; with little or no hesitation. Mine turns out to be about 14". Respectable, but nothing that scores me bragging rights.

This is my first day casting the Scott Radian 907/4. It's hard to judge a rod when you haven't thrown an overhead cast in 6 months and the winds blowing upriver at 15mph. But early impressions were very good. It's got good speed, and is incredibly light (especially with a Ross Evolution LT 4 reel mounted). It's not the rocket ship that the S4s's I've cast are, but it's plenty fast. And it's definitely got better rod feel. Since this is one of my main rods for April - September, I'm very happy with it. A more detailed review will be coming when I've got some more time in with it.

All in all, a might fine day on the water with excellent company! What a great way to welcome in the smallmouth bass season.